The sidescrolling ARPG genre has always been in the minority when it comes to seeing major releases, especially in western markets. I believe, if I´m not much mistaken, that Dragon´s Crown was the last of the breed to grace a handheld in the past few years. Enter ¨Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory¨ for the Nintendo Switch. With a robust combat system, lengthy story and a female protagonist, is this NIS America title worthy of your time? Let´s find out!
First off, you get to choose whether you´re a male or a female character in the story, which in and of itself is a breath of fresh air. Not because of the choice, but because of the fact that choosing to be a female character has actual repercussions, and positive ones at that, in the game. There´s no lady in distress here, but a tough tactician princess who is thrown into commanding a falling empire. It really does remind me somewhat of Jean D´Arc for the PSP in that sense: you never feel like being a woman is a detriment to your abilities as a character in the story. It´s a refreshing take on gender roles, and I like it a lot.
You may choose one of 2 different characters, as I said, which launches one of 2 campaigns. Same scenario, more or less, same conflict, but seen from two different points of view.
The story gets thick quick, but avoiding any spoilers, let´s just say that you quickly encounter magic books, a betrayal from a person you thought to be a close friend, and emerge at the end (hopefully) victorious. It´s a lengthy affair, this game, but one that is made to feel quick thanks to a fantastic combat system.
You have the power to summon Exemplars, personifications of weapons made to look like heroes from the past. These make up your party, and as you progress you get more choice as to which Exemplars to take into battle. Exemplars come in a decent variety, from range bowmen to melee-happy swordsmen, and it´s up to you to device a strategy when going into battle. You also have relics to boost up stats, and you yourself are capable of healing your Exemplars, reviving them after they´ve been killed, or attacking. You use up MP of course, so be wary of going nuts with the attacks, should your Exemplars all die in a bunch. There is also a combo system in place, so if you´re quick enough on your feet, you´ll get some sweet end-of-combo megahits. As per usual, blocking at the right time has huge advantages and it´s sometimes the only way to defeat certain enemies.
As you traverse the different scenarios, you will also have to make choices regarding situations around your empire. These decisions will not only provide you with a boost to a certain stat, but they will also affect the real world the characters live in. Sure, you can give your archer 10% more accuracy, but will you sacrifice the villagers of that sleepy town under the rule of a cruel prince to get it? It´s up to you.
The presentation of the game is excellent, with not much in terms of framedrops and a hand-drawn art style that suits me down to the bone (and again, reminds me of Dragon´s Crown). The voice acting is superb as well, regardless of whether you choose the Japanese or English variety (though I must admit to being partial to the Japanese VO whenever I can choose).
Nags? Well, the enemies do suffer a bit in variety, and at first the combat system may seem intimidating, while button-mashing in the later stages. The reality, however, is that there´s plenty of strategy needed to survive in the tough world of ¨Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory¨. So keep your wits about you. Also, the story, while lengthy, does get a bit repetitive in terms of plot, only ever redeeming itself in the great character arcs that emerge from interacting with those around you.
Let´s remember, however, that ¨Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory¨ encompases both Fallen Legion campagins, so there´s content aplenty here for those looking for a meaty experience.
Sure, it´s not always the most intuitive of games, and yes, the story could be improved here and there, but the combat system is rock-solid, and the presentation accompanies it extremely well. If you´re in it for a literary lesson, you might want to look elsewhere. If you want to look for a more fun-filled approach to half ARPG, half turn-based combat with a strong female lead as an option, I think you´ll be hard-pressed to find a better side-scrolling outing than ¨Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory¨. Out now on the Nintendo Switch.