- Developer: Experience Inc.
- Publisher: NIS America
- Release Date: 16/03/2021 (US) 19/03/2021 (UK)
- Price: $49.99 / £44.99
- Review code provided by NIS America
Introducing: Saviors of Sapphire Wings Review
I couldn’t be more happy about Saviors of Sapphire Wings coming to the Nintendo Switch. Mostly because Strangers of Sword City is riding in the passenger seat as a bonus game. Sword City was one of my favorite PlayStation Vita titles and now it will get a chance to impress a new audience. First person dungeon crawlers are my favorite style of RPG. Getting a two-for-one made this bundle more than enticing to have on my most anticipated list for 2021. Join me as I take a look at Saviors of Sapphire Wings and see if it lives up to my expectations.
The Land of Alda
Our tale starts atop a dreary castle, cloaked in darkness and despair. Howling winds whip around the Knight of Light, Xeth Landlight. He has led a group of desperate heroes called The Knights of the Round to put a stop to Ol=Ohma, the Overlord of Darkness. This moment is the final battle between light and dark. Sadly, Xeth and his Knights of the Round fail and the world succumbs to darkness for 100 years. This is when your journey really begins. You are the reincarnated spirit of Xeth Landlight and are given a second chance to prevail over the encompassing darkness and bring balance back to the veiled world.
The story in Saviors of Sapphire Wings didn’t hook me. When playing RPGs, it’s not uncommon to get a narrative that follows along these lines. The world is threatened by darkness and you have to save it. But it wasn’t the storyline that failed to impress me. Despite seeing these tropes across multiple games, I can live with them if the characters are well developed and believable. Unfortunately, the characters in Sapphire Wings are unimaginative and dull. You’ll get to a point where you have to pick who’s an active party member and who gets benched, and I honestly could have benched everyone. I wasn’t sold on the story, but the gameplay, that’s where it’s at! Right?
The Tranquil Village of Fewmy
Like I said earlier, Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a first person dungeon crawling RPG. Or a grid-based RPG if that’s more familiar to you. This is my favorite style of game so I was excited to jump in and start exploring. Unfortunately, the beginning level left me baffled. The movement and look to the game felt uninspiring and animatronic. Let me explain, the core mechanics are there, but they’re hidden beneath a course disguise betrayed by jerky movements and a sterile palette. The user interface and menu system seem like they’d be more at home if they were a proprietary corporate tool. Everything lacked magic. But there’s a reason we don’t review games based on an hour sampling. Fortunately, the more time I spent in this labyrinthine world, the more I enjoyed its nuances.
Like most first person RPGs, Sapphire Wings is turn based. You take a party of up to six characters into a dungeon, ruin or otherwise unexplored locale and move grid by grid to uncover the map. These dungeons are fraught with peril and traps. There’s always been something satisfying to me by moving over every square and unlocking the full map of any given region. With an added quick move option, it can even save time. Once you’ve been somewhere, you can enter the map and select a distant point and your team will automatically move to that location. It’s a great feature to speed things up. Likewise, you can use ‘repeat’ and ‘fast apply’ in battle to skip entering every command and resolve the outcome of each turn without having to wait.
Heart of the Eolan Region
Despite its first impression, I’m glad I ventured deeper as there are some unique mechanics that make Sapphire Wings stand out. The bond system between your companions isn’t just a side effect to feel like a visual novel. Strengthening your bond with each character is critical to the team’s development. You have to learn individual personalities and tailor your responses accordingly. Throughout the game, you call your squires to your chamber to debrief with them and have a cordial chat about recent events. Once you’ve done so, you unlock a new level for them and more skills for the team. Some of which are required to defeat the end boss. At one point, I offended a character so badly that it took a few hours of gameplay before I regained her trust. Princesses, am I right? Ultimately, I was surprised to see how much the relationships had actual substance.
The other aspect I enjoyed was the levelling system and character creation. The characters who join your team are predetermined but that doesn’t mean they have to look how they were designed. You can alter the gender, appearance and class of all the party members. What’s more, you can do so freely throughout the game.
Eternal Fortress of Esselgard
I may be more critical about Sapphire Wings, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it once I got past the initial shock of its design. The background environments are thin with drab textures. They were lackluster and repeated far too often. This approach is actually common with these RPGs but seemed more pronounced than others in the past. Playing on the big screen certainly didn’t help the graphics department. The art style for the characters had decent variety. You could pick from portraits based on an anime style; brighter with more pronounced features. Or a softer, more realistic look.
The music played throughout Sapphire Wings does a decent job adjusting to events and locations around you. It’s not just a few tracks on repeat. Each area has its own song with battle themes and music for towns. The variety makes it a nice soundtrack for exploring the many regions and mazes the game has to offer.
From a technical standpoint, the game runs well. I didn’t run into any glitches and it never froze on me. Aside from the graphical quality not shining on the big screen, Saviors of Sapphire Wings was fun to play while docked and in handheld mode. It was nice to get a bigger view as I grew up playing this style of game on PC and more recently on the Vita. Despite its lack of polish, there are still a lot of vibrant scenes and new places to explore.
I’ve played so many games of this style that it’s entirely possible I’m more critical than the average gamer. Saviors of Sapphire Wings gets the core mechanics right and was still an enjoyable adventure. For a genre that has been around since the ‘80s, it falters a little too much for an average score. The characters are bland, which doesn’t add weight to a story steeped in role-playing tropes. The graphics are thin with a user interface that looks robotic. It’s a staggering jaunt from the magical setting the game tries to achieve. The gameplay loop is addictive and there are a lot of well designed mazes to be explored. Saviors of Sapphire Wings saving grace, however, is the inclusion of Strangers of Sword City. The bonus game is worth the price of admission, making it the savior of this bundle.
- Addictive Gameplay
- Two Games in One
- Free Character Customization
- Creative Mazes
- Poor Graphics
- Robotic Movement
- Stale Characters and Plot