Zwei: The Arges Adventure

Despite being in the industry a good thirty years at this point, Falcom games always have a wonderfully indie feeling to them. The term ‘indie’ has become somewhat nebulous of late, so for clarity, my definition of indie is rooted firmly in the mid-2000s, with titles such as Cave Story and Iji being quintessential examples. Not quite janky, but certainly rough-hewn; carved squarely by a single vision rather than being smoothed over by the waves of dissonant voices, caught in the middle of designer and corporate interests. Entirely unafraid to defy convention, for good or ill, and try something new even if it doesn’t pan out.

Falcom’s flagship is surely the Ys series, of which I am a fan, but they also have plenty of smaller projects, among them previously-featured Gurumin and now Zwei, an RPG where you do not gain Exp from defeating monsters but by eating food, and every single environment was drawn by hand.

Pipiro and Pokkle are step-siblings (yes, alarm bells rang out for me too, but apparently the game doesn’t go there) who live a pastoral life in a pastoral village. It’s about as JRPG as it gets, as indeed one day the village is beset by a mysterious stranger who steals the items of plot significance, and so our intrepid duo must go and get them back.

No prizes for originality there, then, but XSeed’s typically-entertaining localisation does a lot to alleviate the sameness of it. The opening scenes took up the bulk of the hour, in some amount due to poor signposting (instructions to talk to a specific villager with no indication of where said villager might be found, for example), but the dialogue is fun enough to retain engagement.

Combat and dungeoneering… is less so, and although I didn’t get to experience a lot of it I don’t have particularly high hopes. While in the beginner dungeon I encountered several switch puzzles whose solutions could only be divined by trial and error, and along one linear pathway (the only route I had available to me) I came up against a monster who could kill me in two hits and survived anything I tried to throw its way. Whether that was supposed to be cautionary or just the way this game goes, I’ve yet to discover.

Fin or Bin:

The experience in the dungeons certainly left me questioning where Zwei should go, and reading up about the levelling system similarly worries me- many people saying finding the right foods is a grindfest that quite often results in simply no reward from fighting monsters at all. Despite all this however, I trust Falcom to deliver a fun if not praiseworthy game that is worth seeing through to the Finish, whether or not its rough edges give a few splinters along the way.


Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure


From legendary developer Falcom, primarily known for the Ys games comes… uh, this.

Parin, who is kind of a jerk, gets sent to live in a mining town by her wildly irresponsible parents who totally suck, and finds herself the only child in the village. Bored out of her mind, she eventually discovers a hidden town of monsters living in the shadows and alleyways, and immediately befriends them, as any of us would do. (Then again, given the alarmingly predatory dialogue from one NPC who is intent on dating her, I can’t say she’s made the wrong choice.)

I’m not sure if there’s a specific term that can be used to describe the design and eccentricity of the monster characters, so I’ll call it ‘late 90s/early 2000s low budget Japanese console game’ and you probably have a good idea of what I mean.

Her monster friends, it turns out, are under attack by Phantoms, which are like monsters except Bad. And so, Parin acquires the legendary sword giant drill with which to combat the phantoms. No one in town has a problem with this.

The spirit of Falcom is prevalent throughout Gurumin, but it seems to have been a B Team project. All the edges are just a little fuzzier and more rounded off than is typical for Falcom; the Ys games are most known for their lightning quick and precise combat systems, while Gurumin is definitely more of a ‘press attack until you win’ kind of affair. The platforming is questionable at best and everything just feels a bit janky.

Fin or Bin:

And yet! It’s fun. Lacking polish yes, and don’t think I didn’t notice repeated use of the same room layouts in the dungeons, but the core gameplay is fun enough that I want to play more. Falcom know what they’re doing, even when they’re taking it easy. Fin! Watch the gameplay stream here.


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Ys Seven

Ys Origin is one of my most favourite games of all time, and together with Ys I&II tells a pretty great self-contained story.

Then they kept making Ys games, and… it all got a bit shonen. As a result, the storyline is absolute nonsense by this point, and if you’re worried you won’t be able to follow the plot at any given point from Ys 3 onwards, fear not; all you need to know is the following:

Post-shipwreck, Adol Christin and his very best friend Dogi The Wall-Crusher accidentally get embroiled in the most cataclysmic event ever to happen to the lands they’re currently in, three or four different very attractive girls fall for Adol, they defeat some kind of grand evil, and then Adol leaves it all behind to go get shipwrecked somewhere else.

However!!! The story is not why you’re here, beyond Origin/I/II. You’re here because Ys has some of the most satisfying combat ever– relentlessly fast, fluid, challenging dungeon crawling followed by utterly monstrous boss fights that will make you regret every choice you’ve made up to that point. Ys Seven does NOT disappoint in that regard, although it’s definitely the most cutscene-heavy of the YS games I’ve played.

Entirely aside from the game itself, the music in Ys games is always amazing. Falcom has their own in-house band, Falcom JDK, who combine metal and acoustic violin in an utterly flawless way.

It’s hard to sell it more than that. If you’re new to the series, you can totally start here if you want- I personally would suggest Origin as the first one, but that’s just personal bias (Yunica <3).

Fin or Bin:

I literally own a PSP only for this game. It’s taken a shamefully long time to get here, but Finishing it will be worth the wait. I adore these games.