In recent years we have seen an influx of new retro-inspired games arrive on all the new platforms like Switch, Steam or mobile. Usually you see those games arrive in 8- or 16-bit style, with the platformer and rpg genre dominating the scene. What you don’t often see is a game looking back at the handheld games and focusing the visuals on those devices. Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX brings a tribute to the original Game Boy and developer Room6 does this marvelously.
In Artifact Adventure Gaiden players choose their own name as they set out in a wide open world where an evil only known as The Cataclysm wreaks havoc to all and it is up to you to save humanity from this evil. Here players are immediately given their first choice for their companion the explorer, the noble or the venerable knight. Choosing the explorer will give you access to every location right off the bad and the ability to fast travel to dungeons. Choosing the knight will give you access to Deity Blade a powerful attack ability which will immediately help you in combat. Choosing the noble, however, will not help with exploration, nor will he help in combat. Instead the noble will award you with 1,000,000G which will help you buy the best equipment you can.
A great hero always has a party that he can rely on, and so as your adventure goes on you will find people who will follow you, each with their own story to tell and each granting your hero with a new skill to use. You will also find people in the various villages which are in need of your help. Borrowing heavily from RPGs like the first Final Fantasy quest givers don’t have an exclamation mark over their head, so it is up to you to talk to everyone and find out what you can help them with.
Just like quests aren’t easily noticable, so to are the tasks that you receive not always clear. Some quests you will need to find on your own and some will immediately be added to your prompt without you even noticing it. Usually the rewards you receive for completion are in coins and experience, but sometimes you will find out what will happen when you come back later on in the game. Granting fun new eperiences that you would have missed had you left the quest at the side.
At any point in your journey, players can return to the kingdom which will trigger a dialog option, to either continue exploring and questing, or to prepare for the coming fight against the Cataclysm. Choosing to prepare for the fight will cause a three-year time skip at which point the player can still explore but cannot pick up new quests. It is after this time skip that players see how their quests panned out and get their final rewards. Which are either artifacts that add new skills or passive abilities, or accessories that augment stats or combat style. After following up on quests and facing the Cataclysm the game will immediately go into New Game+, at which point quests are reset, quest items are revoked and looted chests are filled with new loot.
While the story itself is fairly bog standard the way each quest has both immediate and longterm resolution/rewards helps build a world that is more immersive, with some quests having more than two options this also helps add to the replayability of the game. Quest variety is also fairly nice while many of them are bog standard fetch quests a few had a bit of a moral dilemma to them. In those cases seeing how your choices played out three years in the future helped to reinforce the idea of choice and consequences which should be inexorable part of the RPG genre. The game also makes good use of these strange NPCs that appear in dungeons which hint at some greater cosmic force behind this all, typically only a few sentences before they vanish.
As the graphics go. You would immediately think that this game was made for the Game Boy. The graphics are true to the monochrome green that the original Game Boy had and for this DX version, the developers added extra color palettes similar to the release of Link’s Awakening DX way back on the Game Boy Color. It is a nice extra touch that brings back memories of yesteryear and the 8-bit artstyle and the sound design are some of the best that a Game Boy or Game Boy Color could accomplish at that time.
Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX brings back the best memories you had with RPG’s of the early 90’s and with some interesting time skip elements it can attract new and older players alike.