Short Version: It’s okay, but doesn’t stand out in any way. There’s nothing necessarily bad about it, but I still felt somewhat dissatisfied. I understand what they were going for, but it lacks a certain something that ties all of the quirkiness and gameplay together to something more cohesive and interesting. If you like the older Zelda games, then it’s likely you’ll enjoy Reverie just fine. However, I sincerely doubt you’ll remember it beyond the afternoon that it’ll take you to see everything it has to offer.
Long Version: Playing through Reverie was like experiencing virtual cosplay. Cosplay is essentially just dressing up as something in order to express your love for that certain thing to others. Transferring that idea onto a video game manifests into something like Reverie. It’s a game that wears its inspiration on its sleeves and every other piece of clothing to the point that it loses its identity. Despite attempts at being good in its own right, at the end of the day, it’s still just a guy dressed up as something else, instead of a more original outfit with more subtle signs of its inspiration.
This game clearly set out to be a love letter to both the Legend of Zelda and Mother series, but at the same time it all feels very half-hearted and empty. It attempts to juggle these two completely different types of game: an incredibly well-written, dialogue filled Japanese RPG, and then an epic adventure game with sharp dungeon design that doesn’t rely as much on talking. In an attempt to balance both, they end up not hitting the mark on any of it and instead deliver a very lukewarm experience. It’s like someone serving you an experimental dish at a restaurant that combines two unrelated meals together. I don’t hate it, but it’s not good enough to order again. I appreciate the experience, but eating it just makes you want to eat the individual components on their own instead of the awkward fusion of both.
A Five Hour Holiday
And to reiterate, there’s nothing necessarily bad about the game at all. The whole thing feels very polished with no glitches or technical issues to be found, but the content that’s actually there gave me no desire to play through this game ever again after beating it. Not because I disliked it or thought it was bad, but instead because I came out of it feeling absolutely nothing. It’s just a video game, and that’s all it is. It’s not this amazing adventure or some sort of memorable quirky romp. It’s just a thing that you play that has levels and bosses to beat. After that, you get items to make fights easier, then you beat the big boss, and then it ends after 5 hours. That’s it. It’s a shame, because I can definitely see potential in something great being made here. It pretty much holds itself back with only giving the bare minimum and nothing interesting that sets it apart from anything else, especially in terms of story and gameplay.
The story in question is based around a legend about a group of 4 brothers (even though they show 5 during the opening for some reason) that, instead of finding fish, one of them unearths an entire island instead. All the other brothers are jealous of him for some reason, so they decide to throw him overboard and let him drown. Of course, they are then cursed by the now dead brother and are met with a storm that gets them stranded and killed by starvation on the now named Toromi Island, where the game takes places many years later.
We cut to the present where we meet our protagonist Tai. He gets told this legend and then make it seem like we don’t have to worry about it, even though you’re totally going to get involved. You stay at your grandpa’s place on vacation and essentially get told to do whatever you want. Here is where the Mother inspirations show up. It manifests in the overall art style and character dialogue in the game. If you’re not looking close enough, you might even confuse a screenshot of this game for Mother 3. …Actually, no. You wouldn’t, but they do look a little similar. Everyone in the island has exactly the kind of odd and quirky dialogue that one would come to expect, except it’s nowhere near as clever or endearing.
Colorful, Lifeless Town
This becomes a bigger problem when most of the time is spent on solving puzzles inside dungeons, in which you never talk to anyone. You never have an opportunity to go through a full story arc or bond with anyone in any significant manner that might make anyone memorable. This is especially so when one notices that not a single character changes in any way throughout the entire game, despite the threat of the evil spirits on the island that no one seems to talk about. In addition to that, I struggle to find any cohesion within any of the characters. Even within people living in the same house, they all feel scattered, minimal and almost isolated from each other. You never get the sense that this is an actual place with people that know each other.
This is very different from games like Mother 3, where most people reference each other, they change where they are regularly throughout the story, have thoughts about what’s currently happening, they change over time and are immediately recognizable when you see them again. Even in moments of sadness, they all come together and mourn as one. It’s the small things that make a big difference in making a town feel alive. In Reverie, none of that happens. Everybody just sort of walks around, says their piece, and that’s it. There’s no reason to talk to anyone or to believe that they need helping from the established antagonists.
The level of caring that the characters have for this problem we were introduced with is nonexistent. Everybody is going about their normal lives with the worse thing happening being a small earthquake that created a rockslide around a mountain that no one goes to. Even when beating the bosses, nothing ever seems to change or have an effect on anyone, regardless of how many dungeons you beat. Everybody acts like normal, which makes certain parts like the ending come totally out of left field.
It’s baffling to see all of these forgettable people gather together to tell you that your “family’s destiny has finally been fulfilled.” This is something that no one ever brings up until the very end. This whole time we were told to just make great memories and do whatever we wanted, but suddenly we are now told that we were this “chosen one” kind of character all along that was destined to save the island. It feels super tacked on and unnecessary to a story that is barely even there to begin with.
Child Saves The World
Everyone makes it seem like what you did was a massive deal that no one else could’ve done, but putting it in context makes that sound ridiculous. You are a small child that came over on vacation to just hang out. You only have a cricket bat and a bunch of children’s toys like a yoyo, a dart gun and a pet rock. And over the course of four hours (five if you try to explore and find everything), this child easily beats up all the enemies and evil spirits, bringing back the peace to the island that we didn’t even know it lost.
You don’t even say or do anything to the spirits after you beat them. They are just like, “Oh, I’m good now. Thanks!” and that’s it. Even for the final boss, there seems to be some implication that there’s one particular spirit that is still angry and wants to keep causing trouble. This is usually the point in any game where you’re like, “Oh boy, it’s not over yet. Here’s part two of the fight! Maybe all the other spirits will come together, forgive each other and reconcile as brothers. They will learn to finally work together to grant me some sort of power to beat up the ultimate bad guy! That’s clearly what’s about the happen right now, right?” No. One of them just knocks him over, and we never see him again. And that’s it. The End. Roll credits. While I do find this unexpected, I do think it’s a very boring conclusion and a massive waste of potential. Have you ever seen an anime series like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Pokemon and others where they have these non-canon movies with very isolated stories that are never talked about again in the regular series? This is exactly what Reverie’s story feels like. Some non-canon afterthought that feels like filler for something more interesting to come, but we never get it. The story is as simple and bland as it can be. At this point, the only thing that truly saves Reverie from me telling you to flat-out pass on it is that the gameplay is pretty decent. Even then, it still loops back around to the issues I pointed out at the start.
Hey, Remember Zelda?
After beating the first dungeon, the entire map opens up for you to explore, only limited by the items you have that give you access to new areas. The game does well in not really telling you how to do most things. They give you a marker on the world map showing your current objective, but nothing’s really forcing you to go there. You are free to explore and bump into many different places until you eventually feel like progressing. This is where the game really shines in its design. Environmentally speaking, nothing feels out of place. Everything seems very carefully placed and deliberately crafted to encourage you to deviate from your path to explore. If you didn’t get any Zelda vibes from the game at the start, you will definitely get it when you are finally let loose. Even the weapon swinging animation is shamelessly identical to Link to the Past.
Speaking of Zelda, the dungeons themselves are also reminiscent of that franchise. They are all very well made with every single step towards their completion feeling logical and fun to figure out. There is one particular moment where you build a sand castle with a little girl, and the sand castle itself turns into the next dungeon, which I found to be very creative and charming. However, the vast majority of them are incredibly easy to get through. It’s not until the last two dungeons that you truly start to stop and think about what you’re doing. But other than that, most of your time will be spent blowing through all of these dungeons very quickly. I hate to sound reductive, and I’m sure you have heard this in every single review of this game on the Internet, but if you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, then you already know exactly what to expect, but way easier.
If there’s anything else worth mentioning, then it’s probably the feathers you can find as you explore the island. They are scattered all over the place and can be obtained in many different ways like playing air hockey with a microwave, finding hidden areas, or just playing through the game normally. During my time finding all of them, I didn’t think the effort was worth it, mostly because of the reward. If you collect every single feather, you can talk to your grandma, who will then give you a special cape that makes you invincible to enemy damage for a limited time. This would be great to have, except for a small detail. In order to get every feather, you have to beat the game first, which unlocks an extra battle dungeon. In here, you fight waves and waves of enemies, with a feather being the reward at around the half-way point. And because you have to explore pretty much the entire map to find all the other feathers, there’s really nothing else for you to do after getting the cape. It would only be useful for the battle dungeon. And that is only if you ever decide to go back to Grandma and turn in the feathers. If you’re like me, then you probably didn’t even think of that and just kept going deeper into the dungeon until you beat it. In other words, this cape is useless. With this, I am left with a rather dissatisfied feeling with a game that has no true flaws, but nothing outstanding either.
Overall, Reverie feels like a well-made student project for college that I would give an A to. However, that doesn’t mean that it will hold up against everything else in the real world with all the other competition. It has some fun moments, and it’s easy to see the love and polish put into this, but there’s nothing here to thread it all together into one cohesive thing. The potential for greatness is there, but it’s got a long way to go if it wants to stand up to any of the titans it tries so too hard to imitate.