Saviors of Sapphire Wings/Stranger of Sword City Revisited – Review
Follow Genre: DRPG
Developer: SNK
Publisher: Codeglue, Experience Inc.
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Saviors of Sapphire Wings/Stranger of Sword City Revisited – Review

Site Score
6.7
Good: Gorgeous character artwork
Bad: Gameplay feels dated
User Score
6.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 6.0/10 (3 votes cast)

While there are plenty of choices when it comes to JRPGs on the Switch, fans of the dungeon crawler RPG subgenre are limited in their options. NIS America seeks to remedy this by bringing not one, but two dungeon crawlers to the Switch. Bundled together for the first time, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are set to allow you to assemble a party and dive into labyrinthian dungeons on the go.

Story

When you first dive into Saviors of Sapphire Wings, it can be a bit confusing to figure out what exactly is going on: the game starts with a group of adventurers, known as the Knights of the Round, about to stomp the big bad guy Ol=Ohma, the Overlord of Darkness. (Yes, that = in the name is deliberate.) Things take a turn for the worse, however, and Ol=Ohma manages to actually defeat the Knights. Fast forward 100 years, and the leader of the Knights resurrects as the game’s new protagonist -whom the player can customize, of course. It’s time to start anew, gather a fresh party and defeat the ancient evil once and for all! Stranger of Sword City Revisited HD offers up a similar setting but a premise that is less par for the course. The game starts out in the modern era, with a plane crash. The protagonist wakes up in mysterious ruïns, in another dimension. In this dimension, people from Earth are known as Strangers and they are tasked with exploring labyrinths and fighting monsters.

From a narrative point of view, bundling these games seems like a strange choice, as neither title is connected to the other by their respective story. However, both titles are clearly set in the same universe, with enemy types and other assets making an appearance in both Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited. Storywise, Saviors of Sapphire Wings delivers the superior experience, with fantastic character development and great story pacing. The interactions between your various party members are the clear highlight here and if you’re looking for a reason to dive into this collection, this is why we’d recommend picking it up.

Graphics

The artwork for these games, particularly Saviors of Sapphire Wings, is absolutely gorgeous. Character designs are filled with personality and monster designs are among the best fantasy artwork we’ve seen recently. The gorgeous illustrations are probably going to be what convinces a significant portion of the game’s potential to bite the bullet. There is a slight stylistic difference between both titles, with Saviors of Sapphire Wings looking more anime-esque, and Strangers of Sword City looking more like something you’d find in a Dungeons & Dragons supplement or on a Magic: The Gathering card. Unfortunately, all of this jaw-dropping art is presented as static images throughout the entirety of both games. Both titles suffer from a complete lack of animation. While this is somewhat excusable during the game’s lengthy dialogue scenes, it becomes especially jarring during combat. The absence of animation is something that was acceptable back when these titles originally released, back in 2014, but it’s a major disappointment in 2021. The dungeons themselves then are rendered in 3D, but feel empty and featureless, again emphasizing that the game would have benefited greatly from a few visual upgrades. We’re not asking for fully animated 3D fights, as that would’ve meant a complete overhaul of the game’s combat engine, but anything would have been better than what we’re getting here.

Sound

Both titles feature orchestral soundtracks that befit the fantasy aesthetic of either game, although we would’ve preferred less reliance on piano music. This is merely a personal preference, of course, and your mileage may vary on this. We also noticed that both titles seem to draw from the same library when it comes to sound effects. This helps to tie both titles together even further, so we did feel like this was a good move. There is Japanese voice acting present as well, with English on-screen dialogue. The voice cast does a commendable job and manages to convey the right emotions.

Gameplay

As the title implies, Saviors of Sapphire Wings/Stranger of Sword City Revisited brings you not one but two separate dungeon crawler RPGs (or DRPG), and each title should take you approximately 40+ hours to complete. For the uninitiated, in a DRPG, players build a party of adventurers, each of which has its own particular skill set, and then explore dungeons filled with traps and enemies. Dungeons are typically explored from a first-person perspective rather than from the more classical top-down view traditionally associated with JRPGs, and finding your bearings is a key part of the experience. Dungeons themselves are typically repetitive affairs that are easy to get lost in, and you can expect to do a lot of backtracking as well. Thankfully, you have a few tools at your disposal to aid in dungeon exploration, such as a mapping feature that reveals the dungeon’s layout as you make your way through, and an auto-move feature that enables you to set a point to move towards, although the route followed isn’t always the safest or easiest one to traverse.

Battles themselves will feel more familiar to anyone familiar with a JRPG, as these are turn-based affairs with each party member bringing their own skills to the table, be it combat moves, magic or healing. Positions of your characters are of importance here: a combat-focused character should preferably be placed on the front line, where they can actually hit someone, whereas a caster type is likely to be less capable of taking hits, and is better off in the second rank from where they can lob fireballs at the enemies. Enemies will fight in lines as well, and will occasionally switch, adding some strategic depth in how you have to deal with encounters. That said, expect to spend a lot of time grinding against low-level enemies, as leveling up your party takes time. If you’re not a fan of lengthy grinding sessions, these aren’t the games for you.

From a gameplay perspective Saviors of Sapphire Wings/Stranger of Sword City Revisited offers up a “by the numbers” DRPG experience. Neither game attempts to break free from the conventions of the genre. If you’ve never tried a DRPG, you could do far, far worse, as these are two of the more accessible titles in the genre. However, this reliance on basic tropes also highlights some of the pitfalls of DRPGs. The core gameplay loop feels repetitive and awfully dated, something that is underlined by the games’ lack of animation, as we discussed in the graphics section of this review. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with what’s presented here, but the games really would have benefited from that extra polish to bring them more in line with the expectations of a modern audience. One could make a case for staying true to the spirit of the original release, but as Square Enix proved with the fantastic Trials of Mana, it’s perfectly possible to bring a classic RPG back in such a way that it sticks close to the original but feels like a modern title. Of course, a Trials of Mana-style remaster would’ve meant rebuilding these games from the ground up, but we can’t imagine that the DRPG audience would’ve complained about these titles receiving that sort of treatment.

That the games feel dated shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as neither title is particularly new. Stranger of Sword City initially saw its release back on the PS Vita as well as the Xbox 360, and here, you’re getting an enhanced remaster of this classic niche title, featuring not only a graphical upgrade, but also new items and difficulty rebalancing. Similarly, Saviors of Sapphire Wings made its debut on the same two platforms, but the Switch rerelease drops the “Revisited” moniker, leaving us wondering if anything changed between the original release and the 2021 port. That said, fans of the genre will find plenty to love here, and newcomers will enjoy the accessibility if anything.

Conclusion

From both a gameplay perspective and a visual one, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City failed to really stand the test of time. While the gameplay is accessible, it is also tedious and dated. On the other hand, the gorgeous character art and fantastic writing are highlights. For diehard fans of the genre, this bundle is an essential addition to the library, and the high accessibility means this is a good entry point for newcomers. That said, it looks like we’re still going to have to wait for an actual must-have DRPG title on the Switch that appeals to a mainstream modern audience.

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Rating: 6.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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Saviors of Sapphire Wings/Stranger of Sword City Revisited - Review, 6.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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