The JRPG genre is one of my absolute favorites, so I had high expectations going into Zwei: The Illvard Insurrection, especially considering the developer it comes from. About 18 hours later and I can now say that it did indeed meet my expectations, if not exceeded them.

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Excellent gameplay. This game was simply just fun to play overall. The dungeons were a lot of fun to explore and I even found myself returning to them later on to grab the treasure and such I may have missed. Doing so can lead to upgrades for the primary weapon, new combo attacks, and treasure just waiting to be appraised at the guild hall in town. Filling up the museum in town, Animal Crossing style, was quite fun, especially because the player actually gets paid to do so, rather than being just strictly donation-based. I actually enjoyed talking to the various people scattered across the game world, filling up character bios and just learning more about the colorful world I found myself in. I never felt that I was too overpowered either, as there were always new enemies with different attacks that I had to learn to work around. The game balanced its difficulty well and kept the experience fresh throughout.

Enemy and boss variety. The enemy variety here is solid for a JRPG. There are close to 150 different enemies to be found across the game world and several unique bosses to fight. Constantly being introduced to new enemy types had me on my toes, trying to dodge all of the new attacks being thrown my way while also being able to dish out the damage. There were certain enemies that were quite frustrating to run into, but I found that such a challenge was warranted, as it made the game more than just a button-mashing experience that a lot of JRPGs today fall victim to. With such a variety of enemies available, there was never a dull moment going into a new dungeon, it was always an exciting experience.

The food-EXP mechanic. One of the more interesting changes this game makes on the JRPG formula is that enemies do not drop EXP. The player actually earns health and EXP from eating food. The different types of food dropped by the game’s enemies and found in dungeon chests help to level up the player, with higher-quality food giving more EXP. The player also has the option of exchanging 10 of the same type of food for a single, higher-quality meal that gives much more health and EXP. This was a very interesting mechanic and felt like a fresh take on EXP mechanic.

Good soundtrack. The Falcom Sound Team has done another great job with the soundtrack for this game. The soundtrack here is just as good as the Ys and Legend of Heroes soundtracks and just as memorable. I had actually already listened to the soundtrack years ago, as this is a re-release of a game that came out in 2008, and was a fan of the soundtrack back then as well. My favorite track is “Town of Artte”.

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Voiced scenes to unvoiced and back. The English localization actually adds a plethora of lines that were previously unvoiced in Japanese, which is great, but that just makes the transition between voiced and unvoiced scenes that much more jarring. It seemed that only the really important scenes got voice acting, but I felt that similarly important scenes were skipped over when they should have been voiced as well (such as the scene right before the credits). The game would sometimes jump from voiced scenes to unvoiced scenes then back again. The voice acting was actually pretty decent for the most part, so it was very disappointing to find certain scenes unvoiced. I personally would have loved to have seen the macho man scenes voiced.

Fake 60fps. When I finally got into the actual gameplay (after a twenty minute introduction segment), I noticed that, while my fps counter read 60, the movement and animations felt like half of that. After some research, I found that this game makes use of frame doubling, so while overlays and such may say that the game is running at 60fps, it is actually just running at 30, with every frame doubled. While I was able to bear with the 30fps until the end, the game would have played so much better had there been true 60fps.

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Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection does not shake up the JRPG formula too much outside of its unique EXP mechanic, but it does offer a fun dungeon-crawling experience with a good soundtrack to match. There may be a couple technical problems, but it was not enough to cripple the experience. Now I only hope that the original Zwei!! game gets localized as well…

Score: 8/10

You can buy Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection on Steam here.

I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.