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Game Info:

Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited
Developed By: Experience Inc., Codeglue
Published By: NIS America, Inc.
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Available On: Windows, Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood and Gore, Drug and Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity, Violence
Genre: Role-Playing Game (RPG)
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you NIS America for sending us this game collection to review!

Way back in 2016, I reviewed the excellent Stranger of Sword City, and fell in love with the setting, art, music, and the deep and involved gameplay - not to mention the punishing difficulty. It was also then that Experience Inc. as a developer entered my consciousness. They have made quite a few dungeon crawlers since their first release in 2008, and in 2010, they released Entaku no Seito: Students of Round. This game, Savior of Sapphire Wings, is an update and remake of that title.

While originally made for Japanese audiences only, NIS America brought this and several other of Experience's titles over, and this package includes Stranger of Sword City Revisited, an updated version that includes new classes, dungeons, as well as rebalancing the difficulty. I reviewed the original release of Stranger of Sword City, and covered it extensively here so I'm not going to go into too much detail on Revisited in this review; while there are some changes, I don't feel it's enough to warrant a full replay through. Just realize that the price of this title includes both, and you can switch between the two at any time from the title screen. The value proposition is quite insane here, if you haven't played Stranger yet. If you have, then Saviors is still a good game, even if it's not nearly as deep or difficult as Stranger is.

For those not familiar with dungeon crawlers, this one is similar to the classic Wizardry titles - that is to say, a turn-based first-person dungeon where the map is in a grid and you explore, and your map fills out for you as you go. Battles take the form of random encounters, you gain experience for each enemy you defeat, and your (up to six) party members gain levels and gain more power. There are three front and three rear party members, and each weapon has a range, showing how far it can hit. Front row characters take more damage and are targeted more, while rear row party members can't hit everyone unless they are equipped with a long-range weapon like a bow, or have spells to cast.

On top of weapon attacks and casting spells, players can also choose to defend (take less damage next turn, but do nothing), use skills that vary between classes, use items, or use Union Skills. Only our protagonist Xeth (who can be renamed) can execute Union Skills. One of the major themes (and even requirements!) of this game is that you 'bond' with your party members. As your bond levels increase, you unlock Union Skills, which can be very powerful in battle. It also plays a major role in the story, and high-level bonds with certain characters are required to complete the main story.

Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited
Highlights:

Strong Points: Two high-quality dungeon crawling games included; long adventures, with tons to do; very good 2D art; Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a great introduction to Experience dungeon crawlers, while Savior of Sword City Revisited is deep and incredibly challenging; plays perfectly via Steam Proton on Linux
Weak Points: Saviors of Sapphire Wings is notably shorter and not as deep of a game as Stranger of Sword City; 3D rendered sections use a fairly low resolution internally
Moral Warnings: RPG violence; minor blood in a few places; some enemies are magical or undead, including dragons, floating heads, and spirits; gods of light, neutrality, and dark featured prominently, as is reincarnation; a demon named 'Lucifel' is present; occasional use of curse words like '*ss', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', and 'b*st*rd'; alcohol is used regularly; some females wear incredibly revealing clothing and/or cleavage, with near full nudity in one scene; can choose 'Unknown' gender for the main protagonist

When you start a new game, you begin one hundred years before the events of the main campaign. Xeth, Eraste, and Pyros go to face the main villain, the overlord Ol=Olma, and unfortunately (and expectedly), fail. This begins the one hundred years of darkness, after the era of light that preceded it. Xeth is then reincarnated into a new body, and Merlin is there to help begin the new quest to stop the darkness once again by reforming the Knights of the Round.

Unlike most Experience Inc. games, where you create pretty much every character from scratch, Saviors of Sapphire Wings has precreated characters for all of them with default classes, though you can change all of their classes if you wish - except for Xeth; he's a unique class that only he can be. Xeth is also the only character where you can choose their sex, between male, female, and 'unknown'. It has to be said that certain parts of the story require Xeth to be male in his previous life, so while you can change things now, I'm not sure how much impact on the story it will have if you are female (or unknown) this time around.

After a while, sub-classes open up, which is where the game takes a very interesting (and powerful) turn. Each character can have a single sub-class, and synergy with their main class, especially with skills and stats, is basically essential. One thing to note is that experience is indeed locked to a class; if you change main classes, your level resets, but you can always change back to your original or another class. Generally speaking, the default class selections are good, though I made a few notable deviations because I needed different skills to fill out my party. For example, Rangers and Druids are notably less powerful than other classes - but they do have useful skills that can come in handy when used as sub-classes on more powerful ones. That, and having a muscular dwarf as a mage is kinda funny!

Each character, while generally mix and match as far as classes and stats go, do have one special characteristic. Each has one skill that is specific to them. For example, one character gives a huge twenty percent boost to magic damage, while another increases everyone's hit points by twenty percent. So which characters you choose to keep in your party should at least in part be informed by their unique passives. With that said, I left out one of the best magic users because one of my other wizards is important to the story, and was many levels farther ahead by the time I got the 'best' one - so party formation is always one of those things you constantly juggle.

This becomes important later on also because as you bond with your squires, what the game calls your growing Knights, not only are aspects of the stories of each character explored, but certain characters have a required minimum level in order to defeat Ol=Olma. Without the presence of certain legendary weapons, the Overlord isn't going anywhere. What surprised me (well maybe not entirely) is that there's even a significant amount of post-game content that is locked behind everyone's bond level being high enough.

Bonds are maintained a few different ways. First and foremost, by not dying. This may seem obvious, but any time a character dies, they lose quite a few bonding points, and raising those points is not easy or cheap. Other ways to raise them include fighting with your cohorts in battle - the stronger (and faster) the better. Another way is to eat together. After each dungeon excursion, you can eat a limited number of meals with any characters you choose. Picking ones that you aren't fighting with is recommended, since otherwise they will be quite behind. Since I got lazy about feeding them halfway through the adventure, I have a bunch of level 8 bonds... and some that are under five. If I want to experience that post-game content, I better start grinding those relationships!

Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 58%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 4/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

As for the game itself, I played it mostly after the patches were all rolled out, and had no issues with the game. I played it a small amount in Linux via Steam's Proton compatibility layer, and had no issues with that, either. Controller support works well, and is the recommended way to play, though keyboard controls do exist. Most of the game is displayed via 2D artwork, though certain parts do have a small amount of 3D rendering, and they seem to be rendered at a low resolution; I'm guessing 720p, but I'm not sure. While I normally pay close attention to things like this, it really didn't bother me with this game. The 2D art/drawing is quite good, though Stranger of Sword City's is better. The music is quite nice - I felt that it fit the game and moods quite well.

From an appropriateness point of view, like many games in this genre, there's a fair amount to talk about. RPG violence is present, though that's hardly a surprise. In other words, you give commands, and you attack your opponents. Some enemies resemble sentient races, but generally are beasts, monsters, or undead, spirits, dragons, or other magical creatures. Gods of light, darkness, and neutrality are prominently featured in the story. A demon named 'Lucifel' is present. Reincarnation obviously plays a major role, since that happens to Xeth. Xeth's gender can be specified as 'unknown', as previously mentioned. Curse words are used like '*ss', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', and 'b*st*rd'.

Alcohol use is featured prominently in the game. One of the main characters carries booze around with her, and she typically drinks with you in many of her bonding events. She explains that she was sick when she was younger, and alcohol cured her, so it's important to her. Other characters also drink, and you can offer it to them during eating binding events.

As for sexual content, it's mixed. There are some events, bonding and otherwise, where you can snuggle with a girl in bed, or a girl shows you strong affection. I haven't seen much beyond that when it comes to actions, but some females wear very revealing clothing; for one in particular, there is so much cleavage that little is left to the imagination with her incredibly unrealistic outfit. Other opponents who are female leave little to the imagination with strategically placed hairs and so on, with no nipples shown. There is also a cut scene with two women who are shown completely naked with hair and feathers covering the required spots.

For moral content issues with Stranger of Sword City, please read that review's appropriateness section; most of it is fairly similar, but there's a lot more blood in that game, and a bit darker tone overall. Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a more optimistic story than the generally dark and fatalistic Stranger of Sword City.

Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a much simpler and more straightforward game than its companion, Stranger of Sword City Revisited. Stranger has tons more classes, dungeons, and player freedom in general - but this also means it's a lot more complex. I think that Saviors is a great game to introduce Experience's style of dungeon RPGs, as many of the classes, items, enemies, and game systems are similar enough to bring some familiarity for future games. I certainly recognized many things since I played Stranger of Sword City first - and found this game much, much easier overall. It's also unique in that you don't build your characters from the ground up, but instead use precreated characters as a starting point. I really enjoyed it, though I do think Stranger of Sword City is a better game. If you do decide to get this collection, I'd recommend playing Saviors first - it's a gentler introduction to the genre, and a shorter game than the other, so it's a perfect way to get your feet wet before really diving into the meat and potatoes of Stranger. If the appropriateness issues don't give you pause, then definitely give these two games a hard look. Recommended for fans of dungeon-crawling RPGs, and certainly worth a look if you enjoy RPGs in general.


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