Steam has been a perfect platform for Nihon Falcom to release their catalog of games. They’ve released the Ys Series, the Legend of Heroes series, and other games that had not yet made the migration to PC. Now, Nihon Falcom and XSEED Games are bringing the Zwei series (which had not been released in the US before) to Steam. Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is a remastered version of the second Zwei game. XSEED has localized it with brand new English voice acting, including 2000 lines that weren’t voiced in the Japanese version.
In Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, you are put in the shoes of Ragna Valentine, an adventurer, pilot, and courier who spends his days exploring and treasure hunting. En-route to a routine delivery, Ragna finds himself crash landing on the remote continent of Ilvard. Ragna is found among the wreckage by the vampire princess Alwen Du Moonbria, who saves his life in exchange for his help. Alwen’s magic has been stolen, as well as her castle, which was taken from her by unknown villains. This begins a journey across Ilvard, in which the unlikely duo encounters all sorts of creatures, monsters, allies, and villains.
Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is an action-RPG that allows you to switch back and forth on the fly with Alwen to create all sorts of combos. Ragna is a physical combatant, while Alwen uses magic and fights from a distance. Switching between them on the fly is important if you are going to make the most of their abilities. Some enemies are more suited to damage from physical or magical attacks, so knowing an enemy’s weaknesses is important to succeed and progress.
It is important to note that Ragna and Alwen share health, and enemies focus on whichever character you are controlling. This also means that whichever character you are not controlling merely follows along behind, not actually joining the fight.
Rest stops (usually red benches) work both as places to rest and heal, as well as fast travel points using Alwen’s magic. Each city or town in Ilvard usually contains a rest stop, while they are scattered around the wilderness as well. Alwen can teleport you to any rest stop you have been to before, so it is useful to use them to go back to towns or other areas you may need to return to. Towns are important; as they help you utilize the leveling mechanic of Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection.
In order to level in Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, you have to eat food. Different foods provide different XP benefits, and there is where the risk and reward come in. If you have 10 or more of a specific food type, you can trade it in for a bigger, more deluxe meal that offers greater XP rewards. This brings up an interesting dilemma: do you eat small amounts of XP and level slowly but at a constant rate, or do you save up your food and eat larger XP bonuses to gain more levels at once, albeit at a slower rate?
It is also important that you use food to heal when necessary, but you don’t want to waste the XP either, so it is a very delicate balance between staying alive and holding out for a rest stop.
In Artte (the main town you find yourself in at the beginning of the game), there is a hunter’s guild. By completing dungeons and collecting medals, you can raise the hunter rank of Ragna and Alwen. Higher hunter ranks mean greater rewards, so raising your hunter rank is a high priority. The guild also appraises treasures you find in dungeons, and will even buy them from you. This allows you to earn money which you can use to buy armor and other equipment in town.
In towns and various other places, you can acquire pets, which have a number of functions from helping you find items, to aiding you in combat. Pets level up as you travel with them, but you can only bring one pet at a time, so you have to be sure to choose wisely and level them somewhat evenly.
Dungeon exploration is a large part of Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, and it has a vibe very reminiscent of the Chocobo Dungeon series. You fight enemies, solve puzzles, and explore the depths of each dungeon floor. You eventually come to face a large boss that you then defeat to unlock new magic for Alwen. Along the way, in the dungeons, you may come across gears or parts you can take to the airplane garage to enhance the capabilities of Ragna’s Anchor gear, which will enhance his combat performance.
You will also find things called widgets in your adventures. Widgets are items that don’t exactly affect your combat performance but will provide useful utilities. Examples of widgets are the memo pad, which catches you up on what you are doing story-wise if you haven’t played in a few days, or the treasure nose, which sniffs out treasure in the direction you are facing to make it easier to track down valuables.
All-in-all I greatly enjoy the attention to detail and world-building that Nihon Falcom focused on in Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection. Having never been able to play the original title (since it was not released in the west) XSEED and Falcom did a great job at localizing the title and building up interesting characters and an interesting world that makes you wonder what is coming around the next corner.
There is something to be said for this odd ensemble of NPC characters. I mean, you have a chain-smoking nun, a girl in a penguin suit, a masked luchador, and a variety of colorful, unique characters that each have their own stories and backgrounds for you to discover. I’ve always been a fan of how story-focused Falcom’s games are, and Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is no exception.
My only real complaint is that sometimes the difficulty spikes, lead you down a dark path of redoing old areas just to grind out more food or more money to buy better equipment. For this reason Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection does occasionally get grindy, but all in all, the game provides hours of entertainment and plenty of places to explore.
This is also only the second title in recent memory that I have seen that uses food in a leveling context. While Final Fantasy XV’s leveling methods are drastically different, the fact that this game uses a similar mechanic for leveling and was created back in 2009 shows that it was a little bit ahead of its time when it was first released. If you like Falcom JRPG’s, then Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection will not disappoint.
I greatly recommend giving this game a look, as I can easily see it being a hidden gem that gets overlooked by the majority of Steam users. However, my hope is that if more people give Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection a try, perhaps XSEED will consider bringing the original Zwei game to the west. I’m an avid advocate for bringing games that were only in Japan over to the west for western audiences, but the industry has to show interest for that to happen.
Please do not pass up this interesting action-RPG adventure; it is a funny, interesting, and deceptively complex game that fans of Falcom’s catalog will not want to pass up.
A PC Review copy of Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection was provided by XSEED Games for the Purpose of this Review