"Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is cute as a button, which belies its nature as a robust and complex action RPG"
With their out-of-left-field localizations of games like Xanadu Next and Trails in the Sky the 3rd, it's no lie that XSEED has spent the last couple of years making some Falcom magic happen. And they have no intention of slowing down with the surprise announcement of Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, which was playable on the E3 show floor this year.
First released in 2009 as Zwei II Plus, the enhanced version of the standalone sequel to 2001's Zwei!!, Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is a cute and fast-paced action RPG in which the courier pilot Ragna and vampire princess Alwen explore the colorful floating continent of Ilvard, on a quest to retake Alwen's castle from a mysterious army who usurped her and sealed her magic in the process.
Zwei plays a little like a step between the last two generations of Ys titles, but with the lighthearted aesthetics of Gurumin. Players can swap between Ragna and Alwen at the touch of a button, and each character has their own speciality. Ragna's forte is melee combat, courtesy of an extendable metal whip with numerous transformations; the Claw Gear allows him to grab and throw enemies at each other, while the Ride Weapon shapeshifts into a hoverbike for fast traversal and massive collision damage. Alwen, on the other hand, shoots a plethora of elemental magic as a ranged attack. Both heroes' combat styles reminded me of those of Ys Origin's heroes, but with the fast paced character-swapping of more recent Ys titles. Furthermore, you can also enlist the help of an AI controlled pet to pick up dropped items and deal extra damage to foes. The build I played saw me running around with a baby chicken who laid exploding eggs, but I peeked in the menu and saw space for a kitty, a doggie, and more, each with their own experience level. It's currently unknown how these pets will differ from each other in a mechanical sense, but I can confirm they're all cuties.
Although pets seem to gain experience through combat, Ragna and Alwen do not. Instead, experience is gained through eating food, which also functions as your main form of healing when in dungeons, via a quick item menu. There also seems to be a light cooking system at play; you can eat a piece of cheese for a minimal experience/health boost, or you can hoard ten pieces of cheese and take them to a chef in town to exchange for a more effective pizza. As the food system allows players to choose when
they want to level up, those after a self-imposed challenge run can try to beat the game at level 1. XSEED's representatives informed me this is indeed doable, though not an easy feat.
The full game is set to have a sizeable overworld and multiple towns, but the build I played saw me gatecrashing a palace full of deadly robotic maids. As I fought my way to the top, I came to a floor with a locked door to the stairs, and multiple opened chests scattered throughout its hallways. A sign informed me that the door opens to "a tidy maid who leaves no cupboard open," so I ran around whacking chests to shut them — some of which happened to be mimics that tried to eat me. The last chest was guarded by a giant mimic pot mini-boss, which bounded around the stage in glee popping out smaller and smaller versions like a matryoshka when enough damage was landed. I made pretty quick work of him and was rewarded with a satisfying burst of coins, which my faithful chick ran around to collect for me.
Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is cute as a button, which belies its nature as a robust and complex action RPG. It's also said to be quite hefty, clocking in at 30-40 hours. I look forward to seeing more of what it has to offer when it releases later this summer.