Word around the office is, I’m quite a fan of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. So when I heard Nicalis would be releasing RemiLore: Lost Girl in the Lands of Lore for the Nintendo Switch, I took a cursory look and noticed that it was an isometric, action Role-playing game with co-operative elements. This was naturally very exciting to me for obvious reasons, although I should have reminded myself that any title with “rogue-lite” attached to it is likely going to have some gameplay elements that may not sit well with everyone. How does this mechamonstrous title stack up against other rogue-lites on the Switch?
RemiLore is primarily centered around randomized dungeon-crawling, with each of Ragnoah’s five worlds possessing four individual acts comprised of narrow pathways interlinking larger battle arenas. There are times when a shop may appear in-between combat areas, but for the most part, these pathways are littered with barrels and crates holding desserts, which are the game’s version of experience points. When in combat, players can utilize one of two inputs in order to attack enemies, with some button combinations resulting in certain attack strings. Lore, the Grand Grimoire and resident floating, talking book, can also cast spells based on the player’s magic meter, which can be filled by dealing damage to enemies as well as picking up mana potions. The game’s only defensive option is a dash input, which can extract the player from sticky situations, but does not grant any invincibility frames.
Enemies, known as mechamonsters, come in a variety of forms, some using their fists, others wielding a number of different weapon types. There are static, turret-like structures as well as miniboss units for each act. Players will need to defeat all of the enemies spawned in a battle arena in order to progress, though not before receiving a rank on their combat performance. This ranking factors into progression in a few ways, and is comprised of three specific grades: time elapsed, damage received, and combo number. Hitting enemies consecutively without response will build your combo amount, but this conflicts with the slow nature of some of the weapon inputs, as well as how enemy windup functions. Generally, you want to score as high as possible in these areas, but the only definite ranking for any of them comes in damage – if you don’t lose any health, you’ll receive an S rank. The other two areas are a bit more nebulous. These rankings will tally at the end of a level, and depending on performance, players will be granted one to four treasure chests containing weapons of various types, stats, and spells. They will also have the opportunity to test these weapons, buy an additional randomized option or a health potion.
Each miniboss (as well as each of the end-of-world bosses) drops a randomized “buff,” which can be a generous helping of experience, a new weapon or spell, or even a stat increase. These buffs carry over from character to character and even remain upon death, meaning that progression is more or less constant. Another example of this is the permanence of experience allocation – if a player raises the rank of a specific spell, it will remain at that level for all subsequent runs. This also applies to weapon rank, somewhat – players can raise their chances of being granted a weapon with a higher rank, although this is less-likely the earlier they are in their run. Case in point: you won’t be receiving an A-rank weapon in the first world of your run, as it would likely throw off the balance of earlier enemy encounters.
Narrative and Aesthetics
Players can choose to experience RemiLore through its story mode, which gives some context to the conflict and the characters. Remi is a ditzy schoolgirl stuck cleaning the library after classes when she stumbles upon the Grand Grimoire Lore, a talking book that transports the pair to its home, Ragnoah. In order to return to her own world, Remi must fight her way through hordes of mechamonsters created by Choux, a cat-ish girl who appears to have a strong distaste for humans.
Each act begins with a bit of banter between Remi and Lore regarding the world of Ragnoah, or the complex relationship the book and Choux possess. The characters will often chat as the palyer makes their way through the dungeon, and the writing, though fairly simplistic, is consistent. While few of the jokes are laugh out loud, the dialogue matches the overall aesthetic of the game itself, which is “bubbly.”
The playable character Remi – and eventually Choux – is rendered in 3D, as are all of the environments and enemies, and the animations of all these characters are bouncy and cartoonish, though not without weight. This can sometimes be to the combat’s detriment, although we’ll talk more about that in a bit. When enemies or items drop desserts, they appear as adorable high-resolution portraits that float towards the player’s avatar. Although the menus aren’t as bright and cheerful, the music that pulses through all five worlds is the right amount of sugar rush and intensity to match the rest of this wacky experience.
The character portraits emote in reaction to specific lines of dialogue and are also presented in high-res, and the overall production values are very nice. One of the more impressive aspects of the game is the way magic runes flash as they are triggered, with the exception of the overly-transparent vortexes. Although there’s very little drama in RemiLore’s narrative, the entire experience is a joy to look at, especially as players uncover the many weapon types that appear in the game. These range from joke weapons, like brooms, scissors, and even some more unsightly (though not risque) gags, to weapons that are simply too cool for an adorable schoolgirl to be touting.
Play Experience and Conclusion
Though RemiLore has the appearance of a title higher in quality that other rogue-lites on the system, the depth of the gameplay leaves something to be desired. Because of the way player and enemy windup animations tend to work, the game often feels as if it is fighting against its own ranking system. While some enemies can be staggered by taking damage, a greater variety of them do not, which means the player must weave in and out of attack patterns in order to avoid being hit. This is a problem when doing so will result in a dropped combo count, but its even more frustrating when the player wields one of the many heavy weapons in the game. Simply put, it takes Remi and Choux longer to set up a basic attack with these weapons than it does for many enemies to attack, which means players put themselves at extremely high risk for very little reward.
Likewise, though many animations appear to be wide, area of effect slashes and swipes, the lock-on of the game causes attacks to usually only connect with one enemy. This means that any engagement other than a one-on-one is a huge risk, which can be mitigated on the game’s normal difficulty, but becomes a much more evident problem on higher difficulties and limitation modes. The title is desperately in need of a shield option, as the only equivalent is a magic spell that has very limited use. While the quality of the animations is truly fabulous, they’re often too flashy for their own good, resulting in a frustrating play experience. Of course, many of these issues can be mitigated via co-op gameplay, which allows players to assist in staggering foes and drawing enemy aggro for much more effective play. Although having a partner can often be a nuisance in rogue-lite titles, RemiLore is one of the few titles that benefits from simplistic controls and depth, as well as and enemies that seem geared more towards two-player runs than anything else.
If there’s one thing that’s unique about RemiLore, it’s that the player needs to complete the game on its basic difficulty in order to unlock the full breadth of its customization. This actually proves to be one of the game’s defining traits in comparison with other rogue-lite titles, as well as its primary method of encouraging repeat runs. Weapon spawns are random, and this is only enhanced by each weapon having its own traits as well as a randomized spell attached to it.
While this can sometimes result in weapons that are hilariously overpowered, players won’t have the opportunity to experiment much until they’ve played through the campaign multiple times. In an initial run, you’ll only unlock a few of the vast variety of weapons, and even then, it might only be for a specific weapon type. There are one-and-two handed swords, hammers, staves, fists, and daggers, with each possessing several tiers of effectiveness. However, you’ll need to level up your mastery with each weapon type in order to raise your chances of getting these higher rank weapons, and leveling up will require a big experience investment.
Each spell in the game also has three tiers of effectiveness, and given the power of their final forms, you’ll want to max these out if you plan on playing through the game on its harder difficulties. There are also unlockable costumes to wear and achievements for a completionist (or masochist) to strive towards, a number of which revolve around experience grind and slain enemies. Once players have completed the game (in either story or normal mode, which strips the game of its dialogue and cutscenes), they open up a variety of alternate modes that offer all sorts of insane play styles, such as randomized spells after each use, one-hit challenge, and a player choice mode that allows one to pick their preferred weapon at the start of their run. These are only half of the options available, and this doesn’t include the additional story mode that unlocks, offering some more off-the-wall interactions between Lore and Choux.
Despite the extensive playtime it will take to unlock every weapon, complete each achievement, and tackle each mode, RemiLore still has a steep entry price for a game with relatively simplistic fundamentals. If you’re looking for an exhaustive rogue-lite that actually benefits from co-operative play, you’ll still need to come to grips with the game’s unique aesthetics. There are a number of truly awesome weapon designs here, but the playable character options range from “cute girl” to “cute girl in a cute costume,” and the soundtrack, though very fitting, lacks staying power. I tend not to judge games on their pricing, as this is something that can and will fluctuate, but there are a number of deeper experiences already available on the Switch at more affordable price points.
If unlocking multiple weapons and enhancing every aspect of the game via a constant experience grind sounds like an enjoyable prospect, then I would strongly recommend the title. In terms of how forgiving its experience and currency system is, it is easily one of the more accessible rogue-lites out there. This doesn’t mean, however, that the game isn’t difficult – maybe on its normal difficulty, but its harder settings will put your understanding of the title’s mechanics to the test. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys putting limitations on themselves and seeing where a randomizer can take you, then RemiLore might have the magic that you’re looking for.