Remember when you were a kid and you could tell right away who you wanted to be friends with? You know, they were the kids that didn’t roll their eyes or slowly back away when you started to talk about dinosaurs? Oh that was just me? Well at any rate, it’s always awesome to find people that share your interests. Especially when it’s something that hits you right in that special place. Namely the one that holds all the years of accumulated nostalgia. That’s a real organ in the body right? It has to be.
Well, for me, finding someone who loves E.V.O. Search for Eden as much as I do was as simple as having a race to see who could get to the video store first every Friday night to rent the one and only copy of E.V.O. before the only other kid who also liked it could get to it. Then finally meeting said kid 9 years later at college, falling madly in love and getting married. Ok maybe that’s not all that simple, but it’s the truth I live everyday dang it!
Now that we finally have a legit copy of E.V.O. (46 Okunen Monogatari) in our collection it was high time we gave it a play through together and did a good ole fashioned Backlog Twosome for it to boot! So, let’s get into it!
As I mentioned earlier, it’s only recently that I’ve come into possession of a copy of E.V.O. of my very own and it’s the Super Famicom version called 46 Okunen Monogatari. So really just a few short weeks ago has been the first time I’ve played it since those times back when I was a kid and used to play rental tug of war with Patrick.
Replaying it again after such a long time brought back all kinds of childhood memories. Just hearing the music got those nostalgia glands pumping! It was exciting to say the least. And it was just as janky and mystical as I remembered it to be. I can honestly say that even after all these years, I’ve never played a game quite like it. There’s no other video game that I can really compare it to and that’s kind of awesome!
E.V.O. Search for Eden is one of those games that I remember absolutely loving when I was younger. Whenever I got the chance, I would use my weekly allowance to rent it, just to see if I could get any further than I did since the last time I picked it up. Of course, the odds of my save file being intact by the time I did rent it again, were pretty slim. As was the case for most rentals during the SNES’s hayday. Funnily enough, it was tough to get my hands on it since I needed to go out of my way to rent it from a video store that I typically didn’t visit. But I was determined to do it!
Over the years since, E.V.O. became one of those games that I fondly remembered, but became quickly out of reach once I had the means to try and purchase it for myself. It was a niche title, and apparently plenty of other people had fond memories for it as well, because its after market price skyrocketed, making the game quite collectible! But, we were determined to play it again via a legitimate cartridge . Determined to relive our childhood memories and once we acquired the means to play import Super Famicom games, we imported that sucker for a marginally cheaper price than the North American version!
We were so dang excited, but also hesitant, because we weren’t sure if this precious gem from our younger years would still impress us today.
When revisiting a game you fondly remember, especially when it comes to a retro game, there’s always that slightly musky odor of jank. You know, that one thing you neglected to file away in your memory banks when you reminisce of the good old days, but quickly rears its ugly head once you get the chance to boot the game up again. E.V.O definitely suffers from that.
Although I adore the concept of traveling through time, evolving your little abomination, and eating every living organism in sight, the floaty controls, the horribly unpredictable hit boxes, and the infuriating stun-locking, made my past frustrations explode into the present. But then I’m reminded of the evolutions, and seeing how funky of a creature you can create, and all of that jank melts away. Well, not technically, but you know what I mean.
the fact that it was such a unique concept that has never really been replicated by any other game. Sure the hit boxes on enemies can be a little hard to judge and boss fights can be cheap as heck, but that’s really just how SNES/SFC games kind of were. There were always tricks to learn to get you through to the next stage where you’d then have to learn even more new stuff to get by. And that was half the fun! The graphics are top notch and impressively detailed considering the potential for variety with the evolutions you choose for your character. The music gets a little grating after a while since there isn’t much variety in the soundtrack though.
I definitely enjoyed revisiting E.V.O. and I’m glad to see that there were really no rose colored glasses shadowing my opinion. Lots of grinding to get the best evolutions, super hard yet easily stun locked bosses, and lots of laughing at the various abominations you’ve created.
Aside from wishing for an improvement to the controls and the collision detection, what I think E.V.O. could truly benefit from, is something more for players to do, other than grind for experience and evolve your creature. For the most part, you’ll find yourself speeding through each level and seeking out the best animal to farm so you can max out your evolutions. I think giving us secrets to find (even weirder evolutions?), or maybe some collectibles would greatly increase the amount of engagement in the game, and would promote re-exploring areas.
Nonetheless, for everything that E.V.O. falls short on, it does something great, and I would love to see a successor (here’s hoping!) expand upon how weird the game can get. You’ll find yourself fighting outlandish creatures, like birdmen and giant wasps, that didn’t quite make it through the evolutionary cycle, and I love that! In fact, I’d want to see it go even further! Give us aliens, or monsters, or more of those weird amoeba things like what you fight as the final boss! It’s things like that, that made E.V.O. stand out, and I think leaning hard into not only the more realistic evolutions, but the bizarre as well, would be amazing.
Each game has merits, and its own set of gripes. For one, Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a beautifully rendered high fantasy world, with all of the trappings that comes with it. You’ll fight goblins, fling spells, and recruit beautiful elf ladies. But, it also leans hard into these tropes, which makes the game feel very vanilla and uninspiring. My biggest issue however, is the fact that if your characters happen to die on you, you’ll have to make the trek all the way back to town to revive them! I mean, come on, no resurrection items!
Speaking of items and equipment, managing your characters is a bit of a pain. When you’re in town, only the protagonist is technically in your party, so you can only see their stats and compare them to the new weapons/armor you’d like to buy. Meaning, you’ll either have to guess if the equipment is better for your other party members or write something down. Not a fan!
On the other hand, Stranger of Sword City makes some of the improvements that were missing from Saviors of Sapphire Wings. Party management is more intuitive and although you need to return to town to revive your party members, a more interesting “rest” mechanic is implemented, making the process feel a little more natural. Besides, you can always recruit more characters if needed, while those that need it, rest. Also, the game, from the get go, felt much more concise and got to the point in a timely manner. Plus it’s still a beautiful game that changes up the scenery for a dark fantasy/dystopian world.
With that being said, my issues arise with how slapdash the aesthetics feel. Since the whole concept was based around a mishmash of heroes being “transported” from other worlds to help this one, nothing, from the characters, to the monsters, to the environments felt like they fit together. Which could have been the point, but it honestly ended up feeling like the dev bought a JRPG resource pack and just used all of the assets to make their game. Which was only exemplified by the fact that both Stranger of Sword City and Saviors of Sapphire Wings shared assets for both character designs AND monsters!
I guess to sum it all up, what I would like to see is each game have more of an identity. Something to set them apart and make them exciting to play on their own. Gameplay-wise they’re very similar with only minor differences and aesthetically they share many of the same designs. The only thing that truly sets them apart is their story. That and I’d love to see a more streamlined party and item management system that makes it more clear how the items in your inventory affect your party. Especially in Saviors of Sapphire Wings.
It’s honestly tough to reconcile whether or not my love for E.V.O. Search for Eden is purely coming from a source of nostalgia, or not, but I can say one thing, it’s definitely an interesting, unique, and fun game to play. It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s more than worth a try, and if you’re in the market for a retro game that does something a little different, I think you’ll enjoy yourself.
I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone who is in the mood for a cult classic good time. E.V.O. is just one of those games you have to play at least once in your gaming lifetime, just to say you played it. While I don’t think that anyone would argue that it’s a mind blowing game in any respect, it does have that perfect combination of 90’s SNES/SFC jank and Enix eccentricity that make it well worth at least one play through.
So, I think it’s safe to say that while the nostalgia is what brought us back to playing E.V.O. it was the weird and wonderful content that kept us going with the game. No doubt about it there was a hefty portion of jank served right alongside this meaty entrée of a retro title, but it satisfied our appetites just fine. It was an added amuse-bouche that we were finally able to play it together as well! And honestly that made the experience all the better.