Developed by Shiro Games, Evoland not only visits the history of RPG game development by reaching back to the days of NES through the modern era, but it does so in homage to the best in history. Leaving us grinning from ear-to-ear, let’s explore the most entertaining RPG we’ve played in years – if not simply because it mimics the masters.

Starting off in an archaic visual environment, themed around the days of the black and white 8-bit era, Evoland’s visual experience stands as a large part of both the plot of your tutorial and your adventure as a whole. Encompassing multiple visual themes throughout your main story, you will be tasked with unlocking treasure chests and in turn unlocking more sophisticated graphics. Venturing through the side-scrolling era to the 16-bit era fairly quickly, Evoland’s graphics are both originally designed but also very familiar, taking notes from the oldest Zelda titles to modern Diablo and Final Fantasy. These visual upgrades lead directly into the main story plot, driving the narrative between one nostalgic theme to another. With an original design that can only make you smile, the development team from Shiro Games has as much love for the history of RPG titles as you do.

As mentioned in the discussion on graphics, the story narrative is driven by unlocking design and game play changes left around the world in treasure chests. As you transition from the early world of design centered around Zelda, you’ll be unlocking new game play options including saving, color graphics, 3D movement, or turn-based attack actions from the PlayStation/N64 era. Just as in the early days of RPG gaming, story elements become more sophisticated as the technology evolved, but Shiro Games takes note of every detail that we know as experienced gamers. Remember the era of CD-based gaming? When you step into the Final Fantasy themes of Evoland you’ll be greeted with “Now Loading…” transitions, not because you have to load – but because you haven’t earned “DVD Player” speed loading times yet. The addition of CD-based titles left this transition so smoothly into Evoland that I actually hadn’t noticed that it was a built-in pun until about the fifth loading phase. This is just one example of hundreds of references throughout Evoland, including a hilarious reaching into the Diablo universe. Without building a deep narrative, game play and story line merge into the most divine experience any 15-plus year gamer would love.

Where polish is concerned, Evoland is NEARLY perfect. Transitions from one technology to another are fluid, but it was this Diablo reference which stood out as the only miss-fire. When stepping up from 8-bit to 16, or 16-bit to 3D, everything works exactly as expected. When mechanics are used, such as Zelda-style bombs or arrows, everything works just as well as you might expect. Unfortunately, when we experienced our first adventure in the Diablo-based puns of Evoland, we unlocked ambient lighting. This lighting is one of the key elements of the title’s design history, including a super-imposed lighting that spews illogically from your body. As this light turns over from traditional or natural 3D lighting, the ambient lighting clipped through the floor. A minor complaint, maybe, but one which can’t go unnoticed. Otherwise we experienced no other issues with the title, and it’s one of the finest from an indie developer that we’ve ever played.

Evoland hits the mark in terms of RPG replay-ability with fun bonuses in hidden stars and playing cards. Surrendering hours of play into the title, Evoland is worth playing through more than once, for sure, even if you’re not going through for the 100% completion simply because it’s a title full of nostalgic fun. If you’re in the mood to play any genre-defining RPG, you’ll want to get into Evoland because it hits on – and pokes at – every trope in the genre. More than worth your money, you can buy Evoland on Steam and popular mobile platforms right now for up to $9.99 or play the concept version of Evoland completely free over on Shiro Games’ official website.

Evoland 2 is set to launch this Summer.