Last year’s action-RPG Hybrid: Eternal Whisper showed off what an iPhone game can accomplish if a competent team of developers really puts its mind to the task. Gamevil’s follow-up, Hybrid 2: Saga of Nostalgia, is, as the kids say, “more of the same,” but in this case, “more of the same” is not a bad thing when you’re referring to a finger-blistering good time with swords, spells, and shuffling hordes of enemies.
Hybrid 2: Saga of Nostalgia picks up the storyline for Eternal Whisper without a fumble. The previous game’s hero, Grey, is on a quest to find his lost spirit friend Fairy. He does a little hocus-pocus across time and space and accidentally shifts the world’s landscape– along with its history.
Grey’s sprite-like travel companions from Eternal Whisper also end up scattered across the realm, and he must retrieve them. But they, too, have gone through some changes along with the rest of the world, and said changes are not all good news.
Cue the music from ET.
Much like its predecessor, Saga of Nostalgia has a story that tries hard, but it’s ultimately a little dull. The translation from the game’s native Korean is competent but dry, and folks stand in one place to deliver long speeches and requests for Grey’s help. You can skip the cutscenes, thankfully, but the dialogue is often necessary to slog through in order to find out what your next mission involves.
But it wouldn’t matter much if the game’s story was gone and replaced by Grey saying “Poop” over and over. Nobody’s going to play Hybrid 2: Saga of Nostalgia for its compelling narrative. The title is all about its gameplay, which is a side-scrolling beat-em-up mixed with a splash of Ragnarok Online.
Grey uses swords and knives to cut through the never-ending walls of enemies that bear down on him. You control Grey’s movements using a responsive onscreen D-pad, and through different button combinations, he can unleash combos that stab, slice, and smash.
Just dune it.
He can also enlist the screen-clearing ability of his Soulblade, though doing so denies you the gut-clenching satisfaction of mowing down your foes with lightning-quick 20, 30, 40-hit combinations. As Grey wins battles, he racks up experience and skill points that can be used to better his attack, defense, and stamina.
It’d be nice to say that you’ll never get tired of Saga of Nostalgia’s battles. For the most part it’s true: Put something nice on your iPod while playing, and you can go for hours. But navigating the game can be a bit difficult, as transitioning from screen to screen isn’t seamless.
When you hit the edge of a screen, you must choose a path. Whatever errand you’re on will point you in a vague direction, but there’s little variation on the game’s background graphics, so it’s easy to forget where you’ve been. In some cases, you’ll end up clearing screen after screen of already-conquered enemies in order to get where you need to be.
Lightning strikes twice, if you have enough mana.
Also, the game runs a bit sluggishly on the 3G, especially when the enemy swarms get really thick (which is always). Rebooting before you play is a must.
Do whatever it takes to help Hybrid 2: Saga of Nostalgia purr along, because it’s one of the best-looking iPhone titles currently available. Even if you’re tired of anime tropes, it’s hard not to fall in love with the gruesomely colorful enemies of Grey’s world, not to mention his trailing red scarf. It almost seems a shame that everything is scaled down to fit the iPhone’s tiny screen, but that makes the game’s attention to detail all the more impressive.
Hybrid 2: Saga of Nostalgia stumbles a little at parts, but its ticks are easily surmountable if you keep your eyes on the road. If you hold any sort of affection for Eternal Whisper, move like Grey and pick up Saga of Nostalgia quickly and confidently.
And even if you missed out on Eternal Whisper, grab Saga of Nostalgia for a fantastic, fast-paced beat-em-up experience. You’ll have to piece together the story bits that have already passed you by, but it’s not exactly like disassembling and analyzing War and Peace.