Back in 2016, NIS America brought the Experience Inc-developed dungeon RPG Stranger of Sword City to the West on PS Vita and PC following the self-published Xbox One release. Stranger of Sword City is what got me to respect Experience Inc as a developer and it was a great complement to Etrian Odyssey back then alongside other PS Vita DRPGs like Demon Gaze. Fast forward to 2019 and Experience Inc released a PS Vita exclusive in Japan titled Blue Winged Chevalier and I knew the wait for an English version would be very long since releasing on Sony’s handheld isn’t really feasible for most publishers now. While patiently waiting for Experience Inc to port it in Japan to PS4 and Nintendo Switch, NIS America surprised everyone by announcing a Nintendo Switch and PC release for it as the bundled release Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited.
Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited includes not just the first localisation and Western release of Blue Winged Chevalier, but also the PS Vita exclusive enhanced version of Stranger of Sword City in the form of its Revisited incarnation. Stranger of Sword City Revisited was self published on PS Vita back in 2017 only in North America outside Japan as a digital-only release. Stranger of Sword City Revisited is the definitive way to experience Stranger of Sword City and now even more people can experience it with a worldwide release but the real draw of this collection for longtime Experience Inc fans is Saviors of Sapphire Wings. While the original games were developed by Experience Inc, NIS America has gotten Codeglue to do the port for both PC and Nintendo Switch.
Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a remake of Experience Inc’s Students of the Round that was released on PC in Japan back in 2010 before seeing an enhanced port to Xbox 360 and PSP later. Saviors of Sapphire Wings for PS Vita also happens to be Experience Inc’s final release on the platform with new graphics, additional customisation options, remastered music, and more added in the remake of Students of the Round.
As a compilation, the two games included in Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are pretty different despite being first person grid-based experiences. Saviors of Sapphire Wings has a more narrative focus and feels a lot more approachable by newcomers to the genre. Stranger of Sword City Revisited on the other hand is a more challenging and traditional experience with more customisation and freedom. Fans of Etrian Odyssey can think of the two games as Stranger of Sword City Revisited being structured like an older Etrian Odyssey game while Saviors of Sapphire Wings being like an Untold experience. Both still are grid-based dungeon crawlers and they complement each other well in this collection.
Saviors of Sapphire Wings has you resurrected 100 years after falling in a grand battle as the leader of the Knights of the Round. You now set out alongside your companions to grow stronger and defeat the Overlord Ol=Ohma (that is the actual name) and save mankind as the last hope. Saviors of Sapphire Wings also includes character bonds and events which are something I didn’t expect in a game like this alongside a varied quest structure in the dungeons through traps, combat, and more.
Stranger of Sword City Revisited on the other hand is set after the events of a plane crash on your way to an unnamed location where you wake up and discover that you are a Stranger and your journey begins trying to find a way back to the real world as you navigate through a plethora of dungeons extracting Blood Crystals and taking on strong Lineage enemies.
Those looking for more of a narrative focus are better off playing Saviors of Sapphire Wings first while those looking to dig deep into a hardcore dungeon crawler with as little story as possible but the most customisation and freedom should try Stranger of Sword City Revisited first. Given the differences in the story and structure, the combat in both games holds up very well with interesting differences in how dungeons are structured and how you approach progression.
The original Stranger of Sword City Revisited was really difficult and is one of the more challenging DRPGs I’ve played on any platform. Stranger of Sword City Revisited has added classes like the Puppeteer, Freeman, and Clocker with their own abilities, new battle mechanics including the counterattack Guard Counter, a new challenge system to take on stronger foes for better rewards, three new dungeons, added puzzles, events, and traps in dungeons, and new artwork. In addition to the added content and features, Stranger of Sword City Revisited also has better balance compared to the original so there are less annoyances overall despite it still being a challenging experience.
For Nintendo Switch, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited both look and runs brilliantly handheld. When played on TV, it could’ve been crisper but feels like a nice upgrade over playing on PS Vita . I was fully expecting this to feel better when handheld given my experience with Stranger of Sword City on PS Vita and then PC when the port was released on Steam but it is good at least on Nintendo Switch. I played it on both Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite and had no performance issues in either game.
Naoaki Jimbo did the music for both Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited. Saviors of Sapphire Wings lets you switch between the original score and a new remastered one while Stranger of Sword City Revisited still has the same catchy tunes that have vocaloid leads. Experience Inc games usually have good music but the score in both of these games is the company’s best alongside Demon Gaze for sure. For those who aren’t fans of vocaloid music, there’s even an option to disable vocals for the music.
There are some text issues in the collection but Stranger of Sword City Revisited’s text spacing is still as annoying as it was in the original. Despite large text boxes, the text always feels squashed on the left and sometimes is a bit too close to portraits. I was hoping this would be fixed for the new Nintendo Switch release but it is sadly the same. Codeglue has done a good job bringing these games to larger screens but a lot of the elements still could’ve looked better in the collection. If you, like me, enjoy playing games like this handheld, you will not have any problems though.
Overall, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited is an essential for DRPG fans. Even if you played the original Stranger of Sword City, the enhancements and additions make Stranger of Sword City Revisited worth your time and having Saviors of Sapphire Wings together with it for less than the price of a full-priced game makes this bundle an easy recommendation. While it lacks the accessibility options newer Etrian Odyssey games have, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are excellent DRPGs with gorgeous art, amazing music, and a ton of quality content for fans of the genre. This is easily one of the best value Nintendo Switch releases out there. This duo joins Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk as the best DRPG available on Nintendo Switch right now.