Shalnor Legends: SL
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Do you have what it takes to conquer the Sacred Trial of Illeria? The only way to find out is to dig into Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands from Johnny Ostad. Boasting gameplay reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda and a retro aesthetic which could easily have it confused as a lost gem of the past. SL is an adventure puzzler with some light RPG elements stuffed in to round out the package.
You take on the role of Rynna, a young silver-haired girl who arrives in the sacred lands with the goal of becoming its first champion. From the outset, the influences of Zelda are felt as the unarmed heroine wanders the fields ultimately finding the ghost of a fallen challenger. This interaction sets the stage for what is to come and giving her a sword to protect herself. The souls of the fallen remain trapped in the sacred lands unable to move on. While some are helpful and offer advice, clues, upgrades and items others, particularly in the Haunted Cliffs, seek to do harm. Rynna is able to fend off the enemies using a sword as well as a bow. You are given a basic attack with the sword as well as charge attack (a dash). The bow can be equipped with different types of arrows, found throughout your journey. The sword and bow can be upgraded using coins collected increasing their damage, reducing their stamina cost and in the case of the bow, reducing the mana cost used to fire the various enchanted arrows.
The gameplay is a touch simplistic but fits the style and theme of the game well. The controls are easy to pick up and play. Along with upgrading your weapons, Rynna must also upgrade her money pouch in order to carry more gold as well as her satchel so she can carry more potions. Finally, you must constantly explore. Hidden throughout the world there are plenty of secrets and chests that will give you life or mana stones. These are used to upgrade your overall health and mana levels.
Visually SL is a love letter to the past. The bright colours pop off the screen in both docked and handheld. Each of the 5 distinct regions has its own feel and style as well as enemies to confront. Unique touches like having the lightning completely blind you the player for a second are wonderful additions. Resting serves to autosave your game but also allows you to switch between night and day. This simple transition affords the player interactions with time specific secrets and characters while also darkening the stages to give them a different look and feel. Unfortunately, the dungeons all feel the same in terms of visuals and task. Each of the dungeons, after surviving the traps and solving the puzzles, results in a boss fight. Again, a throwback to gaming past, each battle is a test of pattern recognition and patience. Straight forward hack and slash tactics will almost certainly end in death.
In the audio department, SL slips a bit. The accompanying score is subtle and more there to break up the silence rather than be a character in the game itself. The SFX used also, do nothing to elevate the game. Everything on the audio side feels more like a necessary addition rather than wonderfully crafted aspect unlike the core game itself. SL misses that epic feel without having some of the musical cues we’ve come to expect.
Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands is a wonderful adventure into gaming past. Games like Kamiko have scratched the surface of Zelda-esque gameplay, SL has arrived and expanded on it. Classic gameplay mixed with lite RPG elements come together nicely in this the package. The final battle is revelatory for the story while simultaneously leaving the story open for the confirmed sequel.