With many iconic franchises under their belt such as the likes of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, Chrono Trigger and Bravely Default, as well as the more recently released Octopath Traveler, Square Enix is arguably known as the crowning jewel of JRPG development. Triangle Strategy further proves the beloved Japanese studio’s capability for innovation, as this new IP has much to love for fans of the tactical turn-based genre and newcomers interested in getting their feet wet. Excellent world-building, well-written characters, stunning 2D-HD graphics, and a fleshed out battle system makes this Nintendo Switch exclusive one that JRPG fans won’t want to miss.
Enjoyment of Triangle Strategy is primarily dependent on your interest in the plot, as storytelling takes the center stage, oftentimes making the game feel like a visual-novel with RPG elements rather than the other way around. After the first three chapters however, tactical battles and exploration take a more prominent role in the experience. This means the latest demo that was released on the Nintendo eShop, which only includes the first three chapters, shouldn’t be a make or break on your purchasing decision of the full version of the game, but it is the best way to gauge if you’re interested in the in-depth story of war and politics. In order to maximize your enjoyment, this review will be entirely spoiler free, but you can check out a vague plot summary and additional details in our previously published Triangle Strategy preview.
A story isn’t much of a story without characters, and characters aren’t much of characters without being interesting. Triangle Strategy provides a high-quality and engaging narrative, primarily told through dialogue, accompanied by talented and believable voice actors throughout the entire game. Alongside the main story objectives, there are optional side stories that offer additional context and world-building that pulls you directly into its vast universe. It lacks the need for realistic cinematic ventures with its intentionally stiff yet charming art-style, and one of the best parts is, you’re partially in control of the plot’s direction.
Multiple paths means multiple endings in this choose-your-own-adventure that relies on the player making difficult decisions, which is done through two different connecting gameplay mechanics. The first comes in the form of strengthening your convictions by choosing dialogue responses that covertly correspond to Utility, Morality, or Liberty, thereby later affecting what characters will wish to join your party. The second causes a more direct shift in the story, in portions of the game where you must select between two major courses of action. Your party members, also known as units, also have a say in these decisions, and each of their own convictions come into play. This is where the Scales of Conviction comes in. Voting segments where you must convince your units to choose the path you wish to take. In order to persuade them, you must have the proper knowledge obtained through talking to various NPCs during exploration phases.
Exploration phases are the only element in Triangle Strategy that leaves much to be desired. They appear around once per chapter, typically soon before the start of a battle, and involve exploring a relatively small area to gather info, find items, and make purchases from special shops. There isn’t much “exploration” going on at all, as completing everything there is to do unfortunately only takes a few minutes. It’s the only time within the game, other than at the Encampment, where you take full control of the main character, but alas, it’s short and sweet.
You’ll use the Encampment between missions in preparation for battle. Here you can;
1. Talk to the Provisioner to buy items and materials with coin earned from Exploration segments and battle victories.
2. Access the Sundry Shop to:
– use the tradepost to purchase valuables using kudos earned from completing certain maneuvers in battle.
– promote the class of each unit by achieving the proper requirements, which will result in the increase of their HP (hit points), stats (strength, physical defense, magic attack, magic defense, luck, accuracy, speed, evasion, jump, and movement), and the learning of new abilities (attacks, defense moves, health actions, etc.).
3. Visit the Smithy to upgrade each unit’s weapon rank and its abilities by using the proper materials and spending the right amount of coin.
4. Participate in “mental mock battles” at the Tavern, with a new one unlocked after the completion of each story chapter, to earn more experience points and increase the level of your units.
After you’ve upgraded and purchased everything you can from the Encampment and think it’s time for the latest chapter’s battle that you’ve reached, it’s time to deploy your desired units and place them on the battlefield. You’ll be informed of victory condition(s), defeat condition(s), weather, and wind, and once you begin, the real fun of Triangle Strategy will commence.
The battlefield consists of grid-based movement that displays squares of different colors for basic instruction. Panels colored blue are ones you can safely move to without the worry of being attacked, purple means you can move there, but the enemy may strike, red is within your own attack range, and yellow is your selected area. Your own units and opposing enemies will take turns moving around the playing field and issuing commands of attacks and item usage. Once your turn is complete, you choose a direction for your unit to face. Every unit is assigned a different class that gives them each unique abilities. The main character, Serenoa, is a typical sword wielder that specializes in close range combat, but there are also units that specialize in defense, healing, stealth, magic, etc. As for magic, elements such as fire and ice can affect the terrain on the squares of which you attack. Particle effects though, most notably fire, can sometimes cause a noticeable dip in framerate, mildly hindering an otherwise smooth, engaging, and intense experience.
Of course, enemies, as well as your own units, are susceptible to certain types of attacks, and utilizing these weaknesses is important to crown yourself victorious in battle. There are also maneuvers that can render themselves effective regardless of said weaknesses. Taking advantage of the highground on the multi-leveled terrain causes increased damage, as does striking an enemy from behind or commencing a “follow-up attack” by placing units on opposing sides of your target. There is a huge amount of strategy involved as you progress through the game, and you must carefully consider every move you make. Fiddling with the settings allows you to select the level of difficulty, with Very Easy, Easy, Normal, and Hard options available. I opted for Normal as I’m quite the novice when it comes to RPGs, and the later chapters still proved to be a real challenge. It can be quite frustrating participating in an hour long battle only to lose and be forced to start over, but the good news is, the XP you earn won’t be lost, and you’ll progressingly get stronger every time you retry, so it doesn’t feel like it was all for nothing.
2018’s Octopath Traveler introduced the world to the breathtaking “2D-HD” art-style, incorporating nostalgic SNES era graphics with 3D environments in a modern rendering engine. Triangle Strategy utilizes this 2D-HD style just as beautifully as its spiritual predecessor, offering gorgeous visuals that feel like a passionate love letter to gamers who grew up in the early 90s. If you’re not into tactical turn-based RPGs, Triangle Strategy isn’t for you, but if you are, you’re almost guaranteed to get your money’s worth and then some. Square Enix has created yet another incredible world that practically begs for sequels, prequels, or spin-offs. Action-packed strategic battles, a well-orchestrated gripping narrative with replayability due to its multiple paths and endings (plus the convenient inclusion of the NEW GAME+ mode after completing your first playthrough), and complex yet easy to learn and understand polished mechanics make this latest 2D-HD entry from producer Tomoya Asano an easy recommendation for Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Triangle Strategy was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK for the purpose of this review.