I may have to rethink my approach to Evoland 2. I'm really enjoying it, but I may have been under the misapprehension that it was game, instead of an unholy Frankenstein's monster made of stitched together pieces of games.
Don't get me wrong. This is Evoland 2's greatest strength. It is kind of delightful to go into a dungeon and not know in advance if it's going to be an homage to Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Brothers, to face a boss and not know if it's going to be like Secret of Mana or Street Fighter. However this wild smorgasbord approach to game design does come with a downside. Sometimes, you'll have a long, unskippable section of the game based on a bullet hell shooter and your player will have little experience with the genre, making it a frustrating slog that nearly causes him to throw away his controller in despair.
I mean, I got through it eventually, but it was not a time in my life that I'm going to relish on my deathbed.
I will say this, though. That section of the game caused me to change my mind about the shallow rpg-homage that makes up the bulk of Evoland 2. It was then that I finally realized that the goal here was to quote as many of the classics as possible. Sure enough, just a little later, I ran into a dungeon inspired by Bomberman and a boss fight in the style of Mega Man.
So, of course this game is not going to be as good a time-traveling rpg as Chrono Trigger, in the same way it was not as good a fighting game as Street Fighter or as good a shooter as, hell if I know, because I mostly don't play shooters. Time spent deepening and perfecting mechanics is time that could be spent referencing another game.
With that in mind, it's impressive that Evoland 2 is as polished as it turned out to be. All of its most memorable moments may be cribbed from other games, but they work. The controls are smooth and accurate. The art looks great. And aside from a couple of hiccups, where it's unclear about where you're supposed to go next, the plot is perfectly functional.
Whether the whole can transcend the sum of its parts remains to be seen, but it's clear to me now that the "parts" aren't just an afterthought. They are, in fact, the essence of the game. That will make Evoland 2 an impressive achievement, even if it winds up falling apart in the final half.