Review – Syberia
I’ll be honest with you guys: I had never heard of the Syberia series until earlier this year. Back in 2002 I was too invested with the Gamecube and the masterpiece that was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II to notice what was going on in the PC gaming scene. Apparently I missed a very successful point-and-click adventure series developed by French firm Microids. Fifteen years later, and many many ports later, the same French lads are now re-releasing Syberia to the Switch, with Syberia 2 coming out later this year, and Syberia 3 scheduled for 2018. The time has come for me to embrace this cult hit.
The first thing I have to say about the Switch version of Syberia is that it is identical to the original in every conceivable way. In some ways, that is good: the DS version, for example, was lambasted for having muddy graphics, a poor interface and removed spoken dialogue. The Switch version has it all: the original voice acting, the original soundtrack, all puzzles set where they should, the absolute same experience from 2002. And that’s where the problem lies. We’re not in 2002 anymore, we’re nearing the end of 2017. Time wasn’t kind enough with Syberia, as it did nothing but highlight some of the flaws it had back in the day, as well as some issues caused by time itself.
For starters, we have to talk about how the game looks. For 2002, this must have been stunning. Pre-rendered backgrounds coupled with some impressive (for 2002, let me remind you) FMV cutscenes and some polygonal characters. Fast forward to 2017, and we have grainy backgrounds coupled with some grainy cutscenes and rudimentary polygonal characters that stand out way too much from the scenery given the increased resolution and the fact we don’t use CRT screens anymore. Besides the resolution, nothing else changed visual-wise, and that’s a bummer. This is the biggest problem with polygonal games: unlike sprite-based visuals, their graphics don’t age that well.
The other problems are the gameplay and some glitches. The controls aren’t terrible per say, they’re actually decent enough, all things considered. Your main character moves well enough when walking at a moderate pace and item management is trouble-free as well, accessible by touching a button. The touch interface is also pretty decent. The problem lies elsewhere. Given the size of all the maps, you’ll constantly find yourself using the ZR button to make your character run from A to B. Running makes your character much harder to control, sharpening her turns, making her crash everywhere given the game’s archaic collision detection, and making her stop like a handbrake whenever there’s a screen transition (and trust me, there are many of them), which is more of an annoying hindrance than a complete technical issue. The game also features a handful of glitches, most notably being stuck in a wall without being able to move. Thankfully, the game autosaves at an astonishing pace, every single time you transition from a screen to the next, therefore you never lose progress even when you’re forced to restart the game.
I may have been too harsh so far with Syberia but I won’t deny the fact I had fun with it. I’m not exactly a fan of point-and-click adventures but I did get invested in its story and setting, and played it to the end without a problem. Sure, some of its puzzles are so nonsensical you basically need a walkthrough to guide you, but that’s to be expected from a game like this. Half of the fun is trying to use every item in every situation and hope it’ll work. I also have to praise Syberia‘s sound design: both its voice acting and soundtrack were top notch. It’s rare to see games from the beginning of the century with such great voice acting, so I’m glad Syberia is one of the exceptions.
The Nintendo Switch version of Syberia brings absolutely nothing new to the table, and that can either be one heck of a bummer for some or an interesting plus for others. If you have never played the original title (like myself), there’s no better platform than the Switch, with its large screen and touch controls. If you have already played it, there’s absolutely no reason for you to even care about getting it, given the fact nothing has been improved, both visually or sound-wise. Let’s just hope both Syberia 2 and 3 arrive with some bigger improvements.
Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS2, PS3, PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, DS