Nine Parchments is a beautiful fantasy game infused with powerful magic, best enjoyed by multiple wizards. A cooperative game I am reviewing for Nintendo Switch, Nine Parchments was released last month and has since received an update to address the main concern other reviews had with the game. Since I felt the issue prior to the update was a blemish on an otherwise glorious experience, I decided to wait until after the update to give my thoughts. I am glad to say with confidence that anyone who had apprehensions before should definitely pick up this game now.
Nine Parchments is a co-op action RPG type of game, where you venture through a series of beautiful settings as academy dropout wizards seeking magical scrolls. You have a beginning wizard and variety of elemental spells at your disposal, and you unlock additional spells, staves, hats, and wizards as you play. While the game can be enjoyed by one player, the true experience is had when at least two wizards venture together. This can be done either locally or online. I have found that the local cooperative experience can also be done at your convenience when your partner is around. I started a game with my kid and while the save file is listed as local play with two players, I play that save file on my own and he joins in at times throughout the campaign. Online is essentially the same as local cooperative only with others able to join you in a lobby or you joining others in a game in progress. Online games can be started alone, so there is no need to wait for others to join in the lobby. The problem before was that only one game could be saved, so if you played locally and joined others online, that became your character and level progress and your previous save was overwritten. This has thankfully been rectified, however! With ten save slots now available, you can comfortably continue your local campaign when joining others in the world. Your various save slots note progress with specific wizards as you play alone, in local couch co-op groups, or with others online. The online works smooth, and I’ve had great fun with others while all sorts of chaos was going on, amid three other wizards and plenty of enemies using all sorts of different elemental attacks. When a player loses all their health, they are represented by a circle of their color and can be revived by others that stand in their circle. The more players that stand in the circle, the quicker the player is revived. But doing so isn’t so easy, as others might be tied up fighting enemies elsewhere. Dying in co-op isn’t a problem at all, because it adds to the hectic fun of wanting to be brought back to into the fray so you can help those that are too busy to bring you back. Speaking of, friendly fire is very much a thing in Nine Parchments. As a game that uses elemental magic, combining magic actually increases effectiveness. But getting blasted by your friend hurts just as much as if they were blasting an enemy, so try to work together and not zap each other! No, there is not a way to turn off friendly fire, and I am actually glad about this. Because combining magic has a benefit, I think there should always be two sides to the coin. Thankfully, there are a few friendly fire options available for those that don’t like their allies frying them with an errant fireball. You can have half of the damage given go back to the player that dealt it, or invert friendly fire completely. This will change things a bit when someone’s kid isn’t looking at who is next to the ice raptor they are attacking when they are playing locally. Unfortunately for me, there isn’t an option to prevent a wizard from teleporting off a cliff in an online campaign and feeling the embarrassment that follows. Of course, this is 100% the fault of this writer’s wizard, and not mine at all, and not a fault of the game. I did redeem myself later, however, when halting a charge of a stormy hog toward an ally with some frost shards.
The graphics of this game are downright beautiful. There is so much color used in the game and it makes the levels a joy to explore. There are also things that occur within levels that might not even be noticed if you just blink (teleport) around between battles. I’ve seen frogs chilling by ponds, vibrant parrots high up in trees, waves washing ashore below the palisades of the level, and much more. The music is a resounding score that blends in so well with the adventure yet never plays second fiddle. Throughout the game, spells cast will be accompanied by their respective elemental sounds, and wizards will occasionally narrate their thoughts with different voiceovers depending on who is chosen. My favorite part about finishing a level is hearing the music increase and the sound of the teleportation circle appearing ahead.
A good assortment of enemies will provide a challenge, with each having different elemental variants. Since the gameplay is based around say, using a fire spell on an ice character, you will see specific enemies often. Using a death beam against a deadly dart won’t be effective, because it is immune. While on the surface it may seem like the bad guys are being rehashed, it works in this game because you will find yourself fighting different elements of the same enemy type and needing to use different spells against each. The spells being another thing you have different versions of, they are the name of the game and a great deal of fun to unlock. With beams, sprays, barrages, circles, bullets, and more, each spell comes in an elemental variety that provides also provides familiarity. Maybe to unlock a wizard, you need three different types of life spells. Well you know to be on the lookout when a parchment is unlocked, but when you learn that the one you get next is a life beam you realize that you already know how to use it since you’ve been using death beam all along. I’ll provide a tip: if you get that life beam spell, assign it somewhere in your order of spells that you can access it easily to use against enemies aligned with the death element. Not only is it a great spell to use for healing allies from a distance, life spells are the weakness of death element-based enemies.
Suffice to say, I’ve enjoyed this game greatly. There are, however, some things that I would say are minor gripes. These could even be corrected in a future update. Gone are the days I believe, where players should completely trust a review of a video game when complaints from that day one publication could have since been rectified in updates. So if I have a problem with this game I always consider if it could be corrected. My complaints here could easily be fixed. One is the control scheme. I won’t go so far as to request button mapping, but a simple controller layout display in the options menu would be useful for new players. As an example, I still do not know if there is a way to blink when using a single Joy-Con. For all of the useful options provided, this should be simple to include. What’s more, the multiplayer aspect could use a bit more clarity. When starting the game in multiplayer, you get the standard controller prompt. But I’ve noticed that there is no default choice here for players to pick their profile. Currently, player one is their nickname, and player two becomes “nickname-2”. I would like player one to be the profile chosen when the game starts, and the additional local players be allowed to choose from profiles on the system. This way, their names can be seen above their wizards. I’ve instead opted in the options to just have the names not displayed. Minor gripes? Definitely. But I would think they could also easily be addressed.
Now this isn’t so much a complaint but a consideration for for those looking to play Nine Parchments locally. I would advise having more than just the Joy-Cons at your disposal. Sure, the game can be played with just the included controllers, but this is played best with two joysticks and easy access to the two sets of shoulder buttons. So much could be going on at any time that it’s best to at least have the Joy-Cons in their grip with the other player using a third party wired controller, like we currently have in my household.
I highly recommend Nine Parchments to those who would enjoy an online cooperative game or one played locally with at least one other friend and a second controller or pair of Joy-Cons. I’ve had so much fun on the couch talking out how to take out enemies with my fellow magic-casting player, and likewise have enjoyed playing alone with strangers while feeling that I am a contributing member to the team. This is a game that plays great on the TV in docked mode to take in all the beauty, or in handheld with some headphones to marvel at the gameplay being enjoyed online in your favorite chair. Pick up a copy of Nine Parchments now, so you can rain fire on your enemies from a distance and then whack them with your staff when they have their back turned.