Hills and Rivers Remain TitleSquare Enix appears to be dipping its toes into the App Store once again, releasing another title with little fanfare, Hills and Rivers Remain [App Store]. Square Enix has released a light strategy game that is best be described as a Galcon-a-like. Fortunately, it does do enough different that it can be distinguished on its own merits, though it continues to disappoint that a developer of Square Enix's calibre could not bring something to the table that really redefines the platform.

Hills and Rivers Remain wraps the traditional Galcon model in a typical Japanese RPG wrapper, with grandiose story telling, an abundance of dialogue and the typically overly dramatic anime characters that have been a hallmark of Square Enix's franchises. Unfortunately the story in Hills and Rivers Remain isn't its shining point, being loaded to the brim with clichés, uninspired characters, and banter that will likely make one wince more often than not.

The gameplay itself sees you directing your forces around a grid of linked bases, reinforcing the troops at each base and sending them on their way to overwhelm and capture the enemies' bases. Your troop numbers are replenished only when the constantly circulating green frame around the screen depletes, and only at a HQ that you can designate by pressing on an existing base. This summarizes much of the gameplay; frantically selecting the appropriate base to reinforce depending on the enemies' moves and your own strategy, a fact that is compounded when you are faced with more than one enemy.

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Where Square Enix has departed from the Galcon mold is in its inclusion of 'special bases' and consumable items. Special bases come in the form of stables, castles, ports, cannons, mines and forts; each providing a specific tactical advantage such as faster movement, being able to travel over sea or increased combat effectiveness, to name a few. This feature is its saving grace; providing interesting strategic choke-points that grant bonus' that essentially determine each match. Additionally, upon seizing a base you are sometimes awarded with an item, which can be consumed at any time to boost a particular aspect of your entire army, such as speed, combat effectiveness or defense. Both these elements help Hills and Rivers Remain from becoming an overly monotonous experience.

825813_2Fortunately, the artwork and sound in Hills and Rivers Remain is of the high standard expected of Square Enix. The game itself is presented in the form of detailed 2D sprites of sufficient resolution that they can be zoomed in on without looking ugly. The animations themselves are a little basic, but ultimately they get the job done. The in-game dialogue between the game's characters is where the artwork comes into its own; each character splendidly created in typical Square Enix fashion. The music follows suit with Square Enix's penchant for fanfare, symphony and drum-rolls.

Despite all this however, one can not help but feel that you are still playing Galcon albeit in a different setting and without the multiplayer experience that made Galcon a hit. Longevity in Hills and Rivers Remain comes in the form of Free Mode, where a range of different armies unlocked in Story Mode, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, can be pitted against each other in the various story missions.

For those who are fans of troop management games, Hills and Rivers Remain may just provide enough additional gameplay elements and depth to really pique your interest. For those expecting a more comprehensive experience or those who did not enjoy games such as Galcon, the gameplay can get quickly tiresome and stale. The story is unfortunately forgettable, and raises the question of why Square Enix did not tap into its sizable library of popular licences to provide something more of substance. A lite version is available with exclusive content not found in the full version, so is worth a download regardless of your plans to buy the full.

App Store Link: Hills and Rivers Remain, $6.99, Hills and Rivers Remain Lite, Free.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • d1554573r

    I always loved squaresoft for their games, but frankly im thinking about making a petition to sqs.
    Why? Another silly java-style-piece of junk from their studio simply insults me and all of us here.

    Come on bring on some FF ports!

    • http://musicgamespickles.blogspot.com/ Robert M.

      I back this wholeheartedly!! Bring on the FF ports!! I'll buy them all without a second thought!!!

      • Cookies

        It's never gonna happen.

      • manaman

        I remember reading this comment ("It's never gonna happen.") and agreeing. Now look at us! I've never been so happy to be wrong!

  • d1554573r

    I always loved squaresoft for their games, but frankly im thinking about making a petition to sqs.
    Why? Another silly java-style-piece of junk from their studio simply insults me and all of us here.

    Come on bring on some FF ports!

    • http://musicgamespickles.blogspot.com/ Robert M.

      I back this wholeheartedly!! Bring on the FF ports!! I'll buy them all without a second thought!!!

      • Cookies

        It's never gonna happen.

      • manaman

        I remember reading this comment ("It's never gonna happen.") and agreeing. Now look at us! I've never been so happy to be wrong!

  • Ender

    "Hills and Rivers Remain" sounds like the title of a Cormac Mccarthy novel.

    Although it's nice to have some sort of offering from Square Enix, I would love, love, love if they ported the Final Fantasy series over. Seriously, just start with FF 1 and, in order, release a new port every few months. Instant buy.

    • kaokien

      they are making ff1 and ff2 for iphone who knows if they sell well they might add the rest of the series

  • Ender

    "Hills and Rivers Remain" sounds like the title of a Cormac Mccarthy novel.

    Although it's nice to have some sort of offering from Square Enix, I would love, love, love if they ported the Final Fantasy series over. Seriously, just start with FF 1 and, in order, release a new port every few months. Instant buy.

    • kaokien

      they are making ff1 and ff2 for iphone who knows if they sell well they might add the rest of the series

  • Don Loomis

    I think they should go as far as starting with what they know will be a gold mine - FFVII. If the PSP can "handle" it, sure as hell our beloved iPhones can. When they see the market, they'll beg to get the others out. Hell, I'm almost positive that the iPhone could run a workable version of FFX and FFXII, even if they've got to dumb it down a little for framerate purposes. The only thing I'm worried about is file size. TomTom already takes up a metric crap load of space, so just what I need is another 1.5GB app. I don't know about you guys, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice! lol >_>

  • Don Loomis

    I think they should go as far as starting with what they know will be a gold mine - FFVII. If the PSP can "handle" it, sure as hell our beloved iPhones can. When they see the market, they'll beg to get the others out. Hell, I'm almost positive that the iPhone could run a workable version of FFX and FFXII, even if they've got to dumb it down a little for framerate purposes. The only thing I'm worried about is file size. TomTom already takes up a metric crap load of space, so just what I need is another 1.5GB app. I don't know about you guys, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice! lol >_>

  • Aaron

    I'm with everyone else and the reviewer. SE needs to step up to the plate and bring us some great FF stuff, even if it's Chocobo Tales or Crystal Chronicals (not Vanguard which is some sort of defense game).

  • Aaron

    I'm with everyone else and the reviewer. SE needs to step up to the plate and bring us some great FF stuff, even if it's Chocobo Tales or Crystal Chronicals (not Vanguard which is some sort of defense game).

  • Tired of 99c Minigames

    Come on Square Enix, Konami and Sega, stop insulting me with thouse boring minigame$!

    Giv me FFVII, a real metal gear solid and shenmue I+II+III

  • Tired of 99c Minigames

    Come on Square Enix, Konami and Sega, stop insulting me with thouse boring minigame$!

    Giv me FFVII, a real metal gear solid and shenmue I+II+III

  • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

    Looks dreadfully boring, like all of Square Enix's half-assed attempts at iPhone games so far. Would like to see them put some real effort into bringing a worthy title to the platform.

  • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

    Looks dreadfully boring, like all of Square Enix's half-assed attempts at iPhone games so far. Would like to see them put some real effort into bringing a worthy title to the platform.

  • Adams Immersive

    For a fantasy-themed Galcon, that 3D one (I forget the name, it had globe-shaped worlds) looks cooler.

    Granted, “looks” and “plays” are different things. This one may be very fun to play.

  • Adams Immersive

    For a fantasy-themed Galcon, that 3D one (I forget the name, it had globe-shaped worlds) looks cooler.

    Granted, “looks” and “plays” are different things. This one may be very fun to play.

  • Sean

    man, where is final fantasy tactics for iPhone? thought it would be a no-brainer

  • Sean

    man, where is final fantasy tactics for iPhone? thought it would be a no-brainer

  • d1554573r

    FF VII, FF VIII, FF IX are playable on 3GS with decent framerates on ... emulator, so native app would shourly bring decent speed for entire ipod family. Generaly psx was machine way-way slower then iphone all the games from sony's first baby should be a perfect match to port.

    • shin

      Yes, but it's still bad for mainstream players.

  • d1554573r

    FF VII, FF VIII, FF IX are playable on 3GS with decent framerates on ... emulator, so native app would shourly bring decent speed for entire ipod family. Generaly psx was machine way-way slower then iphone all the games from sony's first baby should be a perfect match to port.

    • shin

      Yes, but it's still bad for mainstream players.

  • eri

    Good one, SE. I just love RPG games.
    But it would be really great to bring Final Fantasy Tactics to iPhone OS.

  • eri

    Good one, SE. I just love RPG games.
    But it would be really great to bring Final Fantasy Tactics to iPhone OS.

  • Tim

    At least port the FF's from GBA! For the love of Pete! Throw us a friggin' bone here Square!

  • Tim

    At least port the FF's from GBA! For the love of Pete! Throw us a friggin' bone here Square!

  • Chad

    This is pretty expensive for a Galcon ripoff

    • Chad

      BTW Square Enix doesn't have a high "caliber". They lost it when they lost the name Squaresoft.

  • Chad

    This is pretty expensive for a Galcon ripoff

    • Chad

      BTW Square Enix doesn't have a high "caliber". They lost it when they lost the name Squaresoft.

  • John

    Stage 10 is impossible.

    • Chris

      No, it's just really hard. Just cap the towers and try to grab mines if they're not out of the way, rinse repeat on top portion. I'm really happy with this game, I don't have a ton of paid apps and got this one on a lark. Yes it would be awesome to get some old Ssoft ports, yes even I would pay for them, but that doesn't make this game bad.

      The story isn't amazing, but far from retarded, it could be a little more interactive (give me some choices), the gameplay is challenging with a steady curve and it looks great. I'll go so far as to say that this game reminded me what I liked about games to begin with, it looks / feels like an snes game and isn't 100% generic or easy like current game releases on newer systems. I thought I grew out of the gaming thing, but maybe the Iphone has given me something to look forward to.

  • John

    Stage 10 is impossible.

    • Chris

      No, it's just really hard. Just cap the towers and try to grab mines if they're not out of the way, rinse repeat on top portion. I'm really happy with this game, I don't have a ton of paid apps and got this one on a lark. Yes it would be awesome to get some old Ssoft ports, yes even I would pay for them, but that doesn't make this game bad.

      The story isn't amazing, but far from retarded, it could be a little more interactive (give me some choices), the gameplay is challenging with a steady curve and it looks great. I'll go so far as to say that this game reminded me what I liked about games to begin with, it looks / feels like an snes game and isn't 100% generic or easy like current game releases on newer systems. I thought I grew out of the gaming thing, but maybe the Iphone has given me something to look forward to.

  • LORE

    Not a 3 star game, that's ridiculous, how can someone honestly play this game and give it less than 5 stars? Touch arcade must not be honest...

    • Sentinel

      +1