Originally released in Japan in 2002 for the WonderSwan Color, Riviera did not see the light of day in western markets until after it was remade in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. The game also received an enhanced port for the PlayStation Portable in 2007, including more vibrant artwork and full voice acting. Sting developed Riviera with Bandai publishing the game on the WonderSwan Color and Sting themselves publishing the game on the GBA and PSP in Japan. Atlus USA localized and published Riviera for the GBA and PSP in North America and 505 Games publishing the title in PAL markets on the PSP.
Riviera: The Promised Land is the first game in Sting's Dept. Heaven franchise, which also includes the turn-based strategy game Yggdra Union, the strategy / bullet hell hybrid Knights in the Nightmare, and the strategy game Gungnir. The games share a common mythos as well as a number of characters, items, weapons, and locales. For the most part, however, playing the other games is not required to appreciate Riviera as a stand-alone game.
One thousand years prior to the game, a massive war breaks out between the gods of Asgard and demons of Utgard. In order to stem the tides of darkness, the gods give up their power to create "Grim Angels," spectacularly powerful warriors who wield indestructible weapons called "Diviners." With the strength of the Grim Angels, Asgard manages to win the war. In the aftermath, a council of Magi takes the political helm of Asgard, the Grim Angels are pulled out of service, and the newly demon-free Utgard is rechristened Riviera.
Shortly before the start of the game, Riviera begins to show signs of demonic activity. In response, the Magi Hector recalls two Grim Angels, Ledah and Ein, and gives them orders to travel to Riviera and activate the Retribution, which will destroy Riviera along with its peaceful inhabitants, the Sprites. As the pair make their way through Heaven's Gate, the border land between Asgard and the lower worlds, Ledah and Ein are intercepted by a being named Ursula, who summons a creature to impede their progress. While the two angels manage to vanquish the beast, Ursula strikes Ein down and transports him to Riviera. Noting Ein's purity of heart and doubts regarding his mission, and desperate for an ally in her defense of Riviera, Ursula wipes Ein's memories of his mission and plants him in a small Sprite village and hopes for the best.
Ein wakes up in the company of a pair of young women--an archer named Lina, and a fencer named Fia--and quickly finds himself compelled to aid them in their investigation of a mysteriously emptied castle, formerly occupied by a community of Sprites. The trio discover that the community has been slaughtered by Malice, a third Grim Angel acting under Hector's orders, and that the castle is now host to a demonic presence known as an Accursed. As Ein struggles against the being, Ursula reappears to restore his memories and powers, with which he defeats the Accursed. Presented with both sides of the conflict, Ein decides to side with Ursula and the sprites in their defense of Riviera, even if this means facing his former partner, Ledah.
Riviera is a turn-based role-playing game with adventure game and dating simulation elements. The game is split into chapters, in which Ein and his party explore dungeons by examining and manipulating a wide variety of objects and set pieces. Touching or moving objects expends "TP" that are earned during battle, and often results in reflex-based minigames that, depending on the player's skill, can earn either an item-based reward or a short-term status penalty for one or all of the party members. Many of the items found during the party's explorations can be used in battles, which occur when the party encounters groups of enemies at several preset locations throughout each chapter.
At the start of each battle, the player can select two characters to accompany Ein, as well as four items for the party to use. When a character uses items with which they have an affinity, they can master that item, which unlocks an Over Skill and gives a permanent boost to the character's stats. Throughout the battle, inflicting and taking damage increases a gauge at the top of the screen with three levels. Using Over Skills reduces the gauge, which the party shares. The enemy party shares a similar gauge, and whichever enemy takes a turn after the gauge is filled will automatically use an Over Skill associated with their class. As a result, timing is important to consider while engaging in battle. At the end of each encounter, the party earns TP according to how quickly and effectively they performed in battle. These TP allow Ein and the party to examine more objects during exploration in each chapter.
Throughout the game, Ein interacts with four party members, all of whom are female. While exploring, dialogue options and other choices by the player can either increase or decrease the affection ratings of each of the four girls. Battles also have an effect; upon striking the final blow in battle, a party member's affection will rise, and if they are knocked out in battle, their affection will decrease. Affection values have little to no effect on gameplay, but do determine which party member plays a key role in the final chapter of the game, as well as which ending the player gets.
Ein is an inexperienced Grim Angel armed with the Diviner Einherjar. He begins the story working with Ledah to activate the Retribution in order to purify Riviera of a recent influx of demons. However, he has doubts regarding his mission, and Ursula takes advantage of this by wiping his memories and leaving him unconscious in a sprite village, where he is found by Lina and Fia. He ends up helping the pair in their investigation of Lacrima Castle, and after the restoration of his memories, he decides to work with the sprites to defend Riviera from his former partner, Ledah. In order to gain his Diviner, Ein gave up his wings.
Lina is an energetic Sprite girl armed with a bow and a childlike personality. She and Fia find Ein unconscious near their village and nurse him back to health. They quickly convince Ein to travel with them to Lacrima Castle, where they discover the malevolent forces working to destroy Riviera. After the restoration of Ein's memories, she travels with him and the other girls to defeat the Accursed and save Riviera.
Fia is a graceful and caring Sprite girl armed with a rapier as well as powerful healing magic. She and Lina find Ein unconscious near their village and nurse him back to health. They quickly convince Ein to travel with them to Lacrima Castle, where they discover the malevolent forces working to destroy Riviera. After the restoration of Ein's memories, she travels with him and the other girls to defeat the Accursed and save Riviera.
Serene is a tomboyish Sprite girl armed with a scythe, and is the sole surviving member of the community that lived in and around Lacrima Castle. She is saved from the Grim Angel Malice by Ein and the other party members, and decides to join with them in order to avenge her friends and family. After the restoration of Ein's memories, she travels with him and the other girls to defeat the Accursed and save Riviera.
Cierra is a clutzy witch armed with powerful offensive magic. Ein and the other party members find her during their exploration of Nelde Ruins, and decides to join with them after they explain Riviera's plight. She discovered Ein's cat familiar Rose, accidentally muted her by feeding her a potion, and renamed her Gateau, but transferred ownership back to Ein after she and the group discovered Rose after exploring the ruins.
Rose is a talking cat, and Ein's familiar. She spends the majority of the game giving advice to Ein. At some point between their separation at Heaven's Gate and reunion at the Nelde Ruins, Rose was inadvertently muted by Cierra, and renamed Gateau.
Ursula is a powerful being working to protect Riviera from the manipulations of Hector. She suppresses Ein's memories at the start of the game and plants him at Lina and Fia's village, hoping that he will see the plight of the Sprites and decide to help them. After he commits himself to the Sprites' cause, she gives him advice on where to find each Accursed.
Ledah is a cool and collected Grim Angel armed with the Diviner Lorelei. He is instructed by Hector to work with Ein to activate the Retribution in order to purify Riviera of a recent influx of demons. He is a guest party member at Heaven's Gate, but after their separation, he and Ein are enemies. In order to gain his Diviner, Ledah gave up his emotions.
Malice is a cruel Grim Angel armed with the Diviner Skadi. She is instructed by Hector to harvest the souls of as many Sprites as possible for an unknown purpose. She is fiercely loyal to Hector, and is willing to do anything in order to aid him in his bid for power. In order to gain her Diviner, Malice gave up her future.
Hector is the Magi who gave Ein, Ledah, and Malice their orders. His stated purpose for activating the Retribution is to stop an influx of demons, but it is soon revealed that he has ulterior motives. He is callous and manipulative, willing to sacrifice anyone and anything in order to gain more power.
- During the early stages of Riviera's development on the Wonderswan Color, the team used a placeholder design for the title's main character. In one early screenshot from the Riviera Designer’s Works book it is shown that the protagonist was, at one point, going to be a young female Grim Angel whom retained her wings unlike Ein in the final game.