If you're like me, you've been waiting for Chained Echoes to release for quite a while; well, it's finally here and it's great stuff.
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A timeless experience
There's no doubt about it; Chained Echoes wears its inspirations on its sleeve and it feels like a long-lost late-SNES early-PS1 JRPG. With that being said, it's a unique enough experience to forge its own identity with plenty of fresh ideas injected into its old-school formula. Of course, the presentation is superb complete with gorgeously detailed pixel-perfect visuals with stand-out elements being the many unique environments that you'll end up traversing and the distinct sprites, especially the enemies which feature loads of variety and imagination. Monsters are animated, too, which is great although I wish that equipment was reflected on character sprites because that's always a nice touch. That's a minor gripe, though, especially considering how well everything comes together including the wonderful soundtrack. v1d30chumz 35-172-230-154
An epic story
I don't want to ruin Chained Echoes' story but I would like to summarize how it feels to watch it unfold. Essentially, it's a very character-driven narrative which reminded me a great deal of Final Fantasy VI as each character has plenty of time to shine. With that in mind, I found a couple of characters (with 1 in particular) to be rather uninteresting so I ended up skipping the dialogue for the most part when the story was focused on them. Anyway, the basic premise is that a group of heroes try to stop a war on the continent of Valandis as the 3 kingdoms pose a threat to each other. You'll meet oodles of allies and enemies along the way and it adds up to one epic adventure.
A strategic battle system
Now, you may be surprised to learn that there are no character levels in Chained Echoes. Instead, you're forced to think strategically in order to overcome foes and even many regular enemies can end your life if you're not careful. I have both positive and negative things to say about this approach with the best aspect about it being that it's rewarding to know that your strategies are the key to your success. When it comes to setting up your party, you can equip better gear and assign crystals to and upgrade equipment as well as learn and upgrade passive and active skills. You'll also pilot mechs known as Sky Armor which have their own equipment and proficiencies. Although setting all of this up is satisfying, getting slaughtered by a boss and not being able to grind all that much is always a bummer.
A huge adventure
As I mentioned, Chained Echoes is set in a massive and diverse game world and it features a lengthy campaign to boot. In fact, simply working past the first act took me about 15 hours and completing the whole campaign will require roughly 45 hours if you take your time while completing the odd side-quest, etc. Thankfully, the dungeons are great fun to traverse with plenty of treasures to discover, shortcuts and fast-travel points to unlock, dangerous monsters to slay, hidden NPCs to meet, and much more. Heck, simply walking off the beaten path can result in hours of fun distractions so it truly is astounding how much work went into Chained Echoes' game world.
A few confusing choices
Although I loved my time with Chained Echoes and highly recommend playing it for any retro RPG enthusiast, it definitely has its issues. Besides the occasional drab dialogue and limited grinding options which can put you in a sticky situation, I found the lack of guidance to be a frequent annoyance. For starters, some of the primary quests want you to accomplish some sort of vague goal yet there may be no marker on your map or it's in the wrong place. I actually had to look up what to do to work past some parts. Similarly, tutorials are displayed only once which is a huge oversight. I wish you could review the game systems at any time because features like the overdrive meter can be tough to grasp at first. I should mention that you can lower a few difficulty settings in the options screen which I had to do on a couple of occasions as I simply could not figure out how to topple some of the bosses no matter how many approaches I tried.
Chained Echoes isn't a perfect old-school RPG but it sure as heck is top-tier. I imagine that if it released on PS1 back in the mid-'90s, it would have either been a huge hit or gradually garnered a massive cult following and how many games can you say that about?
- + Outstanding visuals, environments, variety of enemies, sprites, and music
- + Rewarding strategic battle system
- + Huge and increasingly complex adventure
- - A tutorial menu and more guidance in parts would have been great
- - Grinding options are too limited
- - Some dialogue is uninteresting