Chronus Arc Review: Visions From the Past
There are a few things I look for when I'm going into a game blind, and those are the publisher, the developer, and the game's genre. Typically those three pieces of information can help determine exactly what I'm about to get myself into, and its certainly something that I found helpful when it came to the topic of today's review, Chronus Arc. Developed by Hit Point Co. Ltd. Games, who is primarily a mobile developer, and published by Kemco, Chronus Arc is a turn-based Japanese-style RPG for the Nintendo 3DS. While I'm not familiar with the game's developer, I have a long history with the game's publisher, dating back to the NES with games like Shadowgate and Drakkhen. My history had Kemco had been mostly positive, and with JRPGs being one of my favorite game genres, I dove into Chronus Arc with my hopes in check, but a small part of me wanted to see that Kemco name attached to something great once again.
Chronus Arc beings as the Kingdom of Kiribay is preparing to celebrate the Houra Festival, a week long event that happens once every ten years and culminates in the Time Rewinding. While much isn't said about the time rewinding in the early hours of the game, we do know that it is an event which is meant to fix things that were broken, but the games doesn't go into much more detail in the early going. The game opens with two kids playing in the woods, and they are soon attacked by a monster. The parents of one of the children run to their aid, but sadly the parents are killed. Fast foward ten years and we are introduced to Loka, one of the children from the opening scene. Loka is in training to become a Sorcerer Knight, the protectors of the Chronus Fragment, under the guidance of his mentor and guardian, Master Teth. During Loka's final trial in his training, the two come under attack from a man named Gallus and his knights inside the Chronus Temple. Teth instructs Loka to return to the kingdom for aide, but when he returns his Master and Gallus are both gone. Upon reporting back to the King of Kiribay, Loka is tasked with tracking down Gallus and finding Kiribay's Chronus Shard before the Houra Festival. Loka is joined in his quest by the Princess of Kiribay, Sarna, his childhood friend who he was with when he was attacked by the monster that killed his parents. The two set out to track down Gallus, but are pulled into a mission to protect the world's four Chronus Fragments and locate Teth before the Time Rewinding.
As I made my way through Chronus Arc's story, I wasn't blown away by the writing or characters, but it did make me think back to a number of games from my past. While none of them had the same plot, it's a general enough plot that we've all seen before. The game won't keep you guessing on what's going to happen in the grand scheme, but I was happy to see that a few of the tropes I was expecting to see rear their heads, actually didn't. Through out the game I was expecting Loka's parents to come up more, or for him to mention using the Time Rewinding to save them, but neither event actually happened. Another plot point I found interesting, which I won't spoil here, is the truth of what happened on the day Loka's parents died. The plot and writing isn't going to win any awards, but the game's plot is a nice throwback that reminded me a lot of a simpler time, when a plot didn't need to be as convoluted as many modern JRPGs seem to be.
Delving into the game itself shows us a fairly standard turn-based JRPG, at least on the surface, but getting into the game's mechanics shows a bit more to the game that I expected. While the game has the typical travel from town to town on an overworld map with random encounters, once you go into a dungeon the game shakes it up a bit. Dungeons are played out in a similar style to Lufia II on the SNES, where dungeons contain puzzles and random encounters are done away with in favor of having the monsters visable and wandering around. While this seems like a strange change, much of it has to do with the puzzle aspects of the games. Outside of that, the weapon system is also very different from most RPGs, with only four weapon shops in the game, there are long breaks, especially in the early stages of the game before you can upgrade your equipment. In lieu of constant weapon shops, the game actually employs a system where you can upgrade your weapons and armor. By taking your equipment to a blacksmith, and having the appropriate items, you can upgrade your equpment's status and even have your weapons and armor become entirely new pieces of equpment have a set number of upgrades. This system reminded me a lot of Suikoden's weapon system, and it was something that I felt game the game more of a unique twist. Thanks to these factors, and the ability to speed up in battle animations, I found myself enjoying the game much more than I had initially expected. The blacksmith did bring in a new aspect for grinding, but thanks to guild quests and needing to level your characters anyway, getting enought items to upgrade equipment was never much of a problem. However, the early part of the game the difficulty curve is a bit high, so be forewarned, but since the game was made for mobile devices it isn't as long as many console RPGs, clocking in at only about twelve to fifteen hours. Chronus Arc really does embrace the old ideas with being a mobile game in mind however, and thanks to quick travel and the ability to save anywhere, the games never feels like a burden, despite the early game difficulty and shorter than average length.
Chronus Arc borrows from classic RPGs in more than just its gameplay, but also in its visual and musical style as well. As I made my way through the game I noticed infulences from a number of classic JRPGs like Chrono Trigger and Rudra no Hihou from the SNES and Super Famicom respectively. The sprite works does a great job of capturing the retro charm of RPGs of the past, while still managing to look great even on the 3DS' screens, which lack the HD resolution Chronus arc recived on other devices. The audio presention, much like the visual side, is remanisant of games of the same era. The soundtrack fits the game well, and some of the battles tunes are quite good, but I can't see myself going out of my way to listen to the music outside of the game, or bothering to collect all the songs for the in-game sound test. Despte this, the audio suite is really well done and even though some of the compisitions began to wear on me by the time I reached the game's final scenes, I never found myself reaching for the volume button at any point during my playthrough.
Chronus Arc is a game that really took me by surprise, I had lowered my expectations going in, but honestly, by the times the credits rolled, I found myself disappointed that it was over. The classic turn-based battle system and puzzle filled dungeons were a nice throwback to SNES era of RPGs, and something I really enjoyed. While it's story and gameplay aren't going to turn any heads, the game has a retro charm and is sure to be enjoyed by gamers who grew up enjoying JRPGs the 8 and 16-bit eras. Chronus Arc won't be for everyone, but if you're looking for something that isn't too long and will give you a nice stroll down memory lane, then Chronus Arc is likely just what you're looking for.
Final Say: Play It