By Colin Malone / November 30th, 2015
|Release Date||October 1, 2015|
|Platform||Android, iOS, Nintendo 3DS|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone 10+|
Chronus Arc was originally released by Japanese company KEMCO for iOS and Android in December of 2013 and ported to the 3DS earlier this year. Like so many games before it, Chronus Arc attempts to cash in to our collective nostalgia for 16-bit RPGs. Does Chronus Arc manage to capture the happy memories of nostalgia, or should it slink back to the 16-bit days?
Chronus Arc‘s story starts out simply enough. You’re a little kid named Loka who lives with your parents in the middle of the woods, for some reason. You’re playing with the kingdom’s princess (who, for some reason, is allowed to play at the house of the peasant boy who lives in the middle of the woods). Suddenly, a monster attacks and murders your parents. Good start so far.
Fast forward 10 years, and the incident has inspired you to become a Sorcerer Knight for the Kingdom of Kirbay. Your first task is to team up with your Master Teth, to retrieve a Chronus Fragment for the Houra Festival. The Fragment will be used in the Time Rewinding, where time is turned back, and broken things are mended. Of course, things go wrong, and Teth gets captured by a group of mysterious soldiers, along with the Chronus Fragment. Thus setting off the story, as you and Sarna (the princess from earlier) go to look for him.
Aside from Loka and Sarna, you’re also traveling with Kuril, an idol singer who joins you for fairly flimsy reasons; she’s looking for her lost dad and thinks you may be able to help her. Each character has different stats and special abilities, and each specializes in a different type of magic; Loka in lightning, Sarna uses ice and healing, and Kuril is fire.
I’d tell you more about their personalities, but they really don’t have much. Loka is the determined hero, Sarna is the tomboyish love interest, and Kuril is the bubbly girl. If you’ve seen these characters once, you’ve seen them a thousand times. And Chronus Arc brings nothing new to the table in that regard. Throughout the game, they’re never really fleshed out at all. They don’t really grow or change, nor are any interesting twists that would make their generic personalities more interesting. Their lack of personality is not helped by the game’s repetitive and poorly-written dialog.
On the other hand, the character portraits are pretty nice, and fairly expressive, too. The battle sprites are nice, as well, even if they aren’t particularly impressive or ground breaking. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the game’s background scenery, which is boring and repetitive. Each city uses the same tile set, and, while they look different, every dungeon looks looks boring and generic. Also, the dungeon and town maps look like absolute crap. They seriously look like they were done in Paint. The world map is pretty nice, though.
When it comes to the music, the game was all right. The music wasn’t terrible, but none of it stuck out to me as particularly interesting or memorable. Taken all together, the game sometimes shows a real lack of polish.
As with most RPGs, most of Chronus Arc is spent in various dungeons. The game’s puzzles are generally simple. While I found some to have some interesting solutions, almost none of them gave me any real challenge. This was not helped by the fact that the game only had a very limited number of types of puzzles. Most revolved around pushing blocks or placing jars onto switches to open new paths. So, nothing particularly revolutionary. The game is kind of nice, though, in that it has a quick escape feature that lets you escape from a dungeon at any time, in case things start to get dangerous.
Some puzzles you solve using the Sorcerer Knight’s Ring; a magical ring that shoots little energy balls in front of you. It can be used to freeze enemies, break rocks, and teleport short distances. The concept was stolen almost exactly from the Sorcerer’s Ring from Tales of Symphonia. Even the name’s almost the same. This has nothing to do with anything; I just wanted to point out that I’m on to you, Chronus Arc!
Enemies wander around the dungeons aimlessly, and, if you touch one, you enter into battle with them. You can sometimes avoid combat, but doing so is mostly based on chance, since the enemies move randomly. Battles in the overworld are a bit more traditional, consisting entirely of occasional random encounters. The game’s battle system is a completely generic, turn-based affair. You pick your team’s attacks, then they and the enemies attack in order, based on their speed stats. If you’ve ever played a JRPG, you seen this battle system, except better. There are no Super Mario RPG-esque Action Commands, no Final Fantasy-esque Action Time Battle system, no Tales of Phantasia-esque action-based combat. Just pure, traditional, turn-based combat.
Because of this, combat tends to be fairly uninteresting. Which makes the grinding you’re forced to do all the more tedious. Not only do you need to grind for the game’s frequent difficulty spikes, but you also have to grind to collect materials for upgrades.
This is because one of the game’s unique points is that, rather than buying or discovering new equipment, you primarily upgrade your existing equipment or forge new pieces using materials you find either after battle or in certain spots in the dungeons. In other games (like Tales of Symphonia), this mechanic serves to make the game more interesting and making the grinding you’d be doing anyway feel more rewarding. In Chronus Arc, it just leads to ever more tedious amounts of grinding and farming as you look for the random drops of the materials you need to upgrade your equipment.
The game has a lot of side quests, but none of them manage to be very interesting. They all boil down to collecting a certain number of drops and bringing them back to the town’s quest building. I wouldn’t encourage doing them either way, though, because the drops you’re required to farm are often the same one’s you’ll need to upgrade your equipment. The rewards aren’t particularly good, either. So, even if the gameplay could’ve made up for the game’s lack of polish, it really, really doesn’t. The game’s sole mercy is that it’s short. It took me a little under 20 hours to complete.
Chronus Arc is trying its best to call back to the days of yore, when 16-bit RPGs were king. If they had released Chronus Arc back in those days, it might have been considered a fairly mediocre RPG. Unfortunately, KEMCO doesn’t seem to realize that gaming has changed since the mid ’90s. There are a ton of games that have done what Chronus Arc is trying to do, but they did it better and first. If you have a 3DS, and you really want to play a old school-esque RPG, I’d recommend Bravely Default or Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Soul Hackers. Both of which are much better games. But if you’ve already finished those two, and you still want more classic RPG goodness and you don’t mind something a little bland, Chronus Arc isn’t the worst way to spend your money.
Review copy provided by publisher and is based on the 3DS version