Work of a single man, the German Matthias Linda, Chained Echoes wants to be the worthy successor of a whole line of J-RPG of the great era of the 16 bits. Highlighting its 2D pixel art aesthetics, the game’s story takes place on the continent of Valandis, against a backdrop of warlike conflicts between 3 nations. While peace has finally been signed between the 3 main countries of this continent, a new plot seems to be looming in the shadows…
Developed for 7 years, does the game deserve its designation as successor to Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy & other Dragon Quest of the time? Answer in this test guaranteed!
A vulgar copy-paste?
The inspiration of the games of yesteryear is clearly felt, and this from the start of the game: the awakening of the hero, Glenn, by his mother, who pulls him out of bed, it’s both very Chrono Trigger and very Zelda. The references borrowed from the best are numerous and are not to displease connoisseurs, on the contrary. Princess Lenne, too cramped in her castle and going into battle easily recalls Merle from Chrono Trigger or even Lenna in Final Fantasy V.
In addition to the graphic style, resolutely versed in high-end 2D – at least it would be the case in the 90s – the spirit of the game takes up a good number of elements of the J-RPGs of the time. Thus, the first part of the game takes place rather like a good old Final Fantasy, with rather classic fights, an equipment and forge system reminiscent of the best games of the time. We even reach the 32-bit generation since in the second part of the game we have to develop our own HQ like Suikoden, Konami’s emblematic title on our PS1.
But the game is not content to dig into its illustrious ancestors, it even has the luxury of bringing a breath of fresh air via some welcome new features. For example, the fights take another turn when you can fight in celestial armor, offering a different gameplay than that of classic fights. The way to evolve your heroes is not through the traditional farm characters: here everything goes through the equipment to which you will have to devote time to make your armament as effective as possible. Your stats increase when you defeat certain bosses, which will drop grimoire shards allowing you to unlock new skills.
Your characters therefore have no levels, strictly speaking, and the fights are not random, the enemies are visible on the screen. The fights have this little touch of subtlety that makes them interesting, since each character is associated with another character in reserve on your team, and who can intervene at the start of the turn, which implies a strategic dimension to the fight. Very useful if things go against you… Finally, the synergy gauge is a welcome novelty, the principle being basic but effective: if this gauge goes into the red following your actions, your characters will take more damage, but if you choose the appropriate skills it will remain in the green and allow you to continue the fight normally. Be careful never to be in the red!
A high-flying aesthetic?
Halfway between the best of what the Super Nintendo could spit out and the 2D HD of a Triangle Strategy, pixel art lovers will be thrilled. The youngest will be at least disoriented by the graphic style chosen, the others will only be able to enjoy browsing the different places. Pretty light effects here, good old-fashioned animation there, difficult for the nostalgic to be choosy with the proposed universe.
The same goes for the sound design of the game, it has not been neglected, far from it, and we clearly feel behind each melody or almost the inspiration of a Nobuo Uematsu or other big names. among the best musical composers of the time. Of course, we don’t achieve excellence either, even if some themes willingly remain in our esgourdes. Is not the maestro who wants! The sound effects are not to be outdone and stick well to the action, on the other hand no dubbing is available – but that would have seemed strange given the artistic direction chosen – and that’s not a bad thing.
Note that no slowdown is to be deplored, whether you play in portable mode or on the TV in the living room. There are no noticeable differences between the 2 ways to play, just as there is no long loading time to bear. The game is quite well optimized so that we can enjoy it on Switch as well as on other competing consoles.
Borrowing concepts left and right, especially from the greatest games in history, is a good thing in and of itself. And in our case, they are cleverly employed, not only to give a framework and direction to the game in a global way, but also, and we can’t stress this enough, to give multiple references to connoisseurs. And this without ever destabilizing the player, at least never in a bad way.
And then the few additions mean that we are not witnessing yet another game of its kind, but rather a gaming experience that combines both good memories and a breath of fresh air. We enjoy browsing the game up and down, advancing our team while trying to do battle with the enemy, who becomes more and more oppressive as we progress in the plot.
However, a crucial point in this type of game remains perfectible, namely the fights. Without going so far as to spoil the pleasure of the game, far from it, the balancing was not well calibrated, and this from the start of the game. At the beginning and during a good part of the adventure, the possibility of effective healing is only very partially available, including when you acquire skills in this area.
We therefore understand why our life and magic bars fill up at the end of each fight, otherwise we would take game-overs far too easily, given that the enemies usually hit quite hard. Caution will therefore be in order because sometimes you waste time in the middle of a fight trying to restore life with the weak means of healing available to you.
Finally, the random side, an inherent part of this type of game, does not always work in favor of a constant difficulty. It is not uncommon for chance to cause a boss to launch its most powerful attack at you 3 times in a row without you being able to retaliate, and this can frustrate more than one. Being careful will not be enough, you will have to do with the luck factor, take it for granted.
As we have just seen, the combat balance is problematic, but the game itself is not flawless. The French translation is not completely up to par, some typos are in the game, like these rare passages that have remained in English. Some game sequences may have bugs, just restart the game to avoid them, but most of the time they end up going away on their own. The looping final scene bug hit several players out of the blue, so be on the lookout.
Similarly, as some characters are very well worked, as many others would clearly need lessons in charisma. The scenario is catchy and we always want to move forward to learn a little more about the proposed story. The transition from act 1 to act 2 is also quite striking since it is at this time that you must develop your HQ and that you obtain the aircraft that allows you to revisit the areas previously explored. Ideal for those who were afraid of missing certain elements and who would like to explore the map from top to bottom.
But the game is still designed to be user-friendly, since you don’t need to do the same fights over and over again to progress, and the many references will always please connoisseurs. The lifespan is very good in a straight line and will be even more so if you want to reach 100%. Besides, did you notice that the gauge at the top right of the screen during the fights echoed that of Final Fantasy X?
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