A labor of love that took a small indie developer years to create, Chained Echoes is a confident digital download that takes the best elements of 16-bit RPGs and merges them wonderfully with modern quality of life features. This is a title that shouldn’t be overlooked especially if you cut your teeth on SNES RPGs.
Set in a quasi-steampunk meets fantasy mystical land, the narrative involves a ragtag crew composed of wildly varying backgrounds and professions. It wouldn’t be right to spoil anything here but let’s just say there is plenty of drama as monsters, nukes, mechs, and political bickering is around every corner. It is an engrossing setting, one that creates curiosity with a desire to see what comes next. There is also an expression of an open world but one that is still contained and approachable. Uniquely, the plot doesn’t necessarily follow one character but instead focuses on the group which gave me pleasant FFVI vibes. And there are mechs. And they are cool.
This is a classic, turn-based RPG but there are tons of unique and thoughtful gameplay elements to make it its own. One example is the Reward Board, a system that rewards and grows with the player by exploring and completing creative tasks like killing enemies in a specific way.
Combat is also interesting and dynamic. In addition to the tagging system, which allows characters swap partners, it is the overdrive meter that becomes the focus. With each battle action, the pointer on the meter increases. After a few actions, that pointer might be in the green area in which attacks are stronger, defense increases, and spells become more affordable. However, get too greedy with your actions and the pointer will enter the red area in which the team will suffer negative consequences. To get it back into the green, players might need to take a step back and heal or defend/buff. At first, I thought being punished for attacking as fast as possible to quickly end each fight was annoying and cheap but then realized it plays to the strength of the team’s ability. Sure, you can attack with that healer, but it might be better to cast that buff now and let the tank dish the damage. It can make some common battles drag slightly longer but it adds depth and strategy for those longer and more serious fights like when facing a boss.
The other feature that I absolutely adore is the fact that all magic and health is restored after every battle. So instead of just mashing the attack button, the quest encourages you to use those higher costing magic or special abilities as often as possible. It just makes combat more entertaining when you can use those powerful attacks without the stress/worry of budgeting spell points for that next battle. Simply put, it is a combat system that is unique, engaging, and different in a welcomed way that pays homage to 16-bit RPGs but presented with a modern and time-respecting approach. It even reduces the need to grind because players only gain levels when a boss is defeated.
From a presentation standpoint, the game is more than 16-bit but not exactly 32-bit pixel art. While it isn’t the most beautiful sprite work, it definitely gets the job done. Varied backgrounds, enemy types, and a UI that is easy to read results is something that the player can easily enjoy and appreciate. The soundtrack also sets the tone for what is happening on screen, from the increasing battle themes, to just exploring the world.
Chained Echoes is probably the new, retro-styled RPG that you have been craving for years. It takes the best parts of classic RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV-VI, Earthbound, and more but then packages them together into something special, endearing, and modern. It is easy to see that the small dev team took the time to tune each detail into something that feels right and plays even better as the experience never faulters. Fans of JRPGs need to immediately add this creative and thoughtful game into their queues and Xbox GamePass subscribers can currently enjoy this wonderful title without anything to lose.
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By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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