I love RPGs, and for me, the golden age of RPGs was in the 90s when SNES reigned king and home to some of the best RPGs. So when I see a game that emulates that look, I get excited. Most often than not, I’m disappointed. But Chained Echoes knew the assignment and lived up to my expectations; it captures the essence of the golden age of RPGs yet expands on the mechanics and creates a unique experience of its own.
Usually, I don’t dive right into a story when I review a game, but Chained Echoes handles the storytelling so well that when I talk about this game, it’s one of the first things I mention. Unlike a lot of RPGs, Chained Echoes doesn’t do a lot of exposition. Instead, you are thrown right into the game with very little background. Admittedly, there were moments when I had to pause to catch up on who’s who in the story, as there is a lot of politics going on in the game, but the fact that I didn’t have to sit through several hours of story and got right into the action was fantastic. A lot is going on in the story; kingdoms are at tentative peace due to an incident that happens right away in the beginning of the game. But not everyone wants peace. And the heroes, each with their own reason for being at the celebration commemorating the treaty, are thrown together and forced to be aligned to figure out what’s going on. This is what makes the story so good and where many games fail at executing.
Story aside, the combat in Chained Echoes is absolutely phenomenal. Like many RPGs, it’s a turned-based system, but what they have incorporated are a few mechanics that make the game feel fresh and new. The first is the overdrive mechanic. As the characters attack, a meter increases. There are three sections to this meter, normal, overdrive, and overheating. When the indicator is in overdrive, the heroes will do more damage and take less damage. It’s optimal for you to stay within the overdrive section. However, as you do more attacks, the indicator goes up, and soon you’ll find yourself in the overheat zone, where your characters will do less damage and take more damage when hit as well. To counter this, there is a symbol in the upper right corner of the screen, next to the overdrive meter. If you select a character’s special skill associated with the symbol, you’ll lower the indicator. Each attack and skill will show how much the indicator will increase and decrease, making it easier for you to plan your attacks.
The second unique mechanic is the character links. You can only have four people in your party at a time; however, you can link two characters together, basically having an option to “tag-in” one of the characters not part of the active party. This is quite useful when one of the party members is staggered or low on health. If the character is incapacitated, you cannot tag-in the backup member. It’s a neat mechanic that allows you to utilize more than just the four members of the party.
Another aspect that I love about Chained Echoes is that after each battle, your health and tech points (think mana for casting skills) are refilled. I know a lot of hardcore players may see this as a setback, but I, for one, always hated having to spend time outside of battle to heal my party, only to have to run to a merchant to find items to replenish my healing abilities, whether that be food or mana potions.
Leveling your characters is also reimagined; unlike the traditional experience system, characters are gifted with Grimoire Shards after defeating a boss. These shards can be used to unlock new skills, and characters can have skills that are action based or passive. You also earn SP points, which can be used to level up the skills once you acquire them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how beautiful this game looks. The sprites are definitely a throwback to the SNES era, and the art is so wonderfully done it makes me miss the art of the 90s.
Final Grade: A
Chained Echoes does everything right. It takes the basics of the 90s era of classic RPGs and adds its blend of interesting features that set it apart from other RPGs. I had a big smile on my face during my time with Chained Echoes. It’s an homage to the golden age of RPGs and reminded me why I love this genre so much.
Review code provided by PR Hound