Review: Chronus Arc (3DS)

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull game.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 10/15/2015 09:00 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Authentic look, sound, and feel of a 16-bit RPG; fast travel system is a great time saver
Poison Mushroom for...
Some repetitive music; upgrading your gear requires too much grinding in repeat locations; rote story and characters hurt even more by drab writing

Japanese RPGs don’t begin to grab the attention of gamers they once did. Yes, there are some standout franchises, like Pok√©mon, that have maintained a dedicated fanbase across numerous iterations, and there are even groundbreaking titles, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, that make people stand up and take notice, but many would argue the genre has grown stale. Chronus Arc makes some efforts to fight this trend, but it might not go far enough.

At first glance it is quite obvious that Chronus Arc is heavily inspired by the SNES era of JRPGs. The towns, dungeons, character models, and battle animations all nod to the likes of Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Breath of Fire. The pixelated visuals might never match the astounding attention to detail of Chrono Trigger, but plenty of gamers will likely feel at least a little tinge of nostalgia thanks to the game’s aesthetic direction. It might not blow anybody’s mind, but it at least sufficiently looks the part.

The music generally flows in the same direction, though it is less successful. All of the tunes are true to the MIDI sounds of the 16-bit era, but few stand out as anything more than mediocre and the soundtrack as a whole suffers from constant repetition, especially the song that plays during dungeons. However, the boss battle theme is quite good, but it really was the only one I found noteworthy.

In terms of gameplay, Chronus Arc once again draws inspiration from the early to mid-’90s classics many a Nintendo fan grew up with. You explore a large world map that gives way to towns and dungeons, battle enemies in turn-based battles to gain experience and gold, and then buy or seek out better gear. Anyone who has ever played an old-school Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest likely won’t have much of a problem getting into the flow of the game, though there are a few areas where Chronus Arc does attempt to change things.

Let’s be honest, one of the reasons why JRPGs have likely declined in popularity is the grind; the many extra hours tacked onto most games specifically spent leveling up and getting new gear in order to reach the level the developers decided you should probably be to take down the next boss. Where Chronus Arc tries to be different, it simultaneously makes this problem both better and worse. What it does better is add a super useful and gamer-friendly fast travel system. Not only does this allow you to warp between any discovered locations on the world map, it also lets you instantly leave a dungeon whenever you want. This makes traversing the world and getting out of overly difficult areas super quick and easy. Some hardcore folks out there might decry this change as making things too easy, but I personally see the game as trying to better respect my time. As for how it makes matter worse, it has a different approach to acquiring new gear that emphasizes upgrading what you have over buying new. This is a decent enough concept by itself, but you’ll often find the items you need to power up your arms and armor are actually in the area you just cleared, so it often makes progressing through the game feel slower, and less rewarding. The game also includes a few puzzles in each dungeons, though the mechanics rarely offer anything beyond simple box pushing and switch hitting.

Were everything mentioned above the total experience of playing Chronus Arc I could almost see myself recommending it. Sure, its attempts at innovation aren’t completely successful and the game never rises to level of its inspirations, but it otherwise does an adequate job of being a decent nostalgia trip for fans of 16-bit JRPGs. Unfortunately, Chronus Arc has a story to tell as well, and it really drags everything else down.

The core concepts is that the world is about to experience the Hora Festival, in which magic artifacts known as Chronus Fragments are used to restore things that had been broken in the ten years between each festival. The main character is Loka, a knight-in-training who is one of the people tasked with gathering these fragments, but has to go on an adventure when a mysterious enemy steals the fragments and kidnaps Loka’s mentor. It’s a decent set up, but the story just never really becomes all that interesting and there is nothing else to grab you. The characters are all quite simple and often play to overly simple archetypes while dialogue is drab and completely devoid of character. Good writing can make even the most cliched characters and derivative stories fun, but that simply isn’t the case in Chronus Arc.

Dedicated fans of the JRPG genre, especially those of you who grew up playing SNES, might be able to find at least some fun with Chronus Arc based on the fact it delivers a mostly competent version of the sights, sounds, and gameplay mechanics of the era. However, when you delve any deeper than that nostalgic veneer the experience feels rather hollow. A good story can make grinding feel worth it, as every new plot point and character development serves as the reward for the time you’ve put in, but Chronus Arc really never offers such a reward. Your grinding might net you a better sword or level you up to the point you get a new spell, but the same bland characters and writing are going to pop up sooner or later to yet again remind you that you really don’t care what happens next.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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