When it comes to JRPGs nothing is impossible. Chained Echoes offers a nostalgic story with game-play everyone from the 90s may miss. The game has similar tropes but is modernly executed with today's standards in gameplay and animation.
What I Initially Thought:
Whenever I read the two words: JRPG and Story, I only remember the good times of playing a Suikoden game, because that game actually had meaningful characters, story, and gameplay. Then when I checked out the project page on Kickstarter, I was kind of amazed at how much effort went into the game by just about two people. I stand by solo game developers because I have made a few games by myself entirely. It is not as easy as it looks, although the finished product may be mediocre, it's because of money and availability of technologies.
In short, I then read through the project and I believe it will be worthwhile! I will Kickstart the game too later.
From the looks of what is available, there isn't much-released content or enough gameplay to see what the game might have, so we will most likely base crituque the game on what's available.
Chained Echoes is a project led by Matthias Linda, who has experience in game development through his work as an animation and graphic designer.
The game involves a classic story about the struggle of power between three kingdoms, and you will definitely might have to bring peace to the world to prevent catastrophic disasters. From a glimpse of the trailer, the game quickly reminds me of Xenosaga, another game, that was on the PlayStation 2 developed by Monolith Soft, that also had maybe a similar story in some ways. Since Mr. Linda claimed it to be a story-driven game, one can only imagine how many cutscenes Xenosaga had... And it was a lot. However, it is already stated that the game was about 20 to 25 hours, so it doesn't nearly come as close to Xenosaga, but at least the game has appeal.
A description from the press kit:
CHAINED ECHOES is a classic SNES-styled RPG, bringing back all the fun things from that era while reinventing and developing them further. Follow a group of heroes on their journey through the war-ridden land of Valandis. Fight against hordes of enemies in a turn based battle system. There are no random encounters and no separate battle arena is involved. This allows for the player to use the environment to his advantage, either in the midst of the fight or in preparation for it. In case fighting your enemies with sword or magic is not enough, you can switch to your Mech and bring out the big guns. A complex battle and skill system makes sure that everything stays balanced and fun. Additionally there will be a deep equipment system, allowing for a lot of customization of your characters, your Mechs and even your own airship! And having an airship means that there will be a whole world map waiting for the players to be explored. CHAINED ECHOES is a colorful adventure full of surprises, fun characters, and an engaging story.
Take a look at the project yourself and check out the trailer on Chained Echoes. I think it looks fantastic for 16-bit drawn sprites (I assume).
Now if you compare the above trailer to the first cutscene of Xenosaga, it feels nostalgic!
Mechas and Simple Yet Deep Mechanics:
Oh the mechas... The number one leading weapon of every wordly-like JRPG, from Xenoblade, Xenosaga, Zone of The Enders, and Megaman. Nevermind, I feel like there actually isn't that many JRPGs with mechas. Some people dig the mecha genre, because of how detailed and cool they look, kind like how to also like cars, but others don't like it because they are usually unbalanced and instantly give someone an advantage, or they just prefer people only.
Besides preferring people, people generally steer away from complicated games. Not many people play Defense of The Ancients Two because it isn't beginner friendly, but many people play Candy Crush. If this game can strike that balance between delivering easy gameplay with a fantastic story, then we have a breadwinner. An aspect of what the author has shared about the gameplay is seamless transitions and being able to interact with the environment. Although interacting with the environment sounds cool, it isn't really going to add much since possibly all the items and interactives are in fixed locations. It would be nice if there was more to the environment or way to alter the environment to give yourself an edge in battle. An example would be, being able to impact the terrain to change form in some way.
Although the game could be exciting, the open world is not appealing to me. I do not like having a map where you travel to destinations in a world map view. I would rather go places throughout the game. So when I saw how the travel was in the game, I kind of felt like, the author didn't try to be creative in the aspect of world travel. In my games, I force the player to go from point A to point B without travel. They legit have to move over there unless they ride a ship or teleport with magic. However, map travel should be used if there are just too many places the player can visit, which I hope so. Moving from map travel, let's look at the characters themselves.
Yes, in my eyes they look bland and forgettable. I'm sure the characters are relatable in some sense since they look realistic, but none of them shine in design. They look flat and boring. They kind of remind me of Suikoden characters, which is alright, but in those games, you can recruit over 20 characters. If you are going to make a game where you have less than 8 playable characters, you might as well put more work into the design, so that people who play the game will actually remember what they look like because it has a unique style. Heck, even mobile gachapon games nowadays have impressive character designs.
There are probably more things to discuss about the game, but those were the ones that stood out to me the most.
Is It Worth Backing:
The projected completion of the game is two years, and certainly, anything can happen in two years. In addition, it's by one person, so it may not be the smartest investment, but if you absolutely love the style of the game and what it offers, then go for it. Otherwise, save your money because the PS5 and other amazing JRPGs will hit the market within the same time frame as Chained Echoes.