Game Review #177: Alvastia Chronicles (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B.
Developer: Exe Create, Inc Publisher: KEMCO Category: Role-Playing, Adventure, Strategy, Simulation Release Date: 02.14.19
Price (at time of review): $12.99
Buy Alvastia Chronicles from the Nintendo eShop here.
JRPGs are my comfort food. Like any good comfort food, as long as they’re not made of poison, I’ll probably love them and try to consume of much of it as I can. KEMCO and Exe Create have no problem feeding my addiction, as their latest release, Alvastia Chronicles, scratches all of my JRPG itches with practiced ease. It features retro-inspired graphics and a pretty neat battle system. With over 100 recruitable characters, the game overall feels more than a little inspired by one of my favorite franchises, Suikoden, which is famous for its large cast as well. And while the majority of Alvastia Chronicles’ cast doesn’t really match the depth of Suikoden’s army or playable characters, it does manage to produce a highly enjoyable, retro-styled JRPG experience.
Alvastia in the Sky, With Pillars
The world of Alvastia was being overrun by the Archfiend’s monsters, so the ancestors of the four tribes (humans, elves, ogres, and anima) helped to raise the four continents into the sky on four great pillars. Each pillar contained a stone and a priestess to pray to it, which kept the monsters at bay in the world below. One day, in the home of the human tribe, the Archfiend’s forces destroyed the pillar, allowing the monster hordes to spew forth into the world above in their attempt to revive their missing master. Ten years have passed since Alan and his younger sister Elia fled their home during the monster’s assault. After a chance encounter with a Tetrarch, one of the Archfiend’s generals, the pair of siblings set off on a journey to repair the pillar and avenge their parents.
Alvastia Chronicles’ story has everything I’m looking for in an RPG storyline; great characters, dramatic twists and turns, and an engaging back story. The dynamic between Elia and Alan can get a little… weird… for siblings, but I let it slide because the rest of the game was so enjoyable. Their interplay with the remainder of the permanent cast, Raine the ogre and Gil the elf, felt natural and relatable and proved to be equal parts amusing and endearing as I progressed through the story. The main story was fairly standard good-vs-evil stuff, but it was solid enough to sustain an engaging narrative. I wish the game would have done more story-wise with the expansive cast of recruitable characters, as most of them have pretty much nothing to do with the story, but that’s just splitting hairs, really.
There is no “I” in “Team”
The battle system is mostly the classic JRPG archetype; your characters on one side, the enemies you’re fighting on the other. You can choose actions like attack, magic/skills, items, guard, or escape. There’s a turn meter on top of the screen so you can see the turn order and plan accordingly. There are a few neat ideas thrown in to streamline the game a little, which I like quite a bit. First, and a lot of newer JRPGs do this, is that HP and MP are restored at the end of every battle. On the one had this can reduce the challenge the game poses, but I just think it gets rid of one of the most annoying aspects of JRPGs in order to focus on the fun part.
The other cool idea Alvastia Chronicles throws into its battle system is teams. Each of your three main fights – Alan, Gil, and Raine – can each have up to three characters supporting them in their team during battle. Team members augment their leader’s stats as well as assisting them in battle. They will attack when the leader attacks, or you can have them use their skills for the team’s turn. Finally, if the Burst Strike Gauge is full, you can execute a Burst Strike attack which allows each member of a team to use one of their skills. The team leader goes last, and during a Burst Strike they can use special ultimate attacks that aren’t available otherwise.
108 Stars of Destiny… Or Something Similar
Recruiting all of the characters in the game isn’t always very hard, but it is extremely addicting. Gotta catch ‘em all is just my way of life, I guess. Some are as easy to get as just talking to them, but eventually they start to require some work. Some characters want you to prove your skill by defeating them in battle, some won’t join until you gather their friends under your banner, and some will need you to bring them special items in exchange for their strength. And one guy just wanted fifty grand. I wish some of the characters had deeper stories to go along with them, but just the act of collecting them is rewarding enough. Hearing the chime that comes with recruiting someone eventually instilled a Pavlovian response in me. Every time I heard it, I yearned to hear it again. Recruiting certain characters or classes will also unlock special team Bonds for use, which can be equipped to a team for extra bonuses during battle.
Ordering From the Special Menu
The game’s menu screen has a bunch of cool side attractions. There’s a special menu shop that lets you spend ALP, a special currency gained from battle to purchase special items. It’s kind of like spending Grade in the Tales series, except you don’t have to wait for new game plus to use it. You can also spend ALP or tickets gained from battle to play a game called Pillar Killers, which lets you unlock powerful weapons or recruit powerful, secret characters. Additionally, you have two strategy rooms, one physical and one magical, where you can assign some of your characters to boost the power of your skills and spells, respectively. Finally, there is a weapon customization menu that lets you consume weaker weapons to strengthen the one you actually want to use. There are two functions in the synthesis menu; one that converts weapons into experience to level up the raw attack power of another weapon, and another that lets you transfer special weapon attributes between weapons.
Blast From the Al-PAST-ia
The retro-inspired 16-bit graphics and soundtrack are a perfect nostalgia bomb. Alvastia Chronicles looks and sounds like it’s straight off the SNES. Considering how low-res they are, the character models still manage to pack a lot of personality into each sprite. The backgrounds are finely detailed when compared to actual SNES games, but I’ve seen recent pixel-art releases with greater levels of detail in their settings. Still, if you have any affection for the SNES generation, you will love the look of Alvastia Chronicles. The music is likewise retro-inspired perfection, with a series of upbeat, catchy chiptune tracks.
KEMCO and Exe Create have given us another delicious helping of classic JRPG goodness. The story, and more importantly the characters, are fun, funny, and engaging. The battle system is familiar, while still finding ways to feel new and interesting. Collecting characters could be a little deeper, but it’s still a ton of fun to build a huge roster of supporting companions. Alvastia Chronicles’ aesthetic is a perfect tribute to the SNES era, capturing what made it great while excluding anything that would make it feel outdated. If there’s a hole in your life that only an old-school JRPG can fill, Alvastia Chronicles should be one of your first choices.
Buy Alvastia Chronicles from the Nintendo eShop here.
*Review Code Provided by KEMCO