This is one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. I loved everything about it, and you should absolutely check it out.
This is one of those instances where I don’t have much to say, but I felt the need to at least make a post not saying much for posterity’s sake.
This was an amazing, heartbreaking game populated by incredibly deep characters in a full world– exactly what I want from a jRPG, which I expect to be character-driven but so often are very, very flat.
It opens with the world’s destruction, and two people– seemingly children– saying they’ve failed again to save it, which I thought was a really excellent way to start. It opened the game with a sense of futility and desperation that would carry through everything. You jump to the protagonist, Stocke, who is an intelligence agent for the Alistel army. Over the past years, the continent has been slowly turning into desert for reasons no one knows, and the ensuing resource crunch has pushed kingdoms into war.
Stocke receives a blank book his superior refers to as the “White Chronicle” before he sets out on his next mission, and has a vision of his companions lying dead in the rain. Sure enough, on the mission his companions are killed and he is fatally wounded. As he lies there, time stops, and the two children from the opening appear to him, telling him he can use the Chronicle to travel back in time and undo this. Using the book, he can save the world.
The main mechanic of the game is the time travel, which is similar in idea to Chrono Trigger but completely different in execution. The two games don’t really have anything in common aside from the phrase “time travel.”
I don’t really want to talk any more about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away. Go play it!
I will, however, say the game did really well with female characters. The biggest issue was that the cast tilted male, as these things are wont to do, but there was hardly a lack of women. They were everywhere! They were generals and doctors and researchers and royalty and townies and chefs and everything in between. The costuming was absolutely amazing:
I also appreciated that the game did something good that I complained was a problem in Dragon Age II, which was despite having a shitty queen as an enemy, the person who supplanted her was also a queen, so you avoid the “women are bad rulers” thing and just have “this person was a bad ruler.” I loved that Sonja wasn’t a nurse, but was legit a doctor and also an incredibly capable researcher. I loved that Raynie was the warrior and Marco the healer. I loved everything about Aht. The women, even if there were fewer of them, drove the story, from Eruca to Aht to Viola to Lippiti. It was really, really great.
I liked the battle system a lot– it made every battle unique and, most importantly, you had to actually play the game. If you tried to grind on auto, you’d get annihilated. The game had a real old-school difficultly, where bosses were hard and battles were challenging but never in a way that was frustrating or meant you had to grind. I also liked that you could adapt your own playstyle to the game– ie, there wasn’t really any “right” combination of party members. They were really well-balanced with perks and drawbacks and it was up to you to develop a strategy. This is how games should be!
There was a ton of flavor text everywhere, the townies even had personality, the settings were intricate, and you could just tell a lot of thought was put into each detail.
Basically, yeah, I loved everything. This is exactly what a jRPG is supposed to be, but more than that it’s just what a game is supposed to be. It’s that great games-as-art type of experience where there’s this amazing story that could only be told in this medium.
Also, advice: Talk to everyone, multiple times, after each node is completed. Clear every sidequest! Trust me, it’s worth it.