This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on iOS, Android, and PC.
I swear at this point the guys at KEMCO and Exe-Create aren’t human, as they’re churning out JRPGs in a constant fashion. The newly released Alvastia Chronicles is the seventh KEMCO JRPG I’ve reviewed, and the sixth by Exe-Create (Chronus Arc was developed by Hit Point). So the question is, does Alvastia Chronicles do anything new to differentiate itself from the massive backlog of KEMCO titles? Let’s have a look.
Right away, Alvastia Chronicles stands out massively from its Exe-Create predecessors in terms of the visuals. The game opts to have its visuals at a way lower resolution than that of previous games, but in doing so doesn’t harm the visuals, but enhance them. The low resolution combined with some detailed sprites gives the game a feel and look that makes it seem like something right off of a SNES or Mega Drive, and as a retro buff I really appreciate this look. It also dampens the stock feel that plagues its predecessors. It isn’t the best-looking Exe-Create game (Asdivine Hearts 2 takes that trophy) but it’s certainly the most nostalgic.
Once again, Alvastia Chronicles stands out in terms of its story too. While it does have the standard Exe-Create fantasy elements, the story is elevated in a ton of ways, mainly in terms of our protagonist, Alan. The story begins with monsters killing Alan’s parents, the trauma of which makes him mute. Despite this, he swears to protect his sister at all costs and get revenge on those who killed his parents. The addition of a revenge plot and how the story deals with a mute protagonist makes it one of my favourite stories in this KEMCO/Exe-Create series, even if its fantasy elements tread familiar territory.
While I may sound like a broken record here, Alvastia Chronicles, just like every other game Exe-Create have done, is your standard JRPG fare. You explore a wide open world, killing enemies, levelling up, and completing main and side quests. It’s a tried and tested formula that all Exe-Create games do well even if you’re sick of it, but that’s not what I’m here for. The majority of the Exe-Create anthology has some unique hook within each entry that makes them unique and enjoyable. Thankfully, Alvastia Chronicles has one of the biggest and most enjoyable hooks yet: companions.
This game boasts 100 collectible companions throughout your adventure, and they differ from party members in massive ways. For starters, each member of your party can have three companions at the same time, and they do not attack individually nor do they have their own health bar. In a way, these companions act as extensions to your character, adding attacks to your basic sword swipe, and giving you a new arsenal of abilities to play with. There’s also unique aspects such as ‘bonds’, which are unique buffs given when you have a combination of companions (such as a mage and a healer).
There’s a few aspects here that I’m not so keen on however. There are a few remnants of this game’s mobile origins here, with you having the option to revive after dying in battle by using currency you’ve acquired, not too dissimilar to a F2P mobile game that some of the previous Exe-Create games have. While not too intrusive, there’s also a random loot box minigame to get rare items, and that’s where I draw the line. While you can’t buy the currency in question with real money, the random nature of getting items from in-game loot boxes is something I never liked, and the fact that it’s in a paid version of a game is one that I really don’t agree with, this should have stayed in a F2P mobile version.
Like the visuals, the audio here tries to go for a retro aesthetic, although sadly it isn’t anywhere near as successful. The music and sound effects are appropriately bit-crushed, but as a result the music ends up being quite grating after listening to it for a while. I appreciate the effort, but it misses the mark.
Alvastia Chronicles has ended up managing to be my favourite KEMCO/Exe-Create adventure so far. Its 16-bit visuals look great and manage to nullify the stock RPG Maker feel of previous games, and adding a mute protagonist and a revenge-driven plot elevates the story way more than you might think. While the basic gameplay is exactly what you expect, the companion mechanic is very well done and enjoyable, with plenty of options to play with. The grating music is a minor nitpick too, although the biggest problem comes from the game’s F2P-esque buying of revives and random loot drops, which have no place in a paid-for title.