I haven’t completed a video game in a little over 3 months. Even though, I’ve been extra busy in this season of life, I’ve absconded with my Nintendo Switch for short visits to some digital world. I’ve finally managed to finish Chained Echoes, Matthias Linda’s love letter to 16-bit JRPGs.
It’s difficult to be objective about a new game in a genre that I am nostalgic about, even more so for a game that wears its influences so openly. Comparisons to Chrono Trigger are inevitable. This might be a hot take, but I think Chained Echoes stands alongside the best JRPGs of the 90’s.
That’s not to say that the game is perfect. A few of its many complicated narrative threads don’t quite end well; though I won’t spoil the particulars.
Furthermore, Chained Echoes is the only JRPG that I can recall liking less at the beginning than the end. That is to say that the more I played the game, the more I enjoyed it. In the past, I’ve had the most fun in the opening hours of the adventure. The middle of any JRPG is where my experience with a game can become fatiguing. Sometimes a JRPG settles into familiar tropes. Sometimes the scope of the its narrative shifts away from what was enjoyable at the beginning. Sometimes, a game starts out with great ambitions, but doesn’t move the player forward at a quick enough pace. My favorite JRPGs often come right to the edge of these pitfalls, but then simply succeed… as though there is some secret ingredient that just happens to be present in the best games in the genre.
I may not be able to identify that secret ingredient, but I can tell that Chained Echoes has it. It really is one of the best 16-bit JRPGs that ever played, regardless of the fact that it is neither 16-bit nor Japanese.
In my ongoing effort to rank every game that I’ve ever finished, Chained Echoes is tentatively ranked 71 out of 257.