It’s nearly the end of the year and I’d like to take you all to absolute task for not telling me that there’s an indie JRPG called Chained Echoes which is apparently not only quite good, but has a 15-second turtle race set to explosive, shouting hardcore metal. (If you also did not know I invite you to echo shame session here.)
I mean seriously, it’s hysterical and an amazing green light on trying the game. For one thing, it shows something JRPGs often lack any awareness of: A sense of humor. It’s a great moment that begs you to take moment of what might otherwise get tossed on the inevitably-growing pile of pixelated nostalgia trips.
So, shame on you all, fans, players, and PR people who absolutely should have led with this in an email. Shame on you that this game has been out for 22 days at press time and I only just found out about the turtle racing. (Which you can watch on Youtube (opens in new tab) or embedded above, if you’d like.)
The short spot of guitar riffing was provided by irony-poisoned sludgy British metal-and-mathcore band ZILF. “When we got asked to write a 15-second mathcore song for a bunch of turtles racing each other in a pixel art JRPG game,” said ZILF in a press release, “we answered, ‘That’s the most ZILF thing we’ve ever heard.’”
Chained Echoes art is nice, but the name and description might lull you, like me, into the sense that it’s nothing more than the average indie-inflected JRPG nostalgia trip. You’d be wrong. Solo developer Matthias Linda’s game is sitting pretty at 91% positive of 1,250 Steam user reviews at the moment.
The only person exempted from my wrath is Andrea Shearon, whose piece here at PC Gamer about Chained Echoes didn’t include vital turtle-racing details, but does pretty succinctly describe what’s interesting about it.
She called Chained Echoes’ Overdrive battle system “simple and uniquely compelling,” in her editorial about its charms (opens in new tab), noting that despite the addition of an extra layer over the classic JRPG battles it doesn’t make things “needlessly complex.”
“Fights begin with the overdrive arrow in orange, which doesn’t bestow snazzy buffs. Green rewards the party with optimal damage. My goal is to keep things steady in the middle, so the fun comes from how the arrow pivots between colors. I can’t use Armor Break just because I think a baddie needs their armor broken; I’ve got to check the symbol beside the skill and see if it corresponds with my ever-changing overdrive rules. If the symbols match, the arrow moves back. If the symbols don’t match, I’m closer to red. We don’t wanna talk about red,” she said.
This was a great year for indies working in the JRPG space, kicking off as it did with Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga (opens in new tab) which—title aside (opens in new tab)—was a delightful twist on the exploding strategy RPG (opens in new tab) formula. Here’s hoping for more in 2023.
Image 1 of 9