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Mystic Chronicles (PS Vita) Review

/ Aug 16th, 2013 No Comments

Mystic Chronicles

Mystic Chronicles is a Japanese role-playing game for the PlayStation Portable (with PlayStation Vita compatibility). Developed by Kemco, a formerly prominent developer during the 8-bit era of gaming. Natsume handled the publishing duties on the digital North American release for the title. Originally developed as an iOS game with a different title, due to a poor English translation, Natsume changed the name of the title to Mystic Chronicles. The game is targeted at those looking for a decidedly retro JRPG experience as the game features 16-bit style graphics. Now featuring a new English translation from Natsume, does this retro style JRPG manage to add any depth to the genre or is it simply catering to a niche?

Story

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but a boy is orphaned at a young age then a kindly old lady takes him in to be raised without any knowledge of his past. The boy is an outcast except for his sister and the other kids pick on him because he is different. However, an older child takes a liking to him and protects him from bullies. That boy grows up with aspirations of joining the army that protects the land from an ancient evil that the people live in constant fear of it attacking again. Eventually, the boy joins the ranks, but when he does that ancient evil returns and things go pear shape in the land. Now the boy has the difficult task of saving the world from the evil, but the truth of it all is not quite what those in power have lead people to believe. Along the way the boy finds out that he has a special talent that makes him quite powerful. Thus, now the boy must uncover the truth and save the world. All while making new friends that feature similar goals to him and help him save the world.

Mystic Chronicles

That sucks, bro.

In Mystic Chronicles that boy is Lux, the army is the Holos Guild, the power is to form a bond with guardian beasts, and the supposed evil is the Dark Clan. The issue that becomes apparent with the story is that it is nothing new. Everything the story tries to do has been done before and often times better. The one bright spot in the story are the moments of darkness that typified early JRPGs, but that interesting development is undercut by tedious dialogue that moves too slowly. The translation may be better than the original iOS one, but still has some clumsiness to it and occasional typos.

Gameplay

Mystic Chronicles features traditional turn based combat based around a party of three members. The game features random encounters and the typical JRPG experience grinding. Party members can attack, use skills/magic and tools (items) during battle. The issue with basic combat is that items have to be equipped to a member to use during battle, which means that if one person has a revival potion equipped but dies then the other members cannot access that item. That is an annoying hindrance that stresses item management too much, luckily the game features several party members that have healing spells. So, it takes some of the burden off item management. What makes combat interesting in the game is the guardian beast system. Each party member can use guardian beasts, which are spirits that form bonds with Covenanters in the game. These guardian beasts can attack, cast spells and support party members, but they are not directly controlled by the player. Players can select tactics for the guardian beasts like focusing on supporting, defending or attacking from a menu during battle. Each guardian beast has its own unique specialties and can be switched among the party’s Covenanters. Equipping different items to guardian beasts changes their properties. So, party members and their beasts can be outfitted with enhanced gear. Additionally, there are party coordinated attacks that happen during battle after party member grow close together.

Mystic Chronicles

Things can get devastating when team work is involved.

The structure of the game is done through missions that advance the story and give the player money/experience. As such, players will take on missions at the Guild in various towns, finishing them will result in the story moving along. Advancing the story will also open up tougher missions to be taken on at the Guild. Often without advancing the story, the missions will cap at a certain difficulty until the player can open a new area. It is a decent way to pace the game, but missions are pretty basic kill X number of enemies or kills special enemy or collect items. The game features a weapon creation/improvement system that makes for a solid system to upgrading equipment. The gameplay is solid in Mystic Chronicles doing some decent riffs on the JRPG battle formula.

Graphics and Sound

Mystic Chronicles

A town based menu.

The game is based around a philosophy of using retro graphics to deliver a JRPG experience. To that degree, Mystic Chronicles does a successful job in replicating the 16-bit look of earlier RPGs. The sprites in the game look good and they have solid animations. Battles are done in a first-person perspective, which is a okay, but seeing character sprites fight enemy sprites would have been better and show off some more character animations. The towns are sparse featuring a menu system to enter various areas rather than a fully rendered town. However, the dungeons have a decent size to them. The enemy sprites look solid, but the design is pretty standard for a fantasy JRPG. The music in Mystic Chronicles is bland and ultimately forgettable. Much like the story it is not terrible, but for a game that is done in the style of early JRPGs, it has nothing about it that made those games intriguing.

Overall

Sadly, Mystic Chronicles is not a horrible game, but it has a blandness about it. The gameplay is solid and the retro look of the graphics are strong. It is the fact that the story is typical, boring and has tedious dialogue that hurts it. For a JRPG, there has to be something within its story to make the game worth sticking with because the structure of the genre rewards gameplay with story progression. In Mystic Chronicles, there simply is not that thing that makes the story worthwhile. It is a shame that the story is boring because it hurts the things that the game does right, and in a JRPG if the story does not grab the player then it is hard to stick with it. The story is something fans of the genre have seen before, and often better. Again, it is not unplayable and hardcore fans of the genre might find the battle system and graphics worth their time, but they also might not.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Associate Editor/Editorial Lead at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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MYSTIC CHRONICLES (PS VITA) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall62%

GAMEPLAY7

Gameplay in Mystic Chronicles is standard turn based fare and random encounters. The player's party features three members that can be switched out based on personal preference. What makes the system interesting is the guardian beasts that pair up with the various party members. It adds a bit of depth to the traditional JRPG elements.

GRAPHICS7

Mystic Chronicles is based on a retro style, so luckily the 16-bit-esque sprites and look actual works well. The character sprites and animations are good. Except the town layout is pretty bare bones, but the dungeon design is solid. The visual look is what makes Mystic Chronicles worth a look.

SOUND5.5

The music is okay in the game. It is nothing memorable, but not offensively bad. Much like most of Mystic Chronicles, it is a decent homage to early JRPGs without any of the elements that made them compelling.

STORY5.5

There is nothing particularly unique or interesting about Mystic Chronicles' story. The characters are fairly rote for the genre featuring some obvious struggles. What makes the story briefly exciting is the bizarre bits of darkness that typified earlier JRPGs, but it is barely enough to make up the blandness of the characters or the convoluted plot complications.

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