Old skool Japanese RPGs were arguably born out of the desire to create expansive worlds on humble hardware.
The first examples that appeared in the early ‘80s were restricted by the limitations of consoles like the Famicom (or NES to us Westerners). Their epic nature was held back by random encounters and turn-based combat, largely because the technology behind the code couldn’t handle anything more complex.
As the years have rolled by and the consoles have become ever more powerful, the JRPG genre has remained stubbornly stuck in its ways. We still have games that feature random combat encounters, for no other reason than tradition.
Despite this reluctance to move with the times, the genre continues to entertain and delight millions of players all over the globe, thanks largely to gripping storylines and deep combat engines.
RPG - Fantasy Chronicle is such a convincing replication of a 16-bit console JRPG that you might be forgiven for assuming that it was ported directly from the SNES. It has all the noticeable hallmarks: dinky hand-drawn visuals, cute characters, and a quest that's both addictive and repetitive at the same time.
Old skool fool
As usual, you’re thrust into the leather breeches of a troubled teen who's trying to come to terms with his equally troubled origin.
Taken in by kindly villagers at a young age, he eventually rises to the rank of Holos Over, member of a band of warriors sworn to protect the realm. Typically, this signals the start of a massive struggle to rid the land of evil forces, while simultaneously coming to terms with your own shadowy history.
Running through RPG - Fantasy Chronicle’s main gameplay feels like a checklist for the genre. You move from town to town, signing up for quests, defeating monsters, and levelling-up your character via experience points.
You can also purchase restorative items, new weapons, and tougher armour - all of which make the turn-based combat that little bit easier.
When you’re out in the field, monsters jump on you without warning. In a combat situation you can field up to three warriors at once, and each one is capable of both physical and magical attacks. The battle system is actually handled very well, with intuitive menus that allow fights to flow nicely.
Although RPG - Fantasy Chronicle would have been a highly rated title back in the ‘90s, it does suffer from some critical flaws.
The most obvious is the abysmal English translation, which robs the game’s dialogue of any impact it may have held. Conversations between characters are wooden and unconvincing, and that’s a pretty fatal problem in a game that chooses to communicate many of its key moments via text alone.
The other issue is one of repetition. This is something that can be levelled at almost any JRPG, but in this case the grind simply becomes too punishing. The format of the game soon tires: you move from town to town - each of which serves as a central hub - and you strike out on quests that help to boost your party’s power.
When you stumble on a plot-sensitive quest, the game moves onto the next settlement, and the process begins anew. There’s precious little incentive to keep playing.
RPG - Fantasy Chronicle’s gameplay problems would have stymied its chances back in the ‘90s, but in 2012 they’re even more disappointing.
Hardcore RPG-lovers may wring some enjoyment out of this, but with such an abundance of quality on the App Store right now there seems no valid reason to spend hours on this relatively uninteresting grind-fest.