In Chroma Quaternion, the latest game to hit consoles from prolific JRPG publisher KEMCO, you take on the role of Ark; a young priest of the Saison Order. The world is made up of four distinct seasonally-themed lands, each overseen by four god-like creators called the Quadeities. When unnatural disasters begin to plague the small village he services, Ark and his fluffy doggo companion Foure set out to find answers and end up being caught up in an event that could end the world as they know it. While it may sound dramatic, the story and dialogue stay fairly lighthearted throughout the game, although things do get a bit more serious towards the end.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: I love SNES-Style pixelated graphics and that is exactly what CQ serves up in droves. The battle animations are good, but what stands out to me are the colorful season-themed lands and the nice visual effects some of them have, like Otam’s falling leaves. My only issue is with the way the framerate occasionally dips while you’re running around exploring. The soundtrack in its entirety is ok, but there are a few tracks that I genuinely enjoy. There are some odd audio mixing issues and weird choices of music pieces that don’t suit the scenarios on hand, and a lot of sound cues sound recycled from other KEMCO titles but I find that is typical to these games. I’m sure if you’ve played a few EXE-CREATE JRPGS you’ll know what I mean. Your characters will be having a normal conversation and they’ll suddenly have a small epiphany, or some minor event will occur and the craziest, most high-octane out-of-place music will start blasting its way into the scene. It’s so jarring and unusual whenever this happens and kills off whatever type of mood the developers were trying to set.
On the bright side, the combat is unique in a few ways. The battles are turn-based, with your party and the enemy set on a 3X3 grid. Since the amount of damage you deal/receive depends on how close you are to the front row, there is incentive to manipulate the enemy position by using certain skills to knock them around. While a mechanic like this could have led to much deeper, strategic battles like in Radiant Historia, it remains rather underutilized since there aren’t many skills available that move monsters. Skills don’t use up MP but instead rely on a cooldown timer before you can use them again. As you progress into the story, you will unlock the ability to summon a divine beast by filling up a meter to 100% during a battle. These summons are powerful but there is only a handful of them to be found and you can only use the one you have currently equipped, as opposed to selecting from a list of unlocked beasts.
Another cool mechanic is the Act Over system. Skipping your turn (or using certain items and abilities) charges up Act Orbs, to a maximum of three. Your party gains an extra 10% defense bonus for each orb, but that is just a nice bonus since they serve a more important function. Choosing Act Over allows a party member to take an extra and immediate action for each orb expended, allowing you to launch a barrage of attacks, or maybe some clinch party healing to save you from imminent disaster. That last part happens more often than you would think, thanks to the crazy difficulty spikes when it comes to the bosses mid-game onwards. I was level 130 at one point, squishing all the enemies in the dungeon instantly thanks to the option that lets you auto-win battles vs. random encounters much weaker than you. Once I got to the boss, a few rounds in it hit me with four area-damaging attacks in a row (enemies also have access to the Act Over mechanic), which nearly decimated my entire party. I then spent far too many rounds trying to recover. This turns most of the more challenging boss fights into long, drawn-out slogs. There is one boss fight in particular that you have to repeat three times in one section that makes me groan as I write this, but no spoilers!
In the world of Chroma Quaternion, roles are a huge part of society. Roles are granted via the Quadeities through their Saison Order Maidens. While the plot tries to make it seem like a social dilemma for some of the characters and featuring story beats about them trying to come to term with their lot in life, it is all undermined by the use of the role system as a gameplay mechanic. Roles are effectively class changes for your party, and when leveled up they grant you unique passive abilities and battle skills. All you have to do is find a role crystal and bring it to an Order Maiden to unlock the role for a specific character to use. Roles gain experience separate from a character’s main level, and once you max out a role, you need to visit a maiden in order to “refine” it and unlock the next rank. Each character has 8 or so unique roles to be gained through story progression or found in-game. I like the system and it's fun to see the costume change during battle, but not all classes are worth using. You can equip up to three at the same time so at least it isn’t too troublesome to mix and match until you find ones you enjoy using. So it’s ironic to watch your party get all sentimental about roles when people are slinging those crystals around like candy throughout the story.
As with most roleplaying games, you have your weapons and armor to manage, nothing new there. However, using the Recycle Jar, you can sacrifice a weapon or armor piece to create a ring imbued with whatever special effect was on the equipment; like a 10% bonus to speed, for example. You can then also sacrifice equipment for experience points used to level up the effects of these rings. It’s a nice way to enhance your party members to suit your playstyle. You can also collect a special currency called season stones to use in the special store for items that can grant you helpful permanent bonuses, like multiplying the amount of experience and gold gained. If you’re feeling lucky you can also take a chance and spend the season points on powerful weapon draws. The game gives you different ways to earn the stones, including missions that reset daily. If you leave the Switch in standby mode, you’ll have to reset the game or else the date change won’t register. Little things like this remind you that this is a mobile port, after all. Chroma Quaternion may not be the best JRPG out there, but it is a solid experience that is best enjoyed when you’re feeling nostalgic for the olden days.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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