Fantasy Chronicle is the one of the most traditional RPG’s that I have played in a very long time. The strange thing is, although the traditional, hardcore elements of this game would appear to be a major downside to the game, they are surprisingly the very reason that Fantasy Chronicle is the kind of game that can get its hooks deep inside you.
You don’t realise you are addicted to this game until it is far too late. In fact, I spent the first two hours of play muttering about the translation, about the archaic structure and the repetitive grinding. However, once you reach a certain point, you start to get a quaint affinity with the game as a whole.
It is kind of like that one friend that everyone has. You know the one, the guy who you always complain and moan about and sometimes question why you even know him, yet is always the first you turn to when you need a night out. Fantasy Chronicle is that friend.
The game has a typical RPG story, with some formulaic characters. You take control of a youth who hails from a small village who has a somewhat mysterious past, and must embark on a quest where you move from village to town, recruiting new allies and battling monsters in the field and dungeons.
The biggest gripe I have with the game is that the overworld and villages are just map screens with icons denoting locations. Tap an icon and your party will go to that location, so there is no sense of exploration from the map and the villages all feel similar. Once you enter a part of the village there is a small element of exploration in the various houses and town squares, and there are a few people to chat and trade with. I really wish the developer had created full towns to explore properly, but it wasn’t to be. You are given quests in the town locations which always lead to areas of the maps that are populated by enemies.
There are many battle locations such as forests and dungeons, and it is here that you get to do a lot of exploring and of course, battling. I should warn you that the battles here all all of the random nature, so you wander about and all of a sudden you will be launched into a random battle. They are inescapable, but not unenjoyable. They make the exploration of locations a frantic experience, and mean that you really have to manage your items and potions well, as your health levels are maintained through all the fights. There are usually a couple of handy points in these locations where you can rest up, and these often prove to be launching pads for deeper ventures into the stages.
The actual battles are really good, and are viewed from a first person perspective. It is all turn based and simple, but slick. You can have a maximum of three warriors in each fight, and you will need to balance out their skills well. The traditional set up of spell-caster, fighter and healer works really well, and be warned; you must level up as much as possible early on as the battles get tough quickly after the first map. You can form bonds with companions and animals in the game, and the way that you bond can actually affect the outcome of the story- a nice touch.
There is a lot of grinding in the game, which usually puts me off RPGs, but here I feel that the decent battle system, combined with the random battles and on the fly item management makes the grinding a pretty addictive and enjoyable experience. The controls are good, with a few options to tune them to your taste, and the graphics are of a pretty high quality. They look like a 16 bit game, and that is fine by me.
The translation to English is poor, but I felt that is actually adds character to the game. Overall, this is an odd RPG that will baffle and captivate in equal measure. If you don’t like RPGs this won’t ever make you change your mind. For those that do, this takes a while to get its hooks into you, but once it does, you will play it to completion. It may lack the fancy features and graphics of it’s contemporaries, but Fantasy Chronicle does have something that a lot of games don’t: a heart. It may be wonky and overly reliant on grinding, and the villages and world map may be a disappointment, but in the end it has the feel of one of those badly translated SNES RPG’s that only you and a handful of friends could understand and grow to love.