While the heyday of JRPGs are far in gaming’s past by now, the genre still remains strong with dedicated fans and numerous releases from indie to AAA still filling out the space to this day. And while they’re playing very loose with the definition, Souls of Chronos continues that trend as the debut title for Futu Studio.
They’ve taken an action oriented approach in combat, but retain familiar tropes and style seen in the genre of old and new. However it’s also far from a perfect game regardless of its intentions, which we’ll see in the review below.
Souls of Chronos
Developer: Futu Studio
Publisher: Astrolabe Games
Platforms: PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC (reviewed)
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Souls of Chronos takes place in a world which has suffered from an apocalyptic event 15 years prior. It was through this event where beings known as Chronus came to be, which connected with certain humans in a pact. We follow a young pair known as Sid and Torii who are linked together.
Where despite the rather tragic events, which greatly impacted many of the characters as they were alive before everything went down, the setting and tone is surprisingly cheerful at time. This might be compounded by the chibi art style, where only during conversation do we see what characters actually look like.
But it’s Souls of Chrono’s direction that strengthens their characters. Everyone has their motivations and reasonings for being the way they are. These beliefs strengthen the plots themes as political strife has unsurprisingly taken hold of the world as a power vacuum exists from the world practically being reset.
Gangs run rampant, one of which our protagonist Sid happens to be in, old powers struggle to regain what they lost. And people have their various ways in which the world’s near end has affected them which feeds into their motivations.
Which makes it all a shame that the translation is done so poorly. Futu Studio is a Chinese developer and therefore the game’s original language Chinese with English localization done later. However the English is broken at times and certain plot points seemingly come out of nowhere when it’s possible they were fine in the original.
This can be somewhat forgiven if gameplay is done well enough that one doesn’t need to pay attention to the story. When it comes to Souls of Chronos, they take an approach that’s much too simple to truly capture most players’ attentions.
There are two characters that engage in battle, but players mainly control Sid, the human character. Only via a special time stopping move do we control Torii, and that lasts a mere couple of seconds each time the move is done before needing to recharge through combat.
Other than this, combat is spent through holding one button to attack a nearby enemy while moving around to kite and dodge attacks. Meanwhile Torii can be commanded to attack specific foes or fall back if her health falls low.
The same falls for setting up before situations where fighting is inevitable. There are not enough options for players to go and experiment with builds, especially with how scarce some resources can be. However the opposite can be said when it comes to the RPG elements which affect story.
As you progress through the main story and some side quests, dialogue options appear which will impact Sid’s character. Not just in a way where X character will remember the decision you made, but that it affects the “personality” stat for him in one of three ways.
The same also goes for Torii, but only during level ups where you have more control over compared to deciding if a certain dialogue choice is the right choice while also accounting for future effects. Though hers impact more gameplay related aspect such as shop prices and finding hidden loots throughout stages.
Because of his “personality” stat being tracked throughout the entire game. Certain choices later on the story may be locked out because he may be lacking in certain stats which would only make realistic sense if he had been acting in one way or another.
So moments in the story can be impacted such as keeping calm during an emotional moment or being willing to do some dirty work after being a man who’s already done some evil deeds. It’s just a shame the game’s too short and certain requirements too low to make this as fleshed out as it could’ve been.
Unfortunately Souls of Chronos is hampered with multiple bugs in similar fashion to how the translation is messy. I had one occasion where I got softlocked, so it was good I made sure to make a lot of manual saves in different slots.
Navigating menus with a controller is also sluggish. For some reason my inputs were not read many times, requiring constant presses that only added to frustration. Which is a shame since most of the game itself plays wonderfully on controller, while menus are better served with the mouse.
Finally comes the game’s relatively short length. You can beat the full story in roughly 8 hours depending on your reading speed as there’s never a need to grind for levels in order to beat tougher foes.
As an RPG, this is on the short side and it’s further compounded by the game’s end, there are still many questions left unanswered. As if I only just went through a prologue to a bigger game. The game world itself is also rather small, centering on one single town and a neighboring island.
The multiple endings don’t seem so different from one another, which only serves the assumption that there will be a sequel planned for the future depending on this game’s success. Disappointing as it would’ve been nice to see more of this world the characters talked so frequently about.
Though if there does come a sequel for Souls of Chronos, I do want to be one of the first to play it. While there are many issues which plague the game in its current state. The world, plot, and many of the characters are interesting enough to catch most people’s attention.
That is if you can bare some shallow gameplay and poor English translation.
Souls of Chronos was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Astrolabe Games You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Souls of Chronos is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC (via Steam).