Monday, June 26, 2023

Rob Recommends: Another Eden

A terrible thing happened to me about a year ago. I lost my hobby. 

For the second time I had to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do. 

But this time it was different, because I found something way better. 

The hobby that I lost was actually Pokemon Go. And by lost, I mean that one day I just didn’t care anymore. Catching new pokemon, collecting poke coins and taking gyms for team Valor had all just lost their meaning. There was no sense of achievement, or satisfaction. Just an odd awareness that I was a middle-aged guy making an unnecessary stop on the side of the road on his way home from work.

There’s a lot of details I won’t bore you with about my history with Pokemon, like the time in the fifth grade when the only friend that I had who would play Pokemon with me moved away, but to sum it up, this moment was the end of a daily habit that my wife thought would have ended at least two years earlier. So even though it was a light hobby, still it left something of a void where I needed to find enjoyment. What filled it was a game that I had very little expectation would become as fun as it did. 

 As I was writing for the blog back in March, I discovered that a person responsible for one of my favorite games, Masato Kato, had actually been a driving force behind a mobile game called Another Eden. I even found a trailer for a collab between Eden and Chrono Cross, which completely blew my mind. 

 Anyway, I downloaded the game, for free, and played for a few minutes before moving on to other things. Depsite being impressed that Masato Kato was involved in the making of this game, I had a sinking feeling that it wasn’t worth my time. The art was beautiful, and the music was quite lovely, but somehow I still felt that a mobile game wouldn’t be capable of delivering the same excitement I felt as a kid, sitting in front of a tv with that concrete gray controller, getting up to switch discs, my game manual open my side. (Don’t judge me, using the game manual enhances game play for me.) 

I came back to this game later. I think I got sick that day, and had a little time on my hands? This time I became totally immersed. Another Eden follows the adventures of a boy named Aldo who must save his sister from her kidnappers. But soon after embarking on his quest, he gets swallowed up by a wormhole that catapults him hundreds of years into the future. Very soon after his arrival he realizes that his entire world, and temporality were at risk of being totally obliterated. He must save his sister, and time itself before evil forces remove all things from existence. I realized that not only was Kato-San still putting out world-class work, but he was also keeping the classic JRPG style game alive with a mobile-savvy twist on the format that delivered us so many masterpieces over the years. He’s done a lot for Square Enix, including some writing for FF7, the Chrono games, Xenogears, and more. Kato-San, you made my childhood. 

So Another Eden is in the Chrono universe, but is not a direct sequel. It features wonderful story-driven gameplay revolving around leaping through time with a motley crew of companions who each have at least one if not more side quests that help to flesh out their back story. The artwork is GORGEOUS, and often surprising in its variety. The music gets an A+ from me. Overall, the ability of this game to transport me into a world of adventure has left me flabbergasted with glee. I thought it was fitting that Another Eden allowed the recruitment of many characters. If the game developers of the Chrono Cross team hadn’t been so restricted by the data limitations of playstation discs in the late nineties, they likely would have realized a much fuller vision of their game, and it’s cast of over forty characters. In Another Eden, it’s possible to recruit much more than forty. I’m willing to let the number remain a mystery for now. Suffice it to say, this is a popular feature in video gaming called “gacha” (ironic, since it sounds like “gotcha”) in which character recruitment allows a person to build a large roster, a collection of rogues if you will. My roster is currently at seventy. I think the devs continue adding more recruitable characters over time. 

I don’t play the game to collect characters though. I’m all about enjoying a fun, quirky, and overtly optimistic storyline, and Another Eden delivers on all these. At times the tension resolves in humorously convenient ways, and at other times the drama is gut-wrenchingly tragic. Overall, the story engages so much that i have to know what happens next. The game design is also flexible enough that you can have dozens of side-quests active at once without having to worry that you’ll lose track of how to take the next step to progress on any of the various threads, including the main plot. The level of detail in the world and in the many different settings across present day, antiquity, and the future make the game so full of variety there is no reason to ever get bored. 

My last note, the battle system is so different from other JRPGs I’ve played, it took me some time to get use to it. I don’t know whether the design and options were restricted by the mobile format, or if mobile design simply dictates a more sleek and streamlined approach to battles. But now that I have the hang of it, I’m in love with the ways they have created a whole turn-based battle system. The way one is able to heal characters and hold two characters in reserve, as well as dual tech abilities are really clever. The level-up system is optimized well enough that it’s not too impractical to train up a new character if you suddenly decide its time to bring a new face into the party.

Did I mention that you also you get to choose a feline mascot and choose their costume? I honestly can't think of a single reason why every video game doesn't offer this option. The new standard from here on out is if a game can give you an avatar, it can also give that avatar a pet cat that will follow them literally everywhere they go.

I’ll probably write about Another Eden again in the future. I'm far from done with this masterpiece. For now, let me know if you start a playthrough. If you like JRPGs, you're bound to fall in love with it like I have.

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