Let me tell you, there’s nothing that gets me to give something side-eye faster than when it doesn’t want to be up-front about what it’s trying to sell me.
Maybe a given store is trying to tell me moldy hot dogs. I don’t want moldy hot dogs. No one should ever be trying to sell moldy hot dogs. I don’t respect the people selling them. But I respect the people at Joe’s Moldy Hot Dog Hut a lot more than the ones at Steve’s Absolutely Not Moldy Hot Dog Depot, because at least the former group is telling me what it’s actually selling.
Another Eden is not selling moldy hot dogs. But it is definitely a game that’s being sold based on being one thing while actually playing it is another story altogether. It’s out now for PC as well as for iOS and Android devices.
So, the plot of Another Eden is Chrono Trigger.
I don’t mean that to be quite as snarky as it sounds, but it’s true. The main scenario was written by Masato Kato, who did a lot of stuff at Square back in the day, and while I don’t mean to diminish his work in the slightest, the Chrono Trigger influences are pretty obvious right down to having a party member who is a frog. You can’t do that and not expect your game to be compared to Chrono Trigger! That’s, like the whole reason you would do that!
The core of the plot is that two children, Aldo and Fienne, are found in the woods by the mayor of a small town. They grow up in their beloved peasant village, but on their sixteenth birthday, the Beast King abducts Fienne claiming that she holds the key to their salvation. Soon thereafter, Aldo begins moving through time, exploring different time periods searching for the means to recover his sister and unlock the mystery of their origin.
It’s not bad. At its best moments, it does manage to fill the proceedings with a certain nostalgic charm. The down side, though, is that this interferes with one of the main aspects of the gameplay as it’s designed, which I’ll get to in just a moment.
The other issue is, well… it’s nostalgic. While there’s a definite sense of classic games at play here, it doesn’t feel like it’s so much directly matching them as imitating them. I don’t feel like it’s doing the stuff that made these older games so memorable so much as it’s aping their style. Admittedly, some of that is because of an issue that’ll be clear in just a minute, but the ultimate feeling I was left with as I played the game was that it felt more like a walking tour of other games I remembered instead of being interesting in its own right.
So here’s the part that really irked the hell out of me. See, the game is free-to-play, and its primary means of making money is by you buying random packs of characters. That’s right, it’s a damn gacha game.
This does not, inherently, bother me. I actually like gacha games. I’ve played several of them far more than I should. I don’t believe that there’s no space to have a functional throwback-style RPG that also uses gacha mechanics, either. What bothers me personally isn’t the gacha part, it’s the fact that everything about the game seems to be built around obfuscating that this is a gacha game at every turn.
Of course, it doesn’t help that beyond the gacha aspects, there’s not much to the game that you haven’t seen beforehand. You assemble a party of six characters – four in front, two in reserve. The most interesting aspect of the battle system is that characters have specific effects when they swap in from reserve while reserve characters recover MP and HP, making it a strategic element of gameplay rather than just shuffling characters in and out.
Somewhat more annoying is the way that the game’s leveling works. It presents itself as more of a skill tree-style of progression, but the actual trees you’re working with are functionally straight lines that only offer the illusion of choice. It slows down leveling and progression when you have to go through and manually click through every individual node just to do things where you don’t actually have any choices.
But it’s all stuff you’ve played before. Turn-based combat in which you select your actions ahead of time, then everyone goes in order, then you get another round of combat. It’s competent, it all works, but I’m honestly eliding most of the combat mechanics here because the whole thing just feels boring. Even for the throwback feel that the game is chasing, it’s not a great combat system, and this is definitely a case where the combat mechanics seem to have been built around a compromise between old systems and a touch-screen interface until you wound up with something not terribly good at either.
And no, that’s not a result of it being a gacha game. That’s just… what it is.
Another Eden’s biggest redeeming feature is its graphics. At a glance, there’s a slightly stiff quality to how some of its sprites move, but that very quickly evaporates once you play it for a while. Characters animate smoothly and with a lot of personality, and it seems to have successfully married a more detailed style with the needs of a game to give characters recognizable and distinct designs. I quite liked it.
Unfortunately, I find myself less enthusiastic when we get into the porting of the game from its touchscreen interface. The addition of keyboard controls, for example, is welcome… but those controls feel oddly inconsistent and not terribly well-implemented. It’s a pain interacting with objects in the world without clicking on them, for example, even though moving can be done just from the keyboard. There’s no way to easily get a tooltip for skills without clicking and holding on them, and individual skills don’t have icons or even terrible descriptive names in some cases.
Moreover, the game commits what I consider one of the cardinal sins of a mobile port by not having an exit command. If you want to exit the game, you have to use Alt+F4, one of those things that pisses me off to no end because it indicates (to me) a lack of care for the reality of porting. Not even a button to click on, nope, we hard-stop the program if we want to exit out of it.
The music, fortunately, is pretty nice and sounds good and mood-appropriate. The voice acting, on the other hand… let’s just say I don’t care for it and move on. Fortunately, it’s not omnipresent.
To me, at least, Another Eden is fundamentally a port of a mobile gacha game masquerading as a throwback to older 16-bit games with upgraded graphics. That irks me. It might not be fair to say that it’s pretending to be something else, but you certainly won’t see any hints in its advertisements about its gacha mechanics. It’s all about how the story is actually there and focal, or you don’t really need to pay any money, or…
Yeah, this rubs me the wrong way.
I don’t mind that the game is a gacha title. But it feels like a pretty weak offering in that field, and ultimately I didn’t find it to be a particularly charming example of what it was advertising itself as. It’s either a not particularly compelling RPG with gacha married to it or a not terribly compelling gacha game that’s aping an older style of RPG, and neither one really impressed me a lot.
It’s not terrible, and I can understand why people would gravitate toward it on mobile devices. But on your desktop? There are better uses of your computer.
Review copy provided by WFS, Inc. for PC. All screenshots courtesy of WFS, Inc.