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Chronus Arc (Android) artwork

Chronus Arc (Android) review

"Hell has frozen over and I found a Kemco game I truly liked!"

So, I've been doing this "Kemco Khallenge" thing for three years, give or take, and I'm sure we've all had a good amount of fun watching my sanity slowly erode as I alternate between half-decent JRPGs that fall a bit short of actual goodness for one reason or another, and bottom-of-the-barrel crap. Despite constantly hearing the voices of others questioning my desire to continue on this unholy path instead of playing the myriad of far superior titles that have been stuck in my backlog for years, I've persevered from one title to the next and you know what? Finally, I've been rewarded!

I don't know exactly how this happened, but when the folks at Hit-Point delivered Chronus Arc to their Kemco overlords in late 2013, they pulled off a miracle: they produced a game I found to be genuinely enjoyable, hitting upon a formula that neither they nor any of Kemco's other teams have been able to duplicate since. Taking the best elements of their RPGs and "borrowing" a healthy-sized dollop of Lufia II, the crew created a game that might not be the most original thing I've ever played, but was enjoyable from beginning to end.

Hit-Point has never been the best at telling stories, but the studio was able to rise above that weakness to write a script that at least didn't openly annoy me. In one of the world's kingdoms, protagonist Loka and his master, Teth, are preparing to perform a time-reversing ceremony that's one of their nation's traditions. Before anything of that nature can actually happen, the duo are confronted by Geppel, the captain of the guards in a neighboring kingdom, who demands that the Chronus Fragments used for the ceremony be handed over to him. Teth buys time while telling Loka to escape and inform the king of this turn of events, but when the lad returns, there is no sign of either Geppel or Teth. Along with Sarna, the princess of the kingdom, Loka goes on a world-spanning quest to find his master and get to the root of Geppel's schemes, a process that predictably leads to far more dangerous foes. The duo will gain one more ally in a young girl looking for her missing father, and wind up visiting a number of dungeons and towns.

It's all standard stuff, but the game around it is surprisingly meaty. Whenever Hit-Point releases a more traditional RPG, its developers love tossing in the option to customize weapons with materials found scattered throughout dungeons. Everyone starts out with the most basic weapons and armor and, by collecting materials, can upgrade them a number of times. After a few such upgrades, you'll be able to mold them into a superior class of weapon or armor, provided you've scoured towns and dungeons for a particular NPC who'll regularly show up to hand out equipment manuals containing recipes for that new stuff.

Instead of buying new stuff in stores or finding it in dungeons, you'll gradually build your characters' offense and defense by traveling to dungeons, harvesting their material spots and going to town to see what you can do at the blacksmith's shop. Each dungeon houses specific materials, while a few also can be obtained via slaying monsters, so you'll be consistently strengthening what your team is wielding.

Of course, if one was in a deductive mind, they might figure out that to maximize everyone's equipment, they'd have to repeatedly journey into the same dungeons in order to collect materials before moving onto the next in order to do the same. Fortunately, unlike Hit-Point's other games using this system, Chronus Arc features visible monsters on the screen in dungeons, which at least gives players the opportunity to dodge a few encounters, making those repeated treks a lot less tedious than they were in random encounter-driven games like Cross Hearts Arcadia. So when you're going to the optional forest dungeon located next to the game's second town for the sixth time, instead of fighting a couple dozen battles, you'll be able to at least attempt avoiding the lion's share of them.

That is, as long as you've completed the side-quests pertaining to that location. In each town, there is a guild offering a number of quests to kill a certain number of a particular enemy, deliver some materials or defeat optional bosses. Success in these missions, which tends to come quickly and easily, will bestow money, healing items and even the occasional material.

Also, these dungeons actually offer more than the average Kemco game provides, as you have to occasionally use your brain to make progress. Regardless of which of several studio teams is making a Kemco game, you can typically count on them having, at best, simple "puzzles" involving finding a key or switch to open a door or avoiding trap floors dropping you down a level. Many of Chronus Arc's dungeons are actually laden with block-pushing puzzles that must be solved to open doors. Generally, the puzzles that allow you to progress through dungeons are fairly easy, but there are some pretty tricky ones on side paths leading to noteworthy treasure.

And there is some treasure you'll definitely want to acquire. As you progress through the game, you'll notice that your characters don't gain much strength just by earning levels, and that the skills and spells you'll pick up are of limited use against foes and bosses that seem to just get stronger and stronger. However, by being thorough, you'll obtain a number of books that allow you to change their classes at a temple you reach a good ways into the game. When you do so, your characters will revert to the first level, but keep a portion of the stats you accrued and then enjoy substantially larger gains (and access to superior abilities) as they progress in their new class. Late in the game, a rare opportunity or two lets you obtain "attainment scrolls," which unlock a superior job class boasting great stat boosts, as well as a couple super-powered abilities.

If a person is struggling to find these items, the good news is they can be easily bought in the game's in-app purchase store. You gain one point for every 10 monsters slain. That's an easy process, as this game is tough enough that the only times you'll not want to hunt down every encounter possible are when you're making those multiple material-collecting trips to one dungeon or another. However, by saving points up for nearly the entire game, you'll be able to purchase a pair of optional dungeons. The first is purely puzzle-oriented. You'll hunt for treasure through nine floors, each with its own brainteaser, some of which are extremely difficult to solve. In a way, the second reminds me of a small-scale, non-randomized version of Lufia II's optional Ancient Cave. It's a 15-level dungeon where the game's weakest enemies are on the top floors and as you go deeper, they get tougher and tougher until you reach the bottom and have to fight a mighty dragon. As an added inducement, the majority of its floors contain several material spots, allowing you to harvest nearly everything you might need.

In case you find yourself overwhelmed by poweful enemies on that dungeon's lower floors, Chronus Arc gives the option to escape any dungeon at any time outside of battle. And then, instead of walking back to the nearest town, you can return to the menu screen to access the map and warp there. This is the sort of thing that is very useful late in the game, when you're traveling to one town to cash in IAP points and then to another to use the class changing temple.

Usually when it comes to Kemco, I can regurgitate a laundry list of flaws that served to diminish any enjoyment I may have derived from their glut of junk food RPGs. And I suppose I could with this one, as well. Touch screen controls and block-pushing puzzles didn't always work together smoothly during my adventure, forcing me to reset the screen a few times due to an inadvertent movement. There are only the usual small numbers of enemy designs and dungeon tilesets, as well, leading to a fair amount of recycled assets. There is also the occasional translation blunder, such as when characters persistently refer to Geppel's mohawk hairstyle as a "mohican". If I kept wracking my brain, I could come up with more.

And yet, none of that stuff (except "mohican" -- when you write for both your living and your hobby, those mistakes become out-of-proportion annoying) really bothered me. I played this game for about 20 hours, give or take, and never found myself hoping it'd be over soon so I could move on to something else. That singles this out as a rare breed, as far as Kemco stuff goes. And all it took was an enjoyable equipment crafting system, the absence of random battles in dungeons and actual puzzles to make me think my way through said dungeons. On paper, it doesn't seem like a particularly complicated formula, but this is the first time a mobile game with the Kemco name attached was able to succeed on all counts.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 07, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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Masters posted August 09, 2018:

I'm happy for you.

Does this mean that you will be moving on from your Kemco Khallenge now and forever? ^_^
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overdrive posted August 13, 2018:

Ah, if only... My tablet still has so many of those damn things on it and, if anything, they are decent to play when you're just looking to zone out with something for an hour of so, so I might as well keep churning through them.
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dirtsheep posted August 17, 2018:

Ah. You finally came to Chronus Arc. We've talked about it. It's always been one of my favorite Kemco games too. I was afraid you might be too jaded to enjoy it. I'm glad I was wrong. Should have had more faith.

I still think, from your review, that it might have been a better experience on the 3DS...anyway, very cool.

And Masters is right...might be good to go out on a good note with these Kemco experiences :) "Mohican." Goodness.
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overdrive posted August 18, 2018:

Sadly, I have a review for the far more mediocre Astral Frontier I just need to find time to write. And have started Asdivine Menace, which is a decent game...but would it have killed Exe-Create to make more than a couple nice, but minor, changes to their engine from Asdivine Dios? It feels like I'm playing the exact same game, but you can level up skills this time. And then there's about 25+ more on my tablet, so I have to keep going, no matter what it does to my sanity...

As for the tablet vs. 3DS, in a way, yes, as the superior controls would have prevented a few of those "walk too far pushing a block; restart the room" issues that only seemed to pop up during the game's toughest puzzles. On the other hand, those games seem to cost twice as much normally on the 3DS as on Android. And I got Chronus during a $.99 sale, so all things considered, I'd rather deal with touch control nuisances than spending more money!
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honestgamer posted August 18, 2018:

Another consideration, though, is that 3DS games will always play on 3DS hardware. Games designed for smartphones and tablets may simply stop working when new firmware arrives. Which stinks, if you ask me!
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overdrive posted August 20, 2018:

That is true and I did have to deal with that once. I'd heard about Amazon Underground, where you get games and apps for free and downloaded a couple of those Kemco things, as well as KoToR (didn't have a clue if I'd like trying to play a BioWare game on my phone, but at free, the price was right for giving it a try!). And then my phone updated and anything I got from Underground stopped working, immediately crashing when I tried to open it.

But, on the other hand, when we're talking Kemco, that doesn't overly concern me. Their games are far more worthwhile at $3.99 or $4.99 (and amazingly so when I've snagged them for $.99, which hasn't happened in some time, as they've seemed to save all their sales for their trips to newer mediums such as the more modern consoles) than at the 3DS (or other system) price, which seems to be around $9.99.

And, to be honest, if my tablet and Kemco became incompatible, I'd suffer a net loss of about $25 scattered over many months of gathering. These are games I play once and dispose of and I doubt I'd feel anything by losing them all other than, "If I knew that was gonna happen, I'd have bought a few mob movies with that money!"
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honestgamer posted August 20, 2018:

I've bought a few Kemco games on my iPhone, and not on $0.99 sales. Several of them no longer work, even though I purchased them directly through Apple's store... because Apple just randomly decides to issue new firmware that makes scores of old games non-functional. Developers have to specifically go back and modify their games to make them work again, and a lot of publishers just don't bother. The Kemco games on my iPhone that don't work happen to be--as far as I can tell--all games that are available on 3DS. I wonder if Kemco is just starting to lose interest in smartphones as releasing those games on Switch, 3DS, Vita and PS4 starts to work better than it used to.
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overdrive posted August 20, 2018:

They might be. I haven't had that problem with Android other than the aforementioned Amazon Underground not working any more, as everything I've played on my tablet works well or at least reasonably well.

Right now, I think they're more into re-releasing their games on all those other systems you mentioned. Of their five teams, one only has released one game through them and two (WWS and Magitec) haven't done anything in a while. Hit-Point releases stuff a lot more rarely than they used to and Exe-Create's been carrying them to the degree that their recycling and corner-cutting has been really noticeable to people on the Kemco fan-site (yes, one exists) I go to. And they haven't done a new game since June. As a result, Kemco's gone from at least one new release per month to 9 in 2016, seven last year and only three so far this year. But they've had a ton of releases due to re-releases on Steam and modern consoles and handhelds. And their sales all seem to be on consoles, handhelds and Steam and not on Android/Apple now.
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Masters posted August 20, 2018:

I'm curious: have they released a killer app for iPhone yet? I'd be interested in giving their very best effort a shot.

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