Another Eden is something of a master class in presenting a modern feeling, single player RPG for the free-to-play market of mobile. It looks good, plays solidly and keeps its freemium elements on the down low to the point that they are optional and can be ignored. It’s also perhaps the most obvious love letter to ‘Chrono Trigger’ you’ll ever play.
The involvement of Masato Kato (who worked on ‘Chrono Trigger’ and ‘Final Fantasy XI’ among other titles) quickly sets the bar surprisingly high for WFS, Inc’s latest product, and helps to dull the edges of the similarities and homages to his earlier work. WFS themselves have already produced some high-quality work in games that haven’t left Japan, and dabbled with licenses such as ‘Wild Arms’ in the past, so are no strangers to the JRPG genre or mobile development. Still, the central trio being a sword wielding Human, talking frog and android does spark immediate comparisons, even if pains are taken to make them feel thematically distinct from their more famous counterparts.
Graphically, Another Eden is a real feast for the eyes with 2D character models and assets set on a number of flat pathways connected in 3D space. This makes the game look like a traditional side scroller but adds real depth when moving forward or backward between paths. Art assets are all HD and the character art has a defined and polished anime aesthetic that allows for a lot of emoting to be done by the cast. Character and monster designs are vibrant, and environments are directed in such a manner that they create scenic locations. Importantly, despite being essentially a series of straight lines, they manage to avoid the feeling of playing in corridors and instead create dungeons with great levels of depth and branching paths. Menus are unobtrusive and easy to use, with screens feeling uncluttered and quick to navigate with a single finger or thumb. Some of these relish in small design flourishes, such as each character’s individual board and status page, which feature some lovely artwork.
The music for this title is well composed, cleanly recorded synth that contains a number of interesting themes used for each individual time period to clearly separate them. In what may be a misplaced effort to give the game a retro-vibe, the music doesn’t appear to use as many layers of instruments as it could be taking advantage of, making some wonderful melodies feel a little hollow compared to how vibrant they could have been. Making up for this is the inclusion of character unique voicework in battle and some voice cutscenes with the story’s main characters. This doesn’t sound impressive on paper (it is 2019 after all), but in practice with the sheer amount of characters available it makes for a lot of effort on the part of sound design. A feat only managed by ‘Fire Emblem Heroes’, which had Nintendo’s power behind it.
As the game opens the player will be introduced to Aldo, a young warrior who’s woken by his younger sister, Feinne and together they set about finding a suitable present for the town mayor who found and adopted them as children. Before long however the adventurous Aldo follows a town-cat through a strange portal and finds himself in a far-flung future, whilst his younger sister is kidnapped by the king of the Beastmen. Finding his way back through time, and attempting to rescue her form the crux of the game’s initial plot thread, but soon a larger story of time manipulation to affect possible futures begins to unfold. With allies past, present and yet to be born, Aldo hops through time in an effort to ensure a happy ending for everyone.
Gameplay is expertly modelled for touch-screens but the game does make allowances for those who want to rig their phone to a larger screen and play with a controller (which still looks great). Movement is modelled on a scheme where players touch the corner of the screen to run in that direction, with all interactions highlighted by icons to allow for a quick tap to activate. Exploration is kept to straight left/right paths with occasional switched of plane, which is done with a quick upward or downward flip of the finger and feels very natural. Scattered around are items to collect (which are handed in at weapon stores to unlock new equipment for the forge) and chests to open in addition to roaming monsters, which serve as super-powerful variants of the area’s random encounters and can be avoided as they walk on set paths and appear on the minimap. Conversations are standard JRPG style but show a good level of dramatic storytelling and take the time to zoom/pan the screen and show off intricate animations as well as featuring establishing shots of locations that usually get cut from mobile titles. Where the game really shines is in its combat, which sees a team of 4 party members (with a further 2 in reserve) tackling monsters in turn based combat. Each character has up to 4 moves to choose from, with early moves being cheaper in SP than later ones and varying in effect based on their class. At any time a character can be swapped to the back row for one of the reserves, where HP and SP will regenerate each turn, as an added bonus each character has a passive skill that triggers when they go to the front line that buffs the party or weakens the enemy group with a status effect, making for combat becoming a fun juggle between characters. Boss fights especially benefit from this system as you’re juggling a character’s ability, health and damage output to decide when is best to switch them out. Items cannot be used in battle (serving only as key items or synth material), and healers are rare (with the exception of 1 character the game provides early) so this system becomes the crux of play for in-battle HP regen. On top of this lays a secondary system unlocked a few chapters into the game where a gauge fills as you attack that can be triggered when full or at its mid-point to allow you to attack freely outside of the turn based order. When this gauge is empty it will then trigger a group attack from characters able to partner up into teams of 2 ,3, and 4 for special closing moves. It feels like a solid variant of the combos present in the Chrono Trigger system, without having to copy-paste the battle mechanics wholesale. Overall, it’s a massively well-constructed game that focuses on making gameplay feel rewarding and fun. There are gattcha elements hidden away, but the game never forces the player to use them, it DOES however frequently provide free premium currency that can be used to draw new characters or varying strengths OR to continue a battle you’d otherwise fail with a fully healed party. There’s no harm done for losing a fight however, which means this option is never rammed down the player’s throat as the only way to win. Quick travel is available to the character at any time within a given map and access to 3 time zones is established early in the game, which is handy as there is a robust sub-quest system that will see you returning to previously explored locations regularly, as well as special events that add new areas to older locals and whole new locations to maps that flesh out the world. Mini-rewards are also regularly dished out for clearing chapters, killing set amounts of villains and employing new faces in your party.
Overall, this is the first JRPG for mobile to be free but truly feel like a console quality premium experience without being a port of one. The story is well told, the gameplay is robust and enjoyable and it’s beautiful to see in action on a small or large screen. Masato Kato has done an amazing job, as have all the staff at WFS, with us looking forward to seeing new content and materials added to Another Eden over the next few years.