I thought I’d sworn off mobile games. But when one comes along that promises a single player-centric experience and boasts talent that previously worked on titles such as Chrono Trigger and Luminous Arc, I pay attention.
I’d actually already had my eye on Another Eden: The Cat Beyond Time and Space for a while, since it released in Japan a while back and seemed to be very positively received. Now, it’s finally available in the West, so I thought I’d dip in and see what it was all about.
Read on for my first impressions, based on a couple of hours of play on the recently released Android version.
First up, one thing to note is that while the initial app download is fairly small (80-something MB), like most modern Asian mobile games there’s a substantial content download once you fire the game up for the first time. Before you start playing, you have the option to either download just what the game needs to get going, or download the whole lot in one go.
I plumped for the latter option, which results in a little over 3GB of your device being gradually swallowed up by the content download. It also took a very long time — though as always, your results may vary according to your own particular Internet connection. Maybe make sure you’re on the Wi-Fi for this one, hmm?
Once you’re into the game itself, you’ll immediately start to see how Another Eden sets itself apart from its contemporaries and peers. And, for me, this immediately distinguishing aspect is one of the most noteworthy things about it.
Let’s step back for a moment and contemplate free-to-play mobile games in general — specifically, gacha-based Asian role-playing games such as those we’ve previously explored here on MoeGamer: Granblue Fantasy, Dragalia Lost, Fate/Grand Order and Girls’ Frontline.
Speaking personally, I’ve enjoyed all these games to varying degrees — hence my coverage of them — but a big barrier to me getting truly invested in them over the long term is the fact that… they feel like mobile games. They don’t feel like something I’d play on a computer or console, and while for some people that isn’t a problem, for me I’m always left feeling like I’m enjoying something that is somehow “inferior”.
Specifically, my issue with these is how they tend to be structured. All of the aforementioned games make use of a heavily menu-based system and unfold in a strictly episodic manner, usually making use of some sort of “energy” system to limit how much you are able to play in a single session. In other words, rather than being truly allowed to immerse yourself in the game, its setting, its characters and its narrative, you’re obtrusively reminded at regular intervals that you’re playing a free-to-play mobile game on your phone. You need 20 AP to do this quest. You can only do this dungeon once per day. Click here for your Daily Bonus.
Some of these aspects are down to these games trying to emulate the MMO formula — but in the case of titles that offer a primarily or exclusively single-player experience, that doesn’t make a ton of sense from a structural perspective. They’re primarily there as a means of player retention — but as soon as you recognise them for what they are, it’s hard not to feel like they’re getting in the way of the overall experience.
The reason I bring this up is that, in the time I’ve played Another Eden so far, none of this has happened. There are no energy bars, no selecting episodes from menus, no weird prerequisites to do anything, no daily limits. You just play it like you would a regular RPG: wander the world, talk to NPCs, gather items, get into random combat, fight bosses, buy equipment, upgrade your characters, have a good ol’ time.
The prologue period of the game is strictly linear in terms of progression, but once the story gets underway, things start opening up a bit more. Without spoiling the details too much, protagonist Aldo finds himself 800 years in the future in a sprawling, floating city in the clouds. Once he’s established where he is and that getting home isn’t going to be a simple matter, you can start taking on sidequests as well as advancing the main story. Each of these carries a clear level recommendation so you don’t take on anything beyond your current capabilities, and each is tracked separately with clear objective markers, allowing you to easily see where you should be going and what you should be doing.
Control on mobile games is often a big stumbling block for me, but Another Eden handles things rather elegantly thanks to its stylised field layouts, consisting of several horizontal “lanes” connected by pathways, doorways or corridors.
A simple swipe and hold to the left or right anywhere on the screen causes Aldo and his party to run in that direction, while a quick flick up or down allows you to move between the different “tiers” of the area you’re in when you reach an appropriate path or doorway that extends into the background or foreground. You can interact with objects, people and doors simply by tapping on them.
Because this isn’t an action game, there are no complicated manoeuvres to worry about. The fastest the “action” gets is if you run into a dungeon’s resident “Horror” monster and it starts chasing you — but this shouldn’t be an issue if you are playing sensibly, because you can see Horrors on the minimap well before you encounter them, allowing you to plan your route accordingly, and they are colour-coded according to how dangerous they are to your party at its current level.
When you do get into combat — which occurs randomly in non-town areas, old-school console RPG-style — the game switches seamlessly to a turn-based setup, with your characters on the right and enemies on the left. Hitting a big “Attack” button in the corner of the screen causes your whole party to use their default abilities, while tapping on a character allows you to select a different skill for them to use. An optional “Repeat” setting allows you to perform the same combination of actions turn after turn without having to manually select the skills every time, and the game is sensible enough to automatically switch back to the character’s default skill if you no longer have enough MP to use a skill that has an associated cost.
Enemy weaknesses are clearly visible while you’re planning your turn, allowing you to set up an appropriate combination of abilities, and you’re easily able to swap out any of your current front-line characters with any characters you have waiting in your two “reserve” slots. The game does everything it can to make things simple, straightforward and easy to understand while still allowing for interesting party compositions and character builds. In this respect, it’s very well-designed for the mobile gaming format; random battles are typically over in a matter of seconds, allowing for quick and easy grinding, and early-game progression is quick enough that even a few minutes of play can see you advancing your characters to a meaningful degree.
And the whole thing is absolutely beautifully presented, running at a super-slick frame rate and using delightfully stylised visuals. The in-game character models adopt something of a chibi form factor but are recognisable as the characters they are supposed to represent, while the close-up art of the characters is absolutely exquisite.
Particular note should be given to the backdrops, which are colourful, atmospheric and provide a great deal of character to each of the locales you find yourself visiting. The Animal Crossing-style “wrapping around a globe” effect as you move in and out of the background works extremely well, and the simple, smooth, elegant controls make navigating the world an absolute breeze.
The music, too, is wonderful, which should be no surprise considering the involvement of Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger), Shunsuke Tsuchiya (Luminous Arc 2) and relative newcomer Mariam Abounnasr. It’s all fully orchestrated and makes excellent use of differing instrumentation and musical styles to highlight the different locales and time periods Aldo visits on his adventure — even the battle music changes.
So far, then, it’s safe to say that my early impressions of Another Eden are very positive indeed. As yet, I’m not sure how much content there is in the game — quite a bit from the sound of things, since it looks like the Western version has launched with a lot of stuff that was added post-launch in the Japanese version — or indeed what you do once you reach the current “endgame”, if anything, but I’m definitely intrigued to find out at this point. The fact it doesn’t feel at all like your typical mobile gacha game is a big, big point in its favour so far as I’m concerned, so if you’ve typically bounced off titles such as those I mentioned earlier in this article, I encourage you to give Another Eden a look.
Further thoughts to follow in the coming weeks!
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