Reviewed on an Xbox Series X
It’s the year 1993. You and your friends notice that something is… off with your small town. Kids are missing, adults are being weird (well, weirder than usual,) and… is that a mech? Join us as we dive into this world with the Xbox Era review of Echo Generation.
Aww, so cute and fun- Wait, did you hear that?
Developed by Cococucumber, Echo Generation takes place in the small town of Elmer Lake. Mysterious happenings are afoot and it’s up to you and your gang of friends to figure out exactly what’s going on.
The setting, while simple, has a fair bit of charm and depth to it. A large cast of memorable NPCs, such as a school principal with some seriously dark secrets, help elevate the storytelling; while other characters work to balance the tone towards fun. This duality, between lighthearted and scary, is by far one of the game’s greatest strengths. Echo Generation almost masterfully transitions from fun, bright settings to dark, somber, and quite frankly, terrifying moments. Note to self: If an NPC says a location is haunted, it probably is.
However, the smaller scope of the game is prevalent here. As NPCs will continue to repeat the same lines again and again, even after you’ve clearly progressed past those events. As for how the story develops; while it did feel a little crazy, once I remembered that the game opened with a talking raccoon, it started to make more sense.
Does this count as an Addition system?
At its core, Echo Generation is a turn-based RPG focused on exploration. It has a (small) variety of party members, skills, items, along with more things you’d expect from the genre. The crux of the game revolves around your player character, their sister, and a third companion of your choice, exploring the various locations. From the small suburbs of your town to a dark, frightening cornfield, Echo Generation is never lacking in setting variety.
As you explore the nooks and crannies you regularly encounter foes to combat, be it a gang of raccoons or a giant robot mech that you can somehow kick and punch away into oblivion. While the combat is technically turn-based, Cococucumber have tried their hands at keeping things exciting. Every character has a set of skills they can use by spending skill points (SP) and each skill has a different “minigame” of sorts for you to play to maximize your damage. These are all pretty simple things, such as mashing the A button as fast as you can or pressing buttons in a specific order, but they do add a breath of fresh air to a combat system that can often be static. If you fail the mini-game; you do less damage and any extra effects aren’t applied. New skills are picked up by purchasing or locating various comic books as you play through the game.
The skills are easily the best part of the combat, yet at the same time, they exasperate the faults. As I mentioned, each skill requires a certain amount of SP to do and SP itself is recovered to full whenever you start a new encounter. The problem is that I almost always ran out of SP long before a fight was over, and this was especially apparent in boss encounters. I would use my moves as intelligently as I could, but the last half of every big fight ended up just being regular attacks for all three of my characters. It reached the point where I’d simply do the math and figure out how many more turns I needed to survive in order to defeat the enemy. This wasn’t fun.
As I mentioned earlier, some skills have extra effects, such as bleed, poison, or stun. Ultimately though, I didn’t think the harder skills were worth it for a measly 1 extra damage per turn. In terms of healing, you almost always have to rely on consumable items that you either pick up, purchase or are gifted. I had my qualms with this system as well, but I’ll leave that for a little later.
Like most RPGs, you’re given experience after each encounter and you eventually level up. Each time you do, you can select between one of three characteristics to upgrade: Health, Strength, and Skill. Health increases the amount of damage you can take, strength increases the damage you do, and skill increases the total SP of the party. While there is some strategy in choosing what to upgrade first, I used a balanced approach and it worked pretty well.
Well, it certainly looks pretty
While there’s no voice acting and there isn’t much to say about specific sound effects, the music is remarkably well done. From the upbeat tunes in the town to the unsettling background noises in a basement, Cococucumber did a great job in bringing the locations to life. The boss music was also of note.
The visuals are another location where this game shines. The art style of the game does wonders at keeping things vibrant and interesting. Which is pretty essential for a game that revolves around exploring every inch of the screen. There were very few areas that I felt didn’t live up to the standard of the rest; meaning that generally, the entire game is a treat to look at. Enemy designs were especially well done and very creative.
Cardio and Rest
While I had no major bugs in my playthrough (minus getting stuck just one), I did want to mention another couple of issues I had. With combat being such an integral part of the game, I found the health recovery system to be lacking. Your currency is very limited as you need to regularly purchase story-related objects and enemies don’t drop items. At all. This meant that I would need to regularly run all the way back to my house to “sleep” and heal up to full hp.
When you die in Echo Generation, you spawn near your location of death with half hp for each party member. This meant that every time I failed a boss encounter, I would have to backtrack, heal, then run to the boss again for my next attempt. Sometimes I’d lose a fight simply because I missed the timing on a skill once. Having encounters drop consumables would have helped alleviate this a fair bit.
The last thing I wanted to mention was that the game has no hint, or “what should I do next” system. And I know, I know, plenty of games in the past didn’t have this. You’d have to go and retrace each and every step, talk to each and every person, and check each and every corner to find out what to do next. Echo Generation also requires you to do this and at times I would spend hours trying to figure out my next step. I know for some this can be seen as a positive, but for me, it was just frustrating.
Fun, but Flawed
There’s a lot to like about this game. The setting is intriguing, the characters are fun, and the art style can be spectacular. However, problems with some pretty core concepts bring the overall experience down. In conclusion, while Echo Generation has solid visuals and music, these are sadly out shadowed by clunky combat and frustrating game design.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC|
|Release Date||October 21st, 2021|