It’s a tough time for the JRPG. Ballooning budgets, a narrowing fanbase and a lack of innovation have all contributed to a decline of the once-dominant genre. Playtime also plays a significant role in the lack of console-sized JRPGs; In a generation filled to the brim with time sinks like Fallout 4, Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn, it can be hard to fit in the 100-hour Persona 5. Luckily, the little-talked-about Battle Chasers: Nightwar is here to give you your JRPG fix in a nice, streamlined package.
Nightwar draws its inspiration from the great JRPGs of the past, from Final Fantasy X’s combat system to the linear world map of Chrono Cross. Where it starts to differentiate itself, however, is in the pacing. Nightwar wastes no time in getting you into the action and exploring the vibrant comic book world. Gone is the hours-long prologue fraught with world-building and lengthy stretches of dialogue. Instead, there’s a short introduction that serves only to place our heroes into danger, and then it’s off to high adventure.
All the standard RPG elements are present, albeit in a distilled, no-frills way. The crafting system gives you a reason to hang on to your scrap, fishing nets you a special currency that you can spend on new gear, loot drops have varying degrees of rarity, special hunts give you a reason to seek out tough enemies, and upgradable shops provide a satisfying money sink. Even with all these systems at play, Nightwar never feels bogged down by an overabundance of features.
Another example of Nightwar’s concise nature is the world map. You have a hub town that you’ll revisit between adventures, and all pertinent information is clearly displayed. Enemies will block your path, but the game mercifully lets you skip fights with low-level monsters. There’s also an ever-present objective marker ensures you’ll never forget what to do, a pitfall of many triple-A RPGs. Even dungeon crawling is a simple affair, as each dungeon is usually no more than a handful of rooms with a few environmental puzzles. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to do in them, it’s just that it feels more…bite-sized.
Given the pared-down nature of the game, there are some concessions that help remind you that this isn’t a full-budget triple-A production. The story in particular is worth pointing out here; predictable and tired, very little new ground is trod. It helps somewhat that Nightwar has a cast of fun, memorable characters, each with distinct personalities, and that their qualities can shine through without the aid of cutscenes and extended dialogue sequences is a testament to their strong fundamental design. I just wish they had something less cliche to do.
There’s a lot to love about Nightwar, but its greatest strength lies in its ability to deliver a quality turn-based RPG in an easily digestible format. Sometimes you want to go dive into a dungeon right away rather than upgrade your social links through tedious dialogue and time management. There’s nothing wrong with sinking hundreds of hours into a sprawling and epic RPG, but with time as precious as it is, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a welcome breath of fresh air.