By Chris Picone, 12 July 2023
Alterium Shift is a brand new JRPG (just released in Early Access!) with a delightful 2.5D neo-retro art style that's strongly inspired Chrono Trigger. The Steam page makes lots of bold claims of unique combat, choice-driven storylines and dynamic quests, but how does it fare?
At the start of the game you're given three characters to choose from - a melee lady, archer boy, and trans mage. All bases covered, right? Thankfully, the devs put a bit more effort in than that, and each of the characters also feature distinct personalities and dynamic but converging questlines. After delving into the game with one character (the mage), I did go back and restart the game to check. I'm not too sure how much difference your early choices make to the late game or how much overall impact they have but I can at least say the dialogue does branch nicely and provide at least the illusion of choice & consequence. The quests themselves were quite mundane, but that's not unusual for the first few hours of a JRPG. I won't delve too much into the storyline, other than that it plays with the idea of a mirror world accessible through portals. Oh, and of course there's a fishing minigame. The dialogue's well-written; light-hearted, filled with humour and dad jokes (which aren't always the same thing) - and perfectly suited for an audience probably twenty to thirty years younger than myself. Not only is that not a bad thing, it's a good thing. I grew up loving JRPGs but of course all the games I played are as old as me now, but games like Alterium Shift provide modern options for my kids. I was a little disappointed in the combat - not because there was anything wrong with it, just because it didn't try to do anything new. The enemies were wolves, pigs, snakes, scorpions, golems, all fairly mundane fare, and the attacks (primarily elemental in nature) weren't anymore creative. After a while, your limit break (sorry, Burst Bar) charges up and you get a special attack.
The verdict? I did find it fun in a nostalgic way but it didn't really break any new ground. But it is well-made and I think it would probably be a great way to introduce younger players to the wonderful world of JRPGs.