Step into a voxel time machine and get your hands on this nostalgia-fueled, Stranger Things inspired RPG!
Release date: 2021
Nostalgia is a risky business. On the one hand, nostalgia might give some of the player base the warm fuzzies and improve the overall experience if it hits the right notes. This can even turn a decent game into a good one or a good one into a great one under the right circumstances. Alternatively, if the execution misses the mark, it’s likely to get dinged especially hard for not living up to the expectations that it summoned up in its target audience. Fortunately, Echo Generation performs quite well in the warm fuzzies department while offering a unique spirit of its own along the way. It isn’t without its own flaws, but the good outweighs the bad.
Echo Generation is a classic-styled RPG with a heavy focus on its adventure elements. It takes place in the early 90s and rides that theme unrealistically hard throughout as media tends to do. It’s clearly inspired by Stranger Things in its presentation right down to the D&D references that step away from the “Everything 90s!” presentation for regarding the rest of the adventure. As far as gameplay is concerned I was picking up serious Earthbound and even Mario RPG vibes as I played through. Though some elements of it certainly seem like they could be divisive, I found its spin on classic RPG combat to be a refreshing change when compared to what we’ve been bombarded with in recent years.
The story itself is all over the place but is tied together well enough that you can watch as the overall plot unfolds. There’s something of a “Monster of the Week” feel to the narrative as it’s divided into short segments of the bizarre. It connects one chapter to the next well enough that it doesn’t feel unnatural though, which is quite an accomplishment with how quickly each flies by. I found myself strangely invested even though I had been skeptical of it at first. Most progress is gated behind defeating the current boss to gather an item that unlocks a new path to travel on. The game overall is honestly a glorified fetch quest, like many adventure titles are, though its segments aren’t long enough to get boring and you’ll find yourself chugging along just to see what the next area is like.
Every Move a Minigame
As with any decent RPG with the classic JRPG-like, turn-based combat system, the character of Echo Generation will improve as you progress. Experience is gained in the traditional way by offing enemies, and each new level lets you choose one of three attributes to upgrade: health, strength, and skill points. Health will increase your durability, strength will boost your damage, and skill points will raise your “mana” allowing you to use more abilities throughout the course of an encounter. Skill points are fully recovered after each victory, though health is not so you’ll need to manage it via items and taking naps back at the best free inn of all, home.
Combat is short and sweet. Every attack, whether it’s your basic one or a special ability, has its own unique minigame. It’s an active system placed into quick and intense battles which makes your successes and failures using it especially impactful. It reminded me of Mario RPG, where each character has their attacks and abilities that were enhanced by the usage of well-timed button pressing. In this particular title, not succeeding hurts a lot more though. A missed quick-time event will drastically reduce your attack’s impact and even prevent it from inflicting any special statuses that it otherwise might have. Fortunately, enemy attacks have the reverse and you can cut down their threat by avoiding the worst of what they’re throwing at you.
Echo Generation sets out to create an experience that combines 90s nostalgia, classic RPG gimmicks, and a Stranger Things vibe. For the most part, it succeeds at providing a unique and memorable experience with these parts. I can name a number of familiar elements that are used, though the whole that they create is unique to the extent that I can’t think of anything else quite like it. It may not be an instant classic, but it’s a nice, memorable nostalgia trip if you’re pining for a simpler time.