How Mecha And Memories – 16-Bit Nostalgia Affected the SNES-style JRPG ‘Stringed Echo’

Chained Echoes Key Art
Image: Matthias Linda

A world where dragons exist and people drive mechs? Not the most popular combination – although both elements have appeared in regular RPGs over the years – but for the PS1-inspired SNES and JRPG String Echo, this is absolutely standard. Revealed back in 2019, the game exploded through Kickstarter campaign and secured a Switch version as part of its stretch goals.

This turn-based RPG will be released in 2022 – Steam page lists *** on 2022. And from the incredibly detailed pixel art to the snappy combat, it looks like another great classic-inspired RPG that you’ll feel right at home on the Switch. And that’s exactly what the game’s sole developer, Matthias Linda, also thinks.

With a list of inspirations included Xenogears, Chrono Activator and Pass, Chronicles of Xenobladeand Suikoden, it’s clear that Chained Echoes is a love letter to the genre – with a particular look at the classic. But the combination of mechs, dragons, and steampunk helps set it apart from the plethora of classic RPGs on the system.

We got a chance to talk to Matthias Linda about Chained Echoes, why the Switch well done for the classic-inspired RPG, and the recent Monolith Soft game nearly caused Linda to delay the game because she was so absorbed…

Matthias Linda
This is what seven years of game development does for you. – Image: Matthias Linda

Nintendo Life: Congratulations on the game release time! Creating any kind of videogame yourself is largely a daunting task, but a 30-40 hour RPG takes another level! What about the genre that inspired you to create your own?

Matthias Linda: I grew up with JRPGs on Nintendo and PlayStation. It’s as simple as that. I even created Final Fantasy VI-likes and Chrono Activator– fascinating game in RPG Maker because I fell in love with this genre. So it was only natural that one day I started working on my own RPG. And, here I am, after seven years as a game dev. The game is almost done, just some polishing and starting to run on each system.

Have you always thought of Nintendo Switches or consoles for Chained Echoes? What do you think of the Switch that makes it a great home for classic-inspired JRPGs?

I love Switch. And yes, from the beginning I wanted the game to run on it, obviously. It’s a perfect combination, isn’t it? I’m not even sure why it’s the perfect combination, it just feels like it. Somehow, the indie scene turned the Switch into something really, really special.

When the Switch came to market, since you had a mix of portable console and stationery, you had something special. But in the end, the game shapes a console. And, for some reason, classic-inspired RPGs and JRPGs and action-adventures feel super natural on the Switch. They are a perfect combination.

… the stand-alone scene that made the Switch something really, really special.

There’s a real blend of classic SNES visuals and style with PlayStation audio and streaming options. Did you have any specific games in mind while working on Chained Echoes?

Pretty much. Suikoden IIGame Chrono, head Final Fantasy title, Terranigma, Xenogears and many more; basically all games are part of my childhood. But, in Chained Echoes, they influence the game more the way I remember them, not so much the way they actually do. There is a psychological effect that you remember things differently and you will always honor the things you went through as a child. And whenever I create something, I do it the way I remember it, not how it really is.

We love the idea of ​​a world where both mechs and dragons exist. Not many RPGs use mechs for transportation or combat – we’re thinking Xenogears and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Why would you want to bring the mech in particular?

My inner kid will always love giant robots. At my age, who doesn’t love Mechwarrior? But sure enough, Xenogears. And yes, Chronicles of Xenoblade… my God, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Recently delayed Chained Echoes at least a week!

Jokes aside, I just thought it would be cool to mix fantasy with mech and steampunk elements. And it also allows me to introduce a new variation of the combat system and surprise the player when he doesn’t expect it.

There is mention of “choice” on the official website. What choices will there be in the game and will they lead to different missions, scenarios or endings?

Well, some choices are part of the story and will be made by the characters and the player will just “feel” them. But some choices in certain quests will affect what happens in the quests. But for the last part, no – I want to tell a specific story, carry a specific meaning. While I’m not sure if people will understand Chained Echoes’ message, I’m sure this message will make players think about the game from time to time. With multiple endings, this wouldn’t be possible.

… whenever I create something, I do it the way I remember it, not how it really is.

We saw a lot of different species of characters in the trailer, such as lizardman, dog, birdman, etc. Was a diverse cast always something you were looking for?

It’s not so much about the diversity of the cast but about creating a believable fantasy world where not only humans exist. Even though even bird people and lizard people as you call them are considered humans in the world of Chained Echoes. When it comes to that particular subject, the world of Chained Echoes is almost utopian. These are not very important.

The game uses a flexible turn-based battle system with a clear turn order. How would you like to set up your combat system compared to other SNES-inspired RPGs these days?

I wanted to create a fast-paced turn-based combat system that still offers a deep tactical aspect. Sounds difficult right? So I introduced the speed bar. Every player and enemy action affects the bar. If you go over the speed you will deal more damage and take less, if you go too far the opposite will happen. So while turns are quick and lightning fast, you still have to balance your actions so you don’t ruin your battle within two or three turns.

Can you tell us anything about the skill system in the game?

Each character has a set of skills that they can learn as they level up. After learning a passive or active skill, the character needs to equip that skill as well. There are tons of skills for each character but only a handful of slots are available to equip them, so you have to carefully plan what your skill set looks like before going into battle. There are more than 400 skills available! The leveling system works a bit differently than other games. It is not processed through experience points but pieces you will find along the way.

Minigames are another classic RPG element you’re putting into Chained Echoes. What kind can we expect to see?

I can recommend the turtle race. There aren’t too many minigames in Chained Echoes, just a few. I only add them when I think they make sense in the context of the world. And when I add things, I want to make sure they have an impact on the gameplay or that they make you laugh.

I bet somewhere inside Chained Echoes there’s a bit of Elden Ring or The Witcher III or even Mario.

Do you still have time to play role-playing games? And are there any modern influences that you took your ideas from?

Right. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 almost caused the delay because I spent so much time on it. But I like it too Back to Monkey Island much. I know, it’s not an RPG, but I still wanted to mention it. Also, I’m a [Yasumi] Matsuno fanboy. I’m waiting Final Fantasy XVI and I have high hopes for it because the team behind it also seems to be Matsuno fans. For modern day influences, yes. Maybe. I bet somewhere inside Chained Echoes there’s a bit Elden Rings or The Witcher III or even Mario. And probably a lot of others!

Chained Echoes 2
Image: Matthias Linda

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

We would like to thank Matthias Linda for taking the time to answer our questions. Chained Echoes will be released on Switch in 2022.


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