Memories, dreams, and reality blend in the futuristic city of Astrum Close, making it nearly impossible to discern between the three. Things seem relatively peaceful in the city’s closed-off world compared to the harsh reality of outside life, at least until the shocking murder of Astrum Close’s founder. Special Supervisor Hal Scion gets the task of figuring out what happened to the professor before the city whips itself into an anxious frenzy, all while a prophecy foretelling Astrum Close’s doom in seven days looms overhead. Can the truth be uncovered and tragedy prevented? Take on the role of Hal and find out by playing the compelling sci-fi graphic adventure DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate.
Initially a three-episode VR gaming experience, the Definitive Edition of DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate combines all three episodes in one complete, non-VR package on the Nintendo Switch. For the most part, the change to a non-VR game works exceptionally well, though there are parts where the gameplay or graphics become awkwardly choppy. This version of the game plays as a first-person graphic adventure in which you experience events from the player character’s perspective. Game controls have clear explanations throughout the beginning stages, allowing you to enjoy the experience.
Hal is a Variant, a mutant unable to link into the Augmented Dreaming connecting most of Astrum Close’s residents. Instead, Hal has a unique ability related to time. In his case, he can briefly dive into memories from a relevant party’s past whenever he comes into contact with a significant object. This ability helps Hal witness past events, allowing him to piece together their inevitable outcomes. On occasion, Hal can also influence these past events, causing reality and the present to alter. Find a way blocked by debris? Memory dive into the past, perhaps solving a puzzle that will keep the present timeline’s path clear. It’s interesting to discover what you can see and do through memory diving, though the game often flat-out informs you when alterations might be needed instead of figuring it out on your own.
At its core, DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate is a sci-fi mystery, with the first two episodes focused on solving two criminal cases. Solving these crimes means memory diving to gather clues and evidence and talking to persons of interest while inspecting crime scenes. Once all the information you can gather is collected, you can peruse a menu and link items of importance alongside the facts about the case you observed in a connecting spider web pattern. Then, you begin a proper trial, piecing together what happened before recreating the crime. It’s important to note that you don’t need a perfect percentage in the recreation segment to actually “solve” the crime, as I made two mistakes in the first trial run yet still got a high enough plausibility score to pass. The trial recreations are such engaging gameplay segments that I was a tad disappointed you don’t get to do one in Episode III, though what does happen there in terms of the plot more than makes up for it.
DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate utilizes time loops to affect its playtime significantly. Sure, they’re a gimmick we’ve seen before in titles of this nature, but I like how the game utilizes and explains the time loops later on. They’re not the only exciting gameplay component, however! While Hal himself can’t link up with the residents of Astrum Close in the Augmented Dreaming landscape, he can enter the space and interact with the people there. If a resident is distraught, their color palette noticeably changes. You can then begin an impromptu “counseling” session to calm them down, helping to keep their anxiousness from spreading to other residents. These counseling events play as a rhythm minigame, getting progressively more challenging the further along in the game you are. At one point, you have a series of challenging “boss battle” sessions that you need to get through to advance the story. The counseling sessions are engaging gameplay additions, though Hal jumping between Augmented Dreaming and reality constantly does get somewhat cumbersome, especially when you’re near major story events.
From a story and character perspective, I can’t find much to fault DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate with. The sci-fi trappings aren’t exactly the most original since we’ve seen variations of this storytelling in plenty of other games. However, the mysteries that the narrative contains and its plot reveals are thought-provoking, keeping you hooked regardless. There are some twists I didn’t see coming, but when looking back at earlier hints, they make total sense. It’s a compelling tale with a surprising amount of emotion sprinkled throughout, particularly in the finale. I love the main character, Hal, and the found family dynamic he develops with fellow Variant siblings Maia and Noel, as well as his robotic partner Lily, is very heartfelt. Lily is the type of mascot character that can potentially grate on your nerves, but she’s written so well that I often found her surprisingly endearing. Other characters are phenomenally well-written, such as Ash, Hal’s friend at the Administration Bureau; enigmatic Airi, outsider Keith; and Hal’s commanding officer, Elaine. I give the game high marks for its plot and characters!
That isn’t to say DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate is an entirely flawless experience. Expect long loading times, as with any next-gen game that gets an eventual Switch port. They occur so frequently that they nearly take you out of the game’s immersion. I did have one instance where I somehow glitched over a block I wasn’t supposed to be able to get across, subsequently getting stuck. Quitting the game and loading my save again thankfully bypassed it. There’s also one puzzle in the third episode where the direction prompts aren’t translated into English, though it’s easy enough to figure out what you need to do through trial and error. The varied puzzles can be challenging, but they aren’t insurmountable. While the game provides a lot of hints about next steps, I imagine some could get annoyed at the “handholding” at specific points in the story. There’s also no explanation for the auto-save system. Even though it does so fairly regularly, you might have to replay a few sections if you quit the game before it auto-saves. While all three episodes are surprisingly lengthy affairs, some portions of the second and third episodes, in particular, drag on to prolong the game.
Visually, I especially love DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate’s character designs and artwork direction. I don’t feel that character designer LAM’s art necessarily translates as well to the game graphics, though the anime aesthetic certainly works in its presentation’s favor. The sheer amount of vibrant color in the Augmented Dreaming segments is impressive! However, camera visuals can be frustrating at specific points, such as when you must sneak past drones using stealth and cover while trying to find the right camera angle. Also, the floating hands used to represent your character’s hands when they have to be visually shown are odd.
Script-wise, the English translation does a great job with hardly any errors or discrepancies in localization outside of the previously mentioned untranslated moment. The soundscape is also quite impressive, with several emotional and engaging music tracks throughout and fittingly appropriate sound effects for the story’s setting and events. The English voice acting could be hit or miss, though I should give special kudos to Jesse Inocalla’s powerful performance as Hal since so much of the story revolves around him. Some might know him from his role as Soren in the animated series The Dragon Prince, and he does an equally phenomenal job here regarding Hal’s reactions to late-plot reveals.
DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate is an entertainingly thought-provoking sci-fi mystery graphic adventure. I enjoyed playing it despite some of its weaknesses, specifically its transition to non-VR mechanics. I’m curious about when its two predecessors make their way onto the Switch. I hope there are more games of its ilk in development for the future. If you haven’t yet played any version of the game, Nintendo Switch’s Definitive Edition of DYSCHRONIA: Chronos Alternate is well worth the non-VR dive.