I have many fond memories of the choose your own adventure novels, and to be honest, most modern visual novels are a bit of a letdown by the time I reach the end. I have rarely had the opportunity to sit down with a truly good visual novel in recent years, and I am happy to say the ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos is an exception. While I found the narrative initially lacking, the story does pick as you enter the second battle. By the end of my first run-through, the story engaged me enough that I wanted to go back and experience some of the other endings. This is our ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos review.
MyDearest Inc. claims that ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos has 15-20 hours of gameplay. Let’s get something out of the way first and make it clear, this is not a game. It is a visual novel experience, and if you are buying this product looking for a gameplay experience, you will be disappointed. The closest you have for the gameplay loop as a mech operator is to touch buttons in an activation sequence, place your hands/arms where indicated, and pull a trigger to activate a weapon. I also found that the most enjoyable way to experience the story was by grabbing a seat in a comfortable chair with my Oculus Quest 2 and setting the guardian area to a stationary position.
In this VR VN (Visual Novel), you take on the role of Chloe a genetically manufactured human pilot of a Makhia (battle robot), and you are defending what is left of the world against the Meteora, aliens that are 400 meters tall. I found the initial experience a bit disjointed as the story didn’t do a great job of grounding me in the world. Thankfully this passes once you start to interact with the rest of your team. Each of the characters from Noa the AARC (Artificial Augmented Reality Crystal) through to General Deiter are all interesting in their way. As you begin to make more narrative decisions, the various character-specific story reveals are surprising at times. While a few of the character names may sound silly to some they fit well for an anime, and the voice actors did an excellent job of bringing these characters to life. After a while, they didn’t bother me at all.
The voice acting overall is excellent, I enjoyed most of the characters, and Julie (the resident mad scientist), in particular, was done well. I found the verbal interplay between Chloe and Julie has been the highlight of my run-through each time. I will admit that I have only played through with the English voices. Because of this, some nuances of the story elements may have been lost in translation. The only complaint I have is the voice acting at times felt stilted, clicking through each sentence. It took me a bit out of the immersive experience, but I can see how getting this element just right would be extremely difficult in a VN where there are so many stops and starts to the dialogue.
The music/sound for an anime VN is almost perfect in ALTDEUS. It fit extremely well with each fight sequence and other moments within the story. It does a great job building up a fight. Unfortunately, due to the lack of gameplay, I found each fight itself a bit of a letdown by the end. Just a bit of a mini gameplay loop would have gone a long way to keep me more engaged and would have provided a bigger payoff at the end of each combat rather than just having a timer to beat by pressing the buttons.
Graphics and visuals for this VN are clean/crisp. Most environments are visually interesting, yet sparse on clutter, allowing you to quickly find objects to interact with and move the story along. The character animations are done well for what there is throughout the main narrative. However, a number of events occur when the screen blacks out. For example, if a character gets hit, the screen would go black, you would also hear the sound of the punch hitting, then Chloe might see them lying on the ground. It would have been nice to see these events fully animated as well throughout the entire story.
The ALTDEUS’ narrative is well done using an in-game construct known as the Decision Support System (DSS). Each time Chloe has a narrative choice to be made, the DSS kicks in and shows you what impact each decision has on things like the partnership rating with Noa or how mysterious Chloe is as a character. I can already see how I would make different choices during future run-throughs after regretting a few of my decisions early on.
ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos is an excellent VN for those who like anime. It has many of the traditional anime tropes with well-done voice acting and great music. While a single run-through is short, the overall replay value when including the branching narrative is high. You may find the story a bit slow and disjointed to start, but it does shift gears quickly depending on your narrative choices. If you would like to avoid some of my initial minor disappointment, I would recommend two things: first – realize this is not a game but a well-done VR visual novel, second – visit the altdeus.com website beforehand. There you can quickly read about the world setting and characters. Doing so will help you get grounded and invested in the story right from the initial opening sequence.
Game copy provided for the purpose of review.
COMPARE TO: Tokya Chronos (VR)