There’s no shortage of JRPGs on the market in 2019 — but there’s a severe lack of them with a sense of whimsy and wonder. There are so many with a super-serious setting or a plot that takes itself too seriously and there aren’t many that let you open your mind up to the world you’re inhabiting. From the moment the adventure begins, Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers aims to suck you into its tale and expertly does that job. You start off with sweeping pans of the city, shots of the citizens and a single envelope as it makes its way to the destination — very much like the feather at the start of Forrest Gump. Destiny Connect aims to send players on a journey, and while it’s one that isn’t likely to test the mettle of JRPG veterans, it still has something to offer players of all experience and skill levels.
Young Sherry and her mother go to their town’s new year’s festival, but when the clock strikes zero, time stops. Sherry and her mother get separated with everything going on and she can’t find her anywhere. Fortunately, she remembers to go home and that’s where the adventure begins. The early goings build the world up around you and focus on the characters. The bond between Sherry and her mother is shown, while Sherry herself is bitter due to her father not only not coming home in time for new year’s — but always being absent and working on things in his workshop. His vision for the family’s life, however, gains a bit of clarity when she goes home.
There, she reminisces about what’s she’s said to him before and gets sad before finding a book. Moving this book has a ’60s Batman effect of moving tons of things around it and in the process, she finds her father’s hidden basement. Inside is a robot that he built for the express purpose of protecting her — so all the time he spent away from her that she was bitter about becomes a source of guilt until Isaac the robot puts her mind at ease. They’ve got a town full of people to save and a mystery to solve, and they’re not going to do either of those by sulking. Exploring the town unravels more mysteries, such as her best friend Pegreo being found and a relative now being turned into a robot — similar to the ones that have been invading the town.
All of the events have a greater sense of purpose since the game spends so much time building the characters up and what they mean to one another. Sherry’s mother is the only person she feels truly close to, while her grandmother going missing takes away yet another family connection. With her father gone, she feels completely alone as even though Isaac can help protect her, she also knows that he is in a weakened state due to a lack of parts being available to have him at 100% strength. For her, Pegreo is the only link to her past that she has and while he’s cowardly, she knows that he’s valuable for his intelligence. Poor Pegreo is basically just the geeky friend archetype here but quickly grows into something more.
The plot isn’t in-depth, but what’s here is solid. The focus on the characters and their relationships to one another helps make the player care about everyone you interact with. Isaac, in particular, is a hoot because he starts off being self-referential about not being at 100% and then as time goes on, you upgrade him to change his skillset and he evolves with the skillsets — at least as much as a robotic character can evolve. He’s got an expressive face and a fantastic design for upgrades as a giant orange blank slate and winds up stealing the show more often than not.
Destiny Connect’s combat is turn-based and snappy when it comes to pacing. The viewpoint is very much like an action RPG with behind the back viewpoints during some attacks while magical attacks get the Final Fantasy-style epic sweeping camera movement to help build up how much more damage they do than regular attacks. Every character has a role to fill. You’ve got Sherry as both a solid attacker and a healer, while Pegreo is a shorter-range fighter than Sherry since she’s got a blaster, but does more damage per shot. Isaac is a tank and does a lot of damage in all of his forms. He’s the character you have to pay the most attention to as his death results in a game over.
Fortunately, there’s a minimal risk of getting into needless battles thanks to all non-story enemies being visible in the world. You can attack from behind and get the jump and usually win an entire battle without taking a single hit. The game is player-friendly with HP refills as you level up — so if you decide to take on a lot of enemies just to farm XP and money, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with not having to lose HP, but also gaining money for upgrades.
Every human member of your party gets upgraded with physical items to swap out, while Isaac gets gear-based upgrades that boost his overall stats. You find scrap throughout the world to increase his power and defense, and it’s another reason that taking on all enemies is a good thing because they can drop a lot of scrap metal and you can wind up boosting him up quickly without having to do much grinding. The game would benefit from an auto-battle system for most of the random battles, but there are times when you want to have complete control to maximize the elemental damage.
Sherry’s heat-upgraded blaster allows her to destroy some enemies in one hit and stands a good chance at getting a critical — doing a ton of damage even without an elemental weakness. The in-game UI does a great job of explaining the weaknesses visually and in real-time, which is great. You don’t have to worry about remembering which kinds of attacks do more damage. The game itself outlines damage levels and weaknesses mid-battle, which is fantastic.
Visually, Destiny Connect has a great overall look despite some flaws. The character models and world are rounded and very much in line with a Studio Ghibli film. The skies are colorful and the world itself has a lot of detail — even if there’s not a ton going on at one time. Reflections off of store windows help show off the world and there’s a lot of detail in the character models. Things like perfect circles never quite look right, though, and there’s a jagginess to the characters, which is especially visible on Isaac since he’s rounded and always has a jagged look.
Musically, the game has one of the best soundtracks in a JRPG in ages. It goes from flighty and whimsical to rock-heavy when things get intense. The soundtrack is top-shelf from beginning to end and it’s a shame the physical version doesn’t come with an OST download as that would make it a must-buy. The sound effects are also great, with critical attacks getting a boomier sound effect than just the stock sound for whatever the attack is and default attack effects properly evoking whether or not it’s a physical attack or a blast.
Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers is a fantastic game full of heart. Breezy with a bit of substance to it, the battle system is a ton of fun and the time travel-centric mystery plot is a lot of fun to see unfold. If you’re looking for a fun RPG for younger players or just want something that’s a bit like a Studio Ghibli film in game form, pick it up. There’s a lot to love about Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers and you can’t go wrong grabbing it on either the PS4 or Switch.