Marketed as a sequel to Tokyo Chronos, Altdeus: Beyond Chronos is a virtual reality visual novel. Virtual reality being a niche of its own and visual novels being an even smaller one, this is a rather rare pairing with only a handful of titles existing like this.
Interested in an immersive sci-fi anime experience with giant robots, a touch of Jpop, and a mystery to unravel? Read on to find out more. You do not need to have experienced Tokyo Chronos to play this.
We take on the role of Chloe, one of the two mecha pilots in the military organization Prometheus. She has only one wish – to destroy the Meteroa. The giant beings that have devastated the surface of Earth and have driven humankind to live in an underground settlement. But for her it isn’t using her mecha, the Alto Makhia to help humanity and reclaim the surface or just duty – it’s more personal.
A large portion of the game is told by revealing memories of Chloe and her relationship with Coco Kokonoe, who met an unfortunate fate. Their relationship is explored, as are Chloe’s feelings towards the Meteroa. I felt that these were the most interesting parts of the story, helped by Chloe and Coco being explored as characters far more than any of the others.
While Chloe is the star of this story, it revolves around all of Prometheus staff as they work towards fighting the Meteroa. Noa is your A.I. partner in keeping the city safe. Julie seems to be the mad scientist of the group, Yamato acts carefree and adventurous and Aoba takes the position of the strategic lead, guiding them towards victory. Though this isn’t always exactly as it seems either. Characters have their own agendas and ideas about how to handle things. These are revealed over time and some are more obvious than others. This certainly isn’t a cliché of everyone fighting the good fight to save their homeland though.
This takes place in an underground city that at first glance looks like a futuristic and pleasant place to live. Underneath the surface though, you find out that it is all an illusion. Almost all residents are equipped with a GraiEye – an AR contact lens that allows them to layer illusions over everything. From the colors of the walls to singing and dancing virtual idols, almost everything that people see is layered in textures and may not even exist in reality. Underneath it all is a far bleaker picture. A city where posters from rebel groups are posted all over and a place where even fruit is an extreme rarity that many people may go their whole lives without experiencing.
The whole story has themes along these lines. Things not being what they seem. Humans who may or may not be human. A city that is closer to a dystopia than a utopia. The truth hidden behind lies. Sometimes it can get fairly introspective about the nature of things.
An Unfolding Story
Altdeus: Beyond Chronos is not a visual novel that you are meant to only play once. Though I do expect that many people will do this and then give up – it comes to what seems like a pretty definitive end after playing and to be blunt, the first playthrough is not too interesting. If I wasn’t reviewing the game, even I might have given up then.
After playing for the first time, you start again. This time new scenes are added in or changed. New choices become available. You can take the story in some very different directions from the original playthrough, or you can go along it the same way. Either way, more and more is revealed and each time, you will see something different This is continued through several playthroughs. After some time, you even skip a part of the story and dive straight into where things become more exciting.
It went in an unexpected direction after the first route that allowed the main character to be explored a lot more, gave further insights into the history, and filled in some of the gaps of the other characters too. It seemed that each route had some kind of revelation about a character. This eventually hooked me and kept me engaged, but it did take quite a while.
One thing that Altdeus: Beyond Chronos does better than any of the other few virtual reality visual novels is interactivity. This presents itself in a few ways.
Most obvious are piloting scenes. As mentioned, you play as the pilot of a giant mecha. These scenes are mostly scripted and there’s no significant gameplay, but you go through sequences where you will select controls to defend yourself or fire weapons. Moving your arms will move the robot arms and you will need to ready the weapon by positioning your controllers correctly. While not too amazing when compared to most games, for a visual novel this is a very high level of interactivity. Certain things you do in these scenes can also affect the route you go along too. As a note, it took me quite a while to figure out one of these. I didn’t feel it was obvious and had to try quite a few things until I got it. It did get quite frustrating.
More standard for visual novels is the choice system. The setting actually fits this into the story in a rather suitable way, having it be part of a rather offputting guidance system based on the conversation logs of everybody being recorded. It gives you two choices and gives you ideas of what aspects it raises and lowers. Going along with one of your teammates may show a positive partnership percentage, but a negative independence one as an example.
Finally, there are sections where you will need to point at items or characters and select them. This will either reveal information about them or sometimes trigger a scene.
After a few hours, you will reach the end of a route. At this point, the game gives hints on how to reveal another ending. This can help point you in the right direction in how to use these factors to see more of the story. Skipping previously seen scenes where possible, it will take you about ten hours to see all of the content.
This often comes up – why have they done it in virtual reality? What benefit has it brought? Can it be played without virtual reality?
The major benefit of VR in Altdeus: Beyond Chronos is the immersion factor. While there are some wow moments like attending a virtual concert and the first time in the cockpit, it’s mostly that presence of the characters being there with you and being in the environment. That’s the major benefit.
You do need virtual reality to play this. An Oculus Quest or an Oculus Rift would be the official way. Unofficially there are workarounds using alternate PC headsets, phone headsets combined with awkward controls manipulated with a standard gamepad and extra software, along with other solutions. I would not suggest that these would provide a good experience though aside from the other PC headsets. As a side note, this title does not appear to have cross-buy between Quest and Rift which is a little disappointing.
Graphics and Audio
The character models of Altdeus: Beyond Chronos feel like they are quite high quality and they use the beautiful designs of the artist LAM. The animations are rather good considering the limitations they’re working with. They change position and move slightly from there. Sadly quite a few of the environmental textures feel to be low quality, but might be better when playing on the PC version.
The occasional music is great. This mostly consists of songs that tend to play during more dramatic moments. The general sound effects are fine too.
Then we come to the voicing. I’m happy to report that Altdeus: Beyond Chronos comes with English and Japanese voicing which is a rarity. There are subtitles in a variety of languages whichever choice you make.
I played through with the default English voicing. The quality of this varies quite a bit but isn’t great overall. One of the characters sounds monotone, which is in character to be fair but it doesn’t make it less grating. Another sounds almost robotic and uses unnatural pauses, which really doesn’t feel like it fits their character. The others are more mixed with average performances, sometimes dipping. On a more positive note, I do have to mention that Asia Mattu who played Julie had a magnificent performance, really bringing out the near insanity of the character. Grace Chan who brought energy and emotion to Noa’s character is worth mentioning too. I do wonder at the direction that some of the other voice actors may have been given though. Some of them don’t appear to have many credits, but some do sound much better in other work.
Altdeus: Beyond Chronos has it’s ups and downs. It has some particularly interesting characters, a story that has a slow start but becomes more interesting as it goes on and some issues with voicing and limitations elsewhere. I can say that I enjoyed it overall, but I still find it difficult to give it an outright recommendation. It’s still worth playing, but perhaps not a priority – and this is coming from one of the few people who is both enthusiastic about visual novels and about virtual reality.
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Many thanks go to MyDearest for an Oculus Quest review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.