Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Thank you to NIS America for this advanced copy.
Upon its initial startup, Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers greets players with one of the most vibrant, eye-catching cutscenes I’ve ever experienced in a video game. The visuals onscreen simultaneously baffled and delighted me, as I watched a beautiful color palette light up a rather distasteful art style, enhanced with clunky character animations throughout. This opening cutscene ultimately seemed fitting, as Tick-Tock Travelers continues the trend of pleasant surprises paired with confusing disappointments as the game progresses. It’s hard to put my finger on what I enjoyed and disliked among this mixed bag of emotions. At the end of the day, Tick-Tock Travelers feels like baby’s first JRPG, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. But at its core, it’s hard to tell the target demographic of this game, which left me feeling all the more alienated.
Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers follows a girl named Sherry and her friend Pegreo on a journey to rescue their hometown. All time has stopped in the town of Clocknee, and household machinery has come alive to enslave humans and steal their souls. After encountering a robot named Isaac – built by her own father – Sherry uses his powers to go back in time to save the future, er, present. Present future. You get what I mean.
The story of Tick-Tock Travelers is entertaining enough. While it’s a bit predictable at times, I must say the concept of time travel making an appearance threw me for a loop, but the Back to the Future vibes enhanced the experience. From the start, this game feels very childish. Text scrolls slowly, even when set to auto, and the dialogue feels unnecessarily dumbed-down. Sherry’s incessant cries for “mama” and “papa” are overly dramatic, and being a grown man reading what feels like a children’s book really kept me from staying fully focused on the action at hand. Tick-Tock Travelers could’ve benefited from being fully-voiced, though I can’t knock the studio if it wasn’t doable with their budget. What it lacks in dialogue it makes up for in background music. Truly, this game’s OST is beautiful. From the opening cinematic to the delightful roaming music to the battle jams, Tick-Tock Travelers had some great ideas with this soundtrack. However the songs can get repetitive quickly, being on a constant loop.
The story plays out through very frequent text segments. Characters appear onscreen and react to dialogue in typical visual novel format. Cutscenes are few and far between, which makes them feel like the game barely needs them at all. As mentioned earlier, the character animations are super stiff, and some movements are downright comical. The first time you see Doctor Cheatstein gasp in shock and lift his hat off his head, well, you’re in for a ridiculous treat. Moments like this did make me chuckle, though, and were a child playing this game, I think they’d get a good laugh out of the eccentric cast of characters.
Tick-Tock Travelers is broken into multiple chapters, which fly by fairly quickly. I found myself on Chapter 8 after just a few hours of gameplay, which left me wondering often how much is left. Chapters typically consist of the same formula: a lot of text back and forth, some traversal to a new area of the world with random enemy encounters, a short cutscene, more text, and a boss fight. These aforementioned enemy encounters are everywhere, and are quite hard to avoid. One chapter – in which I was tasked with infiltrating a mall after dark – even had me strategically planning which routes to take to avoid enemies. Once an enemy spots you and turns from green to red, it’s hard to outrun them. This can be horribly frustrating, but luckily the fast travel menu can shave a lot of this painstaking process from your playtime.
Thankfully, loading times are short, and once you’re sucked into a fight with an enemy, that classic JRPG battle system hits you like a ton of bricks. Depending on the direction in which you collided with a random enemy, the metaphorical “initiative roll” is predetermined. For example, running into an enemy head-on will grant Sherry the first attack (with her hair-dryer-turned-gun, I might add). Conversely, having an enemy catch her from behind will grant them the first attack. Either way, this interaction kicks off a turn-based battle complete with standard attacks, skills, items, and the good-old option to “flee.” Tick-Tock Travelers does include a complex experience system which, I must say, levels up fairly quickly. I meant what I said about the whole “baby’s first JRPG” thing. This is a great way to introduce kids to role-playing games and skill trees. Each character has their own massive set of skills, complete with buffs, traps, and heavier attacks. Sherry, for example, can heal other characters while Isaac can defend the whole party. These skills utilize a separate power meter which requires a cooldown as the battle progresses. Isaac can even be upgraded throughout the game with gears, which can be crafted with parts found by defeating enemies. Upgrades include higher defense and stronger attacks, all of which can be modified with higher-end gears. Even the humans can be upgraded with gear in the form of clothing, which you can buy at shops around Clocknee.
This all may sound like an in-depth RPG system, and to an extent it is. I say the game is geared toward kids (no pun intended) because of the slow-moving difficulty curve. Battles are so easy in the beginning, leaving me wishing I could just put the game on autopilot and let things play out automatically. Barely any healing is needed for the first few chapters, and until the aforementioned stealth segment in the mall, there’s not a whole lot about Tick-Tock Travelers that I would deem “hard.” Even the first few bosses are mediocre. Thankfully, as time goes on, I found myself relying on buffs and skills to keep my party alive. This is where the game really got fun, and I found myself enjoying every battle. I even went out of my way to pick fights, just to level up and max out my skills, as well as Isaac’s gear menu. I must stress that I don’t mean “baby’s first” as an insult, by any means. Having a “My First Persona” vibe is a great thing, and it will hopefully introduce a brand new audience to this genre of video game. I just had a hard time trying to determine who the target demographic was as I found the battles getting trickier and I needed to pay more attention to my gear loadout. While crafting in general is very basic, Isaac’s skill tree can get pretty complicated once you factor in how you want to allocate the high-end gears according to the open skill slots. There’s a complex JRPG here, hidden under many layers of childlike elements, and it’s for this reason that I can’t quite determine just how long someone might play this, before they get tired of waiting around for the big boy mechanics.
In the realm of JRPG’s, difficulty is the biggest offender when reaching a desired audience. I know I’ve been turned off of many due to a sharp difficulty curve or an over-extensive array of abilities that just confuses me. This is why I personally gravitated toward games like Yo-Kai Watch, which blends complex game mechanics with the “easy to learn, hard to master” mindset, offering a user-friendly experience for new players and veterans of the genre. Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers is not too far off from this method, and overall I’d say it falls into a similar category as Yo-Kai Watch. With its ugly, semi-pixelated graphics and lack of rich lore, there’s not as much to Tick-Tock that can stand up to, say, a successor like Pokemon. However, there is a fun game to be had here, especially if you’re a parent who loves JRPG’s and wants to share that sentiment with your next of kin. Don’t be picky about its narrative and the initial lack of substance; there’s a cute little JRPG deep inside with a lot of heart. Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers may find its niche just yet, as long as it falls into some smaller hands.
Score: 3 out of 5