Usually when a Nippon Ichi Software joint rolls along I expect something a little edgy. That’s especially true these days as NIS proper has mostly retreated to its core IP (Disgaea) and only occasionally does new things (not to discredit NIS America, which has impressively expanded its publishing operations. Even when it does, NIS still sort of hovers around “quirky JRPG about demons.” So when Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers was announced, it immediately caught my attention with its more cartoon-like style. I didn’t look into it further, but when it landed on my digital doorstep, Destiny Connect surprised me with its earnest attitude and vomit-inducing cuteness. While it may not succeed at its apparent teaching goals, Destiny Connect does succeed in standing out by leveraging old school tradition to do something a little different by modern standards.
Hickory Dickory Clock(nee)
Clocknee is a small town inhabited by small people, including the innocuous but spunky Sherry. She lives a quaint life with her mom, and is lucky enough to have her café-owning grandmother practically across the street. Sherry’s biggest problem is her father; he’s hardly ever home, and when he is he isn’t exactly reliable. Destiny Connect opens on the day of a festival, and Sherry looking forward to her dad’s planned return. Of course, he ends up being unable to come at the last minute and Sherry is disappointed once again. Then, just as the festival starts, the entire town freezes in place. If that isn’t weird enough, all the technology in town violently comes alive and Sherry is only able to defend herself via Isaac, a friendly robot who appears out of nowhere. Isaac can time travel, and is mysteriously connected to her dad. From there, things get weird(er).
Like Mystic Quest, but Good?
Instead of the usual sardonic, macabre humor of typical NIS works, Destiny Connect wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s a whimsical, fairy tale-like story that wants smiles and tears instead of laughs. It’s also a simple, breezy story – it has a remarkably low runtime for a 2019 JRPG at around 15-20 hours—full of cozily archetypal characters, easy combat, and tons of tutorials. This lackadaisical tone that powers all of Destiny Connect is somehow a huge boon for the adult JRPG fan, despite how clearly it wants to be an entry point for actual children.
So, Destiny Connect is short, simple, easy, friendly, and full of tutorials. And by full of tutorials, I mean stuff that most JRPGs take for granted is explained as plainly as possible. It really stood out and kinda bothered me at first as a seasoned role-player, but once I realized what was happening I grew to appreciate it. I’m a father, and my kid is just as into games as I am. But some games are tough when you’re six or seven. He loves Pokemon, but sometimes it can be a bit much, especially when he has trouble focusing on things like grinding levels or navigating a dungeon/cave. Destiny Connect feels like a perfect teacher, a game designed to deliver concepts folks my age mostly had to figure out by osmosis.
That sounds great, but I’m not sure Destiny Connect exists in the right time or place to actually achieve its mission. At least over in my geographical neck of the woods, NIS games are firmly niche territory, therefore knowing about them kinda inherently requires a savvy audience. I could pass it over to my kid since I have it already, but I doubt he’d pick that off the shelf instead of something like a Pokemon or Yo-kai Watch. It’s kind of a scale thing. That said, as a grown-ass man with a family and multiple jobs, Destiny Connect hits a rare spot I wish could be hit more often. I just can’t play every 50-plus hour JRPG that comes my way, despite how badly I want to. But here, I can enjoy the lighthearted story, cute characters, easy grinding and fun visuals.
Sometimes when I’m playing a game, I don’t necessarily want to be challenged. But I’d still like to stay in my wheelhouse at the same time, you know? That’s tough for me, since my default stomping grounds involve experience points, menus, and skill points. And at this point in my life I’m kind of out of Dragon Quests. But just in my time of need, NIS has stepped out of its comfort zone and made Destiny Connect, a whimsical romp that doesn’t try too hard or overstay its welcome. It’s a light snack in a genre full of hearty feasts. It won’t blow your mind or change your life, but Destiny Connect will help you relax for a while.
Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.