I think it's admirable how this team managed to pull off such a large-scale JRPG, which in some ways feels like 3 games (The straightforward Headspace adventure, the more story-driven Faraway Town arc, then the horror bits and that Bad Ending yume-nikki esque stuff). Music is really nice as is the character portrait art.
Realizing that you're simultaneously playing an idealized past and a melancholy present-day was neat. The stories being told in each half are nice, and it's sad to see the party experiencing joy in Headspace but sort of struggling with reconcilation/etc in Faraway Town. For various reasons, the traumatic backstory underlying the game's events doesn't work as well for me as it does for most (maybe bc it's signposted too much, even predictable?), but I don't think it detracts from where the game does shine - the at-times unresolvable distance between nostalgic childhood and the ways we drift apart as we progress into adulthood.
But, like in many other long JRPGs - the 'rpg' part drags on longer than it probably should? I think this game could have been just as strong if it had reduced its RPG stuff maybe in half or something, sped up the battle tempo and UI a bit, even tightened up the dialogue's length. I feel like a lot of the emotional/thematic beats being so far apart kind of dilutes things for me, as does juggling various side quests.
Reviewed on Dec 19, 2022