Turning back time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in Reverse: 1999, a gorgeous new cinematic RPG where time flows, perhaps unsurprisingly, in reverse. With the sudden downpour of the mysterious “Storm”, time began to move backwards for reasons unknown, and you’ll take on the role of the top-hat-wearing, 20s-garb-rocking Timekeeper – the only one who’s immune to the effects of the Storm. On a mission to unravel the truth about this cataclysmic phenomenon, you’ll assemble a team of powerful Arcanists along the way in hopes of restoring the timeline back to its natural order.
While the premise alone is worth giving a second look, can you say the same for the rest of the content within this time-travelling gacha game?
Table of contents:
REVERSE: 1999 VISUALS
The game’s aesthetics already score top marks in my book, thanks to the beautifully designed characters and vibrant backdrops reminiscent of jazz music and oil paintings. Because the game takes you on a journey through different eras, you’ll revisit past time periods that stay true to the vibes of that particular era, and this fidelity to the theme extends not just to the character designs but also to their voices.
Typical of most gacha games, cut scenes have a Skip function you can toggle to move past the dialogue when you’re in a hurry. In Reverse: 1999, I found myself wanting to play through every single scene mainly because the dialogue is fully voiced, and in a wide range of dialects, for that matter. Character accents are distinct and colourful, adding to the unique charm of every individual. Lines are also delivered with characters in Live2D, which boosts the immersive quality of the story.
THE GAMEPLAY OF REVERSE: 1999
The gameplay itself doesn’t reinvent the wheel, as you’ll basically get the same features you’d expect from any other gacha RPG. There’s your main story campaign, your raid dungeons, your materials grinding, your base-slash-home building, and your summons pool.
Rates are pretty generous for free-to-play players – at least, for the preview APK I got to play – as you’ll earn the premium in-game currency while progressing through the main story. There are various login bonuses and mission rewards as well, along with the beginner banners where top-tier characters are guaranteed after a certain number of pulls.
One of the things I loved about the gacha system here is that the characters are actually extremely unique – pull enough times and you might even nab a UFO (or an actual piece of a Door). There’s also an onion (why not), a donkey-headed man, and a very respectful talking apple – this one accompanies you and joins your party right from the very beginning.
Combat is a turn-based affair, where you can strategise the best lineup before each match to see if your elemental attributes (and your level) are up to the task. There’s a rock-paper-scissors mechanic when it comes to the enemy weaknesses, and while skill cards are handed to you randomly at the beginning of each round, you can choose which ones you want to play – you can even rearrange them to combine similar ones into more powerful moves.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
This, I feel, is the true hidden strength of the game, as while the fancy visuals and the story premise are both pretty cool, I found the combat to be the most engaging element. There’s no auto-battle feature here, so you’ll really have to unleash your inner tactician if you want to get the best of your foes. I loved how I could move my cards around and experiment with different combinations – some cards can merge into 2-star variants of the most basic attacks, while some combine into new abilities altogether.
Eventually, you can also gather enough Moxie to unleash a powerful and fully animated Ultimate skill to wipe out your enemies. As the Timekeeper, you can lend a hand in battle as well, with different boons you can take advantage of like adding cards to your deck.
Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for the story, because while I had high hopes for the narrative thanks to the unique premise, I didn’t really feel like it delivered. Also, while the performance of the voice cast is absolutely stellar – one of the best ones I’ve played among other gacha games, in fact – the actual lines leave a lot to be desired.
I’m not entirely sure if it’s the wonky translation to English, but most of the lines are convoluted, awkward, complicated, and sometimes don’t even make sense. The writing itself almost feels like the characters are trying too hard to make what they’re saying sound fancier than needed, and rather than add to the seriousness of the plot, it simply takes away from the overall immersion.
This takes out a huge chunk of the game’s good points, in my opinion, because no matter how well-delivered the lines are, it’s no use if the lines themselves are nothing to write home about.
Still, if you’re not really a fan of the narrative when it comes to these types of gacha games, then Reverse: 1999’s combat system might just be enough to lure you in – it’s certainly one of the more memorable and engaging ones I’ve played in a while.