It’s been a long road for Kowloon High School Chronicle. Originally released back in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, this Japanese-only dungeon-crawler stayed in its home country ever since and hasn’t been wildly available since. With the recent deluge of high school adventure games you’d think localizing this one would be a great idea. Unfortunately, this is one adventure that probably should’ve stayed in detention.
Kowloon High School Chronicle puts you in the shoes of a mysterious high school student with a secret: he’s a treasure hunter. You venture through ancient ruins, searching for artifacts, fighting monsters known as Kehito, and running from terrorists trying to steal artifacts. Your most recent mission, though, lands you in Japan, enrolled at Kamiyoshi Academy and posed as an average high school student.
You’ll explore a network of ruins under the school while trying to avoid the meddling of the student council and forge friendships with your adventuring party and classmates. So just like real high school! As you delve deeper, you’ll be tasked with finding increasingly important treasures and face increasingly dangerous foes.
The story of the game isn’t the issue here. It’s interesting enough, despite some of the characters being a bit one-dimensional, and it’s fun to see how subjects like history and archaeology are weaved in (even though much of it is reminiscent of Ancient Aliens). It’s almost like playing through an Indiana Jones movie, and if that’s your thing, then the story is great.
The issues lie in the gameplay, and specifically in the very distracting – and confusing – user interface. The scene is constantly full of huge blocks that show what buttons to use for jumping, fighting, and interacting with things and for showing your level, health, and vitals. Then there is yet another large block for the map. And another at the bottom to your adventuring party. They make the screen cluttered and confusing, and honestly, there’s just no need for a constant reminder of what buttons do. It makes the game visually unappealing along with functionally difficult.
The gameplay is a mix of puzzles, turn-based combat, and emotion simulator. And while there are three modes of difficulty (easy, normal, and hard) these don’t matter in the slightest, because every difficulty is almost the same. It’s set at “barely a challenge” most of the time.
Puzzles consist of a few different things. They usually involve some kind of riddle for you to figure out in order to advance. You may have to move statues to all face a certain direction, or pull a lever, or mix substances to form compounds. The riddles are okay, but they aren’t super hard to figure out, so you’ll advance pretty quickly.
Combat is also in that “far from challenging” category. It’s turn-based, and each turn allows you two attacks. Smaller enemies can easily be taken down in one turn. Boss level enemies take a bit more, but even then, their attacks don’t do much damage and after a few turns are easily vanquished. It honestly becomes boring and tedious after a while, even when you add in the skill matching later on. If you don’t match skills to the fight well, it may take a little longer, but the danger still feels relatively low.
Last is the simulation portion. Interacting with other people makes a little wheel pop up, allowing you to choose which emotion to respond with. This will be confusing the first few times, and you will pick the wrong emotions a few times, whether it’s because the font on the wheel is difficult to read or because you didn’t realize that the first emotion you stop on is the one you have to go with.
The feature is interesting and gives you eight emotions to choose from, but it definitely needs a little fine tuning to be usable. This wheel helps you bond with your classmates and pursue friendships with them, so the more you positively respond, the better your relationships will be.
At least the graphics have been remastered from the original PlayStation 2 version by 2D masters Arc System Works, and it shows. However, they aren’t anything special, and it’s hard to enjoy them through the clunky user interface. Similarly, the music is good, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Kowloon High School Chronicle is a game that didn’t need remastering, but remaking entirely. The story is drowned out by subpar and clunky gameplay and a crusty user interface that makes it impossible to actually enjoy what little was actually remastered. While there are some good ideas implemented, like the emotion response wheel, they aren’t developed quite enough to be this game’s saving grace. Skip this high school adventure; it won’t be leading you to any treasure.