By Jatin Gundara
At least since the release of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2017, the model for a role playing game has been incredibly freeform. That’s because the concept of an “open world” RPG has transcended what most players could imagine and hope for. While a full, living, breathing, huge place to explore seems truly magical, the constant iteration of this idea often drains it of its magic. Recently, I’ve found myself wondering why I should invest the time and energy into a world which has been created similarly countless times before. As a high school student, my time is precious, and I’ve therefore developed a dislike for open world games which demand attention and give little originality in return.
To me, however, Tchia represents the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a wonderful offering whose originality, distinct identity, and caring execution have rekindled my spirit and willingness to get lost in the kind of world which I had grown to reject.
Tchia’s constant creativity comes from its freedom from the established conventions. The setting is an archipelago inspired by New Caledonia, a series of tropical islands in the Pacific whose culture serves as the main basis for its memorable identity. Immediately, this setting struck me as refreshing. A tropical, island setting accentuated by Melanesian culture with a 12 year old girl as its protagonist truly sets the stage for something outside the ordinary, unless, perhaps, you know, live in and love the real life islands themselves.
The main plot of the game sees Tchia (the 12 year old) attempting to save her father from the new ruler of the archipelago, Meavora. The story is imaginative, always staying in conjunction with the setting and adding a childlike wonder to its appeal. One thing I appreciated about the story was that every event felt meaningful. In large open-worlds, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with side quests and missions which have little to do with what the player originally set out to do. However, throughout Tchia, every portion of the story and quests feel purposeful, like a thoughtful stepping stone to the next (just as important) venture.
In parallel with the plot, the music and sound design of this game are phenomenal. As an aspiring game composer, I’ve grown to appreciate the amount of detail and dedication put into immersing the player with music. This immersion can best be summed up by the concept of leitmotifs (repeated musical ideas). Throughout the game, the memorable eight-note melody of the main theme can be heard in various locations. This repeated theme intertwines the music with the plot, instilling a sense of nostalgia and repeated emotion each time it’s reprised. From the sweeping charge forward of the sailing theme, to meeting Tchia’s savior Tre, this simple and memorable notes were used masterfully.
However, the role music plays in Tchia doesn’t stop at the original soundtrack. Throughout, there are numerous sequences where you must play along with a song during a cutscene, either on ukulele or other traditional instruments. This emphasis on music certainly struck a chord with me, as it allowed me to connect with the characters and the world on a deeper level. To make it even more appealing, most of the game’s songs were recorded by musicians from New Caledonia, creating an innate sense of disctinct authenticity.
While Tchia’s musical sequences are captivating, other elements make the experience special. You’re greeted with a number of activities throughout the game, including rock stacking and totem carving. In addition, the player has access to a slingshot, a glider, and a boat to sail around this world. However, the game truly shines through in its soul-jumping system. Around the open world, Tchia will encounter animals and objects which she can “soul jump” to, possessing them and gaining their abilities. In addition to being an effective way to get around (superior to the boat), soul-jumping provides a variation in gameplay that keeps everything fresh. From what I’ve experienced, Tchia makes an effort not only to respect the player’s time, and the rich culture within, but remarkably pays you back for each second you spend within its world. To me, what makes Tchia feel so special is not only that its world is alive, but that it feels like it’s worth living in. For anyone seeking an enriching gaming experience, one which will leave you with something memorable, there is no place better to turn than Awaceb’s Tchia.
Jatin Gundara, who’s based outside Los Angeles and was our Fair Game Writing Challenge winner, is NYVGCC’s West Coast intern,