Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Publisher:Idea Factory International
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 28, 2015
ESRB: T for Teen
Japan's obsession with musical idols is hardly a well-kept secret. Virtual idols from Hatsune Miku to Idolm@ster alone seem to have more influence than any of their real life counterparts in various media forms in Japan. Be that as it may, developer Compile Heart have decided to temporarily take their attention off of the Goddesses of Gameindustri, and the legion of Hyperdimension Neptunia sequels and spin-offs, with their newest idol-focused RPG called Omega Quintet. Does this new PS4 RPG sing in perfect harmony, or does it deserve to be pelted by rotten produce for its lack of talent?
Unlike many anime idols where the worst that they have to worry about is school drama, idols in Omega Quintet basically have to worry about the end of the world. You see, monsters known as the "Blare" are wrecking havoc and mankind is essentially reduced to just one surviving town (apparently full of idol-obsessed idiots). The only ones that can actually fight these monsters are those with a certain innate singing ability, referred to as "Verse Maidens." So, after a former Verse Maiden is too old to continue her work, she decides to retire and recruit an entirely new ensemble to continue the fight against the Blare.
Despite the oddly bleak setting, Omega Quintet straddles the line between goofy and kind of dark, like some weird middle ground between Compile Heart's Hyperdimension Neptunia and Fairy Fencer F. In one moment, a character may be fretting over the quality of their singing voice, and another moment an entirely different character will casually talk about how much they prefer fighting with guns because they don't have to worry about blood getting on them. Though occasionally humorous, the cutesy—and sometimes rather mean—dialogue does end up being rather bloated to the point where it actually feels like a whole lot of nothing is being discussed a good majority of the time. This problem is further expounded upon because of its rather weak cast of characters and a main story that is made even less satisfying for those who fail to obtain its incredibly obtuse "true ending"... which will be most people.
Yet, even with so much at stake, the eventually formed idol group, the "Omega Quintet," spend a lot of their time doing rather monotonous tasks. The entire title is basically structured in a way where you either pick up main story missions from the central hub (or studio) or sidequests from faceless town denizens. And, regardless of where you obtain the quests, they are all kind of the same where you either kill specific monsters, bring specific items, or initiate a special attack in combat.
It there is one thing that Omega Quintet is, it's incredibly inconsistent. There are parts to it that are actually halfway decent or are abnormally polished for something made by Compile Heart. For example, the flashy turn-based combat system seems promising with its regular introduction to new abilities/skills or the title's surprisingly in-depth side feature where you can customize music videos. Also, the game runs at what seems like a near 60 frames-per-second during combat and exploration when most previous PS3 Compile Heart RPGs would struggle to be even one-third of that, despite its fairly unimpressive visuals and extremely drab environments.
But that is about all that it gets right. It's incredibly inconsistent to the point of ruining the entire experience. The main reason for this is how it handles quests which directly ties into progression and also glaringly highlights the game's worst aspect over time. It attempts a sort of Metroidvania approach to environments where you can explore more areas after you upgrade new skills, like higher jumping or interacting with the environment. Yet, new skills are acquired through quests, which—in addition to the lifeless environments that you constantly have to revisit—are incredibly bland. Some sidequests are so obnoxious that they are tied to rare enemy spawns which need to be "overkilled," meaning if you don't do enough damage to get their item drop the first time... well, have fun running through the area and hoping they will appear again. You can't ignore this either because sidequests are anything but optional as you'll learn over time.
Did I mention that sidequests are not only missable per chapter but are also tied to even completing the main story? Many "sidequests" are tied to a obfuscated number value called "support" which is primary obtained through battles. So, you literally have to grind the "support" number up to make many sidequests even appear just to be able to use more field skills in environments to even progress the main story. This is made worse because of how slow and easy battles are, which makes the padding even more grading throughout. This leaves the basic loop of Omega Quintet to feeling like you do one monotonous, boring task to unlock more monotonous... boring tasks. Oh, and if you miss a single quest, which is exactly what I did, you are automatically thrown towards a bad ending that basically tells you everything you did was pointless—an apt description of the entire game.
To leave an even worse taste about the whole experience are the unapologetic fanservice moments. It may be halfway amusing at first to see one of the leads get angry at you for tilting the in-game camera a bit too low for an accidental (or not?) upskirt until you realize it is basically unavoidable and it is more annoying than funny. The perverted mindset carries over to its frequent "fanservice" pictures during story scenes or disintegrating clothing in combat, making the purveying attitude feel more creepy than funny especially with its underage cast. It seems like even the characters are treated with as much respect as the player playing it, which is to say none at all.
Though it seemed groomed to possibly be Compile Heart's best RPG in recent memory, Omega Quintet actively ruins any promise it has with its debut. With its incredibly obnoxious gameplay structure, poor storytelling, and wealth of design issues that creep up the further you progress, it can only be overlooked by the most forgiving of fans of Compile Heart. For everyone else, regardless of how paltry the current offering is for Japanese RPGs on PS4, you deserve far better than to waste any of your time with an admission to Omega Quintet.
+ Goes all the way with the idol theme from story events to even being able to choreograph music videos
+ Interesting combat system with a really solid framerate
+ Some humorous character interactions
- Banal, obnoxious quest design
- Really limiting environment exploration that constantly forces you to retread bland old environments
-Battle take needlessly long considering their lack of difficulty
- True end requirements (aka the non-bad ending) are needlessly obtuse and strict
- Some really dumb story points
-Creepy "fanservice" moments abound
Overall Score: 3.5 (out of 10)
With little in the way of respect for its potential RPG audience, from countless frustrating gameplay design choices to its poor storytelling, Omega Quintet is not worthy to have anyone gaze upon its performance.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.