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Found 7 results

  1. barrel

    Review: Demon Gaze II

    Developer: Experience Inc. Publisher: Nis America Platform: PS4 and PS Vita Release Date: November 14, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game Most handheld role-playing game fans are likely more than aware of the critically acclaimed Etrian Odyssey series on 3DS. What is less common knowledge is that the not-quite-as-popular PlayStation Vita handheld has also had an abundant selection of dungeon crawling RPGs as well. Granted, the gem offerings within Vita's handheld circle are far more inconsistent in comparison. One of the standouts of Vita's batch of dungeon crawlers was the original DRPG Demon Gaze. Though it was certainly not flawless, it was an incredibly colorful title that also made several strides to its game design that caused it to be easier to approach than most in the subgenre. Three years later, players are now able to play its direct sequel, which is plainly named Demon Gaze II. Does the exuberant successor have the heart that could charm a demon or should one avoid its memorizing gaze the second time around? After one quick glance, it becomes rather clear that Demon Gaze II doubles down on its anime influence. With the loose narrative setup predicated upon revolutionists trying to save the region (Asteria) through the power of music, it will likely feel like you have seen this story in some anime before. Chances are you probably have. Couple it further with the JRPG amnesiac lead trope and the main villain Magnastar, whom may-or-may-not-be misunderstood, will only solidify this strong sense of narrative Deja Vu. However predictable it may be, Demon Gaze II is presented with more than enough personality for its world and characters to have it be entertaining enough to see it through to the end (post-game aside). Well... so long as the far and away worst character from the original game (Lezerem) -- who, unfortunately, makes a return in II -- is not on-screen. In several ways, Demon Gaze II tries to be more approachable than its predecessor -- or even most DRPGs, to be honest. Most applications to this mindset tend to be more subtle instead of simply being easier/having faster turn-based battles than most in the subgenre on the default difficulty. One of the quickest changes that returning players will notice is that they will no longer bleed financially every time they return to the main inn like various Etrian Odyssey games (in which the original Demon Gaze poked fun at by having a financially shrewd innkeeper) and upon returning from a dungeon the party's full recovery is free with no real strings attached. Another welcome change, specifically for lower difficulties, is the incredibly generous option outright retry battles after a party wipe. Instead of simply restarting the battle the player returns with full health/MP, star gauge (which is needed for certain mechanics like fusion or party-wide buffs) and, most surprising of all, all inflicted damage upon foes and bosses too. Demon Gaze II certainly takes initiative to be all the more inviting to newcomers to DRPGs. For hardcore players, they should be plenty fine with the higher difficulty options available. There's also an entire extra story mode after the main campaign which dramatically raises the level cap(/challenge) and it even forces players to play on the second highest difficulty in order to see it through. Unlike the main story, which is mostly self-contained, the post-game narrative is also full of direct callbacks to the first Demon Gaze and can easily double the standard playtime too, which is a neat addition. At the same time, Demon Gaze II is willing to sever some tried and true approaches to traditional dungeon crawlers as well. Subgenre staples like being able to create customized party members are nearly entirely absent in Demon Gaze II, for example. Players are only really able to alter the look of the main male protagonist and choose between one of three "alignments" (which apparently slightly modifies the tone of inconsequential dialogue choice options in the story and learned abilities at specific leveling thresholds). Otherwise, all (demon) party members that join the player, either via the main story or optional sidequests, are preset in their appearance and abilities with the exception being to choose where to allocate stats per level up or their occasional "Liberty Skill". It may be tough for subgenre purists to adjust to but the preset allies do tend to be far more well-rounded in the vital skills that they acquire naturally than what was formerly separate classes were in the original. The one huge shame, however, is that most party members start at level 1 regardless of how late they may be unlocked (with only three exceptions). Like the original Demon Gaze, though, gear tends to matter far more than regular base stats, so someone that starts at level one is not entirely hopeless when attempting to catch up. That and some late-game party members are really strong. Speaking of which, there are some other new mechanics in Demon Gaze II, though they are hit & miss in their execution. In battle, the main character will eventually obtain the ability to fuse with another party member. While this is fairly cool conceptually, I did not once find it that practical to actually use because you essentially sacrifice the use of a party member for several turns in the exchange of quick burst damage. The other mechanic that isn't fully fleshed out is the ability to perform "maintenance" on demons... which basically involves going on dates and doing a touchscreen mini-game. Thankfully, the mini-game itself is not nearly as tasteless as some other Vita games (looking at you, Monster Monpiece), but it is clear that this mechanic is tacked on purely because most of your potential party members are cutesy anime ladies (even if it has more tangible rewards like unlocking strong passive abilities, direct stat increases, and giving some spotlight to otherwise entirely overlooked characters in the main narrative.) Aside from those new additions, Demon Gaze II should otherwise feel fairly familiar and not always for the better. Developer Experience Inc. has a bad habit of directly lifting certain dungeon themes from their prior games (including non-sequels like Stranger of Sword City) and this issue surfaces yet again in Demon Gaze II. On the positive side, players are rarely in any one dungeon for all that long so the fatigue in certain mechanics or themes does not last too long *shakes fist at the underwater dungeons that do not allow players to use magic*. The other returning mixed key feature is the loot system that is incredibly reliant on RNG. Because, like the original, pretty much all useful gear is obtained via specific summoning circles in dungeons and hoping to get what you want upon defeating the enemies that appear. Last, but certainly not least, to mention is the presentation, which remains incredibly vibrant regardless of its admittedly low production values. All the characters have really distinct 2D portraits and they have made little touches like how the enemies in combat now move so battles feel more lively. The bigger step up seems to be the soundtrack, which has more musical variety than the first title. Going from catchy swing-like themes in the main tavern to some unobtrusive vocaloid accompaniment to other tracks really works well with the game's hyper personality. That said, the clear standout of the entire soundtrack is without a doubt the piece "Starllica", which would feel right at in some sort of Ar Tonelico game (even if it lacks the made-up language of hymnos.). Demon Gaze II is ultimately a better game than its predecessor. It takes the initiative to become more approachable for newcomers, has nearly twice as much content than the original for serious players, and introduces plenty of subtle refinements and mechanics. Even the storytelling itself, while still really predictable, has seen an improvement too. What Demon Gaze II truly lacks is much to make it feel genuinely fresh and can come across as a bit too familiar at times for players of the original. If one is fine with the prospect of more of the same, but generally better, then Demon Gaze II is better viewed as an extremely solid DRPG offering on Vita (and one of the very few on PS4) instead of the revolution the narrative tries to embark on. Pros + Energetic presentation with an equally eccentric cast of characters + Makes quite a few strides to be more approachable, such as very generous retry options on lower difficulties + Addictive dungeon crawling gameplay and speedy combat + Nearly twice as much content as the original including a meaty post-game story mode Cons - Most character customization in combat has been replaced with preset party members. Which becomes a bit more glaring as almost all of them start at level one... - Experience Inc. is still recycling dungeon themes from their previous games - Incredibly reliant on RNG for good gear Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good While it is unlikely to capture the minds of those who did not enjoy its predecessor Demon Gaze II is a proud follow-up as well as a worthy DRPG performance Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
  2. barrel

    Review: Ray Gigant

    Developer: Experience Inc./ Bandai-Namco Games Publisher: Acttil, llc Platform: Vita Release Date: May 3, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Within just one month, the Vita has gotten two dungeon crawler role-playing games from Experience Inc. The first title was Stranger of Sword City; a challenging, but polished, DRPG that bears a rather traditional overall mindset for the subgenre. Following shortly after (in terms of US release) is Experience Inc's newest DRPG title, Ray Gigant, which feels like a sharp contrast from Stranger of Sword City in a lot of ways. Rather than applying a strong old-school mentality to its core design, Ray Gigant actually makes many aspects associated with DRPGs more approachable and even has a noticeably bigger emphasis on storytelling. When I say storytelling, I do actually mean anime-like storytelling as Ray Gigant borderlines visual novel territory with its early exposition. Honestly, you could probably replace a lot of the terminology with phrases from Neon Genesis Evangelion and it will sound like you are talking about the same thing. Powerful monsters known as Gigants have laid siege upon the world and crippled most of mankind in the process. The current line of defense against Gigants are within Tokyo, aka the Outer Academy, whom are training (generally) young adults because of their aptitude to wield special weapons. Though there may not be any mecha involved (or trippy mind games), Ray Gigant does certainly start off with a particularly unlikable main protagonist. Thankfully, the smug-faced Ichiya with a slight "Get in the robot, Shinji!" complex is but one of three main leads for the title. Each of the three protagonists create a fairly sharp narrative contrast between one another which is intriguing. Of course, you have to actually get to that point, which can be a lot to ask for when it comes to the very slow, and predictable, first arc with Ichiya and the many heavy-handed tutorials throughout. Still, because there was so much early exposition, I almost had doubts that it even was a DRPG. But, Ray Gigant certainly is, and an odd DRPG at that. Ray Gigant deviates from the traditional DRPG mold in a lot of ways. To use a cliched reviewers phrase, it feels very "streamlined" compared to most of its contemporaries or even recent Experience Inc RPGs. There are no party members you essentially have to create for scratch, necessity to manually heal after battles, or even random encounters to deal with in dungeons as almost all of it is predefined throughout the story. Heck, there aren't really even levels you have to grind as stat boosts are entirely dictated by item drops which feed into small player skill trees. Instead, the main concept that players will have to keep in mind while traversing dungeons is the AP gauge and, of course, winning battles. If you have no AP you simply can't attack, defend, heal, or whatever, and this concept carries throughout the entire dungeon. On the same spectrum, if you have a lot of AP (up to 100) you can technically take as many as 5 turns per character. So, from dungeon crawling to battles Ray Gigant becomes one strange AP balancing act, which is primarily gained from either waiting turns, taking hits, or finishing battles quickly. It's a unique approach for the subgenre, to say the least. To add even more strange variables to gameplay are mechanics such as Parasitism, Apotheosis, and... uh, weight . Parasitism is basically a gauge that ticks up by ten percent per battle turn and nullifies the need for AP at the cost of using a character's own HP at 100%. As you may be able guess, this is very dangerous in tougher battles though it has a few small perks. Apotheosis, on the other end, is... uh, basically a rhythm game that does a ton of damage to enemies based on how well you complete it, and will be pretty much only be seen on bosses (or to cancel out Parasitism). Compared to the other two systems, "weight" is much more inconsequential in comparison (...unlike real life). Basically, a character's stats will minorly fluctuate towards either agility or sturdiness based on eating in combat or certain story scenes. There is a lot to the systems but they do not necessarily lend to much actual variety once you adjust, oddly enough. For as many concepts as Ray Gigant plays around with, it stumbles with rather fundamental DRPG gameplay components. Some changes are totally welcome (no random battles!) and others... very much not. While isn't common (just often enough), one very strange design detail is that you can not target foes separately in combat. You see, the entire party has to focus on the same target before moving onto the next during a turn. For example, if you overestimate, or underestimate, how much HP an enemy has you can easily waste AP, which is downright counter-intuitive to its inherent dungeon design. I can't tell you how many times I've queued up multiple attacks strong against undead enemies, for example, only to have my ally attack a non-undead type for only 1 HP of damage right after, essentially wasting AP. Another pretty core issue that Ray Gigant has is that it is not particularly deep or varied. In combat you basically have three skills (eventually six) that you can slot in for each character at once and the character parties themselves are fairly homogenized. There will always be one tank equivalent, one long range support character, and a magic user of some sort in groups going as far as to have eerily similar skill trees too. This in turn led me to play multiple groups, and even boss fights, basically the same. It also does not help that there is very little dungeon variety as each party will pretty much only see one unique dungeon theme before transitioning to another group like ten or so hours later. Which, coupled with the quickly recycled enemy types, and canned animation loops for enemies and allies (despite their initial novelty), leads Ray Gigant feeling very samey throughout outside of the storytelling. It is quite odd to play two games by a shared developer, and within the same exact subgenre, so close together and feel totally different about them. But, Ray Gigant embodies both ambition with its several solid DRPG ideas but at the same time is also clearly lacking in execution with most of its components. For every one welcome aspect Ray Gigant takes towards making DRPGs more approachable it takes two steps back with its oddly implemented gameplay systems and overall lack of depth. At best the title is an "interesting enough" diversion for both its distinct storytelling and gameplay concepts, but is not terribly remarkable about either as a whole. Pros: + Multiple character perspectives creates interesting tonal shifts as the story progresses + Streamlines many DRPG elements from having no random battles to being able to easily escape dungeons Cons: - Why is the party only able to target the same enemy in combat? - Fairly slow start due to heavy-handed tutorials and very predictable anime storytelling - Little dungeon variety - Character customization isn“t very deep Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average While I can not simply fault Experience Inc. for trying something different with Ray Gigant when compared to more traditional dungeon-crawlers like Stranger of Sword City, it ultimately does not go far enough to really make any one part of it that compelling. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  3. barrel

    Ray Gigant 5

    From the album: Ray Gigant

  4. barrel

    Ray Gigant 4

    From the album: Ray Gigant

  5. barrel

    Ray Gigant 3

    From the album: Ray Gigant

  6. barrel

    Ray Gigant 2

    From the album: Ray Gigant

  7. barrel

    Ray Gigant 1

    From the album: Ray Gigant