Demon Gaze Review

Title: Demon Gaze
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 513 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail
EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail

Japaneses Role-Playing Games are starting to really kick off on the PlayStation Vita.  Hunting games aside, the Vita has a slew of RPGs to choose from, both ports/remakes and original titles.  You have the likes of Atelier Meruru Plus, Persona 4 Golden, Ys: Memories of Celceta, Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, Digaea 3: Absence of Detention, Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, and upcoming games Tales of Hearts R, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisit, and much more.  Like the PSP before it, the Vita is quickly becoming an RPG platform.

Among all of the RPGs that the system has and is getting, though, there are certain types that have been left out.  This leads us to the game we’re reviewing today.  First-Person Dungeon Crawlers are something that are very scarce on the portable PlayStation platforms.  The Vita does have a small taste of first-person dungeon crawling if you dive into the PSP library with SMT: Persona, but until a few weeks ago, the Vita was scarce on games like Etrian Odyssey and the like.  Until Demon Gaze released.

Demon Gaze is a first-person dungeon-crawling RPG developed by Experience, Inc and licensed by Nippon Ichi Software (NIS), the makers of the Disgaea series.  Bringing first-person dungeon crawling to the Vita is no easy task and is a very scarce RPG blend.  How does this new game handle on the Vita?  Is it an exceptional or mediocre RPG experience?  Let’s find out.  Here is our official review of Demon Gaze.

Story

The plot of Demon Gaze takes place in the world/kingdom of Mislid.  While not a hugely-connected game, it is connected to and takes place many years after the events of an earlier NIS titles, Students of the Round.  Within Mislid is a huge castle and several other cities and areas, most of them abandoned and overrun by monsters and demons, powerful monsters that poured out of Grimodar Castle many years ago.

You take the role of Oz (though you can name your character whatever you want), a young man discovered within a dark prison-like dungeon in Mislid that has an eye capable of sealing the souls of Demons that he defeats, otherwise known as the “Demon Gaze”.  A mercenary named Lorna finds him and helps him confront Comet, a Demon that was hunting him and takes him back to her base of operations, the Dragon Princess Inn, where he comes face to face with his own amnesia and his own journey in Mislid.

After realizing that this entire world is infested with monsters and Demons, and that he owes a favor to the manager of the Inn, he sets out to capture Demons’ souls with the Demon Gaze and become a mercenary for the Inn, not realizing just how large a role he would be playing in the future of the world of Mislid.

The story of Demon Gaze is what one may expect from a title with the NIS brand on it.  There is a lot of comedy amongst the seriousness of the Demon-infested world you’re in.  But there is also a bit of a fetishist side to the plot and the characters, as a lot of the character designs are of the revealing variety, and there are a lot of more sexual dialogue and actions that happen as you progress through certain events.

Gameplay

At its heart, Demon Gaze is a dungeon-crawler.  For the majority of the game, you will be roaming through various dungeons as you build up your party, collect items and equipment, and take down Demons to recruit as helpers as you progress the game.  While there is a good bit of stuff to do outside of that, at the Dragon Princess Inn, I would say about 70% of the game will be used within dungeons.

Before heading into dungeons, though, you will have things to do at the Dragon Princess Inn.  While not everything is available from the beginning of the game, there are things to do at your “base”.  There are four floors to the Inn, each with their own features.

In the Basement, you can change the Difficulty Settings for the game as well as revive unconscious party members and upgrade weapons with “Ether” extracted from other weapons of the same type.  The First floor is where you can leave for a dungeon, or you can go into the Bath to change your character’s avatar, and the Hall, where you can take on Quests, whether they be Story Quests or Side-Missions.  The Second Floor houses your room as well as those for your other party members, where you can save the game, change your equipped Demons, or decorate rooms, which will affect character stats.

The Third and Final Floor is one of the most useful, as it houses the game’s shops.  There are two shops, an Item Shop and Weapon Shop.  Ironically enough, both shops sell weapons and armor, though the types differ.  Apart from equipment, you can also buy furniture for your rooms and Gems, which are used in dungeons for acquiring stronger equipment and weapons.  The Managers Room is also on this floor, where you will spend a lot of time with major story events, as well as creating new party members and purchasing rooms for those members to stay in if you want them in your battle party.

Creating characters is an interesting system.  When you first create a character, you can choose whatever portrait you want for their avatar, and then choose their race and class.  Different races differ based on stats and each class has its own weapon set and its own set of skills they learn as they level up.  From the Bow and Accuracy-adept Ranger to the Elemental Spellcasting Wizard, there is a lot of variety with each class to choose from.

One last thing to note about the Dragon Princess Inn is rent.  As you are a renter in this place, as is everyone else, you have to pay rent to the Manager to continue staying there.  This isn’t like an apartment in the real world.  Rent here is every single day, so every time you return to the Inn from a dungeon, whether it’s to revive someone or just visit the shops, you are charged rent.  This incorporates a huge amount of money management, as you will want to always have a lot of money.  Not only does rent get charged every day, but it also increases over time.  When I first started the game, rent was around 75 Gold per return.  By the time it ended, it was more around 2,000-3,000 per return.  It teaches you to be glad rent isn’t like that in the real world.

Once you start exploring Dungeons, you’ll be able to choose one from the World Map and you’ll be placed inside.  Dungeons are like a large maze-like grid.  You will be navigating them and making the map as you explore the areas within the dungeon.  There are various things placed on the dungeons, like locked doors that can only be unlocked from one side, random battles, battles marked on the map that cannot be avoided, hostile tiles of ground that hurt you when you pass over them, and Monster Circles.

Monster Circles are the key to getting to the Demon that’s occupying the area and obtaining them.  There are a set number of Monster Circles in each dungeon.  You need to control every single one to get the Demon Circle to appear that you use to challenge and capture the Boss Fight/Demon of the area.  When you find one, you will place gems into it, which summons powerful monsters.  Defeating these monsters will turn the Circle to your control, enabling you to save your game there, and will net you equipment based on what type of gems you put into the circle.

Fighting battles in the game are set in turn-based fights, where you pick commands for each of your party members and then they act out those commands.  Skills will depend on what type of race and class each party member was made for when they were created, and they will learn new Skills to use as they level up, as will equipped Demons.  There is also a bit of an easy-going feature in battle.  By pressing Triangle, you can automatically have everyone use their last-entered command.  It’s almost like the Auto-Battle feature in other games.

Finding circles and progress in dungeons can be tricky.  There are many doorways that are hidden within walls and must be kicked down to be revealed.  This is where certain Demons can come into play.  Demons have skills to learn, both passive and active.  Some passive skills will let you increase your stats as long as they’re equipped and can be summoned in battle.  Others allow you easy access through dungeons.  For example, Comet’s passive ability reveals hidden passageways, and Chronos’s passive ability allows you to go across Hostile Tiles without taking damage.

Once you finish a dungeon and defeat the Demon, you can return to your Inn to receive the “Key” that allows you to equip them, though you can only equip so many Demons at any given time.  Doing so, though, will help you with battle, as you can summon them to help you in various ways, from healing to attacking enemies.  Demons are A.I., though, so you won’t be able to actively control what they do.  They may heal you when you need it, or they may attack the enemy party, instead.

For the majority of the game, the difficulty will spike quite a bit between dungeons.  You could go through one dungeon, finding it very easy from start to finish and then the next dungeon, you’ll feel like you’re severely underleveled.  The key to this is to always go to your controlled circles and put in Gems for the type of equipment each character is equipped with.  It’s important to keep your weapons and armor constantly upgraded to ensure that you can keep up with the difficulty spikes.  Don’t be afraid to lower the game’s difficulty, either.  All it affects is how much experience you get per battle, and what items drop from fights.

As far as time is concerned, the game is a bit longer than the standard handheld JRPG.  By the time you get to the Final Boss of the game and unlock the post-game content and New Game +, the game should last you at least 30-35 hours, more if you stop to grind a fair bit.

Controls

As far as controls are concerned, you won’t have to use everything on the Vita to play this game.  While the touch screen is used for a couple things, the Rear Touch Panel is never used for anything.  Not anything we discovered while playing the game, anyways.

Navigating Menus and dungeons is done with the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick.  Since the dungeon exploration is very grid-like and feels a little tank-like and clunky, we used the D-Pad for the most part, or the Auto-Move from the Map with the touch screen or the D-Pad.  You can also Strafe and move without turning with the Right Analog Stick.

The X Button is used for selecting options or interacting with objects and the Circle button is used for cancelling out of a chosen option.  The Triangle Button is used in battle for having your characters re-do their last-selected command, and the Square Button is used to bring up the Menu when you’re inside a dungeon.  The L and R buttons are not used for anything in the dungeons, but are used for switching floors at the Dragon Princess Inn.

The touch screen isn’t used for much.  It is mostly only used for throwing Gems into Monster Circles and choosing map locations from the Map Menu when you want to auto-travel.

Presentation

The presentation is where the game gets a lot of criticism from the audiences that are looking at it.  This is mostly from the fact that it’s a first-person game where battle animations are to a minimum and everything is a pre-rendered drawing, like you would see in visual novel cutscenes.  Outside of the intro movie that looks like a long anime scene, the game will just be visual novel-style scenes and a lot of low-end, simplified effects that could probably be done on older portable systems.

If you can get past this, the game is quite charming and fun.  The biggest part of adjusting to the game, other than the art style, is the fact that everything is in first person.  For a long time, I easily forgot the game was an RPG when I was roaming through dungeons.  Due to the first-person aspect, it almost felt like a first-person adventure game.  At least before you hit the difficulty spikes and the grindy, RPG nature of the game comes out.

Overall

Demon Gaze is a style of game that is fairly new to the PlayStation Vita.  Being a first-person game makes it very different from your typical JRPG.  The game feels like it starts out pretty slow, has clunky controls, and the story is full of comedy and fetish-like talk, but if you give it a chance, it is a solid dungeon-crawler worthy to be a part of the Vita’s RPG collection.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Demon Gaze a 7.5/10.    

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