The Vita is about to become the home of the JRPG, it started with the popularity of Persona 4 Golden in the West and the flood gates are about to open. Demon Gaze is a title that many have looked forward to, however it probably shouldn’t be your first foray into the genre.
Demon Gaze is a non-direct sequel of sorts to 2010’s Students of the Round. This game though is set thousands of years after its predecessor and has a completely new story with very little in common, bar the gameplay. You take on the role of a Demon Gazer named Oz, who, for various reasons has taken over the role from Lorna and needs to venture through the various dungeons to hunt and capture the demons, find loot and pay his rent to stay in his room given by Fran the bartender.
It takes a fair old while for the story to start to make sense, even after being introduced to the many odd characters within the game. Even with a fair amount of confusion early on, the characters themselves and the writing are rather endearing and likable, with plenty of humour thrown into the mix. Yet some caution is needed as to where and when you play Demon Gaze, as there is no shying away from the sexualising of the characters.
Women’s clothing is more than revealing and there are many scenes where you may feel more comfortable watching actual porn, than playing Demon Gaze, as there is plenty of flesh on display and characters, especially the female ones, seem quite keen to remove their clothes. That said, apart from some early inhibitions, it soon becomes part of the norm.
This really isn’t a game for showing off what the Vita can do. It isn’t going to sway casual crowd and become the killer app to make them want to own a Vita. But why should it? This is a game that knows exactly what it is and what crowd it is playing to. And the early shocks with the visual design, shouldn’t distract from what is actually a very competent and challenging title.
The game play is split between dungeon crawling and relationship building, but for those who enjoyed P4G, they will find this side of it is a bit lighter and less important. Away from dungeons it is usually a case of reporting back, speaking to various characters and getting new quests, all fairly standard stuff designed to drive the story forward. Which it does rather well, even if the opening hours can seem a little drawn out.
In the dungeons, the game is played in a first person view. You move around finding your way to your next quest. It is all pretty simple and has an auto-mapping feature, which comes in pretty handy as there are many alternate paths and secrets to be found, Many of which can only be accessed one you have leveled up, found certain equipment, or have the right demons captured.
Initially dungeons will feel quite small and thus make the game feel fairly small, but as you progress further, the sheer size of dungeons and the amount there is to map becomes evident. There will be a large amount of retracing steps, as you go from the inn to you next quest and back again. But this is fine, as there are always plenty of battles to be had en-route.
Battles are a mix of random and pre-placed with many becoming rather simple to get past after you have leveled up a few times, but the Demons you have to take on are fantastically hard, you really need to understand strengths and weaknesses to succeed, which you won’t first time out, nor second time and probably a bit beyond that.
It is a game that requires a fair amount of grinding, but again that is fine, because the battle system works. It is fairly simple, with an option to attack, defend, use skills or items, all as part of your strategy. You can equip weapons, armour and various other items to help your character be the best they can.
You aren’t going it alone though, as there is a party system that should help you along the way, but you do need to earn the extra party members. This is done by buying and renting rooms at the inn for your party to stay at. It is a nice little system and one that works well, allowing you to decide how best to raise the cash to afford the rooms and the rent.
Throughout the dungeons there are also various ‘Circles’, where you can use gems you have collected to summon monsters. Win the battle here and you are rewarded with new items, that can either be useful for battle, or sold back at the inn to raise more money. Again how you use the money is up to you, but you do need to be wise about it. The Circles you win battles at, also become controlled by you, controlling all the circles in an area allows you to then take on the main Demon. Luckily controlled circles also act as a save point, as you will find your self praising the developers for this minor touch, as you will return to them time and time again.
The main issue with Demon Gaze, is that despite each aspect of the game being fairly simple in nature, it can be a little daunting for newcomers to the genre. As from even an early stage, the game doesn’t shy away from the challenge, with battles designed not to be a walkover, this is true even if you put the game on the easiest setting.
That said, it is the challenging nature of the game that really makes it satisfying to play in the long run. There were a couple of early Demons in the game, that were retried more times than we can remember, however when they were finally overcome, there was a feeling of real achievement and in actual fact, despite the numerous retries, the game never once felt frustrating.
If you are a fan of the JRPG genre and enjoy dungeon crawling, then this is very much a great game, you’ll get stuck in and find yourself lost to the game’s quirky charms. However, if you are dabbling in the genre for the first time, it really isn’t the game for you, there are others out there better suited. That doesn’t stop this being a wonderful experience for those who do get it.