Game Review: Ray Gigant (PS Vita)
02/05/2016 1 Comment
Originally released onto the PS Vita in Japan last year by Bandai Namco Entertainment Ray Gigant is a visual-novel styled Dungeon Crawler that has been localised by Acttil for its western release and despite little involvement from the European branch of Bandai Namco Entertainment the game isn’t half bad.
|Developer:||Bandai Namco Entertainment Japan|
|Resolution:||966 x 544
Ray Gigant is my first ‘real’ introduction into the world of Dungeon Crawler JPRG’s and after several hours of exploring seemingly never-ending dungeons and endless lines of dialogue I actually grew to like what was being played out before me; despite the obvious lack of artistic style and detail that one may expect from a visual novel game such as this; but we will discuss that later.
The story within Ray Gigant sees players thrust into the fictional future world of Tokyo that sees demonic space-alien styled creatures known as Gigant run-rampant outside the safety of Inner-Tokyo. This is where new recruit Ichiya Amakaze makes his appearance; as after surviving the initial Attack on Tokyo he finds himself wielding the ability known as Yorigami, a powerful tool that can not only summon a weapon but can also be used to defeat the Gigant’s threatening the peaceful nature of the world.
As a result of this new found ability Ichiya finds himself transferred to the main base of operations within Tokyo in an attempt to bring out his full potential of a Yorigami wielder while at the same time being used to protect the city from anymore Gigant threats. Along the way Ichiya finds himself partnered up with two other students, namely Mana Izano and Kazuomi Miwa. Unlike Ichiya these two wield abilities that are actually clones of an original Yorigami and as such all three reluctantly agree to work together in order to protect their beloved home; and alas this is where our real adventure begins.
One could surmise that the plot setup is reminisce of Attack on Titan as the surviving population of Tokyo now hide behind a wall as groups of teenagers attempt to defeat the ever impending threat of monsters destroying their peaceful life-style. Of course this is ‘anything but’ Attack on Titan; but when playing the game it’s easy to see where similarities lie.
Interestingly enough this is only one part of the story being told by Ray Gigant; as while the game begins with Ichiya, Mana and Kazuomi it certainly doesn’t end with them. Most games see a singular character being the focal point of the story but in Ray Gigant it follows the exploits of three distinctively different characters but each with a common objective; putting a stop to the Gigants. In the first storyline it follows Ichiya; but subsequent storylines will see Kyle Griffin and Nil Phineas take centre stage with their personalities, ordeals and perspectives being played out to those watching.
It’s an exceptional unique way of presenting a game; but it means we get to see a bigger picture on what the Gigants have managed to do to the population of the world and as you can imagine each character will wield their own type of abilities and have their own troubles to overcome. So; how exactly are these different storylines played out to the player? Well they are forced on to you through a distinctive order, so Ichiya’s storyline will always be presented first, and are separated into a number of chapters and areas to explore. The result is that each chapter within a character episodes is a completely new experience; even if the gameplay itself remains the same.
As you can rightful imagine Ray Gigant is a visual novel styled dungeon crawler and as such majority of the time will be spent reading endless streams of dialogue with ‘some’ interaction required. Majority of the interaction is character choices, to which will present a different response from the character you are talking to. When not in a dialogue state however players can move to different areas of that particular location; for instance when players are in the base (or school if you prefer), you can move between Cafeteria, Room, Classroom and Roof – with each one resulting in a different dialogue scenario. The roof however is reserved for flying off to the nearest dungeon while your room is reserved for saving the game and progressing the story on during ‘free time’.
Its’ a simplistic approach; but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before in other visual novel styled games. When it comes to exploration and battling however than that’s a different ball-game all together; and it can be quite complicated – especially for a newcomer. Players will find themselves forced to enter dungeons as part of the games storyline (although you can freely return at a later point after defeating the dungeons boss) and upon entering players are able to freely move around by using the D-Pad or analogue sticks.
As this is a dungeon crawler players will not be able to see their character and as such it is done from a first person perspective and unlike other JPRGS and Dungeon Crawlers available on the market there are no random encounters and as such each potential encounter is marked with a demonic skull on the map. The result is that players are freely able to choose which battles to take place in; but alas this is only the start of a complicated introduction into the gameplay mechanics.
When you do decide to take part in a fight you will find that it is much more ‘calculative’ experience than a traditional JPRG experience. For starters your opposing enemies HP is never showed and secondly in order to attack a portion of AP is used; thirdly characters can attack up to five times depending on the amount of AP available. It’s a rather bewildering first battle as rules and regulations of combat are displayed on screen but the summarised version of it is that you have to plan your moves carefully.
Each attack consumes AP and if you run out of AP then you will have to wait until you have regenerated enough AP in order to attack again. Fortunately players can wait to receive a generous amount of AP during each turn but as enemies can attack up to five times, and up to four enemies can appear at once, you won’t have to wait long in order to see yourself defeated.
Personally i don’t mind this ‘taxing’ turn-based-experience as it provides a much more rewarding gameplay experience than simply pressing attack when each and every turn comes around; however the lack of a HP gauge for enemies, as well as it’s extremely simplistic, if not random, attack patterns, makes the whole experience a bit of a shallow one. Its simplistic because there is no movement on screen so you will never see your characters being attacked or your characters attacking the opponent – it’s pretty much numbers (damage received) flying off your HP Guage and numbers flying off above the Gigant had (damage delt) where appropriate.
It’s not very entertaining to watch, even as a player, and can also be hard to see how the battle is progressing due to the lack of an opponent’s HP guage. The only ‘niggle’ of comfort is that boss battles do have an HP Guage; however with bosses seemingly overpowered you may just find yourself stryuggling.
To add the characters during combat players can activate the SBM feature; a specialised attack that sees the Yorigami user transform into a beast-like-form that sees exceptional amount of damage being dealt to your opponent. It’s a unique feature but unfortunately it only lasts one turn and prompts the introduction of a rhythm based mini-game. The idea is that the more buttons correctly pressed will result in more attacks being dealt to your opponent, so obtaining a perfect combo will reward you with a constant stream of attacks that take up a single turn. In order to use this ability however players must charge up the SBM Guage which only fills up when the Yorigami user successfully hit an opponent.
Using regular attacks and SBM attacks isn’t the only options available; as by using items discovered in dungeons players can level-up their character and make them stronger. This is another feature that is different from other JPRG/Dungeon Crawlers; as opposed to fighting in ‘encounters’ – which in turn would earn experience used for levelling up – players need to collect orbs and apply them to their character.
They are applied to the character through a skill tree and as one might imagine different skills, attacks and abilities can be unlocked, each requiring a different type of orb to unlock them. To make the task even harder multiples of the same orbs are required to reach high levels with some requrining at least six orbs in order to increase that ability by a single method.
It is clear to say that Ray Gigant is not your typical dungeon-crawler styled JPRG but it is these ‘unique’ features which made the game stand out in Japan; unfortunately for me however these unique features do not really suit my playstyle and expectations of a JPRG and as such some of the charm is lost to me.
The same can be said about the rather ‘basic’ presentation of this game; sure enough the narrative driven story is interesting, and so is the way it spreads it across three different perspectives; but the over-complicated combat and leveling up mechanics, character art style used during the visual novel scenes and the half-vocal-approach to dialogue elements only further brings down my opinion on what could’ve been an exceptional dungeon-crawler experience for me. It’s good; but just not my type of RJPG experience I was hoping for.
In short; Ray Gigant isn’t your typical dungeon-crawler styled JPRG experience but it does offer an interesting story with a unique selection of characters to explore so if you enjoy dungeon crawler styled games, such as Eliminage and Operation Abyss, then Ray Gigant is worth checking out; however those unfamiliar with such titles may wisht to avoid this one for now as it may not be the experience you were hoping for.
Ray Gigant will be released exclusively as a digital download from the Playstation Network Store for the PS Vita on the 3rd May 2016.