Title: Demon Gaze II
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: Kadokawa Games, Experience Inc.
Publisher: Kadokawa Games (Japan), NIS America (Europe and North America)
Release date: Out now
tl;dr:: An old fashioned, frustrating dungeon crawler.
Price: PS4: $50 (the Amazon price, as this is available through retailers only)/£60 (Limited edition, through NIS Europe’s online store)
PS Vita: $40 (the Amazon price, as this is available through retailers only)/£50 (Limited edition, through NIS Europe’s online store)
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Demon Gaze II is something that can only be described as niche; a cult following of a fandom, and so specific in its gameplay, you either love it, or you don’t. After the first game was something of a sleeper hit, releasing in Japan back in 2003, it was apparently beloved enough by fans to have the sequel published over here. And since I loved Kadokawa Games’ last endeavour, I was keen to try this one.
I’m going to openly hold up my hands and say I didn’t finish this one – my play time stands at around 16 hours, with the last demon I captured being Lepus. My reason? Demon Gaze II is monotonous, frustrating, and generally bizarre (sadly, not in the fun way). After sixteen hours, I dreaded turning on the PS4 to play any more of it, so sixteen hours was enough.
First and foremost, Demon Gaze II is a first person dungeon crawler, which is a weird thing to find in 2017, but it’s also a visual novel. You either dungeon crawl, or move between screens to talk to people, and, yes, there’s a creepy petting minigame. The gameplay consists of you running through dungeons in first person mode, moving from one square to the next, one at a time, until you find the demon circle, which you need to place a Gem on – these get you various bits of gear. Then, you summon the demon’s lesser minions, kill them, then control the circle; there’s usually six or seven of these per dungeon, until the boss appears, with a small puzzle as a prelude.
That’s it for the gameplay. You can have short conversations with your team mates, turn in various items to said team mates, for extra rewards as sidequests, or go on dates with the demons you capture; apparently after their soul gets sucked out by the Demon Gazer’s eye, they’re sworn to serve you forever, and blindingly adore you. Oh, and of course they’re mostly hot women, though I will actually give this game credit for allowing you to date the male ones as well. The dates are, again, taking them to a location and talking to them, preceded by the aforementioned creepy minigame, which I think is meant to boost stats.
Allow me to explain why exactly we’re dating demons; the city of Asteria is held under an oppressive rule by their leader, Magnastar, who is apparently holding people prisoner and forcing them to his will, with something called Star Power, and occasionally throws people into a massive furnace to fuel that. The people are held under sway by a song called Starlita, which three of Magnastar’s demons sing, and the rest are general muscle and bodyguards for him. Naturally, the only people willing to stop this utter horror (which the game never bothers to explain quite what is so terrible, aside from the furnace thing) are four teenagers, and their cat boy servant, by running a revolution through their radio – “The Overthrow Radio Show.”
The whole thing is tired, uninspired, and the plot of a ton of other media already. If there’s one thing I can think of to describe this, it’s tropey. The mysterious brooding hero with the special superpower and convenient amnesia, the childhood best friend, the spunky girl next door, obligatory cat person… it’s just not interesting, and relies far too much on clunky exposition rather than any nuanced storytelling, coming off as cheesy rather than funny. It’s got all the hallmarks of anime, complete with out of place fanservice, the weird mixture of medieval setting and gaudy outfits, and over the top… everything. The revolutionists have picked the most blatant hideout in the entire city, and who on earth names their revolution “The Overthrow Radio Show?!” It wasn’t interesting to start with, and certainly wasn’t worth slogging through the dungeons for, since it’s very firmly divided into plot/dungeon/plot, with no relevant story sprinkled into the gameplay to give players an incentive to go forward.
Graphically, this game doesn’t say much, either. It’s your standard sprites and bland dungeon maps that aren’t interesting or particularly appealing. The outfits weirdly clash with the aesthetics of the game, and a lot of the time, said aesthetic is weirdly childish. The “human,” forms of the demons are actually quite nice, but the transformed ones, well…
It’s obviously a low budget endeavour, and it’s made all the more obvious by the limited sprites and backgrounds; the maze-like layouts of the dungeons are made even worse because there’s no variety to orient yourself with. There’s only a handful of locations, and only one battle music track for when you’re crawling, so it becomes tedious and frustrating exceedingly fast. The characters also have a weird habit of moving to the front and centre of the screen, beyond the foreground, which makes it obvious that the game was much better suited for a Vita title. But on the PS4, it looks like this:
Waaaait a minute. Where have I see this befo –
So far, this would be pretty run of the mill, but the gameplay makes it truly unbearable. I spent far too long playing Persona 5, and those were annoying dungeons. Those were long, complicated, and difficult dungeons. Demon Gaze II gives us the simple task of controlling the circles and killing the boss, which would be fine. But when you combine that with the confusing landscape, and the fact the game likes hiding circles behind hidden – completely invisible, not appearing anywhere on the map – doors, this becomes ridiculous. To find these doors, you need to be within a few squares of them, with no indication or hint of where they are. Then you have to keep a certain party member in your team, in order to see them at all. So a valuable slot is taken up, when you have ten or more recruitable characters,
The design and presentation is truly what lets this game down, as they make it a chore to play. Mechanics go unexplained and are just left for the player to stumble upon; Auto Move, for example, where you can move across previously explored maps by selecting your route on the map screen, was never brought up, and I stumbled upon it by accident. Another is additional attack you can use when your demons are “Demonised,” in battle – there’s a whole other menu you can use the gauge for. You’re also supposed to use certain characters in certain roles – Pegasus is apparently a tank, not a healer, but the game only gives her to you with healing spells. Certain enemies have affinities, but I never figured out how to guess these, and loot maps? I kept picking them up, but had no idea what they did.
The battle system is strange, too – there’s little nuance to it, because you have a move called Fast Fight, which lets you repeat the last turn’s actions, and skip all the animations. Spamming this can genuinely let you win a lot of the mob fights, with just using weapons. This, again, takes longer than you’d think, because there’s no multi-ranged attacks, you just hit one enemy at a time, and good luck figuring what all the random stats that affect your attack mean. Plus, the main quest isn’t always obvious; it tries to trick you into recruiting optional demons that don’t advance the plot, when in reality, you only need a certain number per group. I wasn’t particularly impressed to find this out when all I wanted to do was finish the game.
The irritating thing is, there are easy fixes to all of these. Divide up the plot and gameplay more equally, so it’s not a 15 minute: six hour ratio. Allow for saving in dungeons. If players are stuck, have a hint on the map, and make Pegasus’ ability available for the MC to learn. And for the love of God, explain how to actually play the game to newcomers! The more I think about this, I remember how Persona 5 did dungeons right – aesthetically pleasing, varied soundtrack, a clearly labelled map and objectives, and a plot to keep us going through it all.
To cut a long story short, you’ll like this game if you have the patience of a saint, love dungeon crawlers, or enjoyed the first game. Otherwise, this isn’t the game for you.
- Prometh was mildly amusing
- Dungeons are overly complicated through poor design
- Bosses have random, cheap difficulty spikes
- Gameplay is monotonus
This game has been rated PEGI 12 and T for Teen from the ESRB, for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol. 15+ should be fine.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.