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Eating Games With Curry: I’m Not Dead…yet

Posted on the 22 July 2015 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

Eating Games With Curry: I’m not dead…yet

Only almost. Here are first impressions of Operation Abyss, and Omega Quintet.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

While the release date is fairly recent, this is actually a remake of two of the developer’s older PC games combined into one. Experience, for those who do not know, are the developers of the earlier released Demon Gaze, which gain popularity as a first-person dungeon RPG on the Vita that was friendly to newcomers and integrated an interesting fantasy lore with cute girls and some humorous (and ecchi) scenes that appeal to people like me. In contrast, Operation Abyss is not only 100% serious, but is also designed with an interface that easily turns off newcomers.

You can say that this game is more “hardcore” than most dungeon RPGs that are available on modern handhelds, but that doesn’t mean that it’s hard. In fact, in the 10 hours I’ve played so far, it had the easiest regular enemies and early bosses out of any DRPG in recent memory (Moero Chronicle may be the exception, but that’s marketed as a fanservice-centric game first and foremost). However, you are immediately thrust into obtuse menus with endless acronyms and shorthand notations, loads of options that you don’t know how to use, and the game explains only the very bare basics before throwing you into action. The UI is also not very intuitive compared to most modern DRPGs, and a lot of basic actions are a pain in the ass to execute because they require going several menu screens deep. You can almost tell that this was a niche PC game that liked to cram as much information into one screen as possible.

Once you get over the unappealing UI, the game itself is a pretty standard DRPG and is not bad. There are some design choices that tend to go against the general flow of modern JRPG design, such as only allowing a character who has gained enough experience points to level up when they rest at the medical facility. The only other game I’ve played where you have to go home to level up is Rance VI, which is a PC eroge released over ten years ago. Then again, Operation Abyss’ original first half was released seven years ago. Reclassing characters is also not recommended even though you can do it; it’s more effective to just level a new character.

The major drawback outside of the UI is that the story is hard to take seriously despite intending to be 100% serious. You’re a group of high school students with a special power that is likely to go away when you stop being teenagers, and you operate as a secret team in your school to take care of monsters known as Variants that have been spotted in labyrinths in the city. The setting is in a futuristic Japanese city, and the story sounds more like a light novel’s plot than something you’d see in a DRPG. That’s ok, but the characters have either been insufferable, stupid, or both so far and are obnoxious enough to get in the way of my dungeon crawling. It’s times like these when you think that maybe dungeon crawlers are better off with minimal story, or at least minimal talking. The game only has an English dub and the dub quality is…well, I’ve definitely heard better.

On the visual side, the dungeons are unattractive (grey buildings, sewers, or some cyber-space that looks the same everywhere), but character portraits fare better. There are loads of options for character customization, and at the beginning you can choose between Basic of Classic modes, which determine which sets of portraits you can use. Basic mode gives you a set of nicely-drawn predetermined portraits that go better with the npc character art, while Classic offers the portraits of the original PC game, which aren’t as attractive but give you higher freedom in visual customization. Every piece of equipment visually reflects on the character portrait in Classic mode, which is not something you see every day.

I’m nearing the end of the first semester, which is the first game in the series on PC. The second semester should see an increase in difficulty and dungeon variety, or at least that’s what I hope. The third and fourth games got individual releases on Vita and are not yet translated.

Eating Games With Curry: I’m not dead…yet

Omega Quintet

The first PS4 game from the developers of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series is a magical girl idol anime in RPG format, with a tacked on male protagonist as the heroines’ manager-in-training. Unlike their previous game about idol management, this one gives the protagonist a name and personality, making him an actual character. It’s also a much better game, because it’s hardly an idol simulation game, despite what the genre and promotional media may say. Omega Quintet is a fully turn-based RPG, and I’ve gotten halfway through the story without touching any of the actual idol game stuff (which is just PV editing, really).

As an RPG, Omega Quintet definitely benefited from the PS4’s power technically. Even though it looks at most slightly better than their PS3 games, the framerate is smooth and the dungeons are actually properly sized for a console RPG. They also look better design-wise, with a maps that have a running waterfall in the middle or realistically scaled ruined cityscape in the distance. The downside is that they can now feel like massive empty fields, since enemies and treasure are more spaced out.

The battle system is also something completely new, instead of reusing Neptunia’s system like they did for Fairy Fencer F. It still feels very Compile Heart-esque, but has new mechanics and isn’t just a copy-paste of their previous games. You’re given a party of 5 girls who are able to equip and level up proficiency in any of the 5 weapons, with a huge skill tree that gives you lots of freedom in skill unlocking order. The battle system places a strong emphasis on chaining different skills across different characters to execute powerful group attacks, which is somewhat reminiscent of Idea Factory’s older games. I think this is a good balance between their older games’ overly complex (or tedious) mechanics and recent games’ simplified systems.

This being an idol game, there are of course lots of visual customization options like hairstyle, accessory, and costume changes. The story is also very much like a magical girl anime where the girls use the power of song to battle monsters, and sometimes sing concerts (by that I mean once in ~5 chapters) with motion-capped 3D models dancing on a stage. The lead girls are all pretty standard examples of their archetypes, but the most entertaining characters by far are the grumpy middle-aged women who hang around on the side. The best character is a woman in her mid 30’s with a baby face and small stature, pretending to be a 17-year-old cutesy idol for around twenty years until her eventual retirement as her powers begin to fade. But she still hangs around the agency, yelling at youngsters every day.

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