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Review

Review: Demon Gaze 2

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The dun­ge­on craw­ler, or DRPG, gen­re isn’t exac­t­ly well rep­re­sen­ted the­se days. It seems like the Vita is the only place whe­re you can real­ly find them, and even then the­re aren’t a gre­at amount to choo­se from. The ori­gi­nal Demon Gaze was a gre­at ent­ry point for tho­se new to DRPGs, while also adding its own twists to the usu­al dun­ge­on craw­ling game­play. Demon Gaze 2 on the other hand feels like one step for­ward, but two steps back.

Demon Gaze 2 sto­ry takes place after the events of the first game. Ope­ning simi­lar­ly to Demon Gaze 1, the prot­ago­nist wakes up in an unfa­mi­li­ar place. Soon run­ning into a hos­ti­le demon, they’re saved by mem­bers of the Revo­lu­tio­nist Par­ty. This group is try­ing to free the city of Aste­ria from Magnastar, a sup­po­sed­ly tyran­ni­cal ruler who uses demons to force his enemies into sub­mis­si­on. The game soon intro­du­ces more mem­bers of the Revo­lu­tio­nist Par­ty, and along the way we dis­co­ver that the prot­ago­nist has amne­sia. The focus of Demon Gaze 2 is on fre­eing Aste­ria from Magnastar and retur­ning your lost memo­ries.

The game’s plot does a good enough job of buil­ding up the new set­ting and its cha­rac­ters. Some fami­li­ar faces also make their return, but know­ledge of Demon Gaze 1’s sto­ry is not requi­red. Asi­de from some refe­ren­ces and espe­ci­al­ly a cer­tain someone’s appearan­ce, Demon Gaze 2 can be play­ed as a stand-alo­ne tit­le. The focus on sto­ry is some­what grea­ter than in 1 over­all, but is still mini­mal enough that you wont be away from the main dun­ge­on craw­ling game­play for too long.

Cha­rac­ter crea­ti­on has seen chan­ges bet­ween Demon Gaze 1 and 2. The big­gest being the com­ple­te remo­val of custom cha­rac­ters asi­de from the prot­ago­nist. Ins­tead, new par­ty mem­bers are gai­ned from defea­ting demons in each of the game’s zones (more on this later). This could be seen as way to speed the ope­ning hours up, sin­ce you don’t need to crea­te your ent­i­re par­ty from scratch. Howe­ver, this has mas­si­ve­ly redu­ced Demon Gaze 2’s depth com­pa­red to the first game. Gone are some of the stran­ge par­ty com­bi­na­ti­ons that you could try, ins­tead repla­ced with demon girls that have set clas­ses. This sim­pli­fi­ca­ti­on ends up beco­m­ing a recur­ring the­me and is not some­thing that helps make the game more enjoy­a­ble.

The pro­cess of actual­ly acqui­ring new par­ty mem­bers is simp­le: Con­trol all the demon cir­cles in the area, and then defeat the demon that shows up.  Demon cir­cles are also the way that you’ll get most of your equip­ment. Con­trol­ling demon cir­cles requi­res at least one gem; dif­fe­rent gems rela­ting to dif­fe­rent pie­ces of equip­ment that you’ll get after you gain con­trol of the cir­cle. As with the first Demon Gaze, this mecha­nic is a gre­at way of hand­ling gearing cha­rac­ters sin­ce it allows you to grind for spe­ci­fic types of wea­pons and armour easi­ly.

The dun­ge­on craw­ling part of Demon Gaze 2 plays very simi­lar­ly to 1, which was also simi­lar to most other modern DRPGs. Move­ment is grid-based unsur­pri­sin­gly, and your cha­rac­ters thank­ful­ly move at a fast pace. Batt­les are also quick com­pa­red to many other turn based games, sin­ce you can skip through attack ani­ma­ti­ons and repeat your pre­vious attacks easi­ly.

The demon sys­tem is whe­re batt­les have seen the most chan­ge, sin­ce demons are your main par­ty mem­bers ins­tead of extra ones that you have to sum­mon. In Demon Gaze 1, you had access to the demon gau­ge which was used to sum­mon a sin­ce demon into batt­le. In Demon Gaze 2, this is repla­ced with the star gau­ge though most of its func­tions are still simi­lar. Demo­ni­zing powers up your par­ty mem­bers at the cost of a few points of star power every turn. Demon Gaze 1 would punish ove­r­use of this mecha­nic by having your sum­mo­ned demon go ber­serk once the demon gau­ge was empty. Demon Gaze 2 has no such penal­ty, making demo­ni­zing and using demon abi­li­ties in gene­ral much safer.

Safer is a good way to descri­be a lot of Demon Gaze 2. The initi­al dun­ge­ons are easy and incredi­b­ly short in com­pa­ri­son to Demon Gaze 1. In the first game explo­ra­ti­on felt far more rewar­ding, sin­ce you faced har­der chal­len­ges as you get fur­ther though an area. Demon Gaze 2 rus­hes through many are­as ear­ly on, sin­ce bea­ting demons is the only way to get new par­ty mem­bers. The game slows down later on, but it does make dun­ge­ons feel very unthrea­ten­ing to start with.

Out­si­de of dun­ge­ons, you spend the rest of your time at the Revo­lu­tio­nist Party’s base of ope­ra­ti­ons, an old thea­t­re. Here you an buy items, inclu­ding the gems nee­ded for the demon cir­cles, and per­form main­ten­an­ce on your demons. This is a bland minigame that feels simi­lar to the rub­bing ones in Mary Skel­ter and other Idea Factory/Compile Heart games. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the game, and honest­ly just seems shoehor­ned in to add some mild fan­ser­vice. Com­ple­ting main­ten­an­ce allows you to go on dates with your demons, which grants buffs to both them and the main cha­rac­ter. The­se sce­nes are ok, but don’t feel like they were worth remo­ving full cha­rac­ter cus­to­mi­sa­ti­on for.

It’s a shame that Demon Gaze 2 wate­red down many game­play ele­ments from the first game, sin­ce the­re are some nice qua­li­ty of life impro­ve­ments. When che­cking a character’s skills, you can see what they’ll unlock at later levels. Not kno­wing what skills a class could get was an annoyan­ce in Demon Gaze 1, so this is one chan­ge that is more than wel­co­me. Any trea­su­re maps you find will also show their coor­di­na­tes on the main map, making easier to find hid­den items.

It’s also worth men­tio­ning that Demon Gaze 2’s visu­als are ano­t­her area that has recei­ved some impro­ve­ments. The Vita ver­si­on runs at 60 FPS com­pa­red to the first’s 30. Are­as aren’t incredi­b­ly detail­ed, but the­re is a decent varie­ty of tile­sets for each dun­ge­on. The UI has been given some extra fea­tures, sho­wing buffs and other effec­ts on your par­ty. Cha­rac­ter and mons­ter art is gene­ral­ly well done, even if a lot has been recy­cled from the first game.

Conclusion

For all the hel­pful chan­ges that Demon Gaze 2 to the series, the over­all lack of cha­rac­ter cus­to­mi­sa­ti­on and point­less dating mecha­nics lea­ve me fee­ling a litt­le unsa­tis­fied. The dun­ge­on craw­ling game­play is still fun, if a litt­le over­sim­pli­fied, and over­all I’d still recom­mend the game to tho­se loo­king for a new Vita/PS4 RPG. Fans of the first Demon Gaze though, or DRPGs in gene­ral, may be a litt­le disap­poin­ted.

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