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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.
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.