Review: Demon Gaze

Release Date
April 22 2014 (US) ; April 25 2014 (EU)
Platform
PlayStation Vita
Publisher / Developer
NIS America / Experience Inc.
Genre
Dungeon Crawler, Role-Playing
Player(s)
Single-player
Rating
ESRB Teen, PEGI 12

Demon Gaze is a first-person, dungeon-crawling RPG which was released in Japan a little over a year ago and it now makes its way west.  NIS America brings us another gem that feels right at home on the PlayStation®Vita system, it’s a welcome and much-needed addition to rather a thin (but fantastic) library.

The land of Misrid is overrun by monsters and demons since times long past and is now a popular destination for treasure hunters and mercenaries seeking new thrills inside the many dungeons Misrid has on offer, but only a Demon Gazer can defeat and capture the demons in charge. As Oz, you must face the responsibilities of being a Demon Gazer by helping the owner of the DragonPrincess Inn, Fran, in her mission to defeat and capture the demons. Lorna the previous Demon Gazer becomes a mentor to Oz and is joined by a cast of colourful and hilarious characters residing at the Inn, that ensures there is never a dull moment.

The very linear story in these types of games would usually see huge text dumps that will have you wishing for some action, but thankfully this isn’t the case in Demon Gaze. Dialogue scenes are kept short and sweet, entwined with the weird happenings going on around the Inn which are never a bore. The biggest stars are the supporting characters residing in the Inn, they are collectively the weirdest and most random characters in any game and are not shy to suddenly remove their clothes.

The DragonPrincess Inn will be your base of operations throughout the game it includes the usual weapon and items shops but also a few unique additions such as a Bath, where the stylist lives who allows you to change the look, gender, voice and name of any of your characters. The most unique and strangest aspect of the base is that the owner Fran insists that everyone pays rent, and so you must pay her rent every time you return from your adventures with your rent increasing each time.

In the Basement, you find the mortician who can revive your fallen party members, plus it’s the location of a feature called Ether Mill. The Ether Mill allows the player to extract ether from weapons, armour and accessories then use that to strengthen other equipment of the same type. All weapons, armour and accessories come with a grade, the higher the grade the better the equipment, unique equipment is signified with a star. When strengthening equipment unique items can be strengthened up to level 30 whereas normal items can only reach level 10.

The majority of the game will see the player exploring dungeons throughout different areas of Misrid each with their own themes. To help the player along some great features have been added including Auto-Move that allows you to set a destination and the system will take you there. Another unique feature also making an appearance is the ability to write a Gazer Memo using magical chalk, this memo can then be seen by your friends when using the network features to help with hidden treasures or particularly difficult enemies.

The aim during each dungeon is to activate all of the Looting Summoning Circles, doing so allows you to set gems and summon a monster giving you a chance to receive rare item drops. Once all of the circles are activated in a dungeon the boss will appear, the boss will be a demon that the player can capture once defeated and then use during battles much like a summon in other Japanese RPGs. Before a demon can be used it must be taken to Fran, who will turn it into a key, later in the game, multiple keys can be equipped and they can be changed at Summoning Circles or at the Inn.

Demons as well as working like summons will also give you bonuses while equipped, Comet, for example, has the ability to see hidden areas in a dungeon that you wouldn’t be able to discover without her equipped. While useful outside of battles they are key during battles giving boosts in defence or increasing HP and healing, be wary though in early game the demon gauge will be small, so demons have a higher chance of going into a rage when it runs out. When a demon is raging they will attack the player and cannot be closed so it’s important to know when to use your demons, but the demon gauge increase over time as your demons rank up.

The battle system is your standard JRPG affair and even includes a nifty little repeat button that allows you to easily repeat the moves made last turn which saves time during battles. Opposed to that though is a rather annoying battle log that you must click through, detailing every move, damage etc… even when enemies don’t do anything, although you can view a battle log separately which seems irrelevant when you’re forced to view it as it happens and can waste quite a bit of time when you have 20 plus enemies on screen, thankfully holding down X or better yet O will speed things up a bit.

Alongside the main story, there is a very small selection of side quests, which given the nature of the game seems rather strange as it would make those multiple grinding trips less painful. With the limited number of dungeons, available it would add another element of interest. Grinding during the game can become rather irritating as you’ll come across a demon who is either way too overpowered or one that is just pathetic. If you do happen to get stuck in the game the difficulty can be changed at any time, although this doesn’t seem to affect an enemy’s strength, only how much experience you gain after each battle.

The start is slow and can be a little annoying, but once it opens up Demon Gaze becomes an addictive and fun addition to the PlayStation®Vita library. The game allows you to pick it up and play where you left off with ease, which lends itself perfectly to its dungeon-crawling nature. While the overall story may be rather lacking in substance, it’s the supporting cast that really makes the experience such a joy, their quirky personalities and the witty dialogue will put a smile on your face and possibly cause some embarrassment while out in public.

Verdict
Demon Gaze is a wonderful experience and the game achieves what it sets out to do, although with a few annoyances along the way. Its designs may seem cheap but the quality of the game itself and the addiction it brings are top-notch! If you're a fan of dungeon crawlers with a few unique extras, then this game is definitely one for you.
Pros
Brilliant Characters
Interesting World
Soundtrack
Cons
Limited Side Quests and Extras
Irritating Grinding
8
VERY GOOD