While the Nintendo 3DS thrives (despite the company’s financial woes), the Sony PlayStation Vita has somehow been languishing for a bit, mostly being good for remote play for the PS4. However, upon closer inspection, it seems that it does have a sizable library of games after all, although of a certain genre that most people may not be really into. But if you like Japanese-style games like JRPGs and visual novels, then perhaps you should get a Vita, especially when games like Demon Gaze are being released for it.
Demon Gaze is a first-person dungeon crawler developed by Kadokawa Games and Experience Inc. and published by NIS America for the PS Vita. Kadokawa is also known for other titles like Earth Seeker and Natural Doctrine, and the parent company Kadokawa Corporation also owns From Software of Dark Souls fame. As for NIS America, they’re known for Dragon’s Crown and the Danganronpa series, among many others. As you can probably tell, those games have a certain theme, and Demon Gaze is no different.
As expected with an anime-style games, a lot of the character designs and storylines seem cookie cutter at best, but that has never stopped those who are fans of this genre before. The visuals themselves are sharp and well-rendered, so you may get into it anyway if you’re not overly put off by the style. But it’s can be a sticking point though as it’s quite prominent throughout the game, but the interface is clean and concise at least. For those who don’t see the art style as anything within the lines of being interesting, know that at least the gameplay has its bright sparks.
The player gets to pick from a pool of seven classes and five races to fill up the party, although the party leader has to be a Gazer. The character customization here may seem arbitrary at best, as you’ll soon see later on in the game, but the races and classes are well designed. The main goal is to defeat and capture demons, which are the game’s bosses. As with most Japanese fare, this game is very linear, so don’t expect branching paths in the storyline. Along the way though, you’ll still find it to be a fairly engaging adventure.
As with the usual JRPG trappings come some of the usual drawbacks as well. For instance, leveling up does require quite a bit of grinding, so it may not be good if you don’t have the patience for it. But during that time, maybe you’ll unlock the more interesting parts of the game as you gain more levels, which is helpful in taking down the more powerful bosses in the game. The boss fights are quite interesting in their own way, although they do retain the grind-iness as well.
In every dungeon you go into, you encounter various Circles, which are for using your gems to summon monsters. If you come out victorious in the ensuing battle, then you’ll be rewarded with items and you gain control of that particular Circle. If you are able to control all the Circles in a particular area, which also happen to function as a save point, you then go up against a Demon. The ones earlier in the game are more challenging as you are just starting to get your feet wet. But as you get more of a hang of it, then things can get easier.
That adventure is dampened by the first-person controls though, which are very clunky and sluggish, especially since this is a handheld game. It will take quite a bit of getting used to, or maybe a lot if you’re not used to first-person games on a pad controller. But through that perspective, you get to interact with the other characters and see things in a different way compared to other Japanese RPGs. The dialogues are like those of visual novels, wherein there’s little movement other than changes in the characters’ facial expressions, which is a big part of any sort of dialogue. Compare that to Skyrim, wherein they just stare at you with dead eyes and flap their mouth parts around.
It’s a game that may seem to have a cheap exterior, but it does have a substantial interior full of combat and progression systems that can engage players for hours at a time. Demon Gaze is one of those games that fit well in the Vita’s current library, which is becoming rich with games of this genre. If you liked the JRPGs of old like Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Wild Arms, Chrono Trigger, and so on, then you might as well give it a shot.
Tested in Vita. Final Score: 7/10