Caligula Effect is an interesting premise for a JRPG. Combining social elements with your every-day narratively driven experience, you have a lot of potential for an amazing experience, but there’s also a lot of potential for things to go wrong. Find out why starting now.
-Unique and well-paced combat systems that do come with a bit of a learning curve
-Character story development seems critical through the course of the game, providing a need to know you party, and the story elements to the game
-Music and sound quality is on par with what one would expect from a PS Vita game
-Multiple approaches to combat ensure that not every encounter will play out the same
–The game offers a lot to learn in so little time.
-Social interactions can provide a bit of a hassle when wandering from location to location
When I first caught wind that our friends over at Atlus USA would be localizing The Caligula Effect there was an instant shudder with excitement that rang through my body. Having played a bit of the Japanese version, I found myself exhilarated at the idea of being able to finally understand what I was doing, how I would go about doing, and what my abilities, as well as talents, did.
With a unique turn-based system, social interactions, and musical score – my Persona fan would finally be sated till the next installment would be announced. Much like many JRPG games these days, I was expecting for the game not to initiate a sense of contentment inside of me, but the fact the game could satiate the need for another style of Persona game need.
With strong RPG’s being the Vita’s strong suit, it seemed only natural that team Aquaria would be placing their title on the PlayStation Vita as an exclusive game for the console.
Our game takes place in a virtual universe called “Mobius,” where a school and its students have been set within a trap by an idol singer named μ. As a part of their goal to bring happiness to the world, Aria and μ created the virtual world. Instead of things seeming as kosher as before, it seems things may have gotten a bit weird now that Aria has decided to turn her back on her pal μ, who just seems to have gone delusional and well – she’s gotta be stopped.
While many come to understand their character from the get-go, you’ll assume the role of our protagonist that gets to go unnamed. While it’s not bad, it does offer up an issue of character-based development, which some may scratch their heads at as they get underway. Luckily for you, you get to try and escape regardless of what you know about this guy. also on his lucky side, Aria has decided to help him find his true power in order to escape this virtual world. The downside for him? μ isn’t going to have this, which brings up the use of her having her biggest supports, the digiheads, who decide to stop you and your ways of meddling doings.
Just like any JRPG out there in recent days, our group is based on the over-used trope of students being trapped in a virtual world – wait, didn’t Sword Art Online do that? There are a few others out there too aside from Sword Art Online. Our story is one that may seem rather similar as well. Take out the bad guys (digiheads), escape the virtual world (school), and take down the baddie doing all this (μ). Following this trope, our group also gets a moniker to go by, they call themselves the “Go Home Club.” Excuse me while I facepalm extremely hard at this.
As the course of the game gets underway for our little ragtag group, they are each granted their own abilities over the course of the game, which should seem rather familiar. It’s not like every JRPG out there hasn’t been doing this since, you know, pretty much the beginning. It’s a game that does, however, delve into a deeper element to this as you get underway and explore more of the school over time.
Luckily, these elements, especially combat, seems to show off just what the Vita is capable of. Let alone can combat be intensive due to its large amount of options that it gives off from the get-go, it also has a crap tone of interactive NPCs that just happen to be wondering around for you to talk with. Talking with them happens to allow to raise your affinity with them so that you may become better friends with them. Doing this raises their affinity meter so that your bond may deepen. Luckily, you may also text them through your phone once the relationship with them has been raised high enough.
While texting your friends is an interesting concept, it’s something that doesn’t seem in place for those to enjoy. While you would expect from as many as there are NPC’s, that there would be just as many responses, but in all unfortunate circumstances, that is simply not the case. You’ll find yourself looked into rather constant conversations that repeat more than once, which is quite saddening, but shows efforts were made to display a unique approach within The Caligula Effect.
What it does help is recruit for your party as you progress within the game. While this may not be crucial to some in order to complete the game. It is quite possible that there were more intentions behind this, but it seems as if it wasn’t as fully utilized as this could have been. While your new NPC students will join your party, they aren’t as crucial as you would have expected, and offer up a varied ideology of what co-star NPCs could have been like. The only reason to even utilize these NPCs is so that you can use them to level up and take their skill points so that you may grow your own character in the shared point system.
While this sounds like something to offer depth into the game, it does not. It’s not until you get in-depth with the games battle systems that you may be able to truly see where the depth of the game comes from, and how easily broken the combat systems are. While this sounds problematic, it introduces something new, and different from other RPGs out on the market. Much like games such as Persona 5, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and various other RPGs. It’s a game that allows you to transition between both combat as well as exploration without a singular load time. One that allows the Vita to show off its capabilities while players transitioning into player-dealt brutal punishments against enemies while playing.
In combat, you are able to execute up to three actions per turn if you have enough SP. Doing this allows you to change your abilities based on your expectations and how you may choose your abilities. This also gauges how your enemies may react as you wait for your chance in combat to come. This allows you the chance to fire off 12 actions it timed right and will allow you to avoid enemy attacks. This battle system is one of the most unique in current RPG games and allows players to take advantage of their enemies slowness.
This leaves you to quite possibly wonder what your main mission of the game is. The goal is for players to search through the games various dungeons and to find these Ostinatos who are creating the songs that μ performs in order to keep people in this world. While this seems troubling for your characters, the songs μ sings are quite catching for fans to enjoy and may actually cause them to get stuck in your head. The entire game’s premise is rather simple in comparison to other titles: find the main boss and kill him. That is it. Go through each fight as quick as possible in order to push through the campaign. While fans of Persona 5 may find the difficulty lacking and not trying enough.
The main mission of the game is to search through the various dungeons and find these Ostinatos who are creating μ’s songs and put a stop to them. The music is actually quite good and each song ends up getting stuck in your head as you’re fighting and running around the map. But that’s basically it for the main premise, learn about a new Ostinatos and stop him by defeating him in battle. Depending on your level, it’s possible to defeat these bosses in one action if you time your attacks right, which I must admit feels cool, but doesn’t do well to satisfy some of the masochist JRPG players out there.
One of the coolest parts about the game isn’t the core story itself. It’s the side stories that allow players to learn more about the Go Home Club. It allows the side stories to give the games core story more depth so that you may find yourself enjoying the company of your team a bit more. These backstories also offer up details about why your team members want to escape reality and how they ended up stuck in this virtual world.
The Caligula Effect – PlayStation Vita
Publisher: ATLUS USA
Release Date: Available Now
If you’re a fan of taking the time to make 500+ friends in the game, The Caligula Effect will stand as one of the strongest games on the PlayStation Vita. The game pushes not just the graphics capabilities of the console, but also the games ability to push some of the largest dungeons to date.
While the game does suffer from infrequent framerate drops, it is a game that stands out over others in many ways and will make itself known as one of the consoles most laid back RPGs to date that you will see through to the end.
Our review is based upon a retail version provided to us by the publisher of the game. For our review, we used a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.