Demon Gaze is one game that, under normal circumstances, might not get your attention. As old-school dungeon crawler’s go, the terrible 3D dungeons, partially voiced dialogue and seriously lacking musical score might initially have you regretting your purchase and trading it in for something else. However, it would be something of a mistake to ditch this one before giving it a chance to show you what’s under the hood. Seemingly never-ending, anime-inspired shapely heroines and disappointing graphics aside, this RPG from developers Kadokawa Games and Experience Inc. has something about it that will keep you playing until the very end.
In this game, you take on the role of a Demon Gazer, a rare breed of warrior that can capture the souls of demons and use them as powerful allies. Having lost his memory while exploring a dungeon, he meets up with another Demon Gazer who has lost her powers and takes it upon herself to train you in the ways of the trade. The in-game action is reminiscent of early dungeon crawler classics, in other words it features old-school difficulty as well as slow turn-based battle mechanics. All action in the dungeons takes place in first-person view. Each dungeon is even more perilous than the last and tasks you with leveling your character sufficiently enough to eventually face down and defeat the dungeon boss. One disappointing aspect of Demon Gaze is that there is no 360-degree movement therefore in order to traverse the varied environments, you have to walk through grid-based locations that offer a myriad of branching paths with plenty of enemies and loot scattered throughout. Having the view this way doesn’t allow you to actually see yourself or your party but you do get the option of placing your party member’s in strategic formations to enhance your battle effectiveness.
While exploring the dungeons, battles are either triggered as you walk around the corridors or are static encounters. You can usually go around the static encounters but you will still be confronted by enemies that pop up randomly. This is a game where you will need to do some grinding if you want to be sufficiently strengthened to face the dungeon bosses, so fighting enemies as you come upon them only works in your favor. And don’t just think that you can breeze through the combat because you would be sadly mistaken. You and up to five party members will need to have a strategy prepared for basic attacks, spells and defensive schemes when you come face-to-face with waves of enemies out for your blood. There will be times when enemies that you have confronted will wipe out your entire party so to balance that out, you need to have a party that consists of characters that possess efficient combat abilities so that you are never at a disadvantage.
Although the character designs in Demon Gaze are very spectacular and are inspired by anime, the dungeon art is severely lacking in imagination and polish. The character designs are very sophisticated and are very unique. It is clear that a lot of time was spent designing characters that would be interesting and help to set the theme of the game as a whole. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the dungeon designs. The locations outside of the Inn, where you have a room rented, are drab and very unappealing to look at. It is such a jarring experience to view the awesome artwork of the characters and then to travel into the world and be presented with environments that do not balance with the rest of the game and seem like they were tacked on after everything else in the game was completed.
The score for Demon Gaze was another chance for Kadokawa Games to really wow the player yet it ended up being a missed opportunity. By about the second hour of playing, I was already tired of hearing the same score over and over. Boasting between 30 to 40 hours of gameplay, it’s hard to believe that a more robust musical score wasn’t included with this game. Sound effects, however, are meticulously spot on and really help to get you into the battles and feel like you are landing some serious blows on your opponents. The voice over work as well is some of the best that I have heard and really is one of the finer points of the game.
Demon Gaze is a throwback to a time when RPGs were simple, didn’t spend a lot of time holding your hand and threw you into the world telling you to succeed at all costs. At times, it feels cheaply made but the steep challenge that it presents to the player will keep you hooked for hours on end. Regardless of the ugly environments, you will find yourself wanting to conquer the next dungeon or see what cool weapons and items that you can find next. For the price of admission, you really can’t beat the length of gameplay and the immersion that will happen when you get sucked into the quirky storyline. As far as RPGs go, Demon Gaze is a perfect fit for the Vita and one that you should add to your library.