Usually, when playing a totally new game in a series I haven’t played before, I don’t like to research it much beforehand. This wasn’t the case with The Caligula Effect: Overdose, mainly because it’s a remake of itself. And to add to this, it was originally a PS Vita game back in 2016.
With the Vita ceasing production only this month, I feel as though it’s a farewell to the system in a sense, but also a parallel between the Vita and this game. Mainly because after playing this, it showed much potential in being something great, but it wasn’t to be. Sound familiar?
Made by Aquria once again; a developer based in Yokohama, Japan, that alongside designing games mainly in the RPG-genre, also created the ‘Graphic Novel’ version of Metal Gear Solid for the PSP, something which I very much enjoyed over ten years ago.
The remake is now using Unreal Engine 4, which means certain slowdowns found on the Vita version are nowhere to be found, at least to me as I was playing it on my Switch.
The story is the same here as it was in 2016. It’s again a new year at Kishimai High School, and your newly-named and gender-chosen character is watching the headmaster give the opening speech to the students. Soon, it’s known that this school is part of a world called ‘Mobius’, a virtual world. It’s up to your newly-created character and the ‘Go-Home’ group you meet, to try and escape the world, while trying to escape from the clutches of ‘Mu’, an ‘administrator’ of Mobius.
The game is split into nine chapters, each with their own mysteries and dungeons to solve, and once you control your character, you are in the midsts of it all. You find yourself talking to many students in the school and the citizens of the island, even though that may become repetitive over time, while coming across encounters.
The battle system is something I liked, in a sense, as it slightly reminded me of the older battle system of the Final Fantasy entries, while the animations and the angles of the attacks made by each character was well done, and also reminded me of the Persona games.
Especially at the start, you come across a group of enemies and ‘ENCOUNTER’ flashes across the screen, again reminding me of Metal Gear.
But that’s the positives out of the way. To me, the way of trying to intricately plan each attack and then have a preview of them, alongside trying to have attacks juggle to enemies. It just doesn’t seem needed and tries too hard here to me. The music, the animation of the attacks help keep the gameplay going, but the repetitiveness of the enemies grated soon after and I would just mash any buttons to progress further.
This applies to the dungeons you come across too. The enemies repeat, and repeat, and repeat, with no real challenge and fun exploration moments. Lastly, the game’s ‘Causality’ Link feature which helps to level up skills, comes across as confusing again in this reboot, and you’ll just want to reach out for a YouTube tutorial to see how you can better get a grasp on it, as it’s also poorly explained.
The interactions throughout the game are odd. You can use an ‘app’ in the game called ‘Wire’, a social network that’s loosely inspired from ‘Line’. Here you can come across many people who are in ‘Mobius’, and it’s as boring as it sounds unfortunately. It’s encouraged to stay off social media after you use it for an hour in a day, but here, it’s instead encouraged to use it to help progress certain chapters! I tried to use it as little as I could, it just didn’t add anything, and the answers I’d find were too similar every time I found someone new.
Eventually, you face the final boss and all is well, even if it does feel like one big effort to do.
Once you do finish the game, there is a post-game dungeon, and there’s a new route called the ‘Forbidden Musician’, but with regards to the deployability to this, there’s not much.
With this being a remake, I’m surprised that Aquria didn’t listen to the feedback and shouts of the impressions of the game from three years ago. It seems to me that the game was made from a labour of love, inspired by other games and movies, and more focus was given to a new UI, new engine, and new endings.
To me, a remake is something like Shadow of Colossus on the PlayStation 4. It honours what made the game great, but improves parts of it which were lacking to some. The developer listened to the feedback and implemented certain refinements while keeping to the spirit of what the game held to past players.
But not here, unfortunately. There was no need for a ‘remake’, and a ‘port’ would have sufficed, with perhaps more effort to something of a sequel or spin-off to this as a fresh start for the team.
I was left feeling at times, disappointed, bored, frustrated, and for a game, I can play anywhere I like, it took a lot not to just Switch on Final Fantasy IX instead and enjoy.
The art-style and music is great, but otherwise, give it a miss.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*