The JRPG and dungeon crawler genres have been brought back to life recently thanks to the PlayStation Vita and remakes of classics like Persona 4 Golden, Final Fantasy X HD, along with newer games like Ragnarok Odyssey. So is the newest NIS release, Demon Gaze, another hit, or just another standard dungeon crawler?
Well, on the gameplay front there is a lot to like about Demon Gaze. It is a first person dungeon crawler, with turn-based combat with some twists. You stay at an inn with your party members, and each day you must pay rent for yourself and any party members you want to add. So you earn money from beating monsters and traversing the dungeons. This money is used on better gear and rent. So you can have a bigger party to have an easier time in the dungeon, but that also means you will pay more in upkeep, making further progress necessary. Then you have the demons that you need to capture their soul to progress. Once their soul is taken you can control them in battle, but there is a demon gauge. If you use them too much, they drain the gauge. If it drains all the way you lose control of them. The demons add a fun interesting element to what is normally standard turn-based combat. The combat is also very difficult, some fights can take out half your party before you even make a move. Not only that but if you die you have to restart from your last save. So the combat is very satisfying, but at times just feels mean and unfair. The dungeon traversal itself is fine, the first person view made it hard for me to navigate at times and the lack of save points can make things even more stressful.
On the presentation side of things, Demon Gaze is a mixed bag. I love the soundtrack, and it has been stuck in my head all day at work. There are tons of options for character voices, and sound effects, while a bit weak, at least fit the action they are trying to mimic. It has a very solid anime art style, but the female characters are a little overly sexual. The dungeons themselves feel kind of bland, each having what feels like only one color per dungeon. The fact that the battles are in first-person and are just 2D art with minimal animations feels lazy. Same goes for the story, just 2D anime characters over still backgrounds.
Finally the story follows your created character the Demon Gazer (default name Oz), who has woken up with no memory of who is or what he was doing. After a brief fight with a demon and exploration, he told that he is the Demon Gazer. A Demon Gazer has the ability to capture the souls of demons and use them in battle. So now it is your job to go and take care of all the Demons in the area and make a healthy profit while you are doing it, on your way to figuring out who you were. The story has a very cliché anime vibe to it, but they pull it off relatively well and I did enjoy some of the characters, and the translation team did a good job bringing it to the states.
Demon Gaze feels like it was made on a very tight budget, and it is a game that feels like it was made for hardcore fans of the dungeon crawler JRPG, by fans of the dungeon crawler JRPG. The story is alright with some likable characters, with a weak presentation, the exception being its incredibly catchy soundtrack. If you are looking for an incredibly challenging, but enjoyable dungeon crawler, and don’t mind a so-so presentation, then Demon Gaze is for you.
Final Score: 7.0/10