Despite being a dungeon crawler with great ideas, Demon Gaze II isn’t perfect. A sequel to the PlayStation Vita original released in North America and Europe in 2014, which itself was a follow-up to the 2010 PC title Students of the Round, Demon Gaze II will release for both the Vita and PS4.
Are You a Boy?
Once you start up Demon Gaze II you can create your protagonist, though the tools are pretty basic as you can only choose between illustrations and their color options, but nevertheless it’s a fun approach. You also start with choosing between two skills. Once you choose your skill, there’s no going back.
At first, I wanted to create a female protagonist, seeing as there are illustrations that look like female characters, yet despite there being a couple dozen voice options not one was female. It turns out that regardless of your appearance, the game addresses you with male pronouns. NIS America and Kadokawa Games would have to spend more time and money to create an additional dialogue set, but in some ways it would have broken ground thanks to the protagonist’s interactions with their female party members.
Thankfully if you want to change your protagonist’s appearance and voice you can do so via a “showers” room at your home base (Stella’s Place). Still, it would have been nice to see more options.
The story is based off of a small revolutionary party trying to uncover the truth behind Magnastar, the ruler of a city who is supposedly causing the disappearance of civilians. You, the main hero, has been granted the power of Demon Gaze, which lets you control demons, though in typical JRPG fashion you lose your memories in the process. While the story isn’t memorable it does enough to keep you entertained through to the end.
Much of the game’s art is beautiful, from the landscapes and towns to the character illustrations, though female characters seem to have gotten the most attention. That said, some of the character animations can seem off, as if they were puppets on a string.
The battles and dialogue scenes are flat illustrations with little in the way of motion. While I do not mind the movements in the dialogue scenes, having additional illustrated scenes could improve the game’s presentation and flow. Games such as Hyperdimension Neptunia have used this and felt successful.
You’ll also be prompted with multiple-choice answers during the game’s dialogue scenes, although some are simply an illusion of choice and send you towards a linear path. Still, it’s something to do during the longer segments. There are a few corny jokes sprinkled in too to keep things light when they need to be.
Reading is Essential
The menu styles in the game are generic and simple; content to just do the job and get you where you need to go when it comes to changing equipment or viewing your items. The font used throughout the game is also quite narrow, making it difficult to read and times and it often goes back and forth from left to center aligned text. I understand that it’s based on who is talking, but it still feels like the formatting should have been cleaned up a bit.
The game’s soundtrack blends into the game rather well with each event and battle you partake in. The main vocal theme is also integrated into the story-line, making it a key component and not just a catchy tune.
You also have the option to use Japanese voices with English subtitles. The first time I played, I wanted to turn the sound off because of the “farmer” character in the beginning of the game strained my ears. After that, though, a few of the character voices were more pleasant to hear.
Battle for Demons
In battles, you have a detailed illustration as your backdrop and your awkwardly animated enemies in front of you. They are squished and skewed in an attempt to bring life to the battlefield, but I personally believe it would have been more effective if the developers just left them stationary and only make small movements when attacking or being hit, like classic Final Fantasy turn-based combat. It can also be difficult to tell how many enemies I have to defeat, with the layering being akin to having numerous sheets of paper roughly shuffled behind a larger piece.
Dungeon designs feel standard and not complicated, which is a good for newcomers who haven’t played dungeon-crawler games much or are otherwise new to the Demon Gaze series, though it’s disappointing to see the PlayStation 4 version appear so bare-bones. That said, you’re constantly finding hidden pathways and hidden items. Some areas in the map you cannot access till later in the game, too.
In order to battle the dungeon-controlling demon you must control all five “circles” across the map, which contain large gems so they aren’t hard to miss. To initiate taking control of them, you toss gems from your inventory to battle enemies, and after victory, you control the circle. Do that four more times and you can tackle the boss. It’s simple enough as you can purchase gems from one of Stella’s Place’s stores. You can also continue to throw gems into the circle to battle and gain EXP and items, depending on the gems you throw in.
Once you defeat the boss demon, it’s absorbed via the titular power of Demon Gaze. However, this isn’t the end of the demon. When you return to Stella’s Place, the demon is released and can become an ally to your team. Just like the main character, you can also change your demon ally’s outfit by going to the “showers” room, giving you some more personal customization options.
When battling with your new demon allies, you can transform them into more powerful forms which happen to be the forms they took during the aforementioned boss battles. These are reliant on a “star gauge”, which steadily drops to zero each turn they’re transformed. You can bring your gauge back up as you fight per turn without transformation, adding a layer of strategy.
Do it for Her
After a few hours of exploring and adventuring you gain access to a room called “maintenance”. From there you can deepen your bond with your demon allies, by accessing a mini-game where you poke around the demon’s body for a “perfect” or “good” response.
Once successful you can go on dates with the demon. These are usually filled with dialogue around the city or at Stella’s Place, and are typically for some levity thanks to the more lighthearted dialogue. Once the date is over you can gain new demon skills and increase the “Demon Cross” (a power-up technique with the main character and one your demon allies).
Demon Gaze II has a slow start, with many dialogue scenes and a few tutorials, so I didn’t start getting into the meat of the game until around two hours in. Once I was able to freely go to various dungeons and learn how to control circles, I found myself getting into an enjoyable rhythm. There’s always something to do when you boot the game up.
Whether it’s exploring dungeons the first time or doing quests, you should have little issues playing Demon Gaze II, and it’s a perfect entry point for those new to the genre.
A PlayStation 4 review code was provided by NIS America, Inc. for this review.