Demon Gaze II Review
NIS America localizes another intriguing dungeon crawler for us Westerners titled Demon Gaze II. In this JRPG by developer Experience Inc., we are taken on a quest to aid the plight of a revolutionary force of rascals opposing an oppressive villain, the leader of Asteria City, Magnastar. You play as a Demon Gazer and, no, it doesn’t mean that you only gaze at kinky demons! You possess the Demon Eye as the protagonist that you create and fight on behalf of the revolutionaries by sealing and utilizing demons. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, right? This game really reminds me of MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death with how you go around dungeons in first person while grinding out levels on weaker enemies and what not. So far, however, this has caught my interest a lot more. I may not be very experienced in such titles, but I like to still give them a good look up and down as an avid anime watcher.
Awesome story of revolutionaries – While the villain does look like Hohenheim from Fullmetal Alchemist, it doesn’t negate from the fact that this is a “revolutionaries against the tyrant” type story. How it’s told is intriguing because the Revolutionist Party (RP) employs radio broadcasts to try to sway society over to their point of view while combating Magnastar’s demons behind the scenes. Prim, their star singer, broadcasts her singing abilities with a song that was the foundation of Asteria City that will hopefully captivate the audience listening. Your job as the protagonist and Demon Gazer is to destroy the demons and special crystals preventing their broadcast from reaching the ears of citizens across the city. It’s not clear-cut either as Cassel, one of the characters, brings up the topic of whether or not the RP is attempting the same kind of control as Magnastar was doing. This reflects the real world as so many times throughout human history a revolutionary party’s role has come into question about whether they’re doing the right thing or not. The player is also able to select between being Good, Evil, or Neutral.
Intricate but simple to follow gameplay – Throughout the years I’ve always been overwhelmed with turn-based games because of how complicated they can get. MeiQ had an abundant amount of different abilities that they throw at you and Dark Rose Valkyrie just completely lost me in the sheer amount of gameplay it had. It’s nice to have a JRPG that keeps it simple yet can still keep the interest of veterans out there and Demon Gaze II does just that. Players have regular Attack and Defend functions along with a variety of Spells to cast which range from Attack Spells to Support Spells and anything in between. The role of many of the demons is to aid during combat with buffing the player or themselves to combat certain attributes of creatures that you come across. Pegasus, for example, enchants the party’s weapons with Holy power to combat the Undead and such. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when until it comes to demonizing.
Demonizing & Fusing – Another fun gameplay mechanic is transforming your demon from its cutesy, human-looking form to something formidable resembling its namesake. Many of the demons get their names from star constellations and have a demon form design based on it such as Libra possessing scales and a white/black balance in her color scheme as though she could be a combination of angel and devil. Not only do they get a cool new get-up, but they also possess greater skills, stats and spells in this form. It changes up the gameplay and gives the player an advantage against stronger or overwhelming odds but also drains the Star Power when using their special skills, making you rethink overusing it throughout a Sortie.
Not only that but fusing is an essential part to defeating more difficult bosses later in the game! Each demon has a special fusion with the main character that not only gives the players more power and unique skills but also awards the player with an interesting animation sequence. These animation sequences are cool to look at and give the player a new form based on the demon they used to fuse with. Even those it’s something to enamor the player and help them out it’s a risk to take in battle, as it uses up a ton of Star Power which makes it a “backed into the corner” move to use.
Dates and maintenance – What’s the point of having cutesy demons by your side unless you can date them? There’s a little mode that allows the protagonist to perform “maintenance” on his minions and that includes finding the ‘sweet spot’ on a picture of them (only one picture, which is disappointing). This sweet spot draws out power from the demons and increases chances for a date with them, but costs one Maintenance Crystal per session which you gain from defeating demons in dungeons. The date sequences are cute and there’s not much choice involved because despite whatever you pick their Likability meter will go up, regardless. Each demon has their own personality and each date feels different, making for an interesting side objective to complete them all. After completing all of them you seem to care for them a lot more than you do for any of the human characters as none of them really battle with you or do dates like this.
Beautifully drawn characters, enemies and backgrounds – Throughout your adventure in Asteria City you’ll come across a multitude of characters and enemies that look gorgeously drawn. From Prim and the Revolutionist Party to a crazy looking creature on the streets, they’re all well designed and look appealing. All the demons, especially, have unique looks that incorporate anything from armor and dresses to sage clothing into their design. You’re also able to go to the “Showers” section and change their appearance to a darker version of themselves which is most likely due to the option of being Evil in the story. Creatures, spirits, Gods, and more have alternate appearances to a similar model (such as five kinds of zombies but with switched clothes or a wig), probably to save on coming up with completely different enemies but there’s still a plethora of them to keep you from becoming despondent.
Non-difficult trophies – Thank goodness that for once a JRPG title doesn’t have ridiculous trophies that are an attempt to keep a gamer attached to the game forever. Unlike MeiQ, this title has mainly story driven trophies that you naturally get over time. There is one for attaining something called a “Master Gazer” position but I assume that’s only if you level up to 99 which may be grindey at the end but at least there’s nothing like “Kill 1 million enemies with each character” at the end.
Could have used more customization for appearances – One thing that disappointed me is that they only offered two different looks for all the demons including the main one and an evil version of themselves. While the original appearance of each demon is drawn anime-like with solid thick lines the evil looking versions include a pastel appearance with all of them appearing almost the same with a helmet that covers the eyes. Although some of these are cool to look at they’re just better off looking unique from one another. That also goes for the protagonist, who is always a guy with the choice between three color sets of three looks. This is disappointing as some customization into the looks later in the game would have been more appealing and aesthetic. Paying to unlock different costumes or having costume packs released for the game is possible downloadable content that would be acceptable for a title like this.
Sub-par voice acting/script – While possessing some notable voice actors such as Ted Sroka (X in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Dan Hibiki in Street Fighter), others either seemed dull or the script was just too steeped in Japanese culture to be localized properly. Some jokes fall flat as they sound better spoken in the native language, which I switched back and forth between to witness, and cutesy phrases aren’t transferred well. It works better if you switch it to the Japanese voice acting and is a lot more entertaining for the anime geeks out there who get this game. The English voice actors really did seem to try their best but when it comes to a big fat elf, giving him a 5-year-old’s cartoon fat guy voice doesn’t seem that acceptable. Prometh is also hard to listen to as she’s so dull as her humorous but monotonous voice falls flat at making you laugh.
Music and sound effects get annoying fast – Throughout the title you’ll be venturing through dungeons and, oftentimes, start kicking a wall in order to try to find some loot. This, and running into the wall, cause your party to grunt in dissatisfaction as an audio event triggers every time causing a very annoying cacophony of shrill yells. This can really grind on the player’s nerves as you’re trying to complete some quests that require you to find Mushrooms and Skulls for Cassel and Prometh, respectively. The music, although sometimes catchy, may also wear down the player and cause them to turn off the background soundtrack as it doesn’t feel like it flows into one another but abruptly switches whenever entering a battle or Demonizing.
All in all, Demon Gaze II is a title that even an inexperienced gamer like me can get into and enjoy. It may not be for everyone out there but definitely any anime aficionado or JRPG fan should give it a shot. If you’re curious as to whether or not playing the first Demon Gaze is necessary it really isn’t as it’s a different character with only slight mentions to the first in the series. It seems like something that’s starting to pick up, as well, as a manga adaptation is in the works along with possibilities of an anime. It’s definitely a dungeon crawler with solid gameplay along with a beautifully drawn world that will keep the interest peaked. The only thing that will most likely grind on players is the music and sound effects, but it doesn’t subtract too much from an otherwise well done game. You’ll fall in love with the demons, unlock more and more fascinating spells, and work to take down the evil tyrant Magnastar one section at a time.
Demon Gaze II was developed by Kadokawa Games with Experience Inc. and published by NIS America. It was released for PlayStation 4 [reviewed] and PlayStation Vita on November 14th, 2017 in North America and November 17th in Europe. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.