I will be the first to admit that first person RPGs have never really been my thing, so I was a little unsure if Demon Gaze could fix my stance on them when I received it in the mail. It’s a genre that has been more effective in the lands to the East, so I was somewhat surprised to see the game being brought over by NIS America; I am glad it was. Demon Gaze doesn’t offer a lot that is new to the genre but it is a genre that fits in perfectly with the Vita.
Starting off the game, you are immediately designated to create your starting character, from picking just the right look and class, to selecting their voice and race. Don’t worry though about picking just the right look, as you can change this at any time later in the game. After you get through selecting your hero, you awake to find out that you are the Demon Gazer, a person with the ability to seal demons and then use them to do your biding. As a Demon Gazer, it is now your job to take care of 10 rogue demons and stop the awakening of Sol, the most powerful of all demons.
You won’t be alone on this quest though, as you can recruit up to four party members to come with you and carry two demons at one time. To gain new party members, you must first purchase a new room at the central hub of the game, the Inn. After purchasing the room, you can then select a look, class, and race of the character you want to join your party. Classes range from Paladins and Archers to Healers and Assassins. It is pretty standard affair and nothing out of the ordinary. Races are also fairly generic, with humans, elves, and dwarfs, all with different starting attributes. It is important to pick your party well, as you will have both a front and a back row during combat, so make sure you have it set up properly.
Demon Gaze is a grinding affair and you will spend a vast majority of your time crawling through dungeons in an attempt to secure precious loot, experience, and to take out the main demon of each area of the world. Each area of the main map has a very unique feel to it, and whether you are in a town on fire or an underwater world, each area creates a new obstacle for you to tackle. For example, in one level, you cannot use magic and must resort to only items to heal yourself. In another level, you will run into spots on the map where you have to walk through poison gas.
As you progress through the six different areas of the map, you will be greeted by plenty of random battles. These battles occur fairly often while walking through each level but never reach the high level of annoyance that we have found in other games with random encounters. There are also battles that will be displayed in the world as both red and purple icons. The purple is a slightly harder battle and often times, this battle is right in line with where you need to walk, so it’s kind of hard to avoid them. Outside of all of these battles, you will also be charged with finding Demon Gates in each level. On these gates, you will place three gems you have collected on the gate and then summon a demon to fight. At the end of these battles, you will receive loot reflecting the gems you placed on the game. So if you put down 3 sword gems, your loot will be different swords.
Once you have cleared out each Demon Gate in an area, you will unlock the final gate and a showdown with the demon who resides over that area. These battles are the meat of the game and provide a fairly big challenge, especially if you have not been grinding enough to be at a comfortable level. These battles become even more difficult after about your 5th defeated demon. Demon’s you have defeated and brought to your side all carry special characteristics, like increasing your party’s defense or helping you walk over hazards while dungeon grinding. You can carry two demons at once but can only call out one at a time during combat. Pay attention though, because you have a demon gauge that depletes during the battle. If you fail to call back a demon before the gauge depletes, you will then have to fight your own demon who has gone rogue.
When you are not grinding through levels, which takes up about 75% of your time in the game, you will be sitting at the Inn. While at the Inn, you will be able to buy weapons and items from the vendors, change the look of your party members, revive the dead, and even add furniture to your party’s rooms. Each party member gets one piece of furniture, with different kinds of furniture giving different stat bonuses, such as INT or STR up. When inside the Inn, you can also sell back your weapons and armor or extract material from them to then strengthen your equipped weapons and armor. Be careful though of leaving and returning to the inn too often, as each time you are required to pay rent for you and your party.
Quests are also present at the main hall of the inn. These are fairly standard, as you are usually tasked with going to a specific area and hunting down an item or a monster. The biggest issue with the quests is there is no real clarification from the person giving the quest on exactly where you need to go or what you need to do. What makes it worse is that a lot of the quests you pick up at the beginning of the game cannot even be done until you unlock a certain area. I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to complete a quest, only to randomly complete it on the 3rd area when I defeated a monster. It would be nice to have a bit more direction in the quests, as more often than not I just accepted them and hoped I would complete them on accident.
The Inn also plays host to a colorful cast of characters, including a cat girl who loves women, a mortician who forgets to wear anything but her underwear, and a smallish bath house man who loves the female curves. The cast is just what you would expect from a Japanese game, down to the looks of your hired characters, who literally burst out of their outfits. For the most part it is easy to look past, as you spend most of your time in combat and with it being first person, you don’t see them much during combat. However there were quite a few times I had to hide the screen from the eyes of my daughter or wife.
Presentation wise, the game really isn’t much to look out. The different areas of the world are fairly unspectacular, with the only difference being a different shade of wall and floor. The character models are well detailed and unique, making it fun to pick out the best look for your party. A lack of animation hurts the game, as there is nothing to provide that little bit of pop to rather lackluster menus and presentation. Sound wise, the game scores high marks, with solid English work done in the localization and the option for the original Japanese voice work.
While it won’t set the world on fire or stand out as a must have for the Vita, Demon Gaze is a solid addition to the handheld’s library.If you are a fan of lengthy time spent dungeon crawling and customizing your party, then this will feel right at home, with over 40 hours easily of gameplay to be had. People who aren’t fans of the genre though, won’t find anything new to change their minds. However, if you just give it a shot, the game works wonders on the Vita and is perfect to play in little spurts as you crawl through a dungeon while sitting in line at the doctor. As someone who typically hates dungeon crawling RPGs, I found myself engrossed in improving my party and equipment.