Developer: Experience Inc. Publisher: NIS America Reviewed on PlayStation Vita
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is the latest dungeon exploration RPG (DPRG) from NIS America. It’s a follow up to last year’s Demon Gaze, another DRPG from the Experience development team. Instead of a conventional fantasy theme like Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss has a sci-fi/supernatural motif and takes place in modern Tokyo. It’s also a remake that contains the first two games from the original Operation Abyss trilogy on the PC.
When you start the game you’re presented with the option to play the game in Basic or Classic mode. Basic mode features vibrant, stylized character portraits illustrated by Kurosawa Tetsu and Okishiji En. The character classes are drawn beautifully, but remain the same regardless of how you equip your characters. Classic mode uses generic, but customizable paper dolls, which allows you to actually see what your characters are equipped with. Regardless of your choice, Tetsu and En’s appealing designs are used throughout the game in event illustrations, NPC characters, and the outstanding monster designs.
The story begins with you waking up in a sewer being pursued by monsters known as Variants. You’re eventually rescued by Alice Mifune, the young leader of the the Xth Squad, a group of teenagers working for the Code Physics Agenecy (CPA). The CPA’s role is to protect Tokyo from Variants as well as other groups seeking to upend the city’s delicate peace. You eventually joins the CPA and discover that you have a special ability called Code Rise, enabling you to fight against these monsters as well as investigate the mysterious supernatural events occurring throughout Tokyo.
After the opening sequence, you’re given a a team of six pre-made characters. Instead of conventional character classes, your party members’ abilities are dependent on Blood Codes, which are tied to famous historical like Florence Nightingale (nurse), Musashi Miyamoto (samurai), and Genghis Kahn (archer). For instance, Scholar type characters are unable to fight, yet they’re invaluable due to their abilities to pick locks and disarm traps. Other offensive minded Blood Codes allow you to attack multiple rows of enemies in one blow. Once you get a feel for the various subsystems and character classes, Operation Abyss offers a rich amount of customization. To discourage excessive dungeon exploration, the game only allows you to level up your party once you’ve returned to base.
After going through a series of brief tutorials, you’re free to take on missions that range from investigating areas by communicating with NPCs, exploring dungeons, rescuing missing people, fighting Variants, solving puzzles, and collecting items to advance the story. A majority of the game take places in dark, urban environments like abandoned buildings, sewers, subway lines, and hospitals. Like most DRPGs, each dungeon is laid out in a grid with certain events being triggered upon reaching a certain tile. The dungeons designs are devious, laden with trap tiles that can electrocute you, send you in the wrong direction, or even have you exploring in complete darkness. The environment visuals are detailed, but quickly become repetitive as you grind your way through the dungeons.
Like the exploration segment, the battles occur from a first person perspective. You’re only able able to see portraits of your characters and the Deviants in front of you. Like the character designs, the Variant designs are detailed and feature unique designs. The combat system is a conventional turn based system. You’ll want to have your offensive characters in the front row while placing your support characters in the back. As you attack you slowly fill the Unity meter, which allows you to unleash powerful attacks that can turn the tides of a battle in your favor.
As noted earlier, Operation Abyss is actually comprised of two games. In terms of story, the game is split into two semesters that uses the same cast but has their own respective story lines. The story is serviceable and establishes the dark, dramatic tone of the game early on. Compared to Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss is a much more serious game that lacks the humor and fan service from its predecessor. Interactions with CPA members such as Alice and classmates like Johnny, a wise cracking Texan, do provide some levity to the story. Unfortunately the localization is slightly marred by typos and poorly explained game play elements. It’s also a bit heavy on the jargon, which can be confusing during the first few hours. Overall, the story compliments the game well and the dialogue rarely overstays its welcome.
Audio wise, there’s no Japanese language option. This is a bit of disappointment since NIS America has traditionally offered dual language tracks in their localisations. Aside from the opening song, the music isn’t particularly memorable, but compliments the overall foreboding tone of the game. It’s a slight let down since Demon Gaze had some catchy music.
Overall, Operation Abyss is a solid DRPG that will satisfy fans of the genre. Players newer to the genre may be turned off by the lack of tutorials, the slow initial pacing, and extensive use of in-game jargon. Stick with it past the first few hours and you’ll find yourself immersed in a game that offers a solid challenge, deep character customization options, and dozens of hours of exploration through the depths of Tokyo.