QCF - Demon Gaze

t seems as though every year NIS releases one or two games in hopes that they will be as big a hit as Disgaea, some have come close or so I've been told, but most seems to fall flat on their face. I for one hold my breath when I hear that a new NIS title will be hitting shelves and wonder “Why are they still around”. While Demon Gaze isn't anywhere near Disgaea in most respects, it has its moments.

You take on the role of Oz (or whatever name you see fit for your game self), a young man who awakens in a dungeon with no memories of his past. With the help of a woman named Lorna, a retired Demon Gazer you escape the dungeon and find yourself at the Dragon Princess Inn, run by the lovely Fran.

The first thing you’ll come to notice is that Demon Gaze has some extremely detailed character designs. The fun part of this is that you can change the appearance of your main character - well, actually any character in your party - by visiting the bathhouse. There are over 40 different character images that you can choose from, including down-loadable Disgaea Characters (Such as Flonne, Etna and the ever-explosive Prinny), and you’ll have the choice of customizing any future characters that you add to your party. But it's not just appearances that you have control over, you can choose class, Sex, heck you can choose what they sound like when they attack, when they die and when they take damage .

The only disappointing thing I found with the character creation regarding the main character is that while you have complete control over their design and sounds they will always be male. I have nothing against playing a male protagonist but why give me the option to choose a female appearance if I can't be female?

Unfortunately, pretty characters only serve as something to look at. The overall game play frustrated me to no end in the beginning. There is nothing more vita-smashing worthy than entering the first dungeon and having the first creature you encounter kick your party’s ass. I would find myself spending long periods of time on a single battle as enemies can continuously call on friends to come and help them out while you sitting there trying to end the battle as fast as possible to make sure that your friendly demon doesn't snap and going on a party killing spree.

Yep. You as a Demon Gazer have the ability to capture demons and they, in turn, will aid you in battle, as long as they are kept happy. There is a meter in the left hand side of the screen that will count down by 1 every round. Once the counter hits zero your demon goes in to a rage and will become as much of a threat or more to you than the enemies you're fighting. After a few rounds, and if they haven't killed you they'll retreat back to where they came from and you won't be able to re-summon them until there is a positive number in the counter. You can replenish the counter by defeating enemies/every round that the demon is not on the battlefield. Demons gain ranks and the higher the ranks the higher your counter will go.

The battle system in Demon Gaze is very old-school; everything is seen from the first person but the great artistic design makes for a visually appealing battle. It feels extremely familiar with its menu based battle system. Battles will happen randomly but there are also some situated though out the dungeons that can sometimes be avoided, these battles are indicated by purple (standard enemies) and red (Stronger enemies/bosses) icons that will appear in the dungeon and on your map. Oz has the most options during battles as he is the only one who can call forth the demons he captures. You have your basic options: Attack, Defend, Skill, Items, run and then Oz's Demon. Unfortunately, with the battles your spoils are almost nonexistent, after spending 15 minutes in a single battle I walked away with 10 gold pieces and 32 experience. Item drops are even harder to come by but the gems that you will come across levy this. Gems can be used at specific locations in a dungeon, these spots are easy to see as the green floating icons of gems determine their use, and they’ll also appear on your map. Here you will be able to choose up to three gems from the categories Weapon, Amour and Special, these gems will call forth enemies and increase your chance of receive items.

In general though, some serious grinding will need to be done to get to a point where he enemies will be manageable, even on early dungeons, which can get really huge with multiple areas to explore. Walking around the dungeons can take some getting used to if you haven't played a game like this in a while. I had a horrible habit of running into walls but navigation is a breeze with Demon Gaze's great in-depth map.

Demon Gaze's inherent difficulty means that you'll be get kicked back to the Inn quite a bit, which means you gotta pay your room and board as a penalty every time you die. The rent feature will also prove to be irritating at first. When you're only obtaining 4 to 10 gold per battle returning back to the inn only to be charged 70 gold can really put a downer on things. You can go in to debt with your rent if you have no gold but you're rewarded with prompt payment. Just make sure to try and avoid returning to the inn too often as the cost goes up with every visit. Once you start racking in the gold though you barely notice it.

The one thing that really did catch my attention was the music. It wasn't because it is an exceptional OST, I actually found it quite bland, but because the vocalist is none other than IA, one or the more recent Vocaloids.

There is a pretty big cast of supporting characters to interact with in Demon Gaze between your dungeon crawling antics. Meeting up with the Inn staff and hunters passing through make for an interesting time, but it can also lead to some... interesting situations, complete with risqué-albeit, progressive-thinking - encounters that aren't afraid to mix it up, although being restricted only to being male despite your outward appearance isn't quite as progressive as the concept could have been. There are also situations with your choice completely stripped away. Being forced into touching boobs for example. Having more choice could have really have made these interactions much better.

All in all, the game can take some getting used to and grinding to survive later dungeons is unavoidable, but it's not as unplayable as I first thought. With lots of missions and a decent story the game will keep you mildly entertained. It's not at the top of my recommend list but if you're looking for something to tide you over until the next big RPG, Demon Gaze will do just that.

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