We went into Demon Gaze not knowing much about it, other than the fact it’s a dungeon-crawling RPG, and that it has a lot of anime inspirations. So, could this game appeal to those with no interest in anime, and could it bring fun to those who aren’t fans of excessive grinding?
Fortunately, although dungeon-crawlers can quickly grind you the wrong way straight from the get go, Demon Gaze was able to interest us with its story and addictive gameplay. The plot might be simple, with you playing as an amnesiac character (which certainly never happens in JRPGs, right?) who is forced to do odd jobs to pay their rent.
Characters are likeable, so being able to spend some social time with them appealed to us, giving the story deeper meaning and feeling, when morbid events reared their ugly head. Sadly, the barebones plot only follows you as you collect the souls of 10 demons; a task only you, as the demon gazer, can accomplish. Yes, a demon gazer is a person with the ability to capture demons by gazing at them, as they have a unique eye which can quench a demon’s rage.
The gameplay is top-notch though, with dungeons not feeling too grand but with a lot of room for exploration, and the combat is addictive and fast-paced. Unfortunately, navigating can sometimes be slow and clumsy, and it feels like you take one step at a time rather than a brisk walk. Both battles and navigation are in first-person as it’s supposed to be you in the game, rather than an already developed character. Although it would be nice to see your characters execute their actions, and for there to be more animation in battle, you’re still treated to gorgeous and detailed 2D art that rarely falls flat (if you’ll pardon the pun).
You can have up to five characters in your party, but be warned that with more characters come higher expenses; quite literally, as you’ll be paying for their rent each time you return to the inn. There are six classes, so you can cover many grounds with your party, but we personally stuck mostly with four fighters and one healer, as only a single healer is able to cast team heals rapidly. Along with your team of five, you can have multiple demons, each with unique effects.
You can also pick your character’s race, which in turn predetermines your beginning stats and which ones will be focused on when you level up; it has absolutely no affect on what your character looks like, so if you want a busty ney (cat girl) with the dwarf race equipped so that they’re super strong, then rest assured she’ll still look the same.
Battles will see you face off with as many as one to 10+ foes, meaning you’ll want to make sure you’re well-equipped before venturing into dungeons. There are portals you must activate with special gems that will summon monsters, but they’ll additionally provide items and equipment once you’ve defeated them. You can also save and load your data here, and swap out your demons. Our advice is to activate each one you see, as this will allow you to fight the ruling demon of the dungeon.
Chances are if you’re looking at Demon Gaze, it’s because of its strong anime art style. Whilst many of the characters look and act quite generically, especially if you’re familiar with anime, they’re very well-detailed and absolutely shine on the Vita’s screen. Of course, there are some moments when you’ll pray that nobody else is around, or you might feel that you could’ve gone without seeing certain scenes. Whilst we’re not completely adverse to the idea of scantily clad women, images like the one below made us happy we weren’t playing on a crowded train.
Dungeons are bland, but the familiarity helps when navigating, especially because each dungeon has certain dangers such as lava; thankfully, once you’ve captured the ruling demon you’re able to traverse these obstacles with no harm. Enemy bosses are well designed, inspiring over the top weapons such as massive chainsaws, giant flying sword-like objects and intricate outfits and hairstyles.
Although you and other characters will mostly remain static, and thus repetitive in action, this is shaken up by event scenes like the one above – but not all of them are so risqué! These are a pleasant distraction, and give the game extra life. They add depth to the characters, whilst providing you with spectacular art, by allowing you to see them in a normal, care-free settings rather than a life-or-death moments.
The music is pleasant and mood-fitting, and we found ourselves nodding along to the tunes on more than one occasion. The intro theme in particular is a joy to listen to, and the boss theme is a splendid mix of rock and orchestra; this helps it to stand out amongst the many guitar-laden battle themes around.
There’s not much in the way of voice acting, as developer Kadokawa Games opted for a heavy text-based adventure instead. There is full voice acting for certain events, and it’s all spot-on but sadly, there just isn’t enough of it; this feels like a bit of a waste when talent such as Cristina Vee are on-board. Due to the sometimes clunky control system, we regularly found ourselves walking into walls; this apparently didn’t sit well with our team who would grunt in protest. Although, knowing the whole team managed to walk into the wall rather than only the leader, we felt as if there was a level of camaraderie that only bumps and scrapes can create. It’s a team effort!
You’re setting yourself on a lengthy adventure the moment you boot up Demon Gaze, and whilst it does enough to entice you to continue until the end, you might not find much reason to return once completed. You can level up your characters and unlock the greatest equipment, but there won’t be much more story-related content for you to discover, and the story itself doesn’t beg to be replayed.
We enjoyed our journey with Demon Gaze, and it’s worth the asking price, but it’s definitely one only for those who enjoy grinding – or at least don’t mind it – and, of course, who are fans of anime. With a decent enough story, gorgeous visuals and a catchy soundtrack, Demon Gaze is one of the finer dungeon-crawlers around, and arguably the best one available on Vita.