Demon Gaze is an old school dungeon crawling RPG, published by NIS and developed by Experience, Inc. It's a first person crawl, with labyrinthine maps that'll have you wandering it's halls for hours on end. It's not a big budget game, but it's certainly got heart. You wander through each dungeon capturing demons for your team with the titular Demon Gaze, but you can only capture each demon at the end of the dungeon by securing a number of control points.
The characters in this game are by far and away the best aspect of the game. Fran and crew while being part of your usual anime tropes all have lovable personalities. Some of the game's best parts are after you've felled a big boss character and are pushed to interact with the members of the inn. It ends up being some zany skit that had me chuckling every time.
Each dungeon is laid out completely differently and has a TON of different tricks and secrets hidden away which adds to the sense of exploration that this game really fosters. I know there were parts where I was sitting hunched over my vita looking for that one last circle to capture before the big boss going, "where the heck is this thing?!" Some may not like that, but I found it to be a fun experience.
Flexibility & Strategy
The combat in this game is varied and interesting. It's not always this way, but can be very rewarding if you take the time to tinker with it. Everything in this game can be tweaked to suit your liking or play style. Like all offensive blitz type combat? Sure you can do that, prefer an all defensive strategy? Turtling while you can pick away at the enemies health? You can do that too. Even something as simple as your appearance and the appearance of your team can be altered with ease. This game can have as much variation as you really would like! Endgame especially where this customization becomes the main key to the enjoyment of the post story. It has a number of boss arenas and different modes where the goal is to get the best gear you can to plow through some ungodly difficult battles.
The Gear System
Demon Circle Gem Selection. Pretty neat idea in my opinion.
Gear is handled in a pretty interesting way, in Demon Gaze, each dungeon has a number of control points called Demon Circles that you must control before facing the boss of the dungeon. Each circle has slots for gems to be placed in them before a battle occurs. These gems modify the loot that the player receives at the end of the battle. So collecting the gems you're looking for from the random encounter battles in the dungeon becomes paramount. It's a nice way to say, look for a katana exclusively or maybe a shield and a staff. You can also enhance gear through a system of breaking down gear for ether and combining the ether with other weapons for stronger gear. Making every gear pickup useful.
On one hand, the hand drawn backgrounds in the in, and battle sequences are fantastic and the character portraits are pretty, but on the other hand the dungeon crawling in first person (the only 3D portion of the game) is down right terrible, it looks like they dredged something up from the early 90's luckily this doesn't really bog down gameplay that much, which is why the two balance out and place this category squarely in the Not Bad section.
Sheesh. And this is one of the better looking dungeons.
It's not bad, but forgettable. More often than not you won't even notice it while playing. A shame really, because for the most part the voice acting in the game is really good, so the audio's only brought down by the music.
This is not a terribly punishing game. It can be rough at times with some of the boss battles being much more difficult than the battles through the rest of the dungeon. Though, there are times where you've found a strategy that works for you and you can steamroll through much of the dungeon without any problems whatsoever. There's little to no grinding involved once you get over that initial boss's difficulty spike and it just kinda glides along. If you don't mind that it's a nice thing, but sometimes it can be a little rote. The endgame's a different story however with a parade of crazy tough battles that are ready to smash your team into a little itty bitty pulp.
The game's circles while being a pretty cool mechanic in one way also end up being the worst mechanic in the game in another way. The circles also function as save points, meaning the ONLY times you can save your game is when you're at the inn or at one of these circles. It won't be too long into your game that you forget about this once, die and lose a bunch of progress. Needless to say, I didn't forget it again. When I say this is the worst mechanic in the game, it's more of an annoyance for me than a deal breaker, but still it's 2014 we can do better than this.
I was pretty conflicted on whether to give this one full marks or a Proceed with Caution, but I decided to give it a Go for it! in the end, mainly because I ended up enjoying it enough to sink a whole 50+ hours into the game. I would probably say not to pay full price for it unless you're a hardcore fan of these types of games (like me), but if you can find it for even a little under the hefty $40 price tag, I'd go for it.