|Platform: PS Vita||Publisher: Atlus||Genre: RPG|
|Release Date:||May 2, 2017||May 7, 2017|
Developed by Aquria (Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization), The Caligula Effect was published by FuRyu in Japan in June 2016 as Caligula. Thanks to Atlus USA, the role-playing game has been localized for release in both North America and Europe in May 2017.
Directed by Takuya Yamanaku and characters designed by Oguchi, The Caligula Effect‘s story was written by Tadashi Satomi who worked on the first three Persona games Persona, Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. The game’ includes original songs by Japanese producers such as OSTER project, 40mP, 164, cosMo@Bousou-P, and more.
The Caligual Effect is set in the virtual world called Mobius where high-school students are trapped as prisoners. But as most of them are brainwashed, they don’t see the need to escape from this place. Only a group of young students who form the Go-Home Club have the desire to leave this digital prison to get back to the real world.
But the actual escape for the awakened students won’t be easy as the virtual idol myoo doesn’t want to let them go as she has originally created this place. The only chance to leave Mobius is to search and confront the almighty myoo to get back to reality. Luckily, the Go-Home Club members are not alone on their journey as myoo’s former partner, the virtual doll Aria, has changed sides and helps them on their escape.
Thanks to Aria’s power, the students can transform their emotions into powerful weapons and skills which can be used to fight the hordes of Digiheads that are scattered all over Mobius. But not only the crazed students hinder the Go-Home Club members on their escape. Evil musicians who are in favor of myoo stand in their way and the only way to find and confront the virtual idol is to fight them.
The story is actually quite good and it develops as you progress through the serveral dungeons. Besides the main story, there are several optional character side stories that give more background info on the different characters such as their problems, fears or needs.
The game starts in Kishimai High School where the Go-Home Club has its base. From here you begin exploring the digital world of Mobius. At the very beginning, only you as the main protagonist can fight against the Digiheads. While you progress the story, new characters will be unlocked that can join the party of up to 4 members. It’s also possible to befriend class mates you meet througout the game to invite them to your party.
The dungeons of The Caligual Effect are full of Digiheads, brainwashed students that act like virtual zombies. As they only spot you when you are passing their sight, you can avoid fights as long as you don’t get into their focus. In some dungeons it’s wise to avoid battles as some of the Digiheads are quite strong and could easily kill you.
A battle begins when a Digihead spotted you or you deliberately approached him or her. Battles are turn-based and each party member can execute up to 3 skills per turn, depending on how much SP is left. The unique “Imaginary Chain” lets you preview the actions and gives you a possible outcome of a move. Only possible, as sometimes the projection is not correct due to unforseen actions of the enemy.
Your party members can perform different skills such as Attack Skills to damage Digiheads, Guard Skills to decrease received damage, Support Skills to strengthen allies, Move Skills to move a character to attack or evade or Recovery Skills to heal party allies. At the beginning you only have basic skills, but with earned Skill Points by winning battles or finding objects, you can get new and stronger skills.
It’s recommended to perform chain actions with other party members for stronger attacks and to gain EXP bonus when you knockout a Digihead in just one turn. Once you have set all actions for one turn, the battle begins. The battles look really awesome, with cool animations and effects. Once the actions of your party member finishes, you can register the actions for the next turn. The process is repeated until the enemy is defeated or, in the worst case, your party has been defeated by the enemy.
The game’s battle system is really unique and something new but a disadvantage of the “Imaginary Chain” is that battles can become quite lengthy, especially with stronger enemies. I can only advise to avoid fighting enemies with a much higher level than your party or to level up and to get stronger skills to achieve faster battles.
After some time, I stopped using the “Imaginary Chain” system as the battles would have taken too long. I figured out what works best in battles so I didn’t need the preview anymore. It would have been great if the “Imaginary Chain” could be turned off but unfortunately there isn’t such an option.
It’s also important to note that you don’t need to battle every Digihead you see as this would lead in too many battles which definitely will become frustrating. It’s wiser to use the R button to run and pass by the enemies.
Throughout the game you will find Soul Remnants which contain Stigma that can enhance the characters parameters for better attacks, better armor or even new passive skills. Some Stigma also help to progress trauma quests that give a deeper insight of the character’s traumas in their profile. While many Stigma can be get easily, others are protected by strong Digiheads.
The several dungeons you will visit are huge and most of them use the same base design which sometimes leads to disorientation. But the good map design helps around as there are two map modes available, one mini map in the top right corner and one larger map over the right part of the screen. Red marks show where the story continues in a dungeon. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear where the story continues as the red mark sometimes can only be found on another screen of the map which is a small letdown.
The Digiheads you encounter are getting stronger throughout the game and vary in appearence in the later dungeons. Some Digiheads attack you in groups while others only alone. Especially battles against a group of Digiheads can become difficult but thanks to the move and escape skill, you always can flee from a fight that can’t be won.
Each chapter ends with a boss fight with one of the evil musicians. These battles take a bit longer but these are normally no problem when you have leveled up your characters or you use good skills. After a boss battle, new areas of Mobius become available to proceed with the story, but you can always go back to previous dungeons to find missed items or to fight Digiheads.
The Caligual Effect uses a so-called Causality Link which displays the connections between the students in the digital world. This reminds a lot of Persona but actually the system is not really good as there are over 500 NPCs that can befriended with and conversations with the NPCs are normally quite sketchy. The WIRE messenger can be used to talk with your student friends or to get some clues from your group members, but I rarely used the Causality Link as it feels kind of boring and doesn’t add much to the game’s overall experience.
To complete the game’s story, you need around 25 hours. After you have seen the ending, you can start a new game plus or a post-game playthrough where you can discover new story elements set at a slightly different time after finishing the main story. You can also raise the Digihead levels higher that enemies are stronger compared to the first playthrough.
The artstyle is really beautiful and each of the several dungeons comes with a different setting. Unfortunately, most of the dungeons look very monotonous, only the Aquarium dungeon varies a bit with its design and is by far the most beautiful. But generally the graphics look good, especially the battle animations are a blast.
The framerate is a mixed story in The Caligual Effect. While in the first dungeon, the framerate is still fine, but when you enter the shopping district, the framerate drops. Strangely enough, in the further dungeons the framerate gets better again, but battles still get some framerate drops from time to time.
I never had a problem with the framerate, I even noticed that playing the game on the PS Vita screen looked far better than watching a gameplay video as framerate drops where more obvious in the videos than on the screen. For some this might be a big deal but for me it didn’t hinder to enjoy the game.
The soundtrack of the game is top-notch. Each dungeon has its own song and after being in a dungeon for a while, it gets stuck in your head. Remixed versions of the songs accompany the boss battles and are even better than the original version.
The sound effects are great as well, especially when the Digiheads scream when you attack them made me smile a lot as you really can feel that they are hit.
For me as a music lover, the excellent soundtrack alone justified to play The Caligual Effect.
The Caligual Effect is strong in story and soundtrack but less in graphics and persona system. The battle system is unique but can lead to lengthy battles. If you use the strongest skills, you can avoid this weakness.
The good story and great soundtrack justifies to play this game but if you expect a Persona 5 substitute you will be disappointed.
The Caligula Effect PS Vita Gameplay:
The review was written by Michael. All screenshots are from the PS Vita version. The review is based on a review copy which was provided by the publisher.