Demon Gaze is a dungeon crawling RPG developed by Kadokawa Shoten, (a manga publisher who were recently in the news after purchasing Dark Souls’ From Software.) This Vita exclusive is set in the same universe as Students of the Round – an obscure JRPG, which I doubt many of you have played given that its a 360 title that only came out in Japan (wow that’s a rarity.)
Players take control of Oz, an adventurer who at first glance appears to be suffering from a severe case of pink eye. In actuality however his discoloured ocular organ is the result of the Demon Gaze – a special power that allows Oz to enslave demons. Given his abilities Oz seems like the ideal candidate to trek across the land and defeat the demonic entities residing in the region’s many dungeons. Along the way he’ll have to make his fortune by seeking out treasures and completing quests to pay for his lodgings at the Dragon Princess Inn. Late payment of rent is not advised, as Fran (the establishment’s owner) is prone to bouts of violence when patrons fail to honour their IOUs.
The game’s story is for the most part lightweight and just there to explain why you are risking life an limb battling your way through monster infested catacombs. The narrative has some twists, regarding Fran and Oz’s true identities, but it’s nothing I can go into without giving away spoilers. It’s a shame that more effort wasn’t put into fleshing out the plot, as I rather enjoyed the cut scenes that play post completion of a stage. The segments are filled with naughty fan service, which will go down well with anime perverts. To give some examples, there’s a character that likes to stroll around in her undies and the Inn’s feline head maid loves to sniff Fran’s panties. Only in Japan folks!
In terms of gameplay, what we have here is a first person dungeon crawler akin to what you would find in the Etrian Odyssey series. I should caution newcomers to the genre that these types of RPGs can be pretty unforgiving. During the game’s early stages I really struggled as your party consists of just Oz and one helper. Your team can have up to five active members, which makes things easier, but to obtain additional recruits you’ll have to grind money for a couple of hours to pay for extra rooms at the inn. This is made all the more difficult as Fran swipes a portion of your gold every time you return to the hostel of perverts. She’s like a high maintenance girlfriend and landlord all rolled into one.
To clear a dungeon Oz and his merry band will have to activate the demon circles located there by utilizing gems that can be purchased from stores or obtain from vanquished foes. Once the circles are dealt with its time to enslave the dungeon’s demonic guardian, providing that you can best them in combat first. Enslaved demons can be summoned to aid you in battle and confer your party with a wide range of beneficial bonuses. Although the demon-summoning mechanic is cool it is somewhat stifled by the cap on how many active demons you can have. My limited demon slots were often occupied with weedy underlings because their ability to reveal hidden areas and traverse over harmful tiles was too good to pass up.
My rating for Demon Gaze is a three out of five. I really wanted to love the game, but its uneven difficulty frustrated me at times. The game’s humour is funny and the art style is a treat, even if the in-game graphics lack animation. Navigating the game’s mazes is however not much fun. A good chunk of my time was spent engaging in random battles to level up my characters and obtain loot, which can then be broken down to strengthen your gear. This was a necessary chore because the bosses you face are “devilishly” difficult (well they are demons after all.) When it came to battling them I would often get destroyed by their attacks or find myself unable to overcome their ability to call upon infinite reinforcements. Overall Demon Gaze is a good game, but I doubt anyone outside of fans of the genre will have the patience to stick with it to the very end.