Saturday 4 July 2015

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Dungeon crawlers, though not as widespread as they were when Vanilla Ice was topping the charts, have started to make a bit of a comeback as of late. From Demon Gaze to Legend of Grimrock, there are a few games out there that are seen as the last bastion for the classic genre. I've never really seen myself as a fan of dungeon crawlers personally, but after reviewing Demon Gaze last year (I gave it a respectful 3/5) I started to rethink my stance on the genre. What I always perceived as a limiting, boring and repetitive genre actually ended up giving me some enjoyment. Since then I haven't gotten a chance to jump back into the genre, but finally comes another dungeon crawler that I sank my teeth into. So, how does it stack up?

Developed by Experience Inc. and out now for the Playstation Vita comes Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, a game by the same team behind Demon Gaze, and one that's as good as their previous attempt at a dungeon crawler.  At the very start of New Tokyo Legacy your character wakes up in a dungeon, though in this game this labyrinthine maze is called The Abyss . You've no recollection of how you got there, and after looking around you find two dead bloody bodies. After finding these bodies you're approached by a mysterious hooded man. After a bit of a natter he rescues you and helps you escape the Abyss. Soon after you're that accepted into the aptly named Abyss Company; a group whose sole purpose is to venture into the Abyss and take on the monsters that lurk within. The monsters in this game, known as variants, are repulsive as they are deadly, and it's up to you to seek out and destroy them. Pretty simple stuff in terms of story, but with its blend of horror and science fiction, the overall plot to New Tokyo Legacy is satisfying and intriguing.

The game plays out in three different areas of gameplay- interacting with characters, exploring the Abyss and then battling the variants inside the Abyss. Interacting with the various characters throughout New Tokyo Legacy is pretty straightforward, and involves you staring at very typically designed anime characters (pointy hair, large breasts, lost of belts, sharp chins, etc) while listening to their chatter. Beyond that you also read through various pieces of text that move the story along amid ever changing 2D images. It's exactly what you'd expect from many Japanese PS Vita games, but it's serviceable down to the pretty decent script and good voice acting. In fact, the visual style, which randomly jumps from cutesy anime characters to dark, Lovecraftian Abyss dwelling beasts keeps the game pretty interesting and nice to look at. Though the 2D sprites are often lifeless and dead, there's enough going on in terms of sound design, script and voice acting to pull it out of the mud.

Exploring the Abyss is done from a 3D first person view, and just like the genre implies, moving throughout levels is done in a kind of grid-based manner. There's no walking where you want, but rather you'll need to stick to the invisible grid system that runs throughout the 3D environment. This doesn't feel as limiting as it sounds through, as it actually helps you get a great sense of the layout of any given level within the Abyss. This leads to backtracking becoming an easier task than in most games, and that's something you'll find yourself doing a lot in the game. There's a nifty map to help you out to wherever you're going so you shouldn't get lost anyway, but it's good to see New Tokyo Legacy going for a very classic, old-school control scheme here. Thankfully it works wonders, and from venturing around, entering doors and using ladders, picking up items, using magic, stepping on traps or avoiding them altogether to, of course, fighting monsters, the games Abyss exploration moments are pretty fun.

That said I guess the real focus of the game comes with its combat.  Naturally it's a turn-based affair, but frankly, it's not anything you've haven't play before, even if you've never played a dungeon crawler in your life. During the game you'll have a total of six characters on your team, and from unleashing physical attacks, using items and dishing out an array of painfully typical magic, there's not much to it really. Granted going up against some groups of enemies can be tough (groups which, for some reason, you can only attack as a whole and not individual monsters!), but even on its hardest setting New Tokyo Legacy is a little too easy for my taste. Battle attack animations are as basic as those of your enemies, many of which are not technically animated, but rather their sprites are slowly stretched and retracted, clearly to simulate breathing. Lazy.

New Tokyo Legacy is not a bad game, but it's one that is often far too easy. You see, gamers who are really into dungeon crawlers tend to be gamers you love a hard challenge. Sadly, if you're a fan of the genre you probably won't get that challenge here. However, I do think fans of the old-school genre should give it a try as it does offer up a pretty great story and well rounded characters, something often overlooked in the genre as a whole. To those of you who have never tried a dungeon crawler before, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is the perfect diving in point for the genre. Enjoy.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy kicks off an interesting franchise with a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

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