Demon Gaze 2 is a follow-up to a 2014 game developed by Experience Inc. The first Demon Gaze garnered attention for being a solid DRPG for the Playstation VITA with a more player-friendly approach than others like it. The game had a story, even if it was full of tropes and fan-service, which helped keep players interested and the difficulty curve was much gentler than most in the genre.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the same developers have teamed up with publisher NIS America to release a sequel here in the West on both the VITA and Playstation 4. Fans of the first game should feel right at home with a few improvements, similar game-flow, and a handful of returning cast members.
A Story of Revolution, Music, and Monsters
The story of Demon Gaze 2 has a fairly simple premise; there’s an evil bad guy, Lord Magnastar, who has taken over the city with demons and the player character is charged with stopping him. After waking up in a dungeon with the ability to absorb and control demons with his right eye, the player character gets drafted into a team of underground revolutionaries operating from a seemingly quiet inn.
After a quick dungeon delve, our heroes find that Magnastar has set up crystals to produce a brainwashing song throughout the city, each one guarded by one of his demons. Luckily for our heroes, one of your friends can sing a song that counteracts the brainwashing effects of Magnastar’s evil plan AND defeated demons become party members.
The overall story tends to focus on the cast of characters and their (sometimes annoyingly cliche) antics. Most of the time, you can expect a heaping serving of comedy and fan-service. If you can stomach some of the cheese, however, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by just how dark things get and how competent certain plot elements are. Demon Gaze 2 offers an experience that isn’t going to revolutionize the genre—it has its fair amount of cringe—but overall, it’s a pretty solid story.
Dungeon-Diving And Dates With Demons
Fans of the JRPG genre have come to expect certain things out of their dungeon-crawlers; winding dungeons loaded with traps, tons of gear to find, difficult bosses, and plenty of unlockable skills to use in and out of combat. That’s all there, but it comes gradually—unless you decide to play on one of the higher difficulty settings.
When exploring a dungeon, the main gameplay consists of searching out and defeating enemies at Demon Circles, which are scattered throughout the dungeon. By placing up to three gems in a Demon Circle, the player will trigger a slightly tougher version of the random battles in that dungeon. They will also gain new equipment based on the gems used. The easiest strategy? If you want a new sword, you toss a few sword gems into a Demon Circle and you’ll get that number of swords as a reward for winning the battle. Using Demon Circles and gems is the main way to unlock new and better gear. As long as you exit the dungeon, you’ll be able to repeat the process later when you go back to it.
After conquering all the Demon Circles in a dungeon, the Demon Lair appears. By entering, the player gives up their ability to use any magical spells or escape items. Once inside, solving a puzzle grants access to the Demon in control of the area—bringing the player one step closer to saving the day and gaining a new party member to boot!
The battles in the game start out as normal attack spam fights but slowly evolve into tactical affairs as enemies increase in number and ability. Each of your party members, including the Demon Gazer, have a choice of two or three skills when they first join, at level 20, and at level 60. The player’s alignment, chosen at the beginning of the game, influences what these game-changing skills will be. Choose wisely, because there’s no going back after the selection is made. These skill choices, in addition to the natural unlockable skills from leveling the party, are vital to surviving encounters as the game progresses. Being able to have the tank draw enemy fire or having an attacker pierce through an enemy defender makes for engaging battles.
If things look tough, the player can “Demonize” the party by using a special “Star Power” meter. Doing so transforms the characters into the form they took when they were bosses and boosts their stats. In addition, the Demon Gazer can use special skills only available during this mode. Later on, the ability to fuse with a demon allows the Demon Gazer to unleash mountains of hurt on the enemy at the cost of large amounts of Star Power.
The inn is where the second half of the gameplay takes place. Serving as a sort of hub for the rest of the game, there’s plenty to do here. The item shop is the only place to sell items and usually has a bargain sale on new pieces of gear. The Ether Mill allows the player to deconstruct any unwanted gear into “essence” and then use it to upgrade other weapons and armors. There’s even a Shower Room where you can change the appearance of your party members. Renting out rooms for your demons allows them to utilize special furniture items that provide stat boosts. On top of everything else, most of the story scenes play out here as well.
One of the big selling-points of Demon Gaze 2 is the Demon Maintenance system. By using rare maintenance crystals, the player can start a somewhat pervy mini-game wherein they move a cursor over a static image of their demon’s body, searching for the perfect “maintenance point”. This operates like a game of hot and cold with limited tries, with most of the points being found in rather scandalous places. Each attempt fills an affection meter. When full, the meter activates a date event for that demon. After the date plays out, that demon’s affection levels up and they gain new abilities and stat boosts.
The dates actually contain some of the more endearing story elements in the game, breathing some characterization into the otherwise bland party members. Sadly, once you’ve unlocked all four date events, that’s it. After you max out your favorites, that’s pretty much all the development they’ll get for their character (unless they are one of the more plot-relevant demons). Every demon that you max out has an “ending” once you beat the main game.
Will It Hold Your Gaze?
It is important to remember that Demon Gaze 2, like its predecessor, was developed with the VITA in mind. That said, the game looks great for what it is. Most of the game takes place in a visual novel style, utilizing hand-drawn character portraits and plenty of text—both voiced and unvoiced. Everything is bright and colorful, the main character designs are pleasant to look at, and the backgrounds are excellent. A small gripe is that a handful of recurring minor characters fall short aesthetically and sometimes sport uninspired poses.
When exploring a dungeon, however, don’t expect to be wowed with the visuals. The first-person 3D graphics are not the prettiest thing to look at. For the most part, the look of the dungeons is passable; you never have to question what it is you’re looking at, but the VITA origin shows when it comes to 3D effects.
In battle, things get really interesting. The player’s party is displayed along the bottom of the screen. Enemies are represented as character portraits, but the developers used squash, stretch, and rotate effects to bring them to life. The backgrounds and enemies are detailed and fitting for the environments. The battle screen does, however, suffer from a lot of on-screen clutter, especially with the large chart on the right-hand side of the screen dedicated to status and protection effects.
It’s a Musical Story, But What Does It Sound Like?
Music and sound design are always up to the taste of the listener, and that goes doubly so for Demon Gaze 2 given the song elements to the story. Firing up the game, one of the first things you’ll notice is the unique music. There’s a strange mix of what I can only describe as 30’s era jazzy gangster music and Vocaloid. It’s a really weird combination. Even though the first game did this, I can’t say that it was for me. There is an option to turn off the vocals, however, which made the music so much easier to listen to.
Unfortunately, the dubbing of the game is straight-up abysmal. A lot of the lines are already very cliché and the voice actors seem to have really phoned it in on this one. In battles, it becomes tiresome to constantly hear the same terrible whimpers and attack yells. Thankfully, the options menu also includes the ability to change to Japanese voice-overs and even the ability to turn off all voices outside of cut-scenes.
Endgame and Replayability
The western release of Demon Gaze 2 comes packed with a free endgame DLC already included—Grimodar Castle. This includes a lengthy new dungeon, new legendary equipment, and even a new demon. Once you beat the main storyline, you can access the castle and everything inside for a substantial challenge spanning hours.
While replaying the game from the start could be done, there’s not much of a reason to do so. One might try a play-through the game as a different alignment, but there’s little impact given to the choice outside of a few different skill choices. Most of the dialogue options are barely acknowledged and have zero impact on the outcome of the story. You’ll want to wait a year or two to replay Demon Gaze 2 for it to feel fresh again.
Demon Gaze 2 is a game that has strengths and weaknesses. As a competent dungeon-crawler, it manages to offer an experience that the payer can adjust to suit their skill level, which might be one its biggest strengths. It’s visually pleasing, has engaging mechanics, and has a decent-enough story you’ll want to buckle in to. I can’t say that the Vocaloid-style music is for everyone or that the voice acting will wow anyone, but at least there are options to silence those elements. The maintenance mini-game is mostly an unnecessary attempt at pandering to fans, but it does lead to some of the more interesting character moments in the game.
Overall, Demon Gaze 2 won’t be a game that breaks any limitations or really pushes the envelope of DRPGs, but it’s still a solid game with hours of entertainment value. It would be a great stepping stone for anyone looking to get into the DRPG genre, especially if they are a younger gamer.
- Fun and Simple Combat System
- Adjustable Difficulty
- English and Japanese Voice-Overs
- Nice Character Art Design
- Plenty of Party Members to Choose From
- Generic Plot
- Maintenance Mini-Game is Lame
- Repetitive Music and Sounds