NIS America has given us the chance to check out The Caligula Effect: Overdose, a remake of a title that was widely disliked when it released on the PlayStation Vita. How will the updated version fare?
The Caligula Effect: Overdose places you in the role of a silent protagonist who steps up to give a speech welcoming new students at your school. Everything appears to be normal, but suddenly the protagonist notices something freaky. Some of the other students’ heads begin to take on odd forms…. and you appear to be the only one who notices. Shocked, the protagonist flees and soon learns that the world they inhabit isn’t real.
This allows the game to pose an interesting question; If you were living a perfect life, but discovered that it wasn’t real, what would you do? Would you fight to return to reality, even if that reality may be the worst thing you have ever experienced? Or would you prefer to remain in your perfect world?
As you ponder this dilemma, you are joined by a virtuadoll known as aria. There are also members of the Go-Home Club who, as the name implies, want to escape the false reality and return to the real world, no matter the cost. Opposing the Go-Home Club is a sentient AI known as μ (Mu) and those who wish to maintain the status quo, utilizing her music to continue brainwashing the residents of Mobius. This group is known as the Ostinato Musicians.
The original title only allowed you to play through as the Go-Home Club. However, Overdose expands this, allowing you to work with the Musicians if you prefer. This adds quite a bit of new content and scenarios for players to go through.
Once you are thrust into the game, it can be broken up into a few different segments. There are more than 500 students that you can interact with in the game’s “Causality Links” system. Despite this, the sheer number prevents it from being deep in any form or fashion. Even the most unique identifying aspects of these students, the reason that they are in Mobius in the first place, can be duplicated a few times. Because of this, it feels more like a random text slog as you try to befriend the various people within.
Interestingly enough, however, you may search for somebody to befriend only to discover that they have been corrupted. This forces you to take them on before you can speak to them. It builds a false sense of security, running into an area you believe is safe in order to chat with a friend, only to discover that the friend is now an enemy.
Of course, there are also the standard Digiheads who are always looking for non-believers to convert, and they are wandering around the world freely. As such, nowhere truly feels completely safe, and the game does a great job at demonstrating that the world is openly hostile towards you. As you engage the foe, you enter a semi-real-time scenario where you can control each of your four party members. Each one can utilize up to three different actions at one time (or, if you only want to have somebody use fewer, you can choose two or even one, then skip the rest, which cuts down on the cooldown period), and each action takes a different amount of time to perform.
Enter the Imaginary Chain. This will show you what is expected to happen; So you may see one character be able to launch a foe into the air, then time your other actions to juggle that foe until it is dead. That noted, you should be wary, as the Imaginary Chain is not always accurate. This can, at times, cause you to actually lose if you try to place all your hopes in one attack. One example would be relying on a knock up attack that misses. If that initial attack fails, any dependent on its success will also fail.
This can result in extensive time planning out actions, which makes some encounters feel like they drag out. That said, you can utilize an auto battle option if you’d like. However, it may fail to outmaneuver your foe and cause you to lose, just as you may fail to yourself. Of course, as you win battles, you will gain both experience and relationship points, with the latter deepening the bond between you and the other members you have accompanying you.
As your relationship deepens, you will be able to help your friends confront the trauma that resulted in them being trapped within Mobius and, with luck, conquer said trauma. While some important issues are tackled, critics will be quick to point out the overused stereotypes that can crop up. Luckily, however, these stereotypes are not the norm. One complaint many had on the Vita was the slow framerate, which has been addressed on the PlayStation 4; I did not experience a single slowdown during my entire campaign.
Graphics and Audio
The dungeons look decent enough, although it can be obvious that the title originated on the Vita. They can also feel bland, unfortunately, and the models are also somewhat lackluster. Interestingly, however, the 2D portraits are quite nice. The UI, which also received heavy criticism, also looks clean in Overdose.
In terms of sound, if you dislike Japanese music then you may not like this game’s soundtrack. Having spoken with a friend in Japan, however, it was interesting to learn that the music you hear in each area wasn’t designed for the area, but rather designed for the Musician’s backstory.
Overall, The Caligula Effect: Overdose has a lot of potential, but it fails to live up to it. An interesting battle system is countered by unrewarding fights. The social link aspect needs quite a bit of work to attain the levels seen in Persona. And the writing can be great, but also can be quite cringeworthy as well at times.
When everything’s said and done, however, I think fans of the genre will find something to like in the game. That noted, those who tried the Vita version may be less inclined to give it another chance, but those coming in fresh may find a mostly enjoyable title.