School kids fighting monsters to save their city – the basis for so many JRPGs.
Experience Inc., the developers behind previous dungeon crawler Demon Gaze, are back with another dungeon crawling JRPG for the Vita, which has been released in the UK thanks to the eternally busy NIS America. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy joins a fairly crowded genre and, whilst maintaining an overall familiarity with other games of the same type, does its best to stand out with a few interesting design choices.
Not really breaking the mould however, is the story. High school students are recruited into a secret government agency to fight monsters, known as Variants, that are threatening to overrun the city, all while they maintain their daily study duties. It may not be new, but New Tokyo Legacy at least does a reasonable job of building an interesting story as the game progresses, although the story is not really built on the team of characters that the player controls, but rather through the supporting cast.
The main characters, a team of six that the player controls through the various missions and dungeons of the game, are bland and do nothing to make the player care for them. Still, at least the player has the choice to customise them in a variety of ways, creating a team that plays to their own strengths from the very beginning should they choose. This is nice for the more experienced player or those who are coming back to the game, but for the first play through, until the player understands New Tokyo Legacy, sticking with the default characters is probably advisable. The team consists of every type of character that the player will need to get started, including the mages, healers and academics that will allow them to face pretty much anything a dungeon throws at them.
Played with a first person view, the dungeons are not the most inspiring visually, with many a dull corridor to wander along. The team is sent on missions into these dungeons and will find themselves fighting monsters and solving puzzles until the objectives are met, before returning to base. Once out of the dungeon, the player is able to level up and save the game. Added to this, the longer the player spends in a dungeon and the more monsters that they fight, the more difficult the dungeon becomes, and the better the rewards, which leads to some nice risk vs. rewards moments when the player will have to decide to head back with the loot and experience they already have, or continue for greater reward at greater risk of losing it all.
When it comes to combat, players have plenty of choice with the various different attacks, spells and abilities. Along with the different types of Variants that they encounter, you would think that this turn-based combat could get quite tactical. However, in an attempt to speed the game up, the characters themselves choose who to attack from the available foes, and there is even the chance to speed the turns up with a simple button press. This takes away a lot of control from the player, making strategic battles more relevant for bosses, but the upside is that things progress a lot quicker and with more emphasis on the exploration over combat.
But speeding the game up is something that the developers could have considered outside of combat and in the early game. The first hour of the game really drags as the player is overloaded with text to read through. I did at one point wonder if I had stumbled into a visual novel rather than a dungeon crawler. Through the rest of the game there were more extended reading sessions, but nothing like that first hour.
Aside from the disappointingly dull dungeon environments, New Tokyo Legacy really does look good on the Vita. Bright colours and excellent looking sprites make the game pop from the screen and really enjoyable to watch.
Despite a few little tweaks, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy doesn’t really offer anything to make it stand out from the other dungeon crawling JRPG available on the Vita. That being said, it is still a solid game. The streamlined combat will appeal more to newcomers than to genre veterans, but there is still plenty of depth to be found. Certainly one to consider if you are a fan of the genre and are looking for a new dungeon to take on.