Dungeon Crawlers have had a resurgence, gaining some love to a genre that could use a good ol’ dusting. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is the latest addition that does a rather good job of removing that dusty coating. As a newly formed squad can you navigate your way through the abyss and unravel the mystery that has befallen Tokyo, or is this one mystery meddling kids can’t solve? Read on to find out!
Game: Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy
Developer: Experience Inc.
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Reviewed on: (Review code provided)
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a sci-fi dungeon crawler RPG set in a futuristic Tokyo coupled with a horror and murder mystery setting. Dungeon Crawlers could often be lacking when it came to captivating storylines and were more focused on hack and slash gameplay. Thankfully OA:NTL is a breath of fresh air with its cryptic story waiting to be unravelled. Whilst this title is new to western shores it is actually a reboot of Experience Inc’s previous trilogy called Generation Xth released on the PC back in 2008, which never officially made it out of Japan.
Say goodbye to your normal school life, things are about to get weird! You awake inside a sewer surrounded by bloody corpses, with your last memory being leaving school at the end of what was a normal day. However things quickly get real. Suddenly a mysterious man comes to your rescue moments before monsters, known as Variants attack. As you try to escape you encounter another foe that proves to be more ferocious and too much to handle. As the situation looks bleak a spirited woman jumps into the fray harnessing unique powers, slaying the beast with ease. She informs you that you have potential to possess the unique ability known as Code Rise and are escorted back to a secret location hidden under Hinowa academy, the Code Physics Agency (CPA) headquarters. Tokyo has seen rising cases of kidnappings and murders and is under constant threat from Variants, with sections of the city transforming into mysterious dimensions known as the abyss. At the same time a curious group known as the Tokyo Peace Foundation (TPF) is also causing a political stir especially amongst the youth. As a new recruit of the Xion Transhumans (Xth) Squad, you and your team must harness the CPA’s code technology and secretly investigate the mysterious phenomena occurring throughout the city alongside your regular studies, but is everything as it seems? After all everyone has their secrets…
As an individual, dungeon crawlers never caught on with me in the past due to their dark, primitive graphics and negligible storylines. However Japan for me personally hits the spot when it comes to dungeon crawlers, with series like Shin Megami Tensei and Etrian Odyssey being some of my favourites. I’m pleased to say that this will be joining my list for a few reasons. Most importantly is the narrative, which is mystifyingly captivating. The sound, whilst lacking variety has been adequately produced. The opening theme is a beautiful vocal track that sets a perfect vibe for the overall theme. Sadly the original Japanese voice cast has been excluded, however the English voice overs are remarkably suited to their respective characters and don’t spoil the experience. Whilst the introduction is more or less fully voiced (which was a pleasant experience) this does not continue throughout the game, where voiced conversations turn to singular words or the occasional scoff. During exploration the backing tracks are limited but serve enough purpose to create the right ambiance, from calming parks to eerie labyrinths and murder scenes. From the offset the art style is gorgeous, with vibrant anime character illustrations and rendered real life locations which make for a good contrast to the dark, dingy sewers you will find yourself traversing. Some locations can leave much to be desired, where textures are a bit rough around the edges and are rather drab, however you could argue that it adds to the dreary setting of the labyrinths. The variants you often encounter do offset this to a degree with their intricate designs which makes the often repetitive surroundings more bearable. At times you are offered some respite as you progress through the story with some exquisite CG’s that illustrate the various plot developments. (Even dead spirits look quite lively!). Surprisingly the fan service has been kept to a minimum and characters are a little more modest compared to other titles like Demon Gaze. If this is not enough then you can add a touch of ‘moe’ thanks to some DLC which adds 6 new character portraits themed on Hinowa Academy’s swim team. This a steal at only £0.79p! Another DLC is also available for free (yes free!) that adds 6 new Dark Hero character portraits to play, giving your eyes some more visual delight.
Anyone who is familiar with this genre will find the gameplay relatively easy to jump into, but those new to dungeon crawlers and RPG’s may find some of the game mechanics slightly bewildering. Even as an active player of RPG’s I found the customisation system to be a little complex at first, mostly due to the lack of order and tutorials. There are more in depth explanations and guides tucked away and once you take a little time to overcome this hurdle everything becomes much clearer. There are two game modes available to choose, Basic and Classic. Neither option affects the difficulty, which gradually increases as you progress. Instead these modes allow you to choose the level of character customisation available to you. Basic offers up a selection of pre-built character portraits to choose from whilst Classic allows you total control over your characters avatar. For those who love taking quality time in crafting the perfect character then Classic is for you. There is a plethora of options available, from gender, age and voice to name a few. On a downside the avatars you can create look rather bland compared to the gorgeous newly redesigned portraits offered in Basic. It all comes down to personal preference. I’m a huge fan of character customisation and often love painstakingly crafting perfection, sadly even with all the options available it just didn’t hit my visual sweet spot, thus I opted for Basic. The mode only affects the visual look of your character and whichever one you opt for you still have control over the all important stats. Personality plays an important role, controlling the initial abilities available to you. Base stats range from intelligent, boosting wisdom and spirituality to Muscular, boosting strength and physicality. Personality traits are selected from Neutral, Good and Evil and can be further defined from being Aloof to Compassionate. This is what determines your Blood Code, the pride of the CPA’s technology and the only effective weapon against Variants. Beware of personality clash as this also affects how your team works together and develops, after all good and evil never do get along. Blood Codes are one of the stranger elements to the story. Working much like Shin Megami Tensei’s Personas they control the character class system. The CPA have created codes to allow the users to gain superhuman abilities by developing genomes from some of histories legendary characters. The genius Leonardo Da Vinci’s genes were used to create the Academic class, the brains behind your team and an essential member for disarming traps and opening hidden or locked pathways. Florence Nightingale represents your supportive, healing Mage, Yoshitsune Minamoto is the brave, strong Warrior and Jeanne d’ Arc is your knight in shining armour. These are to name a few, with 8 in total of which some will need to be unlocked later in the game. Your team consists of 6 members in two rows, with 3 in the front and 3 in the back. Characters can be placed in any order, however you would be well advised to place tactically, with damage hitters in the front and supporters in the back.
The Academy is the central hub and you will find yourself going to and fro from here quite often and not just for class. The CPA headquarters is where you can change your squad, create up to 24 recruits and accept Missions.These are split into two lists. The Mission List generally consists of side missions such as eliminating wanted variants and tutorials whilst The Key Mission List is where you will progress through the story. Missions are ranked and the more stars it has more difficult it is. The abyss locations operate in a classic grid fashion, and you will find yourself wandering around these mazes in order to reach your objective. These labyrinths are full of different levels, traps, and secret passageways. The map is revealed as you explore and is easily located at the top of the screen and can also be accessed in full. The larger map allows you view co-ordinates and move by autopilot to a specific location and is one of the few places that utilise the touch screen controls. Some passageways will contain dangerous sections such as electrical flooring and hallways enveloped in darkness where you will need to look at the map to navigate your way. Some may also block the use of powers which are sometimes needed to overcome obstacles such as floating over water. Spatial Rifts are hidden portals you can uncover that allow you to access secret rooms normally unreachable. These can be misleading but using some degree of logic should make finding the correct way easier. If you struggle, luckily there is a handy feature to help called Memos. Similar to Persona 4 Golden’s SOS feature, it uses network communication where you can leave behind useful messages for other players from a selection of words. This feature is a great way of uniting the community and creating a friendly, engaging experience. The battle system is a simple process but requires a tactical mind for the more dangerous foes. As you traverse you will have random encounters with variants or some can be initiated by interacting with orange triangles with teeth. Variants can appear alone or in up to 4 rows in turn based combat. During the course of a battle you have various options, from basic attacks, guarding and using spells or items. As you attack you will notice a UNITY gauge at the bottom fills up. UNITY represents special combos your party can carry out that may turn the tide of battle. The effectiveness of your combos will increase the more you use them so don’t be afraid to let them have it! As you continue to fight you will soon fill up an encounter gauge and the more you fight the higher the level will rise. As this rises the rate of encounter will increase, as will the enemy aggression but with rarer rewards. As you defeat variants you will earn Growth Points (GP) and may also be rewarded with code data which will need to be disarmed and identified. These blue code chips can contain new equipment and upgrades and can also be obtained throughout the abyss or discovered in the form of paranormals, the thoughts of the dead. Creepy…
Locations can be visited freely outside of missions, where important grinding can be done if you wish to raise your level to stay ahead. You may also contact people in the area to investigate and gain reports, information and make some trivial conversation. The levelling system is somewhat annoying. Unlike traditional RPG’s where you would level up after a fight, as a DRPG it is not that easy and you must go back to the academy’s Medical Lab in order to convert your EXP to gain a level. When you are in the middle of an abyss, without the necessary items to escape you will have to retrace your steps all the way back to the entrance which can be a tedious and treacherous ordeal. The HQ is also the only place you can save your progress unless you have a special recorder. With this in mind it’s important to be logical and not get out of your depth. At the lab you can rest to regain HP, MP, cure ailments and your EXP will be converted to level up and raise your stats accordingly. The Development Lab is where the complex item crafting system comes in. Item codes stored in your S-Vice (a form of smart phone which stores data and generates your weapons and powers) can be stripped down and combined with materials you have gathered to create various equipment based on a plethora of combinations and recipes. Item codes can sometimes be glitched which will need to be removed before they can be unequipped. It can be a long process finding the necessary materials to upgrade your team but worth the reward of a higher tier to slay more powerful Variants or suit your combat strategy. Should you find yourself in a pinch, GP you have accumulated can be used in a variety of ways, from purchasing items, materials, identifying codes and they can even be converted into EXP. This allows you more choice to find the right way to upgrade and customise your characters.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy offers a unique and lengthy experience. The story itself is linear and offers no alternate end to play again for. At some points there is an option to respond to conversation but this did not seem to have any real impact on the flow of the story. The complex crafting system and deep labyrinths will keep you plenty busy with a good 40+ hours of gameplay. Whilst some may pass through with ease there are puzzles that may stump you for a time. As far as dungeon crawlers go this is one of the best I have come across in regards to offering an interesting plot. The character designs and CG’s are charming, and whilst some areas are a little dodgy overall it is a satisfying experience. If you are a fan of dungeon crawlers then this should sate your appetite. For those new to the genre then this is a great title to serve as an induction. When it comes to the PS Vita it seems to be rather lacking as of late but this is a fantastic title to give it some new life.