Since it has been over 3.5 years since the release of Demon Gaze for the Vita, I wasn’t expecting the sequel to still head to western shores. This month, it finally did, and it’s no longer a Vita exclusive as a PS4 version was released at the same time.
NIS America is quite possibly the Vita’s biggest publisher these days, judging from a high number of quality releases – most of which received Japanese versions earlier. Demon Gaze II is no exception, and its story is set several years after the events of the first game. Taking place inside Asteria, an affluent city where – recently – people have started to disappear, indicating that something sinister might be at play.
You play as Signa and you’ve formed a revolutionist party together with two of your friends, sisters Prim and Muse. Suffering from memory loss, you quickly start to dive into the story of Asteria and the disappearances inside the city. A lot of the story unfolds in visual novel-like sequences through well-written dialogue, though the bulk of the actual gameplay is in dungeon crawler form with turn-based battles.
These dungeons can be found more on the outskirts of the city, in the so-called restricted zones. The city itself is wealthy and flourishing, and it’s these demon circles on the outskirts that symbolize that evil is encroaching on the city. Slay enough enemies and you’ll not only bag new equipment but you’ll also get closer to a particular area’s boss fight. Defeating demons makes them available to you for use in your own party, and with about 18 different demons there is a lot of variety in how you want to assemble your group of dungeoneers. Their star gauge fills up during a fight, indicating when you can launch them into their demon form with increased strength.
While dungeon crawling and turn-based combat are the bulk of the game, other minigames break up the action every now and then. There are puzzles to solve and they make for a nice diversion, but I didn’t care too much for the option to date demons or play in “maintenance mode” – the rubbing minigames we see regularly on the Vita.
Speaking of the Vita, Demon Gaze II looks excellent on the platform with crisp visuals that look like they’ve been designed for the PS4 initially – since the console version doesn’t go “low resolution” like it does with some other Vita conversions. Something else that Demon Gaze II does well in terms of the conversion from its original Japanese version is the localization aspect – text and speech are both available in two languages. I don’t speak a word of Japanese, so I tend to prefer the English dub – and it’s been done very well. I tried the Japanese dub for a bit and although I enjoy the emotion that’s clearly laid into the voice work, I quickly switched back so I didn’t just have to rely on reading the text to know what was going on.
Although a relatively large share of Vita titles in the two years have been dungeon crawlers, it’s more or less uncharted territory on the PS4. While handheld players have a lot of great alternatives to choose from (many of them also coming from NIS), Demon Gaze II is an excellent choice for PS4 owners to get started with the genre. It’s got multiple difficulty levels to suit your level of experience and it’s a definite improvement over the original game – the visuals are among the best in the genre on the Vita and the gameplay content is both well-polished and abundant. It doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but it’s a good example of it that shows that Experience Inc and Kadokawa have spent the years developing the game well.