Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy Review
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Platform: PlayStation Vita
The sequel to NIS America's Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy, arrives exclusively on the PlayStation Vita nearly two years later and brings with it a brand new mission in the heart of Tokyo, where otherworldly monsters known as Variants have crossed over into our dimension and have begun to wreak havoc. It is up to you, a high school student unbeknownst of the powers you hold, to form a team of others like you and help save Tokyo from a potential demise.
The story goes deep into potential beings that are beyond the human race as well as those within our own species that hone a higher power and knowledge, known as the Code-Rise ability, that can fight back against the powerful Variants. It's a military-infused science fiction thriller that some would compare to the likes of District 9 or Aliens, but sprinkled with some Black Lagoon and Black Rock Shooter. The story grips you in and keeps you curious, but unfortunately suffers from a heavy disconnect between the player, the gameplay, and overwhelming menus that aren't intuitive even with a tutorial to go with it. The menu system and how you navigate them tend to get deeper than they need to be, almost as an attempt to make it seem like there's a lot to dive into and customize when not in battle to make the game feel more "you", but there is a beauty to simplicity that's made other games in this genre so successful and beloved while making things intricate without feeling condescending and ostracizing those that may not be familiar with the genre.
The heavy disconnect between the player and the game comes from the lack of development or merit the "lead" character and the team members have. Although you're labeled as a kid from high school who comes to terms with their power once the government steps in and asks you to aid them in the defense of Tokyo, that's basically where it ends. The character creation, although it has some of the best art I've seen in recent memory, is fairly bland and serves no real purpose. You can choose from an array of designs, regardless of class, and once you do that you can choose a Blood Code - almost like a Guardian or alter ego that you can channel energy from and utilize skills with that may make a character unique from the rest, such as being able to dish out heavy magic damage but weak physical attacks, or the ability to snipe and attack while being in the back row, of which cannot attack in battle. The choice of creating your entire team from scratch is unappealing for such a story driven game like this, and another reason why there's that feeling of disconnect is because you're always referred to as your team's name, despite being told to name each of your characters and give them personality traits; they have absolutely no impact on the game.
Level design in Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy is nice, just like its predecessor, but as is typical of the DRPG genre, you'll be moving block by block and uncovering the map as you make your way through it. You'll frequently find yourself going back to previous dungeons due to story reasons, or if you simply want to go back and collect treasure, complete the maps, or farm for certain items from Variants that may be located in a specific location. Engaging in combat isn't particularly exciting, which is sad given how flashy the designs of all the characters are, and from the weapons shown on all, as well as pre-rendered art sometimes shown in cutscenes. Animations are basic, regardless of the move chosen, but thankfully there's an option to expedite battles by skipping all of that and showing the outcome of the turn instead.
I have no doubt Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy will find a home in many Vita libraries and will be enjoyed to bits - especially by those that love to invest time into dungeon crawling and games like Demon Gaze, Stranger of Sword City and the like - but those that are interested should go in with a slightly more open mind and not expect to feel any sort of real progression or worth. It's a good game if you want a nice story to kind of crawl your way through, but it's a shame that for all the lacking that the gameplay department has, the story may get lost to a few people because of it. Operation Babel, much like Operation Abyss, would benefit much more from being an anime or a manga that can flesh out its great universe and awesome ideas. It's an easy recommendation for those that love games like this, however, but otherwise it'd be better to save your excitement towards the likes of Mary Skelter and Undead Darlings instead, unless you were absolutely bereft of Dungeon RPGs and hunger for a new one to play.
To sum it all up, while Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy brings with it some forward-thinking mechanics and fresh ideas to the table, along with its unique Cross-Blood system and progression system, at the end of the day it's just another dungeon crawler that doesn't necessarily provide anything memorable or makes it stand out from other games in the genre. It has a fantastic military-driven science fiction story that holds interest and has intriguing ideas; however it suffers from what I like to call "third person from a distance" because there's nothing really that involves your main character in any important manner. You're a high school student that has a power that a government agency hires you for to aid them in the defense of Tokyo from Variants, but your character is never truly given an identity. The story develops from the people around you speaking to each other more so than to you or your squad, both of which are made up and can be changed at any time. It's this lack of foundation for you and your group that gives it no immersion whatsoever and can really make it feel as if - when NPCs do engage in conversation with you that do serve a purpose and hold a significant role in the game and story - they are talking to no one. It's an empty feeling from the player's perspective that I wish could hold more merit, because there are ideas there that are smart and profound that deserve more attention.
- An engaging sci-fi story with smart ideas
- Character designs are astounding and are undoubtedly worth praising the artists for - some of the best seen in quite some time
- Solid level design and settings all throughout parts of Tokyo
- The menus aren't intuitive, and even with a light tutorial it's still a bit hard to navigate and get the hang of everything; overwhelming
- For whatever reason, party members are on screen at all time, getting in the way of dialogue and art during some visual novel segments - it feels unnecessary if you're not out on the field/engaging in combat.
- Character development is non-existent for the player and their party, unless you want to count leveling up.
Many thanks to NIS America for sending us a review copy of Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy!