Ray Gigant Review
Ray Gigant is a new downloadable title from Bandi Namco Entertainment and Experience that combines a traditional dungeon crawler with the popular Japanese "visual novel" style of game. Within, the world is decimated by huge monsters known as Gigants. The world fears for the worst, thinking all is lost, when a lone boy defeats a Gigant with the power of a mysterious artifact, the Yorigami. The boy is rescued and taken to a secret base, where they try to train him and a team of others to try and stop the Gigants once and for all. As the game progresses, new protagonists are revealed, and their fates intertwine as they learn what they can do and fight to stop the Gigants.
The game cycles through modes pretty regularly: you find yourself listening to dialogue whilst watching some fairly static cutscenes, meander around the home/school/military base, then work your way through a mazelike dungeon before taking on a strong enemy. You seek a special item that calls in one of the major Gigants to take down. Each character has special abilities: in the first section, your main character is the close-up brawler, and his team has a ranged attacker and a mage. At the final battle of a chapter, the three split and spread out to be best effective, placing the mage further out in a safer distance while the brawler gets in the Gigant's face.
Where the game gets it's twist, though, is the inventory management, rather the lack thereof. Because: story, your characters don't "buy" weapons and consumables. They are "purchased" as you level up. Gaining marks on a simplified grid akin to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, you will eventually level a character to where a new weapon is unlocked. A consumable item becomes an option for an action, it doesn't reduce a consumable number at all. At the end of battle, everybody's HP is returned to maximum.
What does deplete, however, is an AP bar, representing how many of your abilities can be used. Stronger attacks use more AP, but your AP only fills up about a quarter, and that's if you take the enemy down in one turn. That benefit drops each turn you are out. This causes you to have to pay attention to weaknesses and exploit them, or you'll find yourself going out for the next battle with only enough AP for a single strike. As the game progresses, more complexity is added, which can result in using your own HP for attacks, furthering the risk and reward system.
The game is crafted beautifully. While it doesn't directly show battle actions, the main characters are animated in a traditional style, looking like cut-outs straight from an anime cel. Enemies look like 3D paper dolls, dancing and bobbing around on the screen. In between cutscenes, as well as the scenes that unlock when the super attacks are engaged, are beautifully animated by a professional team, and are wonderful to watch. I'm also rather impressed with the rough metal/jazz style of music that would get caught in my head between plays.
My complaints with the game are rather specific. The game can be overbearingly confusing. The leveling system consists of collecting resources, of which there are at least six different varieties, not counting the ones that reset your stats so you can try again if you feel you messed them up. Each level requires a separate resource for attacks, abilities, and general stats, and on top of that you have to eat, because walking makes you lose weight, and there lies your strength vs. agility stats. Over on the drama side, there seems to be a fluttering romance with one of the NPCs that just doesn't sit well with me, but I feel punished if I don't follow through. And with all the heavily traditional Japanese names with the added -kun, -chan, -senpai's added to them, and the different special names for each level of Gigant, Megalosite, Yorigami...all the complexity makes me pine for the days of physical releases (of which this game isn't getting in America) and a physical instruction manual I could reference during the game to keep things straight. Then, when you unlock the super attack, it adds a rhythm element, charging up your attack by hitting your offensive buttons in rhythm to the songs in the background for maximum effect. Unfortunately, as a music lover, I had a hard time following, as the "beat" transfers between instruments, feeling more like an orchestra conductor doing their little point-stroke toward whichever band member should add a bit more force. Didn't always make sense until I learned the song.
Also, the complexity is contrasted with a notable lack of hand-holding. After defeating what I thought to be the first world's boss, I was told I could go back to the level and fight more monsters to become stronger. I did as such, and defeated every enemy in the level in one fell swoop, never going back to heal or recharge. Thought I was ready, and went forward. Saved, then learned there was another, bigger boss. Couldn't go back and level more, and it took six attempts (and nearly quitting) before I got the perfect combination (after learning how to get better weapons through character leveling) and a stroke of luck (with the boss slowing down to clean it's fur and such) to push through. Simply put, if you're asked if you want to continue, you'd better keep a spare save slot until you know you're comfortable in the next area.
All said and done, though, once I figured out the leveling, item acquisition, and general rhythm of the game, I have found it quite enjoyable. The storyline bits lag from time to time, but it is engaging enough to make me generally curious as to where it's going. The risk versus reward aspect of AP management makes you have to think your way through the levels, working hard to level your characters until you are ready to take on the boss. Battles may seem generic once you've done a couple laps of the generic hallway-based dungeons, but as a portable title, it does give you enough of a combination of story, resource management, and logic/battle challenges to keep your attention. A recommended title for anyone into a traditional anime-style storyline and a robust management system.
Thanks to the developers for providing a copy of the game for review.
Final score: 3.25/5