The Caligula Effect is one of the many niche RPGs that have been released for the PS Vita. Most of these games usually end up providing a decent experience overall so what about The Caligula Effect? The Caligula Effect is another attempt to chase the success of Persona and while it tries it best to separate itself from similar games in genre, it unfortunately suffers from some issues that often result in an experience that is subpar.
The game starts with a high school intro where everything seems normal until one day when the main protagonist starts to see the fractured real world and realizes that the world he considered real so far is actually a simulated virtual reality. This virtual reality program is called ‘Mobius’ and it is utilized to let people escape the pain in their real life while assuming the role of a high school student. Despite that, he soon discovers that there are others like him in this world who can also see the truth about virtual reality and together they form a group to escape it.
The Caligula Effect was also written by one of the ex-Persona writer so naturally going into the game, I had high expectations when it comes to the story. Unfortunately, the game just feels barebone when it comes to presentation and the writing doesn’t really help in that matter. The intro is a confusing mess where it often feels like the game is being obtuse for no reason. Thankfully things begin to pick up slowly as we progress further in the game but even then, the story doesn’t really present any good twist or motivation for the player so that they keep playing the game.
The game’s story is divided into chapters where each chapter features a new dungeon and culminates with a boss battle that is usually an important character to the main party. This gives the developer an opportunity to offer some character development in the game, and it is handled well for the most part. However the game does suffer from the typical anime cliches at times especially when you consider the fact that the main antagonist is a virtual pop idol who goes by the nickname “μ”.
The main theme of the story revolves around dealing with the insecurities and failure of the characters, due to which they decided to settle on their virtual life despite knowing that it is not real. It is an interesting theme but the way the story is executed in the game is rather bland. The motivations of the character feel like they are not worth the reason for which they have decided to settle on a virtual life although it might vary from person to person.
The combat in The Caligula Effect presents a unique take on the typical real-time turn-based combat seen in other JRPGs. It offers the players a chance to analyze the attacks that they can execute as well as the action of their enemies and then determine the best possible outcome from them. You can also try to tweak the timing of your action in order to deal the most amount of damage to the enemy, but as cool as it sounds, the lack of enemy variety along with the lack of challenge makes the game far too easy at times. Still, when the combat does click together, it is great feeling to form a string of chain combos on the enemy.
Of course the combat is not the only aspect in The Caligula Effect. You can also form bonds with other characters in the game and don’t take this aspect lightly, because there are hundreds of NPCs that can be linked in the game. While the number might sound amazing, most of these are just generic NPCs which don’t offer much in term of character progression but building a bond with them does unlock new skills that can be used in the combat. This mechanic is called the causality link and it is presented in the game in the form of a grid featuring a set of nodes with each of the character that you can form a bond. Some of these are linked to other characters who might be their friend/acquaintance and getting to know them will unlock new NPCs on the grid.
While The Caligula Effect doesn’t offer any interesting visuals, the art style is rather nice. The character designs fit their high school persona well. Unfortunately the game appears to be too ambitious for Vita especially during the combat when the frame rate can tank. This can lead to some frustrating slowdowns during the combat which can take the fun out of it. In term of replay value, the game can take a little over 20 hours to complete the first time which is decent for a RPG of this size. You can attempt to replay it in order to achieve 100% progress since it will take a while to complete everything in the game.
The Caligula Effect Review (Vita)
Game Reviewed on: Vita
Game description: The Caligula Effect, known in Japan as Caligula is a role-playing video game that was developed by Aquria for the PlayStation Vita. It was published by FuRyu in June 2016 in Japan, and is planned to be released by Atlus in May 2017 in North America and Europe.
The Caligula Effect is another interesting take on the high-school social aspects mixed with dungeon crawling genre, however it features a rather lackluster combat system and suffers from some technical issues that make the experience less than enjoyable overall.