The Caligula effect is the wanting to see and do prohibited things.
Disclaimer: The reviewer DID NOT complete the game.
The Caligula effect was developed by Aquria, best known for developing 3 of the Sword Art Online games (Infinity Moment, Hollow Fragment, and Hollow Realization). It was published by FuRyu in Japan and by Atlus worldwide.
You’re a teenage Japanese boy who is starting his first year of high school, only to figure out that something is not right. Your peers and others around you have their faces distorted. Unsure, you bolt out of the gym. You later meet up with other students who see the same thing as you do and came to the conclusion that this isn’t the real world. And it isn’t, the world is a digital world called Mobius created by vocal program AI called “μ.” You and your new group of friend, known as the “Go-Home Club,” are viewed as traitors by the rest of the students of Mobius and Ostinato Musicians, a group of elites who support μ. With the help of another vocal program you meet along the way named Aria, you and the Go-Home Club work together to find a way to escape Mobius. If you’re wondering why this game is running with so many similarities with Persona franchise, it was written by Tadashi Satomi who wrote the first Persona game along with both Persona 2 games. Other notable works are the two Digital Devil Saga games.
There are students who you’ll run into who will try to stop you from finding a way out of Mobius. They’ll transform into Digi-heads and attack you. This is the one part of the game that really shines. Well it shines when it works. Even though the game is a turn based game, it has a time based battle system in a 3D plane. It works by que-ing in up to 3 commands for each of your party members then letting it play out. When everything works, you get this really cool sequence of attacks such as countering a gun attack, launching the enemies airborne, then following it up with attacks that do bonus damage in the air. Then, when the enemies land on the ground, your party proceeds to deal ground boosted follow-up knock down damage. If any of the enemies are still alive, you take a defensive stance, recoup your MP, and repeat. That’s IF, a really big IF here, everything works properly. At any point if your attacks miss, it ruins the sweet combo you got set up. Everything will still play out as queued but since you missed an attack, it might’ve ruined an aerial combo you had planned or the enemy didn’t get knocked down to set up something other attack. There’s no stopping what you have queued up. At the end of each party member queue, you get to set them up for another queue. You can have them keep attacking, which can get frustrating when trying to retake control of the battle, or rest to restore MP and try to get party back together why waiting out the rest of your teammate’s queue.
In many Japanese High School themed games, you have a set of students that comprise of your main party or group of friends and every other student are one or two line NPC that are just there to fill the space to add to the environment. In this game, there are 500 students ranging from year 1 to year 3 in which you can interact with and create a relationship with. When you bring up the student list, it works like a sphere grid. Being friend with one character, will allow you to become friends with another character and so on. You become friends by talking to them and messaging them. Everyone one has an issue, so to proceed onward you have to solve their problems to become better friends. You can even invite them to your party. The game made sure to let you know that and that even some of the 500 students can even be better than your main party. Truthfully, I saw no reason for this as your fellow non-party students have a limited move set and there are 500 of them to siphon through to find those few seems like too much of a hassle as they don’t really give much to still being flat characters.
The design of the “dungeons” are large and confusing when you start to have multiple zones. Spread throughout are other students and Digi-heads. Digi-heads engage you in battle if you’re in their line of site for too long. You can run around them and avoid most fight, but if you just happen to run around the corner and straight into them expect a fight. That should be an issue as most fight should end pretty quick with a counter strike followed by spamming basic attacks. But while exploring the zones, there are corners or dead ends that have enemy units that are 10 level above you. It’s clear that whatever they’re protecting is of worth thus having you back track when you reach a level to combat them. However, there are time when you accidently engage them. You have one chance to run and hope that RNG is on your side to let you run, if not there’s a pretty good chance that you’re gonna wipe and game over. The dungeons have many save points. I highly suggest saving as much as possible as a run in with a higher level enemy can turn poorly with one missed move really, really quick.
The music in the game is very vocaloid inspired JPop. It composed Tsukasa Masuko, who is of Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei fame. It’s a vast change from the more apocalyptic dreary tone of the non-mainline SMT series. The music is either gonna be a hit or a miss. For being vocaloid inspired JPop, it’s actually not done by vocaloids. The music is catchy, but after a couple hours of frustration via combat, it can be more on the annoying side. There’s a single track that plays across each area, but once you enter combat vocals are mixed in and once you leave combat vocals are mixed back out leaving just the instrumental. After a couple of hours, I had to reduce the background music to the lowest without muting it.
The artist for the game is Oguchi. Aside from being the artist of a few manga, generally unknown in the video game world. The characters are generic looking and doesn’t stand out. While dungeons are different settings, every part of the dungeon looks the same. It simply does what it supposed to and not anything to write home about. Maybe μ and your helper fairy/vocaloid Aria will receive some fans.
Aria stay this adorable size throughout the game.
As disclaimed, I didn’t beat the game. There are multiple reasons for that. Just coming right off of Persona 5 it wasn’t hard to compare a portable title to one of the most highly anticipated games, being set in a Japanese town/high school with the ability to transform and use that power to defeat the enemy to obtain the goal. One of the things that bugged me the most especially early on in the game is the lack of a “conversation log.” There will be time when I pressed X too quickly and skip over dialogue or just want to go back and read a few lines prior but there’s no conversation log, which is a staple feature in Visual Novels and coming right off of Persona 5 which did have a conversation log. Even early on there are units that are maybe a couple levels higher than you, not high enough to completely wipe your party but just enough to give you a challenge to see if you grasp the concept of the battle system. Those are a slog to fight through, even when you land all the proper counters and do combos. Instead of the quick 1-2 minute fights most of the wondering Digi-heads are, these can take up to 10-15 minutes due to being under-leveled and not doing big continuous damage. Also healing, restoring MP, repositioning, and re-timing your party. It’s more frustrating when you’re just exploring and those higher level enemy respawn a short time after and you have to reengage in combat again just for running past them.
The story is generic, the music is tiresome, the combat is tedious. Maybe it’s a misfortune of being released so close to Persona 5, but I can’t recommend The Caligula Effect to anyone. If you really like vocaloid, save yourself the trouble and just find the OST.
Time played: ~13 hours
Copy was provided by Atlus USA.