Review: Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy (PSV/PSTV)

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Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
Title: Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy
Format: Game Card / PlayStation Network Download (1.1 GB)
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Experience Inc.
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The first-person dungeon crawling genre is one I’ve only really dipped my toe into in the past. Last year’s Demon Gaze was one of those dips and while the game didn’t wow me, I did enjoy the time I spent with it. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is by the same developer but the lack of some of the friendlier aspects of Demon Gaze made this a game I was decidedly less enthusiastic about.

Right from the start, Operation Abyss seems to cater to both the hardcore dungeon crawlers and the newbies by giving the option of either Basic Mode or Classic Mode from the start. However, the differences between the modes seem minor. They mostly just relate to how the game fills out the starting party members and whether the player can fully customize a member’s looks. I opted to spend most of my time in Basic Mode.

The game picks up with a pretty generic story hook: the player is attacked by a strange monster only to be saved by a special task force. The Code Physics Agency (CPA) is a special group of individuals who are fighting to keep Tokyo (or some future version thereof) safe from monsters known as Variants.

These monsters seem to be coming from another dimension, known as Abyss, and it’s up to the CPA’s Xth Squad to combat them. Naturally, the player character is scouted for this squad immediately after being saved because video games.

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The story is, for the most part, bland and unexciting. The usual JRPG conventions exist here in bounds: proper nouns out the wazoo, conversations that drag on longer than they need to, the saviors of the world are all high school aged kids that still need to attend classes, and the odd tone shifts between serious conversations about seriously serious stuff and the occasional silly school hijinks scenes. I quickly found myself tuning out a lot of the game’s story.

Bland story can be passable in a game if the rest holds up, but sadly the blandness of the story bleeds into the gameplay as well. Dungeon crawling is done in first person, walking around square by square to explore each of the game’s dungeons.

… an adequate combat system …
The normal spread of traps and dead ends try to spice up the game’s exploration though I never found it to be all that exciting. Doubly so for the occasions when a mission would force me back through an area I had already explored, sadly an all too common occurrence. On top of that, a few missions gave such vague requests that I spent a lot of time simply wandering around the map, hoping to trigger the event I needed, which was annoying enough to make me not feel like finishing the game.

While exploring, battles happen through random encounters which drop the player’s party into a turn based combat system. The player queues up an action for each available character they have, then lets loose to see how each action plays out and how the enemies react. It’s an adequate combat system and there is some amount of strategy involved, both in battle and in preparation.

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The one part of the combat that bothered me most, especially early on, was how limited spells and abilities felt. These abilities have only a limited number of casts before they must be refilled by returning to base to replenish. Compared to a normal mana system, this felt a lot more restrictive. Fortunately, characters gain more spell uses when they level up and within a few levels I was at a point where I no longer felt uncomfortable about using a skill for fear of needing it and not having it later.

Outside of combat, the game offers a lot of customization of the characters, right down to stat gains. When done well, letting the player allocate individual stat gains can really boost the player’s attachment to their characters. In this case, however, it just felt tedious and unintuitive.

… started to seem overwhelming …
The player’s choices of how to lay out their party in terms of character classes and who is in the front or back row are a big part of the strategy of the game but the way the game presents it all just made it more difficult to learn and manage.

There are also a number of game systems for finding items, appraising items, and combining and upgrading items. It all just started to seem overwhelming, especially since the game doesn’t explain any of it until several hours after it is all introduced. By the time the game explained these mechanics, I had already established a rudimentary understanding of how they worked.

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The poorly designed menu systems don’t help with the game’s tedium. Appraising items also costs money, however one class of allies can appraise items for free but with the chance of failing or even inflicting a negative status effect on themselves.

If I was in the base, using that skill means digging through several menus to find it. And then backing out through menus to go heal the character when they inflicted the status effect on themselves. None of this felt at all streamlined or intuitive, which really didn’t help me get into the game.

… an experience that isn’t very memorable …
Visuals:
Operation Abyss is decent in the visual department. The premade character avatars are well designed and nice to look at and the game has some pretty cool scenes in the story mode. The story scenes are pretty far between though and the character avatars are ultimately just static images for use in menus and such. Player created avatars look alright but obviously pale in comparison to the premade ones. Enemies run the gambit from some pretty cool looking demons and monsters to rather uninspired zombies.

Dungeons are the most boring part of the visuals, especially since many of them are pretty drab and uninspired. This just makes the dungeon exploring all the worse as there isn’t much to make the exploring interesting. Different levels of the dungeon and even some separate dungeons all blend together to make for an experience that isn’t very memorable.

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Audio:
Forgettable also describes some of the music in the game. What’s there isn’t bad, but a lot of the music is similar to a lot of other games. As ambiance, the sound does decently well but not enough to really stand out.

Voices are also just alright. Story scenes have a minimal amount of dialogue. Sometimes the character will read a full line or part of a line but other scenes will just have a generic bit of voice to match with the mood of the character. During battles though, some of the voices can get a bit grating as there aren’t many variations to the character’s grunts and yells.

Online/Multiplayer:
The only online feature is the ability to leave notes for other players and to read notes left by other players. Otherwise the game is singleplayer only.

… one operation that might be okay to miss …
Conclusion:
Ultimately Operation Abyss never managed to grab my attention. There are some poorly designed aspects of the game, such as some menus or boring dungeons, and the combat and other aspects that are better still weren’t enough for me.

The super minutia of micromanaging every aspect of the player’s team is probably the biggest draw. For some players, that might be enough to make it interesting but much of the rest of the game really holds it back. This is one operation that might be okay to miss.

Score:
5.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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