When I was a teenager, I really liked this girl. I’d liked her since we were in kindergarten together. When I was in 8th grade, I finally got the chance to date this dream girl of mine. The result? Disaster. We didn’t get on at all, and we ended up splitting up within the week. That’s a very comparable experience to my time with “The Caligula Effect: Ovedose”.
When the game came to Vita, I remember that I really wanted to play it and review it, but I didn’t get a chance. I was really disappointed, as it looked like the spiritual successor to Persona 4 Golden, a game I adored on the Vita. I knew we weren’t gonna get Persona 5 on the Vita, so this looked like the next best thing. Fast-forward to March 2019, and I’ve had the chance to play “The Caligula Effect: Overdose” on the Switch. And once again, all my dreams got shattered.
The story is interesting, but convoluted and confusing: you suddenly realize the world you’re living in is a virtual reality, created by entities soon-to-be-known in order to alleviate all the pain and suffering from the real world. However, they’re not about to let you just wonder out, as their lofty aspirations have turned dark. You join the Go-Home club, a group of misfits who’ve also realized they are living in VR, and together, you must battle your way to the truth-and out of Mobius (the virtual world you’re stuck in).
While this sounds great, the way the story is presented is very confusing at times, and even more so when it comes to the NPCs. You must complete sidequests to level up your characters, and for that, you need to talk to the NPCs. You befriend the NPCs by talking to them, by the way. Three times. Every NPC. There are over 500 of these events! Every person inside Mobius has been through emotional or physical trauma. In playing through “The Caligula Effect: Overdose”, you must find out what their deal is and perform a quest to help them out. Sadly, these quests, handed out by NPCs that look almost all identical, do not vary much from the usual “go eliminate X number of enemies from Z area” affair. Each member of the Go-Home club also has their own “boss” (Osinato Musician) to face (and this part is actually a bit more interesting, but it takes you ages and eons to get to this). Thankfully, you can get over a mediocre story in an RPG if the gameplay is good, right? Right.
Sadly, that’s not the case here. It’s not horrible, and the system, which is a mix of Persona and Bravely Default, does a good job of injecting strategy into the gameplay. Will you use up all your turns? Or reduce the cooldown for your next move by using just one or two moves this round? In the end, battles are a piece of cake for people who are used to this type of game, and unless you’re battling against higher-level opponents, you won’t have any issues using the prediction system to plan out a winning strategy. Like I said, if you’re familiar with turn-based RPGs, and in particular with the Persona series, this will all look and feel very familiar… if slightly less polished.
My main gripe with “The Caligula Effect: Overdose”, though, is the presentation. It seems like, with the Switch, we’re back to the old Vita standby, where games just knock out a port of a popular game without optimizing it enough to make it enjoyable on that platform. The voice acting is phenomenal, as is the music, but the graphics, particularly in handheld mode, are the softest I’ve ever, ever seen on the Switch. Portable gaming is such a crucial cornerstone of the Switch’s appeal, and developers seem to sometimes ignore this and release games that are obviously a sub-par version of the same game, on the same system, but on docked mode. Here’s hoping we can expect better from future releases. It’s not like the Switch isn’t capable of great-looking games: as we saw in my review of “Everspace“, there’s plenty of power to be had here, even from indie releases.
I’m very sad to be leaving Mobius with a negative outlook. I wanted to adore “The Caligula Effect: Overdose”. It promised better visuals, and tons more content, as well as an optimized battle mechanic. In the end, we got a half-baked port that runs with constant blur in portable mode, and at best, it’s a confusing, competent (if slightly run-of-the-mill) turn-based RPG. It’s a shame, as the team behind it (having worked on Persona games before) are clearly capable of creating an engrossing world and great presentation. Just… not this time.