tfw Hatsune Miku kidnaps you and 500 other people, traps all of you in her ideal virtual world and brainwashes you into liking her because she doesn’t already have enough crazy fans.
Oh wait…that’s not how the story goes. Anyway, the Caligula I want to talk about isn’t some merciless Roman Emperor but a…..*gasp* PS Vita game. Sounds like this one could be a brutal game including blood and sex going by the title but it’s nothing like that. The developer named it Caligula because they wanted attention and thought the name sounds cool! Just kidding lol. It’s more about the so-called Caligula effect, being tempted to do something prohibited. Breaking taboos.
The premise sounds pretty interesting and to top that off the developer got the Persona 2 writer on board.
Back to Hatsu…….Myu, a cute virtual idol who saves people from the harsh reality by trapping them in her creation, a virtual world named Mobius. Here you’ll forever live a happy high school life and by forever I really mean forever. It’s not that bad because you forget about your real life and about all the bad and depressing stuff anyway. Who doesn’t want to escape reality especially when they can get rid of their trauma.
Myu’s plan has its flaws, though. Our handsome but mute hero without a name attends the high school opening ceremony and in the middle of that everything starts looking weird. Like graphical errors in a computer game. He runs off and tries to escape…without any success.
He somehow ends up in the Going Home Club whose members are the same as him. They realized that they are living in a virtual world with no way out so they formed this club to come up with a plan. They get help from a small fairy thingy that annoys everyone to death…hey listen! Nah, not that one. This one is another virtual idol, called Aria, that created Mobius together with Myu but stuff happened and now she’s all tiny and powerless. She teams up with the hero because she wants to bring Myu back to her senses and help the students to escape Mobius.
Myu disappeared and no one knows where she is. So their goal is to find her but that’s easier said than done. She has a bunch of special elite bodyguards, called Ostinato Musicians, who not only make songs for their idol god but also want to protect her no matter what. If you are against Myu, they will make sure to eliminate you. Unfortunately, they are the only way to know more about Myu’s current whereabouts. That means the Going Home Club has to face the Ostinato Musicians and their brainwashed followers. With Aria around, the hero and the others are able to awaken some special powers and beat the Digiheads (brainwashed students).
The story idea sounds pretty awesome and there’s also the thing about the trauma each character is hiding. Especially the latter part made me curious about this game but in the end I decided against buying it at release. The reason? It’s handled by FuRyu. Yeah, that’s enough to make a guess about the game’s quality. My hope raised slightly as people began to share mostly positive opinions about the game. Now I got the chance to play Caligula earlier than expected (planned to wait for the English release) because a friend lend it to me! I’m currently 6 hours into the game, just after the first boss and so far it feels like another mediocre FuRyu game with lots of flaws…
Let’s talk about the things I noticed while playing the game, starting with the bad ones…
Honestly it feels like I’m playing a PSP game and not something on PS Vita. The character 3D models are poorly done, it affects story scenes in a negative way. Very few expressions and no mouth movement and eye blinking. The 3D models look bland with only some of the main characters standing out. FuRyu promised over 500 NPCs all with an unique design but that was obviously a lie. It’s difficult to tell them apart because they often share a very similar, totally boring design. I’m not entirely sure but it feels like they used the same model more than once and just gave the character a different name. 500 NPC’s way too much for a PS Vita game anyway…
The environment graphics are on PSP level as well and the first dungeon has a boring design which uses the same parts over and over again. Almost everything about the quality in this game screams low-budget.
Caligula has so many performance issues…it ruins most of the fun (some of them are rather amusing, though). Really, the performance’s just awful with constant framerate slowdowns and lags. The loading times are even worse than in Exist Archive. Want to load your save? wait 20-25 seconds until something happens but even after you gain control over your character the game still needs another 10 seconds to finish loading completely. Exactly the same thing happens EVERY DAMN time you change places (such as going to a different floor in the school building). It doesn’t end here…you also have to deal with a horrible camera and graphical errors. I like how NPC can do impossible things like walking right through locked doors. Apparently, there were even worse issues like random freezes and some things were impossible to achieve because of errors/glitches. FuRyu fixed and improved A LOT of things through patches but it’s still a big mess.
Like I mentioned before but putting 500 NPCs in a PS Vita game’s just too much. It’s impossible to make them all unique and the friendship system isn’t fun at all. Once you get a student to rank 2, it takes forever to raise their gauge to the next level. You basically have to talk to them over and over again just to hear some stupid repeating lines. Even with the trauma missions, it’s just boring and it takes way too much time. I’m not sure if you have to bring EVERYONE to rank 5 to get the platinum trophy, that would be overkill…
FuRyu could learn a thing or two from Falcom because that’s a developer who knows how to create interesting NPC and minor characters.
So far the story isn’t presented well but it’s slowly getting better. Conversations are rather boring and I just hate how Aria’s the annoying mascot character type who does all the talking for the hero. Some stuff happens way to fast and I don’t know how to feel about the characters. They aren’t really interesting so far, mainly because of the writing. A friend told me that the character episodes make up for it and that there are some worthwhile reveals and secrets to look forward to. Apparently, the antagonist are worth it as well. I can’t wait to meet them because they really gave off a strong first impression, better than the main characters.
The battle system’s pretty interesting with various skills and a nice combo system but suffers from bad balancing. Normally you can just breeze through the enemies without any trouble and the attack prediction system (Imaginary Chain) makes things even worse. Yeah, it looks awesome at first but not only takes it too long to set up your combos but also makes things way too easy. I beat the first boss in two turns without taking any damage and I’m sure that’s not how it’s intended to be…
Sometimes you come across some stronger enemies which are better avoided. If you even get the chance to avoid them….because it’s not always easy to see them immediately. They like to blend into a crowd of students and suddenly rush towards you. A battle with them will either take very long or is downright impossible to win because they take you down in 1-2 hits. Once you catch up to their level it gets easier to beat them.
There are only two ways to heal your HP. Use a skill or fight some weak enemies because you regain some HP after each battle. No items and nothing like an inn to heal everyone’s energy in one go. I only refrain from putting this under ‘bad’ because you are able to use healing skills outside of battle.
I like the way they use the bgm. Each Ostinato Musicians has their own song performed by Myu (voice actor: Rena Ueda) and an instrumental version of said song’s playing in their dungeon. Once you enter a battle the instrumental version switches to the vocal version without any delay. It’s pretty awesome! Unfortunately, they tend to overuse music but that’s not a big issue.
The other thing I like a lot is the character design and the art in general. It’s very well done and fits the game perfectly.
I don’t get why people call Caligula a surprisingly good game with all the flaws it has. It doesn’t make it unplayable but takes away a big part of the fun and gives it a low-budget feel. Artwork, character design, bgm/songs and the story idea are all great though and motivate me to keep playing. I really hope the reveals/secrets about the characters and the antagonists are as good as people say but I probably shouldn’t get my hope up too much ahaha…