Review – Demon Gaze Extra
The DRPG genre isn’t one I’ve delved into much growing up. It wouldn’t be until Labyrinth of Refrain that my eyes truly opened to it. My main turnoff was the inability to see my characters. Up to that point, I grew accustomed to having a visual of what was in villages, battles, and while traversing. As a company, my first foray with Experience Inc was Saviours of Sapphire Wings. It was a title I liked and went on to rate a respectable seven. So naturally, hearing Demon Gaze was getting a new shiny coat of paint before hitting Nintendo Switch left me giddy. It was one of those games I missed out on because I didn’t own a PlayStation Vita. Even if I bought one, the price of the damn memory cards made it hard to justify. That changes today but was Demon Gaze Extra worth the wait?
As a company, Experience Inc loves giving us the ability to personalize our team. The only concrete, set-in-stone characters are NPCs – both in appearance and their identity. While I do adore the customization this offers players, it comes with a significant sacrifice – investment. Every one of those party members is nothing more than an empty husk. Sure, they’re tossed into passing quips to inject a sense of substance, but it feels more like an afterthought than an effort to give them life. I appreciate the acknowledgement, but I hate that it’s name-dropping and that’s it. Yeah, they laugh, drink, and have minor interactions with others, but they’re barely mentioned. They feel like pawns used only to fill up the world. One of the defining aspects of JRPGs is relating to everyone. Losing out on that births a half-baked experience.
Thankfully, the NPCs attempt picking up the slack, and they mostly nail it. Demon Gaze Extra does a proper job infusing tiny habits to flesh them out, thus promoting individuality. A few are humorous too, like the bubbly cat girl. Of course, expect perversion, with eye candy or dialogue that’s purely used to be gratuitous. For instance, you’re asked what part of a woman’s body is your favourite. There’s also an outrageous-looking piece of lingerie that literally defies logic. Then, there’s the other side of the coin, where undress portrays a character trait. What I mean is, while deep in discussion with someone, a girl periodically prances by. It’s meant to get across her sleepy demeanour and pension to stroll about in her undergarments groggily. It’s nice seeing fan-service with a purpose, however slight. Speaking of, I’d like to spotlight a particular encounter.
Now, ludicrously revealing clothing is usual for niche titles like Demon Gaze Extra. So, the knickers aren’t puzzling, but they do contribute to a wholesome exchange, believe it or not. It saw the female protagonist and me sharing a tender moment. With how everything played out, I was reliving the days of my first relationship, adding relatability to it. It helps that the mystery behind the girl is intriguing, albeit predictable. It’s a notion that the penultimate climax of the story shares. Although, in its defense, there were a few extra wrinkles to the literary shirt I didn’t see coming. All in all, Demon Gaze Extra tries to balance both comedy and serious aspects. Character antics got chuckles or grins, as well as eye-rolling. Euphemisms are aplenty, and I do adore the double entendres. There’s one part of the narrative that sticks out, though.
Ignoring the reliance on amnesia as a writing device, let’s discuss surprise. Many titles introduce a single incident that leaves players gasping. Demon Gaze Extra yearns to replicate that and does try, but the end result is lacklustre. A big reason for the misfire is the character development. See, the portion in question happens reasonably early, and because of that, there isn’t enough time to create a connection. Impactful situations tend only to have the desired shock when empathy between the player and NPC is established. That way, after a horrific circumstance, any grief felt is amplified and hits your very core. That wasn’t the case and the reason it occurs with a whimper. There’s another stab at it later, but despite a build-up this time, it still fails due to hot and cold writing. Luckily, the growth of half of the main cast is leagues better by comparison.
Tedium is a joy block, capable of turning full features into sluggish chores. Demon Gaze Extra has its fair share of that, from grinding to good old-fashioned treasure hunting. It’s thanks to the latter point that I’d not only notice incessant menu hopping, but also a hell of a lot of backtracking. The culprits are these loot maps found sporadically throughout the journey. Written on them are coordinates meant to lead to a specific area. It never reveals the location, however, with nonsensical riddles taking the place of clues. I struggled to comprehend the hints, more so because they’re so cryptic. The details are muddled and points to many possible zones, driving me to eventually get a guide. With it, I managed to get through but the experience remains an utter slog. Those abysmal leads aren’t the only reason for that either.
Now, the hook of Demon Gaze Extra is capturing, well, demons. I very much enjoy this facet, and it’s made even better thanks to the battles that precede obtaining them. You see, I love a challenge, and that’s exactly what I got. It kept me on my toes, and even through defeat, I was piecing a strategy together. The problem is demons are directly linked to maps – note there’s seventy or so to scavenge. To even manifest the loot, a specific one has to be accompanying you. The issue with that is there are ten in total with only three slots on your person. As you can imagine, there’s continuous bouncing between locations and the hub inn to change the line-up. Couple that with the trial and error of trying to find loot sites, and it solidifies the need to track down a damn guide – it’s an absolute necessity.
Here’s the real downer: in the midst of completing the quests locked behind maps, there are a few charming exchanges with the task giver. These events implant further personality and inject rationale into their odd quirks. For anyone that loves wonderfully drawn yet lewd CGs, yup, those are here and accounted for. So, to have these hidden behind such a damn annoying mechanic is heartbreaking. It’s a massive misstep, and as it stands, there’s a need for a couple quality of life adjustments. Experience Inc does improve elsewhere, though, like automatic movement. That makes loot hunting a smidge easier to stomach. The only hitch is obstacles that damage – spikes, poison, etc. The good news is there’s a demon that negates it. The bad news is they take up a precious slot, limiting how many can come alongside in search of treasure, thus adding on to the tedium.
Okay, I’ve made gameplay seem rather unattractive, but believe me, it’s hot. There’s tons of fun waiting, and it had me staying up well into the wee hours of the morning. Something about Demon Gaze Extra is genuinely addictive. That said, it’s also an acquired taste and won’t appeal to every person. For anyone familiar with Experience Inc, this is a DRPG with movement and combat tied to first person. Another frequent feature is the grinding. Because towns are absent, the one available shop is inside the hub inn. Consequently, all the purchasable equipment quickly becomes redundant – the only viable method to get higher tier armour and weapons is with combat. To help assure drops, there are magical circles that, by using a gem, do net some great rewards. In other words, to get a powerful sword, use a sword gem – this was my obsession.
Now, there is an upgrade system for armaments that bolster their stats. This is in addition to the varying ranks, with high ones unsurprisingly indicating the superior choice. It’s the biggest motivation to grind because there’s no better feeling than obtaining the best sword, then investing and strengthening it to its ultimate lethality. Thanks to the easy accessibility to gems via the hub inn shop, maxing equipment is an effortless task. Sadly, battling doesn’t garner much money, so selling is the realistic option. If I were to describe the gameplay loop, it’s a perpetual cycle of fights, collecting item drops, peddling the unwanted, and infusing the rest into whatever you use – be it a sword or shield. To ease the inevitable repetition, battles can be sped up. It’s not automated but that increase in speed is great. Still, it doesn’t change the fact this becomes a time sink.
If you’re not convinced that grinding plays an intrinsic role in Demon Gaze Extra, I have more proof. While demons do operate under a rank system, their actual power is defined by weaponry. Essentially, to wield a potent beast, you best be packing serious heat. This heightens the motive of committing countless murders to bolster your armaments. As if that wasn’t enough, as characters level up, only one stat can increase. I’d generally default to raising whatever makes the most sense based on the classes: MYS for Healer, VIT or STR for Paladin. In that regard, equipment is utilized to help accommodate for what’s missing. Since, for example, dodging will be sacrificed for raw damage output, defense will have to receive focus. It adds an extra spice of strategy and is fun to mess around with for the best combinations.
The environments, such as forests, volcanoes, castles, and so on, are, without hyperbole, generic. Everything feels empty and desolate, resembling a PlayStation 3 game in most, if not all, cases. Then again, that’s the Experience Inc way, and typically, from the games I have played, character portraits are where the art style really flourishes. It’s the classic anime aesthetic with vibrant colours that pop. The CGs, especially, are all hand-drawn and give life to their shenanigans. I will note, however, that some of the designs feel a tad bit uninspired, with Cassel being a prime example. As for performance, I didn’t notice any frames dropping or stutters. I did, sadly, experience a one-time crash in my over fifty hour session. Funnily enough, it happened during a boss fight that was kicking my ass. Maybe this wasn’t a technological flaw so much as a means to fight my stubbornness.
You know, Demon Gaze Extra taking cues from NieR wasn’t on my bingo card. And yet, that’s exactly what the score manages. For anyone unfamiliar, the vocals here are incoherent, being sung in gibberish; whereas the instrumentals are orchestral, creating niceties for my eardrums. However, while the music ranges from decent to great, nothing is memorable. Most notably, tracks do nothing to amplify the emotional weight of a scene which, as a JRPG, is a misstep. It isn’t all sour grapes, though, because Demon Gaze Extra definitely hits a home-run with ambiance. Forests, underwater, and more all sound authentic. One area even has an odd sampling of what seems like chanting. Whatever it is, it perfectly elevates the mystique. There’s a dub, too, that shocked me. It has inflection and cadence, but remains a serviceable subpar performance. No voices came off as grating either, so that’s always a plus.
Demon Gaze Extra fills a niche, ideal for those with a grind fetish. Most of its systems revolve around going out and infinitely killing. Sure, it’s a tedious affair, but the quality of life factors, such as speeding combat up, helps with that. The narrative itself is passable but does take an hour or so to truly take off. Sadly, the two pivotal moments struggle to be impactful with both attempts falling flat. Still, some characters stole my heart, thanks to their antics. Then there’s those that had me rolling my eyes. Be wary that perversion is certainly part of this package, with outfits, such as the lingerie, solely for gratuity. Unfortunately, there’s also a boss just before the finale that’s broken as hell. Although, with patience and some luck, the fight may remain an annoyance but it’s also winnable. I highly suggest using a guide.
I can only recommend this title to those that fit into the targeted niche. Even then, the current price is a bit steep, and the value just doesn’t match the gameplay. Wait for a sale on this.
Environments are generic looking. While they have detail and are well done, it doesn’t take away from the lack of life. It follows a template design for every location.
While I had fun, there’s no hiding that once it’s boiled down, this game is objectively repetitive. Because of that, there’s limited appeal and might not catch the eye of most.
The music is good. I liked that there’s NieR influence, too, intentional or not. The only downside is that none of the tracks are memorable enough to have me humming it even after the fact. A stellar score should strive to heighten the emotion of a scene but this fails at that.
Fun Factor: 8.5
I got irrationally obsessed with upgrading my equipment and building up my characters. It’s such a simple premise but I was hooked. The gatcha feel of the gems worked to Demon Gaze Extra’s favour, luring me in to always try one more time.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Demon Gaze Extra is available now on PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Demon Gaze Extra was provided by the publisher.