The Caligula Effect is a JRPG released on the PlayStation Vita, developed by Aquria and published by NIS America in the UK and US in 2017 – The Caligula Effect: Overdose is effectively a HD remaster with additional content released for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam on March 3rd.
If you’re like us and wondered what The Caligula Effect is referring to, it’s a psychological term referring to the want to see and do prohibited things, something which is tied in with the narrative and overarching themes of the game – What would you expect from Tadashi Satomi, the man responsible for the original Persona games?
Combat in The Caligula Effect: Overdose is an interesting mix of Real-Time, Turn-Based and a Time Manipulation mechanic called The Imaginary Chain – When you enter combat all your characters have three different types of abilities they can use. Catharsis Effect (Your attacks), Support and Actions. All-in-all pretty standard JRPG affair – When you attempt to use one of your abilities you’re introduced to The Imaginary Chain, where you can see events unfold before you commit to your turn. Each character can use three actions per turn too, yet you can only see how the first will play out. An example of this in motion would be your enemy is about to attack with a ranged attack; you counter this throwing them off balance and into the air – Finally you follow up with an ability which deals extra damage to targets who are falling.
Now, while you can see what’s about to happen, you’re always seeing the perfect scenario, meaning that this doesn’t always play out in the way you may intend. If your character misses, for example, then you’ll be standing there awkwardly continuing to pull off the attack. Once you add in a full party’s worth of people, and many enemies, you can start to understand how this system can start to become in-depth.
Each character you gain access to has their own unique weapon and playstyles; these are echoed when you start doing the chapters added specifically into The Caligula Effect: Overdose, however these are just echoes of the main cast. While in the trailer it states there are 500 characters in the game, these are all generic characters who possess the same weapons as the main cast – The benefit of supporting and unlocking these other characters, though, is to unlock passive abilities to empower your main party. While on the topic of these generic characters, there is a relationship map available in the game to show all these characters, the relationships they have with each other and the rewards for recruiting them. It feels like this was implemented to make these interactions more meaningful, but results in a lot of admin work. Specific characters won’t talk to you unless you’re acquainted with one of their friends, and so forth…
The character which you play is aligned with a group of rebels called The Go-Home Club, however with this new Overdose release, included is a new addition to this version of the game which allows you to join the side of the antagonists; The Ostinato Musicians – A group hellbent on ensuring that the world continues to function as it always has, for better or worse, and aiming to stop The Go-Home club from restoring order. Playing as a member of The Ostinato Musicians is going to be content that fans of the original release will enjoy, adding further context to this story and world – As a new player, it becomes tiring quite early on as you’re running through the same environments in an attempt to undo everything you accomplished within the main story as part of The Ostinato Musicians; remember this content is woven into the main storyline and can become quite jarring.
There are specific expectations which come with being an anime-themed Role-Playing Game, and The Caligula Effect: Overdose meets them with serious-looking male characters, overly cute female characters which meet all anime tropes and a slight hint of fan service in anime cutscenes – The environments are, for the most part, what you would expect from an anime that is based around school-life themed animes, and can expect to be running through schools, libraries, shopping malls, and bathhouses.
The game is visually showing its age considering the original game was released on the PlayStation Vita back in Japan during 2016 – All of the environments you encounter are dungeons which are mapped out in a linear fashion of branching corridors, so you’re going to see a lot of assets being repeated throughout your adventure; the narrative suggests that the reason these environments look the way they do is due to the understanding of the world’s inhabitants, however as the player you’re going to look at it differently – Especially if you’ve gotten lost in a specific dungeon.
Character models look crisp and the main cast have some awesome designs, but there is a lack of variation in the enemy designs throughout the game – Essentially you’re fighting against students which have become corrupt – which in the beginning is an awesome concept – but when you’re 10 hours into the game, you’re still fighting the same enemies but with different weapons floating around them.
The Original Game Soundtrack for The Caligula Effect: Overdose is outstanding, when it comes to the battle music throughout at least; each area the player visits is under the control of a different musician who has written their own theme, including the player’s alternate appearance – As the gameplay transitions into combat, the vocals of the theme kick in where there is something available for all tastes.
While I found the majority of the music to be amazing, there were those around me who thought the opposite – I’ve grown up with anime and have fallen in love with some series’ tracks over the years; those who aren’t accustomed to this type of music might be in for a bit of a shock. It might come as a shock but I love Vocaloid and have done for years – The tracks which have got vocals are all throwbacks to virtual idols, and the songs which have been inspired by its users emotions.
If you’re on the fence with The Caligula Effect: Overdose. Take some time and check out our preview available on our YouTube Channel:
The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a weird title, and that’s not just because of the involvement of Tadashi Satomi; overall there is a feeling that this title is can be referred to as Persona Lite – There is a lot to love if you belong to the right community; if you’re not an anime watching Persona fanatic, or someone who played the original PlayStation Vita release, then there is a chance this title will go right over your head.
As a connoisseur of the JRPG genre, I had no knowledge of the original release, and playing through The Caligula Effect: Overdose I’m left wondering if the title deserved an upgraded re-release – The game has been remade using the Unreal Game Engine, but as a consumer you don’t notice the transition with assets looking like they belong in the original release of the game. The overall package is left feeling dated.
There is a lot of content available if you’re a leveling junkie with plenty of characters to level and skills to unlock; be warned however that there is a lot of grind, and very little variation in enemy design which could become tedious over an extended play. The music is going to be what keeps you hooked on the title with enough variation to keep it interesting; some sections even allow you to choose which characters theme is playing, so if you’ve listened to something which resonated with you then you can continue to enjoy what’s available.
I give The Caligula Effect: Overdose a: