The Caligula Effect 2
Publisher: NIS America
Genre(s): Role-Playing, Strategy
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PS4)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 22/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
The Caligula Effect 2 tells the story of a normal everyday high school student who ends up stuck in a living simulation called Redo which was created by a virtuadoll named Regret. In order to escape this less than ideal situation, the protagonist along with the help of X, another virtuadoll, and his high school pals will have to go head-to-head with Regret in order to be able to return to the real world and his normal student life.
The Caligula Effect 2 is a traditional JRPG where you explore various areas, kill enemies, collect coins and XP, uncover new skills and visit shops where you need in order to get helpful items and new Stigmas (skills). Whereas most JRPGs feature turn-based combat, this game features an active time battle system akin to Final Fantasy VII where you select your action, and said action will be executed once the meter, in the bottom right corner, runs out. This adds a layer of strategy to the mix as you can try and time combos with your team members.
For each battle, you can also tell your party members what to do (Offensive, Defensive or Free), but you can also take full control over them, which I definitely recommend for a more hands-on approach and to be in a better position to strategize. Interestingly enough, before confirming your choice of action, the game will show you what your team members and enemies will do, allowing you a chance to change your attack or action for an optimal strategy.
Taking Turn-based Combat to a Different Level
As you complete battles and dish out damage, you’ll have a Voltage meter on the right-hand side that will fill up over time. Once the meter is full and triggered, virtuadoll X will boost your party members’ stats temporarily in order to give you and your pals a leg up in battle. I highly recommended keeping it until you reach a boss battle. Additionally, each character has a special attack meter that fills up over time throughout battles. Once full, a new attack will be available for use in the attack menu. If you leave your team members’ actions to the A.I. they won’t often use it, so once it’s full, simply stop the Auto-battle, take control of all four active party members, and unleash multiple hells on your enemy. Once again, this is better served against bosses and special encounters as typical enemy encounters won’t give you much trouble.
So the way combat works is that every party member has an SP meter which allows them to pull off any “standard” attacks and magic (buffs, heal) skills. Once you run out of it, you can select an option in combat called Soul Phase which will refill your SP at the cost of losing a turn for that party member in combat given that they won’t be able to support let alone attack or guard.
While I do understand the SP is “required” for magic skills, it can become problematic for basic attacks as it will add an unnecessary challenge to boss fights if things aren’t carefully strategized. If you get into too much trouble, save points will allow you to travel back to the train which acts as your hub where you can interact with a few party members and buy new Stigmas from X. Once you’re ready to go back, you can not only travel back to the dungeon but also to the exact save point you were before. This is quite handy because if the save point is next to a boss, you won’t have to go through the dungeon all over again.
Speaking of Stigmas, each character can equip them to boost the party members’ stats (attack, defense, evade, etc.) and can be obtained by finding special treasures within dungeons or purchased via X at the game’s train hub. The game also introduces a Persona-like mechanic called Causality Link where you need to maintain your relationships with your party members and other NPCs by having conversations with them. NPCs will give you fetch quests that will yield various rewards such as increased stats (strength, vitality, etc.), useful items, and the quest giver’s profile will be displayed within the Causality Link map.
Unfortunately, the game does have a few annoying quirks. Aside from the presentation-related nuisances (more on that below) the game’s combat can feel clunky and repetitive despite looking deep on the surface. Given the game’s active timed battle-like mechanics, it will sometimes happen that the enemy will be launched into the air following an attack and if you don’t time and strategize accordingly, the following attack(s) will end up hitting nothing but air. Also trying to find ongoing quests is buried under clumsy menu navigation.
Speaking of quests, once you’ve collected the item requested, chances are the requester has moved from their spot. So now you have to go on a hunt to find the quest giver. Also while normal battles feel fair, balanced and won’t give you too much trouble, boss battles introduce an abrupt difficulty spike so much so that they can wipe you out in a few turns. It’s a bit frustrating because you’ll have to go back and grind a bit, even if you managed to keep your Stigmas up to date.
Gameplay from the Present, Presentation from the Past
The game’s overall presentation is mediocre at best. The visuals could easily be mistaken for a late Wii/early PS3/Xbox360 game. Character movements within cutscenes look like they are stiff action figurines and while in combat look like they are running on ice. I’ll give the game credit as it is colorful and diverse in settings. Battles always have some flashy distortions in the background which can be annoying, distracting and give the impression the game is going through a seizure. The soundtrack is OK at best. Normal battles always have the same annoying J-Pop song. The rest of the score is fine; typical score you’d expect from a Japanese JRPG. It does the job within the game’s quirky setting, but it’s not as memorable as other scores from games of the same genre.
The Caligula Effect 2 manages to feel similar and new at the same time. While JRPGs don’t always stray far from the same formula, the game’s uniqueness is enough to entice fans of the genre but might feel a bit too steep for newcomers looking to dive into it. JRPG fanatics will revel in the game’s setting and unique strategic combat. The challenging boss fights will keep players on their toes, the Causality Links will have players hunt for every possible connection and complete the plethora of side-quests. A definite must for JRPG fanactics, although newcomers might want to look into something a bit simpler.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can buy The Caligula Effect 2 for Nintendo Switch on the eShop.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.