So much for the gaming slump, thanks to Experience’s jolly little dungeon crawling JRPG Ray Gigant, even if its premise is hardly original. Tokyo is in ruins once more when aliens known as Gigants suddenly emerge, treating Earth as their personal pantry. The army is quickly annihilated but hey, that’s why there are teenagers! Ichiya Amakaze comes across a mysterious talking talisman, Yorigami, which provides him enough power to take down even a Gigant as large as a high-rise. Much to the chagrin of this reluctant youngster, this power is also a one-way ticket to a secret academy whose students are the final hope to repel the invasion.
Even if the story seems to be as tired as they come, Ray Gigant is still a quirky little title. In a party of three, the players is sent to crawl through grid-based dungeons in first perspective view. There, the youths slays plenty of grunt-level Gigants while working their way to the end to take on a much tougher mid-boss. It’s not until that one is bested that the crew scores a marker that can be used to lure out and kill one of the first-class Gigants that tower dozens of feet in height. Rinse and repeat while Amakaze’s chaperones do their best to figure out how to get rid of the baddies for good.
The biggest asset of Ray Gigant is probably its eccentric battle system. It is based on a pool of a hundred action points shared by all party members. Everyone gets a turn and can execute up to five actions during it. Of course, every action has a price tag, so going mental is only good for exhausting the pool within a single round. Points can be slowly restored either by using an entire turn waiting, or winning the skirmish as fast as possible. Since the game keeps track of the latest moves selected, clever players quickly come up with a handy macro that is good for most occasions. All hit points are automatically restored after each fight, and as there are even an indefinite amount of healing items, you might wonder if such a system has any chance to work in practice.
Challenge stems from having to mind opponents’ strengths and weaknesses in a rock-paper-scissors kind of style, but especially from Parasitism. This nasty disease, carried over between fights, hits after every ten rounds and forces the party into a state where moves cost hit points rather than action points, and that cost is mighty severe. The illness can be surpassed simply by winning the fight in which it occurs, but it can be especially catastrophic during the massive and lengthy boss fights. Thankfully there’s also a power meter that rises ever so slowly in every encounter. If it is even half full, Parasitism can be subdued with a proper harakiri. That’s when Amakaze slices his guts, awakens the full power of his Yorigami, and unleashes an absolutely brutal combo upon his hapless opponents. Its strength is determined by a rhythmical mini-game, so the battle briefly turns into an anime music video during which the player tries to hit as many notes as possible. More hits, more damage. Genuinely neat!
For a dungeon crawler, Ray Gigant is extremely forgiving. There aren’t even any random encounters. At the beginning of every dungeon, Amakaze’s talisman politely analyzes the location of every enemy and treasure on the floor. Even if the actual maps aren’t filled in until moving about, it’s nice to have at least a vague impression of what lies where. The dungeons feature the usual assortment of traps, hidden doors, and teleport panels, but the game doesn’t seem to get overly sadistic with them. Making progress is always a breeze, so the game is perhaps the most suitable title for newcomers interested in the genre.
Still, despite plenty of fun little ideas, the game also stumbles a lot. It’s an ongoing journey but perhaps by the next entry I can construe a solid understanding on why Ray Gigant is likely not much more than “pretty okay.”