After so much time spent with western releases lately, I have reinvigorated my passion for proper, lengthy JRPGs. Despite an already massive backlog, it didn’t take long to come up with a suitable subject. Demon Gaze II is a standalone sequel to a three-year old-game that brazenly combined visual novels with hardcore dungeon crawling in a manner that left an everlasting impression at least in my JRPGing heart. Despite such a lengthy wait, the sequel is fortunately true to its origins, once more providing a boisterous adventure that might feel awfully familiar but only in a good and immensely entertaining fashion.
The story kicks off in the city-state of Asteria, ruled by Sirius Magnastar. Even if he enjoys immense popularity among his subjects, he seems to be up to no good. Restricted areas within the city are teeming with demons, and the city’s inhabitants are secretly used as fuel for an eerie Star Furnace. The protagonist, Signa, escapes such a sorry fate at the last moment possible, rescued by rebels. A revolutionary movement led by sibling sisters Muse and Prim might be awkwardly small in numbers but at least they run an illicit radio show from the basement of a local inn, trying to wake up the masses to a veiled deception. Their chances get a whole lot better with Signa, who has a mystical ability to absorb the souls of weakened demons into his eye and later recall them as members of the revolution.
While such setup is hardly Pulitzer for Drama material, it doesn’t really have to. Good characters and smooth gameplay immediately take over. Just like with the previous game, the inn serves as a comprehensive base with its own shop and an infirmary; a perfect place for Signa and his captured demons to embark on exploration trips throughout the restricted streets of the city. These grid-based areas feature both random encounters and demon circles. By using a bunch of cheap weapon and/or gear gems on the latter summons a bunch of nasties. Beating them is rewarded with useful stuff corresponding to the gems used as well as the seizure of the circle. After all circles in the area have been located and conquered, the area boss can be challenged. A thorough beating later, they then join the winning side.
Like its predecessor, Demon Gaze II shines with its exemplary pacing. Each location is first a threatening, uncharted area that opens up square by square. Exploration is frequently interrupted by having to retreat back to the home base to lick ones wounds and then returning to carry on. Still, thanks to effortless grinding and an ample supply of constantly new and inspiring gear acquired from demon circles, making progress is a breeze. After triumphing over delightfully challenging bosses, the game takes nice breaks building up on the characters and advancing the story. As before, the cast of characters is pleasantly compact, ensuring everyone has multiple moments in the spotlight. In fact, some of the side characters are already familiar from the first game. Having played that one is not a prerequisite by any means but more like a way of Demon Gaze II pampering to both new and returning players.
More about the game’s lovely nuances in the future, as even after a weekend of playing, I’m only getting started and the passion to dig ever deeper is as grand as ever!