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The Caligula Effect
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Aquria
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
I remember my high school days, so full of wonderment and interesting times. I never looked back after high school, but what if you were forced to relive those days as your current self? That’s a little glimpse of what you go through in The Caligula Effect, except you’re taken from your everyday life to live in a world someone else wants you in.

The Vita handles The Caligula Effect pretty well. The game runs nicely and without any problems at all. The graphics look like they’re from PlayStation 3 era, but they’re not bad. The worst you’ll see is some janky graphical errors, like going through a closed door or something like that. The graphics won’t bother you too much, but the overall art style is really nice. The character renders and layouts of areas really stood out to me and I enjoyed them a lot. For such a small console, the Vita certainly does manage to impress.

The music tracks in The Caligula Effect are pretty Japanese pop, and by that, I mean they’re very heavy Japanese pop. I felt like I was actually living in a Japanese school, but I doubt they play that type of music in schools. I really liked the tracks though; it really made the atmosphere feel more vibrant and bouncy. Aside from the music, the voice acting is all in Japanese. You’ll be able to follow along with the subtitles though, so don’t worry about that.

In The Caligula Effect, players control a protagonist and explore the fabricated world of Mobius, created by some angelic beings. You’ve been brought here against your will and to escape, you must team up with a club in the school you’re attending. As you explore Mobius, you’ll encounter other residents who will try to hinder your progress and you’ll have to defeat them in battle to press on. You can also interact with the normal people and build relationships for them. There’s a lot to do in Mobius, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Go at your own pace and do what you’d like, you’ll enjoy the school life more.

You’ll roam the areas as the protagonist with your sidekicks, errr I mean, club members in tow. On the screen, you’ll find a mini-map at the top right so you can see where you’ve been and where you need to go. Your character’s portrait will be to the bottom right, along with your character’s name and HP and SP bars. The rest of the screen shows you and your environment. On the mini-map, the blue triangle is you. Light blue circles are your classmates, while dark red circles are enemies. Some enemies will stick out like a sore thumb: They’ll be incredibly distorted and evil looking, but even some of your classmates can turn out to be enemies. You can identify them based on the information shown over their head. The circle with a percentage next to it represents their Erosion rate. If it’s above 50%, there’s a good chance they’ll attack you since you’re rebelling against the pop music. Think of the encounters like Pokemon encounters: If you stare at them too long, they’ll attack you. If you mind your own business and carry on, they (probably) won’t bother you. You can also tap the (X) button to send out a shockwave thing and get their attention so they’ll attack you. Doing this can split enemy groups and allow you to take on larger groups one member at a time. If only we could all enjoy the pop music and get along, right? Such is youth.

Combat in The Caligula Effect is a turn-based affair, which, in this day and age, may turn some people off of it. You take your choice of characters into battle and select actions for them from a rather large list. Commands aren’t as simple as just attack or use some skill, though. You’re given a multitude of abilities to choose from, such as an attack skill, dash, or some special skill and these cost SP. Once you run out of SP, you’ll need to use the recharge SP skill or some other means to restore your SP. SP is fully recovered once battle concludes also. Your HP and SP bars are shown next to your character, and, of course, if the HP bar is depleted, that character falls in battle and must be revived. Just don’t die, no pressure.

So let’s look at the combat a little bit more because there’s a lot to take in. This won’t be the last we talk of it either, so I apologize for that. Anyway, after you’ve selected the moves you want to use, you’ll get to see how your moves will interact with the opponent and your teammates. This is known as the Imaginary Chain. The concept of the Imaginary Chain is pretty easy to understand, though. Basically, it allows you to predict actions in battle. You’ll see a glimpse of how your actions and your enemy’s actions will interact. Efficient use of the Imaginary Chain allows you to coordinate attacks between your allies and take down your opponents with some flashy combos. You can even take down enemies stronger than you. Pretty nice, right?

Your fellow students in Mobius aren’t just there for decoration. Each student has their own personality and you can engage in conversation with them to get to know them better. Talking to them will increase your affinity with them and they’ll gradually open up to you more and more, letting you know what problems they have and asking for help. Helping your fellow students with their problems will unlock new items and equipment for you to use, and they may even be willing to help you with other things. There’s a lot of students to keep track of, which is where the Casualty Link comes in handy. This gives you a list of the students and how they may connect with each other. Some students may not talk to you unless you know someone that they know. Talk to as many students and help with their problems to assemble a mighty force to combat the horrors of Mobius.

There are two difficulty modes for players to choose from in The Caligula Effect. The first is the Beginner Mode. This is aimed for players that may be new to RPGs and need a starting point. In this mode, characters are stronger and will level up faster, making their strengths even higher. You’ll be able to breeze through the game, but the combat will be incredibly unsatisfying. The Normal Mode is defined as the standard mode of play for more experienced players. Despite this, items are of a higher quality than in Beginner Mode and there is no equipment limit for the passive skills. Character strength and growth rates are normalized. This mode gives more of a challenge for the player, but it isn’t very difficult at all. With a standard amount of grinding, I didn’t have a hard time at all. The combat system is even designed for players who do well to be able to take down enemies of a higher level anyway. The bottom line? Don’t stress the difficulty, you’ll be fine.

Game Mechanics:
Equipment works a little differently from what you’d probably expect to see. While you are able to change up things to improve your stat lines, you don’t do so by switching into a new pair of clothes. Equipment comes in the form of Stigmas, crystallized regrets found all over Mobius. Stigma comes in three forms: Manifestos, Core Beliefs, and Traumatic Memories. Manifestos are Stigma equipment that modify your offensive combat statistics. You can imagine Manifestos to be your weapon parameters, as they serve a similar function. Core Beliefs help bolster your defenses in battle, and serve a similar purpose to armor in most other games. Traumatic Memories are your accessories, and they provide a variety of different effects. While stats may differ from Stigma to Stigma, you’ll get more mileage out of the same Stigma based on its rarity. Each Stigma has a rarity, ranging from zero stars to five stars. Higher rarity Stigmas will always be better, even if they’re the same Stigma. Go for those high rarity Stigmas and see the difference.

You’ll probably notice a number next your enemy’s name along with big letters that spell out risk. That number increases from zero to five the longer you’re in battle with an opponent and represents how dangerous they are. Once it hits five, your opponent will enter Risk Break, where you can trigger conditional skills without needing to meet the condition. It’s much easier to combo an opponent with max risk and it’ll be highly in your favor to trigger a Risk Break on an opponent. Keep the pressure on, but be wary of the opponent as they become more dangerous.

This is the last time we’ll discuss combat, I swear. In most RPGs, you generally have an attack option, some type of skill option based on your character, and maybe a tactics option to escape or do whatever. The Caligula Effect does something a little different from the usual and has three options from a skill reel that you can select from in battle to perform actions. These three options are Catharsis Effects, Battle Effects, and Affection Effects. Passive Effects cannot be selected, but boost your combat power all the same. Catharsis Effects are composed of offensive abilities unique to each character depending on what weapon they have. Battle Effects and Affection Effects are support abilities that can give your allies an edge and turn the tide of a battle. Battle and Affection Effects aren’t unique to any single character, but certain characters learn differ Effects. Passive Effects are pretty self-explanatory. They give you invisible buffs, but you can’t actively use them. You can acquire new skills by unlocking them with Skill Points, obtaining different Stigma, or assisting students with their problems. The more skills you have, the deadlier you are in battle, so get to collecting.

With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to conquer the idle days of high school and shine brightly! Just kidding, you’d need some type of declassified school survival guide or something of the sort. The Caligula Effect gives an interesting spin on the high school narrative with the concept of you being trapped by some otherworldly force. Fans of the anime Angel Beats will probably appreciate this, and the mere fact that Persona 1 and Persona 2 veteran Tadashi Satomi wrote the story is more than enough to compel me to the game. Sure, there’s a few other new RPG games dropping, but it’s always nice to have another Vita turn-based RPG to sink our teeth into. Can’t complain about that at all.

-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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