Having recently acquired a brand spanking new PS4, my first inclination was to seek out a flashy brand new JRPG to take my new system out for its first test drive. JRPGs were somewhat lacking on last generation hardware except for the tail end of their lifespans and silly game exclusivity deals made it necessary to purchase multiple systems, including handhelds, in order to experience some of the more unique titles. Compile Hearts and Idea Factory, makers of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series have done a good job of carrying the banner for traditional turn-based JRPG games with interesting battle systems through their releases on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, which also showed improvements with each new game iteration and spin-off, and I was interested to see what they had in store for next-gen hardware such as the PS4.
Compile Hearts has put out some of the most niche, Japanese-centric role-playing games around, and their newly created subsidiary developer Galapagos RPG was specifically tasked with creating games suited to Japanese tastes and what they cooked up was a familiar yet quirky game titled Omega Quintet, a traditional turn-based role-playing game that doubles as a J-Pop music idol simulator. The game is set in an apocalyptic future overrun by powerful monsters controlled by an evil force called the ‘Blare’, it’s up to a group of five teen J-Pop idols called the ‘Verse Maidens’ to save the world by combining their powers of song and dance. As preposterous as the premise sounds, it isn’t too far removed from the premises of their previous games which typically involve a war between loosely clad heroines representing video game consoles who battle enemies resembling characters and enemies found in other popular video games–and it even has it’s very own Anime series!
The story of Omega Quintet starts off with a veteran Verse Maiden on her way out of the music group while a new group is on the verge of being formed. She has most of her combat abilities activated at the beginning of the game, which also serves as a tutorial. Once the prologue is complete, a new Verse Maiden is introduced, disabling all of your powerful abilities that you then need to spend unlocking slowly over the course of about 10 grueling hours or so, which will also be spent searching for the rest of your crew.
The game is familiar in design to most other JRPGs and Neptunia installments. Most of the story is told in an Anime novel style with a combination of text, voice acting and crisp, stylish 2D character animations and cut-scenes. Exploration, is done via 3D environments made up of large labyrinth type dungeons that vary in landscapes, from grassy hills, ruined cityscapes and caves, to abandoned buildings all populated with monsters and treasure items. These areas are fairly large and gated, requiring you to return after story and level progression to explore further. Combat is initiated by pre-emptively attacking enemies (called MADs) on the field which vary in design from insects and animals to a multitude of bizarre Anime creatures. Once a battle is initiated, the screen transitions into a familiar menu driven combat system where your party faces off against your opponents, as in most JRPGs, and as in most RPGs, your characters choose from basic attacks, to more powerful stylish attacks and combinations called Harmonics which are available after filling special meters.
Omega Quintet is very formulaic in its approach. Where the game really stands out is in its combat system which isn’t fully unlocked until 10-12 hours into the game, making the first dozen hours quite a long boring grind, however once the combat system is fully unlocked, your party fully formed, and you’ve powered up your characters and abilities, the game adds enough complexity and depth to want to master it. The games tutorials are pretty basic but vague at times which creates a dilemma for new comers to JRPGs and veterans alike. The combat system is presented to you through series of screenshots with text written over them giving you instructions, but sometimes meanings can be vague and you are left to experiment to figure things out for yourself, and I found myself having to pour over game forums to try to understand the rules properly—it can get challenging. However, once you’ve figured out how to chain combos, modifiers and bonuses, the hectic combat can feel pretty fun and rewarding with wonderful visual effects and wild combat animations to behold!
Compared to the peppy, upbeat sense of humor that the Neptunia series offers, the characters presented in this game are quite dull and the story quite boring, except for when their performing concerts. Since the game is presented as a J-Pop idol simulator, it emphasizes fulfilling the fantasy of managing a girl group by inserting you into the game as a silent male protagonist type who also acts as body guard during combat. You hang out with the girls in their headquarters; they include you in their day-to-day melodrama and you also get to see them in various stages of undress during combat as the traditional Compile Heart clothes damage shredding simulator is grossly in full effect hear.
One last thing to note of interest that stands out in this game is the dance video system called the PVS or (Promotional Video System). A separate feature from the story, combat and exploration– it’s a simulator that allows you to direct and choreograph music videos starring the main characters of the group and includes features like song selection, camera angles, and dance moves. You can unlock extra songs and features like camera angles as rewards from game progression. While it’s a completely optional feature, I would have liked for it to have been incorporated into the main game in a more useful way.
With Omega Quintet, Compile Heart doubles down on the quirky Anime niche which is more suited to Japanese game culture and brings something odd and interesting to the PS4 library that hasn’t really been seen since the PS2 era. Despite its shortcomings (dull story and characters, bland environments, and mundane grinding) I still really enjoyed the combat system towards the latter half of the game and found myself wanting to play just a little bit more every time I stopped playing. I tend to prefer grind heavy JRPGs on handheld systems with the luxury of a rest mode, and despite it looking like an HD port of a PS3 game at times, the game still ran and played smoothly, and some of the combat animations were fun to watch. The soundtrack is superb as well– a mix of orchestrated themes and JPop tunes. It’s an interesting new IP for Anime fans to seek out and I look forward to seeing improvements in the future. For now it manages to satisfy my quirky JRPG Anime appetite on my PS4– or at least until the next Atelier, Final Fantasy or Disgaea game.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of Omega Quintet published by Compile Heart.
- Combat System
- Quirky Niche Anime Genre
- Formulaic JRPG
- Dull Story
- Grind Heavy