Release Date: October 19, 2021
Developer: historia Inc
Series: The Caligula Effect
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Writer: Tadashi Satomi
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
"Review Copy Provided By NIS America"
2017’s The Caligula Effect was a game that I struggled with recommending because it was a game that had a phenomenally dark and gripping plot that was massively hampered by subpar graphics, a good but incredibly repetitive music, and a combat system that was good but was slow and took too long to get going. Honestly, when it came to Caligula Effect I would recommend people watch the anime on CrunchyRoll which told the story incredibly well. Years later, a sequel was announced in Caligula Effect 2 which was set to continue on from the story of the first game and introduce a new Go-Home Club cast and a new existential threat involving another pop idol. Does Caligula Effect 2 improve upon the first game and rectify a lot of the short comings, or does it underdeliver on all fronts but the story yet again? Let’s find out!
Caligula Effect 2 has been ported to PC and has come with a host of patches that make this the definitive way to play the game with some of the smoothest gameplay at a base 60fps and above along with various configurations to run the game beyond the standard 1080p all the way up to 2160 aka 4K resolutions and wide screen support. The other patches included also fix any grammatical errors and sentence structural issues which makes all the conversations run substantially smoother.
Now, on to the review!
Set in the digital recreation of Tokyo named Redo, people are brought here and allowed to forget their pasts and live life without discomfort. You, the main character, attend Tatefushi Academy and start to notice the strange occurrences such as cracks in the sky and glitching effects. Eventually you are introduced to a virtuadoll named x (pronounced as Ki) who just so happens to be the daughter of the previous games’ u (Mu) and gives you the ability to activate an ability known as the Catharsis Effect and fuses herself to you. The Musicians take notice of both x and your ability and thus the events of The Caligula Effect 2 begin where hidden truths and deception go hand in hand.
If you played the original Caligula Effect; then you’ll feel right at home here as not a lot is radically different from that entry. This is still a tactical turn base
During combat you can select from several attacks that your character has at their disposal along with abilities that can buff and debuff opponents along with some defensive options to move about the battlefield and guard against attacks. You can utilize any of the restorative items that you find on the field and after battles for any numerous levels of effects. Battles play out in a similar vein to most turn based JRPGs with the exception being that when you select a move you get to see how it will play out before committing to it. This allows you to see how much damage the attack will do along with if it will afflict a status effect or launch an enemy; this is also useful in learning where you should essentially position your characters along with if an enemy is going to attack you and to what effect it will have on you.
By default, all characters are set to auto-battle and will play to their classes strengths and tactics with you controlling the main character. You can of course change this be switching over to FREE as that will allow you full reign of every party member during a battle; you just need to remember to do this every time you engage in a battle if you want to control everyone else.
Now the battles have for each character a semi-ATB or Active Time Battle gauge next to their names which will flow to the left and as soon as it’s gone it’ll give you or you party member the ability to initiate a command, once you select a command you can see it be played out which allows you to see where on the ATB-like guage your attack along with your party’s attacks will land. This is helpful because it allows you to line up your attacks with your teammates attacks to do some pretty awesome stuff. For example, you can launch an enemy with your main character and have that followed up but an attack from Gin which will do critical damage and juggle the enemy allowing you to get your third party member to land a heavy blow that’ll do not only critical damage but also continue to juggle them and give time to your other party members to get ready to do it all over again. This plays heavily into the Risk System which allows you to break your enemies in order to launch them and deal critical damage and status effects more easily. The combat system is incredibly deep and due to its deepness and complexities; it does play out a lot slower than most battles would in other games.
You also have access to Catharsis attacks which become available when you sustain enough damage and build up the meter that appears in the right side of the screen. These commands function like a Limit Break from Final Fantasy games and allows you to do some crazy damage to your enemies. When selected, the camera will continuously shift as the Catharsis when executed will trigger a cinematic attack.
Outside of combat, you will find yourself doing a lot of dungeon crawling in a similar vein to the Persona games which should come as no surprise given that the head writer of the game was none other than Tadashi Satomi who previously worked on Shin Megami Tensei IF…, Revelations Persona, and the Persona 2 Duology. The dungeon crawling has you roam about a fairly large map where you will find all manner of winding corridors that will land you in several areas that are populated with roaming enemies known as digiheads and several areas that will contain boxes that will contain accessories and more. There are crystal like structurers that protrude from various objects in the environment that you can run up to and do your spin kick which will break them, they typically yield you recovery items.
In a similar vein to the Persona series, there is also a social link like feature called the Causality Link System that has you building bonds with the other Go-Home club members and other characters within the world of Mobius. While it would be easy to write off this is a carbon copy, the clutch of this is that you have no idea if said person is actually who they appear to be in the world of Mobius. This is because within the world of The Caligula Effect; the characters are all dealing with a variety of psychological and social issues from dissociative disorder, gender identity, body dysmorphia, paranoia, suicide, depression, and more. You’ll be given dialogue choices that affect the course of the game and allow you to discover more about those in your party, the villain's, and most of all yourself.
Graphically, you can tell that this game is held back by budget limitations as it just looks……basic, so basic in fact that you would assume that this game was for either the PSP or the PS Vita. It seriously lacks polish with some of the most bland and basic character models and environments that look as if they were pulled from 4 gaming generations ago. That being said, compared to the first game, The Caligula Effect 2 is a massive upgrade in how it looks and runs. The characters and environments are substantially more expressive and vibrant even if it doesn’t compare to other modern JRPGs in terms of graphical fidelity.
The previous entry had performance dips and character models that screamed “This is a Vita game ported to consoles” (of which it actually was) and generally was an experience that you needed to experience on the PS4 over the Nintendo Switch if you wanted it to look and run smoothly. That being said, this looks and runs phenomenal on the Nintendo Switch even if it only runs at 1080p 30fps compared to the PS4’s 1080p 60fps.
When the Nintendo Switch is docked, the game runs at 1080p at 30fps while handheld and on the Switch Lite it runs at 720p at 30fps. On the PS4 (and on PS5) the game runs at 1080p 60fps. On PC, the game runs at a baseline of 1080p and can go all the way up to 4K 60fps and higher. If you play this on the Steam Deck then the game will run at 720p at 60fps while also able to be docked at upscaled to 1080p 60fps.
The game is fully voice acted in Japanese and while I don’t understand Japanese, I have to say that it sounds really good with deliveries of lines that actually have me believing whatever it is that they are saying.
The soundtrack is pretty epic and is a massive step up from what we got in Overdose and has a flawless method of transitioning songs in the dungeons from instrumental renditions to full on vocal songs the minute you go into battle. These songs are done by Arisa Kori and Mayu Mineda.
The graphics for me are the main downside as I feel this is going to be what will put off the more casual audience, in particular the Persona 4 and Persona 5 only fans who are used to incredibly stylized graphics due to the art style of those games.
The biggest complaint I can see for new players will be the incredibly long opening story setup which will have you not actually playing the game for the first 40-50 minutes as the game sets up the plot and who the villains are. Following that is the fact that the first 4-5 hours are essentially an elongated tutorial to explain the games gameplay system.
No other complaints than those.
The Caligula Effect 2 is one of the darkest JRPGs of the year and of the last few years since the original game and is a massive step up in every way from Overdose. The gameplay is incredibly fun to dive into with endless combinations to utilizes, the music is catchy and matches the mood perfectly, and the graphics are a definite step up with a noticeably darker tale than the first game which is hard to believe given how dark that game already was. The Caligula Effect 2 is an amazing game that I highly recommend to JRPG fans and would love to see a 3rd entry. Don’t sleep on this franchise!