Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gekijouban Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram review (PS Vita)

When the game was announced for the Vita, I was pretty excited. After all this was going to be the first Madoka game I'll be playing in a long time. So I pre-ordered this and waited for the day of release. I got the Limited Box version of the game which costed me about USD79.99 from Play-Asia. The limited box came with:
  • A soundtrack CD of the game's BGM 
  • A mini artbook
  • A Charlotte screen cleaner 
  • A Voice-World number of Homura (useless for people outside of Japan - also I was supposed to get Mami's as well but I apparently didn't get it....oversight?)
  • Costume DLC (note: in the Asia version limited box I had I got 2 codes, one for the HK store and one for the Japanese store - they both are for the same item though)
Was the game worth the wait? Unfortunately no.

The story takes place in an alternate what-if world - what if Homura banded all the girls together and avoided all that has happened in the anime to defeat Walpurgis Nacht. The prologue starts off the same way as how the anime would have ran but the end of that prologue will send us back to this new timeline. The storyline is pretty well written for the most part and they did bring back the VAs of the characters from the anime which is a huge plus.

The controls are fine and simple but I find the girls control really sluggish at times - I was expecting more fluid movement. I have no complaints on this and I feel it's well done. The music is great as well, as the game uses many of the great music heard in the anime, and the original pieces composed for the game are great as well.

Gameplay wise unfortunately is where things begin to absolutely fall apart.

The game is divided into 2 segments for each "in-game day". A day time sequence which you may choose to spend time with to raise the bonds of the characters (mostly run visual novel style) and a night time sequence where your chosen main character and a chosen partner go into an action stage to defeat witches. Sometimes depending what happens in the daytime sequence you may have a different night time action sequence but these are few and far between.

As far as the characters go they all play differently thanks to their unique magic skills. For example Mami has her signature Tiro Finale skill and Sayaka has a skill which raises her attack power but you lose control of her for a period. None of them share any particular skills and this gives you a good variety on who you will want to play as. You can also perform a co-op attack with a partner which deals a hefty amount of damage if it hits (which it usually does, unless you started the attack away from your intended target....). You can raise your stats and skill abilities to further help you in the action stages.

However the biggest problem is the AI of your partner. It is absolutely terrible. Your AI partner seems to have a fear of attacking enemies and you will find yourself doing most of the attacking against the enemies. You tend to see them do nothing at times while you are taking care of matters yourself. The only thing they seem to be able to do (and this even "at times") is to resurrect you when you are down but even this action takes a horrid long time (note: your partner is NOT invincible during this action, and if she goes down as well you have no choice but to resurrect yourself with the gem power yourself). Given the AI of God Eater 2 (also by Bandai Namco), I was extremely disappointed. As the focus of the game seems to be bonding with a partner for these action stages, this is bad - the partner may as well be only in the background to be called for combination assaults.

The action stages are fine but it gets really repetitive once you are further into the game. The enemy AI seems overly simplistic as well - if you stay away from their attack range, they will leave you alone. The bosses are a challenge to beat - but that seems to be because you take a ton of damage when hit and you deal lousy damage back in return.

Unfortunately for this game, it is Single Player only - this was a surprise to me - Bandai Namco could have easily implemented a co-op mode for adhoc and online (take the role of your partner for example). This is a truly wasted opportunity that could have saved this game.

Overall, my verdict is this is a disappointing outing with that had much potential. If you are looking for an action game this is not one you are looking for due to its shortfalls. If you are a fan of the series this could be worth picking up to add to the collection as it does a good job in fleshing out its story but that's about it.