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Ray Gigant (Vita) artwork

Ray Gigant (Vita) review

"A Beginner's Guide to Getting Good At Dungeon Crawlers"

Except for a few unique outliers (Severed, for example), Experience-developed RPGs currently dominate the dungeon crawler genre where the Vita is concerned. Ray Gigant, another effort from that same developer, makes a weak case for itself if you're a veteran of the "gridder" experience and looking for something truly distinct and challenging. However, the game's anime-influenced visuals and forgiving design elements might well serve as the ideal stepping stone for any newer RPG players who are interested in cutting their teeth on a sub-genre they haven't yet mastered, and there are enough new systems at play to keep things interesting even for old timers.

Ray Gigant's story consists of three acts. Each one is devoted to a particular primary character and a group of friends that pad the roster. Unlike many other titles from the developer, this one is presented as a visual novel hybrid. Between dungeons and hunts for enemy Gigants, the story proceeds in a linear fashion as expressive character portraits help tell a tale rife with backstabbing and double-crossing. It's an end-of-the-world survival story, somber but also featuring enough humor and cheesy Japanese tropes to keep the tone from ever becoming overwhelmingly grim.

Ray Gigant (Vita) image

The impressive artwork extends beyond character portraits to include the available monster designs, as well. Characters move in a fluid manner and express themselves beautifully. The numerous battles with giant bosses feature an impressive sense of scale, so that characters feel as if they are locked in a grueling battle for their lives, whether employing an in-your-face approach with the tanky Ichiya, or picking off distant foes with Nil's magic.

The core gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has experienced one of Experience's recent titles, such as Stranger of Sword City. There are a few twists on the formula to make acclimation easier, however. For instance, random encounters (the bane of any party that's low on HP and trying to hobble back to town and recover) are gone. Impending battles are represented with visible markers in one of three colors. Enemy markers are blue, yellow or red. That tells you nothing about power levels, but instead lets you know the rate at which AP will be consumed throughout the fight. Blue markers indicate a consumption rate of 50%, whereas a red marker means that Ichiya and company will lose twice the normal AP after each action. Since AP recharges slowly, it makes sense to seek out the blue markers in order to stockpile AP (which persists between encounters) before picking a fight with the red markers.

Games from Experience, Inc. typically feature a high-risk combat style that frequently eviscerates the player's party, if he or she doesn't plan carefully. Ray Gigant doesn't hit that usual level of difficulty, even during the final dungeon. Isolated incidents might allow an enemy to strike down a party member with a single brutal attack, but your party has a guaranteed chance of fleeing when necessary, so that it can easily return to base. That safety net prevents the adventure from ever conveying the same sense of danger that Stranger of Sword City maintained so beautifully.

Ray Gigant (Vita) image

Combat itself is also simplified. Instead of relying on menus, players place skills within a three-slot palette that is available for each party member. A given palette features an attack skill (physical or magical), a defensive or healing maneuver, and a third slot that can be devoted to anything you like. You'll want to avoid placing the most powerful skills in each slot, however, since AP consumption is a constant concern. This also means that while each of your three characters can theoretically use five abilities during each round of combat, instances when your party utilizes 15 attacks during a single round are quite uncommon. I instead focused on having one or two characters attack and heal while the third party member stood by and waited to regenerate some AP. Encounters with the more troublesome enemies indicated by red markers force a more restrained approach, because only a few skills can be used before exhausting the available AP supply.

Ray Gigant features another unique mechanic, as well, called Parasitism. Ability use suddenly might begin to consume HP, rather than AP. That perhaps sounds simple enough, but the shift in focus means you'll need to use a lot more healing abilities between attack volleys. Parasitism is initially explained as the downside of taking too many turns in combat without resting or leveling up, and its effects last only through a particular encounter. By the end of the game, though, you can also trigger the condition on demand. Once I gained that ability, I used it during most minor encounters for the campaign's remainder.

Another interesting change is the way the game handles level progression. Grinding, a tactic useful in most modern RPGs, isn't as effective as usual in Ray Gigant. Gone are the traditional levels and experience points commonly doled out after slaying a demonic coterie. In their place are tri-colored seeds. These serve as the only consumable currency, and are tied to a particular growth system. Blue goes toward new skills, red toward equipment, and yellow increases stats. Most of the seeds players will need are scattered around dungeons in treasure chests, but a small stream of red and blue ones are offered as post-battle spoils.

Ray Gigant (Vita) image

Overall, I would say Ray Gigant errs on the side of "too easy," especially compared to its contemporaries within the genre. There are no cryptic quests to decipher or puzzles to unlock for much of the journey. Only during the final story arcs and dungeons will you even find environmental challenges of note. By then, you should have such a firm grasp on the combat and mechanics that getting lost or being guided into spike traps and losing AP feels more like a minor annoyance than it does an actual threat.

Ray Gigants unique hybrid of dungeon-crawling and visual novel presentation weave together nicely to serve as an excellent starting point for fans of either genre, serving as a nice apprenticeship for those who might later want to try their hand at more complex titles such as Etrian Odyssey or Stranger of Sword City. Long-time gridder fans who have already survived such challenges, however, might find themselves advancing on auto-pilot for most of the 30 hours it takes to complete the adventure.


Gregarious's avatar
Freelance review by Kai Powell (May 01, 2016)

As an aspiring FGC contributor, Kai has earned enough tournament accolades to earn the title 'Eternally Second'. When not pouring his heart out over covering the games industry and running a corporate games store, he also spends his mornings at a ramen-ya

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