Y8 overview game: The Caligula Effect 2

Role-playing Y8 games, for all their eccentricities, have at least one advantage over, conditionally, Western ones - if they basically remain in the coordinate system "Elves, dwarves, fantasy, post-apocalypse, good and evil", then JRPGs like to talk about current social Topics. One of the iconic in this sense, of course, is the Persona series.

So, Tadashi Satomi, screenwriter of Revelations: Persona, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, as well as Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga, also worked on The Caligula Effect series. The second part of it was released last fall on PS4 and Switch and now finally got to the PC. Was it worth the wait? And how did the authors work on the mistakes of the first part? 

Both The Caligula Effect  are very conceptual and very Y8 games. It is not so easy for an outsider to understand what is happening here, and it is no less difficult for him to explain it. But I'll try. In short, these are Y8 games about school and about going into virtual reality. Yes, Tadashi Satomi dissects a very Japanese (and very relevant for them) topic of trying to forget in virtual worlds.

In the first part (released in 2016, and two years later a remake appeared, The Caligula Effect: Overdose), Mobius became such a world, where people got tired of everyday worries. There they turned into forever young schoolchildren who do not remember anything about their past life, study, graduate, enter again and again feel happy, full of hope and everything connected with youth.

A “virtual idol” named Myu is responsible for the creation of Möbius , who wanted the best, but it turned out as always. In fact, she turned this world into a digital prison where people were brainwashed by popular musicians. Naturally, there was an opposition from those who saw the light and realized that the world is fake. They created an underground Go-Home Club and started the fight to get back to reality.

Helping in this, surprisingly, is the digital idol Aria, Mu's girlfriend and one of the creators of Mobius. And they had to fight not only with musicians, but also with local residents, who were so brainwashed by music that they turned into aggressive defenders of the regime - instead of their heads they had tape recorders, huge headphones, and so on.

In  The Caligula Effect 2, the same thing happens, but in a virtual world called Redo, which was created by the sweet-voiced digital singer Regret. Her name, which translates as Regret, is, of course, symbolic - she wants (well, at least it seems so at first) that people who have fallen into this world do not regret anything and be happy. Regret and those behind it are sure that they have taken into account past mistakes, but from the experience of Möbius we know that such a utopia will not end in anything good. 

And most importantly, the virtual idol Hee, the daughter of Mu, the creator of Möbius, knows this very well. She wants to correct her mother’s mistakes and prevent them from happening again, and therefore she creates an underground Go-Home Club in Redo, where we, together with her, attract all the way those who want to remember their lives and return to reality. The pass is bad dreams and the ability to notice the presence of a blond virtual idol that takes up residence in the body of the protagonist (or heroine).

It's hard not to notice the similarities to the Persona series . Only if, for example, in  Persona 5 all seven deadly sins were considered, then in  The Caligula Effect 2 the commandment “Do not make yourself an idol” is in the spotlight. From here comes the following - do not go after an idol to fictional worlds. Therefore, there is a lot of music, musicians, virtual idols and their fans here. Each location here is themed, each has its own music, and even our savior, the virtual star Hee, sings during battles, which gives certain bonuses. 

In addition, the gameplay itself is largely similar to what we saw in  Persona 3 and subsequent "personal" releases: there are combat story missions and clearing dungeons, there are scenes from school life and the ability to communicate with various characters, strengthening social bonds with them ( yes, all the same "personal" social links). 

But about the gameplay - a little later, but now - about the fact that Tadashi Satomi also relies on the plot and images of the characters: both heroes and conditional villains. Conditional because The Caligula Effect 2 raises a question that is quite logical in the circumstances: is it so bad to create albeit fictional, but ideal worlds and is it worth returning to reality?

Here are the conditional villains, those same musicians and virtual idols that enchant the masses - they are also just people with their own stories who ended up in Redo to fulfill their dreams. One, for example, was afraid of biological death and turned into a cyborg. Another dreamed of becoming an artist and an astronaut at the same time - and here, in this virtual reality, he realized his dream, becoming one of the idols and idols.

And here the dialogue of this character with the heroes who came to beat him is very indicative (although you can first talk with each boss, and even have a cup of tea with some). "What's wrong with fulfilling your dream, becoming an artist or flying into space?!"  exclaims the villain. And personally at that moment I was in solidarity with him, wanting to ask the same question.

One of the members of the Go-Home Club says very correct things in response, which can roughly be stated as follows. Being an astronaut, an artist, or anyone in real life means perseverance, paying a price for it, going through a path of trial and error, learning, possibly falling and overcoming. And here everything is unrealistic, you make your dream come true just at the snap of your fingers. That is, there is nothing real, real behind you, you are a fake astronaut and artist.

That is, the Y8 game tells us that yes, it is better to return to the real world and live full, real feelings, even if it is more difficult to fulfill your dream there and even if you are not a girl there, but an old woman.

An old woman in real life is one of the girls who, along with our hero (or heroine) and other key characters, is in the Go-Home Club. We can find out about this only if, while building those same social ties with her (this is framed as communication scenes, broken into episodes), several times in a row we agree to dive deeper into her soul. After this, there will be no new episodes, but the truth will be revealed to us, which at the same time shocks, makes you almost cry and explains a lot about the motives of the girl.

And so - with each of the associates. Everyone here is interesting in their own way, everyone has their own skeletons in the closet. A blonde beauty, a loser womanizer, a diligent class leader, a rules-obsessed student who looks more like a security guard - who are they in real life, what secrets do they hide? Therefore, building social ties with them, that is, going through those very episodes of personal history, where we periodically choose cues and make decisions, is one of the key and best parts of the Y8 game.

Another unconditional success of The Caligula Effect 2 is the combat system, which as a whole has moved from the first part, but, perhaps, has become deeper and more interesting. At the heart of all the same mechanics "Imaginary chain", which allows you to pre-evaluate the results of our actions and adjust them.

That is, on our turn, we traditionally choose how and whom the character will attack, and then we look at what happens. If at this moment the enemy jumps up or puts up a protective barrier that levels the damage, then it is better not to attack at all, but, for example, increase critical damage / accuracy or leave the line of destruction.

“Imaginary Chain” allows you to build entire chains of actions, when, for example, one throws the enemy into the air, and the other beats him - for this you need to choose the right skills that open as you gain levels. If, for example, the enemy puts up the same protective barrier, and we can attack with different characters, then first the one who breaks through this shield with his skill should do it, and then others - this can be adjusted by moving the queue for applying techniques on the timeline.

And also, as I said, charming Hee helps us with her singing - the songs are activated during the transition to rage mode, and we ourselves choose the melodies that give the team certain bonuses - to attack, defense, and so on. At the same time, these bonuses can be pumped for a special currency.

Some write that all this is leveled by the ease of battles - they say, all these manipulations with the Imaginary Chain are useless, everything is passed with one basic attack. I don’t know at what level of difficulty they played, but here even on normal it’s very, very difficult.

Yes, there are walk-through fights where you can really solve everything without looking with one button. But there are also quite a few important battles where you have to think tactically and use all the possibilities of a non-trivial combat system. I'm not talking about the bosses - this, of course, is not a soul-like, and you don’t have to replay 10 times, but I didn’t go through a single such battle the first time. And if you play on "hard" and "expert", then all the charm of battles is definitely revealed there.

All this is supported by a working role-playing system, which is based on artifacts, stigmas - they give an increase to the character's performance (attack, defense, evasion, accuracy, and so on). And some of them are pumped and open permanent bonuses that will work even if you remove the artifact.

But the most interesting thing is that there are stigmas that give the main character or heroine social and conversational skills - they are critical for communicating with numerous NPCs and completing their tasks.

Here we come to what many criticized the first part for and criticize the sequel for - to the abundance of superficially registered residents, with whom we also seem to have to build relationships, fulfilling their mostly primitive assignments.

But, firstly, they are written in the sequel better and more diverse - quite interesting, funny scenes and stories come across. In one, for example, we help a pretty girl solve her problems at work in a store. And in another, we even join one of the local gangs. That is, everything is no longer reduced to the need to find a pair for someone. And secondly, do not forget that all this is additional content. Tiring? Please follow the story, only occasionally doing side quests to get consumables or stat bonuses.

The Caligula Effect 2  is a very conceptual and very Japanese RPG. And if you don’t like this, besides you don’t know English, and the abundance of expressive and very specific Japanese speech annoys you, then it’s better to pass by. Moreover, there is practically no fan service here - the story is about something completely different. And technically, for all the conceptual locations and spectacular battles, The Caligula Effect 2 looks outdated. But if you like everything Japanese in Y8 games, and even more so if you like the Persona series , then it’s definitely worth checking out. Yes, this is certainly not  Persona 5 , but, given the work done on the bugs, the Y8 game captures, evokes emotions and even makes you think about important issues. However, at first it is better to get acquainted with the first part.

Pluses: an interesting and adult plot; bright, ambiguous characters; the system of social ties can present many surprises; non-trivial and exciting combat system.

Cons: a lot of banal side quests (which, however, have become more interesting compared to the original); poor technical performance.

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