Story has always been my biggest draw to the RPG genre. It captures the sense of going on a journey, as the characters grow from their experiences. The more RPGs I play though, the more I’m noticing the same repeated plotlines. Sure, it’s great if the gameplay is inventive, but it isn’t always enough if you can guess all the twists before they happen. Unfortunately, Experience Inc. and Bandai Namco’s Ray Gigant falls into this camp, though it still manages to keep its enjoyment.
Thanks to a huge dragon-esque creature, called a Gigant, the whole world is burning. Just before everything is transformed into crispy toast, a sole high-school boy from Tokyo is infused with the power to fight back. His name is Ichiya Amakaze, and he’s clearly protagonist material. The natural progression of the plot centers on the now-frequent Gigant threat, and a team of heroes trying to keep the remainders of humanity safe. Meanwhile, those behind the scenes try to find out why Gigants are attacking Earth, and how to get them to leave for good.
Spicing things up a little is the use of three protagonists that divide the story into sections. So while Ichiya starts things off, we then move on to Kyle Griffin, and later Nil Phineas. What they have in common is that they are all ‘naturals,’ the only ones that can use Yorigami (beings able to fight Gigants). The characters’ personalities can be a little questionable, but they work for the narrative and provide unique dungeon party members – which make for an appreciated change.
Art design in the story segments include some cute characters, with the female models in particular being shown a lot of love. I have to say though, they pale in comparison to the artwork in a lot of visual novels, such as Strawberry Vinegar and the Narcissu series. I was therefore really happy during combat, as party members are in 3D and were given a few movement animations. Bosses in particular tended to be something to marvel at due to their huge size, while grunts were given a decent amount of diversity, from creepy dolls to aquatic beasts.
Dungeons appear to be where the least amount of time was spent on the artwork, with very few designs found in the game. In many ways, they look and navigate exactly how you expect them to, though. It’s your standard first-person perspective, with a slightly murky art design given to the floors and walls. On the positive side, this allowed the music to take center stage. While it had previously been lurking unnoticed in the background, the raw chanting and ominous harmony caught me off guard from how strikingly different it was, really capturing the atmosphere.
Ray Gigant’s battles are where things begin to change from the norm, and is consequently where I really started enjoying myself. Combat works by first choosing all of the moves you want each party member to perform, with up to five each. Once satisfied, you watch the battle play out as turn-based combat. The system means having to predict an enemy’s movement in advance, as the decision to not have a character block or heal could prove fatal. Having said this, exploring enough to obtain all items in a dungeon was more than enough grinding to kick every minor enemy’s ass with ease.
There’s plenty of extra strategy within Ray Gigant’s systems. Every move performed in battle requires a portion of the 100 available Action Points, for example. Colored skulls on the map represent how much AP will be needed for each action within the fight, with normal as yellow, half the amount being blue, and double points showing as red. Hitting 0 AP means you can’t take any actions, and it can only be replenished by exiting the dungeon or choosing to wait in a fight.
Additionally, if you fail to defeat an enemy in ten rounds, Parasite Mode will be enabled, effectively swapping out AP for your characters health until you win the fight or enter Slash Beat Mode. This can only be performed by the current protagonist and enters you into a rhythm mini-game, of all things. The more combos you get, the more damage you’ll do to the enemy. It’s a little out of place at first, but adds a nice extra that’s especially useful against bosses with big health bars.
Upon winning my first few fights, I was a little confused by not receiving any experience points, and only getting items for my troubles. Little did I know that items are in fact used to level up, gain stats, abilities, moves, and even gain new weapons through each character’s skill tree. Not only does this encourage thorough exploration, it also allows for choice in how to balance party member’s stats – whether their focus was in strength, defense or evasion was all down to how I managed their tree personally.
Talking of stats, Ray Gigant is the first game I’ve ever come across to include a weight stat. What food you put in the protagonists mouths, and how every party member spends time in battle effects how light or heavy they are. Performing actions help them slim down, while waiting around means gaining weight. This essentially affects strength and speed with heavy characters being strong but slow, while light characters are fast, at the cost of strength – it’s logical, if a little odd.
All the varying mechanics make Ray Gigant sound difficult and complicated, but the truth is that it’s neither of those things. Sure, there’s a few different things to be aware of, but they’re all picked up quickly, and menus are very simple to navigate. It allows for a real enjoyment in everything that’s been set up, as once learned, I was left to get on with it.
On the other side of things, the game is very easy. Even those new to the genre will be able to whiz through combat, maxing out character levels by the third dungeon without coming face-to-face with the Game Over screen. I have to appreciate the ability to sit back and leisurely play an RPG dungeon crawler, but couldn’t help thinking that it slaps the interesting combat and leveling system in the face somewhat.
Ray Gigant may be pretty standard in the way it presents itself, and is hard to recommend to veterans due to the low challenge level. Despite any faults though, I did have a lot of fun with it, appreciating the use of different protagonists and getting as much as possible out of the item-based skill trees. It’s certainly not going to be a game that captures everyone’s attention, but if it does sound interesting then you’re probably going to enjoy your time with it.
This review is based off a PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Ray Gigant follows a lot of the RPG dungeon crawler tropes, while changing up the protagonists and enemies just often enough to keep things from getting boring. It’s not a challenge by any means, taking the focus away from grinding, and instead onto sitting back and enjoying the journey.