Game Title: The Caligula Effect OVERDOSE
Company: FuRyu, NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 2 – 3 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 5.2 GB

I remember back on the PS Vita, when the RPG community held the Persona series in very high esteem. In fact, whenever some new RPG would come out that looked similar to the series, there would be tons of “Is this the new Persona 4 Golden?” discussions. Though, I guess in today’s generation, it would be more like “Is this the new Persona 5?”.

Though in the case of today’s game, it’s actually something that was written by the same person who wrote the first 3 Persona games, so it isn’t out of the ordinary to think of it and start comparing it to Persona or at least expect a similar kind of experience.

Originally on the Vita and remade in Unreal Engine for console and handheld fans alike, here is my review of The Caligula Effect: Overdose for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

caligula 2 - story

You play as a high school student going throughout their daily life when their world crumbles around them upon the realization that you were invited to Mobius, a virtual world governed by an entity set on keeping everyone inside it forever, trapping them against their will under the intention of taking them away from the pain of the real world.

The story of this game mostly centers around two groups of people: The Go-Home Club who want to find a way home and The Musicians, who want to stay in Mobius and attempt to hunt down and stop the former under the fear that people leaving will destabilize Mobius and make those that want to stay unable to do so.

I won’t say this story is bad, because there are parts of it that I really like, especially once you get to know the characters and see all of their character events. What I don’t like is how long it takes to really get going and become interesting. I was playing the game for a good 3-4 hours before I really got a proper introduction to The Musicians and knowing what was going on.

After that point, it becomes very interesting, especially once you gain access to Character Events, but most of the story before that feels kinda sluggish and takes too much time in setting up and introducing you to the various characters of the story. It felt like I was just pushing through the story, hoping for it to start picking up.

Gameplay

caligula 3 - gameplay

This game is a turn-based RPG with lots of dungeon crawling and some social elements thrown into the mix. Across the game, you’ll be constantly going through various dungeons out of the city’s locations and fighting enemies in turn-based battles.

Our first order of business is the fact that Overdose is a remake of the original Califula Effect for the PS Vita. Here is what’s new in Overdose:

– A Female Protagonist with story variations
– New Playable Characters
– New Story Route for “The Musicians”
– New Endings
– Boss Rematches and Party Organization for the Post Game

All in all, this is mostly new story content and the ability to mix and match party members in NG+ between the two main groups.

caligula 4 - dive deeper

Progression is pretty simple. In each chapter, you gain access to a new dungeon filled with enemies and a boss fight to advance the story to the next sequence/chapter. If you choose the “Musician” Route a good bit into the game, this adds 2 dungeon treks per chapter to the story.

Each chapter also has side content in the form of Character Events for the main cast. Every character has several events you can do with them across the game, letting you get to know them better and work towards helping them overcome their trauma. They’re also time-sensitive. If you don’t start certain characters’ events by a certain chapter, they’re skipped and you can’t get them again until New Game Plus.

Imagine these like Social Links from the Persona series. Each character scene has “right” and “wrong” dialogue choices and if you get wrong choices, you won’t be able to advance that character further and unlock their ultimate skill for use in battle. This goes for both the Go Home Club and Musicians as all possible playable characters have character events outside of the protagonist.

caligula 5 - npcs

Characters also expand far beyond the main cast. There are over 500 NPCs in Mobius, all of which you can get to know and recruit into your party. There’s also a system here where certain NPCs won’t accept you as an acquaintance until you advance your relations with others in their class/group of friends. Each of these characters also has a character quest you take them on to help them overcome trauma.

This would be a really neat system if the characters were more unique. All of the Non-Main-Cast NPCs all look like the same generic character model with a different hairstyle or gender applied to them. They don’t have portraits, all take weapons and skills from the other Main Cast members, and don’t feel like there’s anything to them outside of just giving you an absurd amount of possible playable characters that look exactly like dozens of other possible playable characters.

Now let’s get into dungeon-crawling and combat. Every area of the game is a dungeon in and of itself. It is filled with NPCs and enemies, along with items you can find to equip to your party members. This feels most like a Persona game as all of the enemies wander around, making it possible to sneak past and around them if you’re overleveled or just want to hurry to the next save point. At the same time, though, they can attack you from behind to force you into a battle if you’re not sneaky enough.

caligula 6 - combat

Once you’re in battle, things get more interesting. You have turn-based combat and all of your skills cost points in order to use. However, when you set up skills, you can adjust the timing of each skill and are even given a preview of what will happen when those skills play out, letting you strategize the best way to take out all enemies. This is especially useful for not pushing too many attacks on one enemy as well as letting your attacks happen a few seconds later or earlier to avoid them being absorbed by an enemy shield/guard.

The great thing about combat is the fact that you’re fully healed after every battle so there’s no need for healing items to be used in or between fights. You also don’t have weapon upgrades, as accessories you find in dungeons and leveling are where your stat boosts come from. You do get skills points in battle that you can use for new skills, though.

Now, in terms of how much time you’ll be spending on this game, it’s more or less around the 20-25 hour range. I never needed to stop and grind for levels and I’d reached the Final Boss of my initial run in a little over 20 hours. After that, you can do New Game Plus to carry over your levels and it’s worth noting that you don’t have to use the same gesture in NG+. You can do the original protagonist and still carry over his levels for a Female Protagonist run.

Controls

Controlling the game is pretty simple. No touch controls or motion controls here.

You move around with the Left Analog Stick and move the camera with the Right Analog Stick. The Arrow Buttons / D-Pad are used mostly just for menus. ZL and ZR don’t really do anything, but L is used for skipping text and resetting the camera while R is used for dashing through dungeons at running speed.

Now let’s get into the face buttons. A is used for interacting with people and X can pull up a Profile and Quest-line menu when talking to NPCs. B is used for canceling options and Y is used for changing the Mini-Map views in dungeons.

All in all, it’s pretty simplistic, for the most part.

Presentation

caligula 7 - presentation

Graphically, the game doesn’t look bad. It looks pretty decent in docked mode, where everything is nice and detailed. The characters do get a little blurry when they’re really close to the camera, though. But that’s docked mode. In Handheld Mode, it changes a lot. Environments stay about the same but character models become a lot blurrier and far less detailed. It’s really strange to look at the game and how different the models look between docked and handheld modes, and not in a very good way.

Performance is pretty good, overall. There are a few places where the frames drop in one dungeon of the game and the frames sometimes will freeze when starting a battle. But for actual combat and exploration, it’s pretty smooth.

Battery Life

Considering how much the character models change in handheld mode, I was expecting some pretty decent Battery Life. But, here’s what we got:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 26 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 30 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 42 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 49 minutes

So, not as much as I was hoping for, but still acceptable.

In conclusion, The Caligula Effect comes to Switch with a lot of new characters and choices than Vita fans had. On the downside, the story has a slugglish pace at the beginning, handheld mode really downgrades character models, and the NPC Recruitment system is really bland with 500+ characters that look like clones of all 500 others. Despite these flaws, though, the game’s got an interesting story, fun combat, and the uniqueness of being able to see both sides of a conflict, from start to finish.

Final Score: 7/10