The Caligula Effect 2 – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by FuRyu and Historia with publishing handled by NIS America, The Caligula Effect 2 is a JRPG that mixes dungeon style exploration and a hybrid turn/time based combat system. Trapped in a simulated world, the protagonist must work with the Virtuadoll X (pronounced Kyi) to escape back to the real world. This title is available for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, with links to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of The Caligula Effect 2 that was used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story. I will be covering the core mechanics of the gameplay to prevent spoiling any surprises that the game has, as I feel that some elements of the game must be experienced first-hand.

Story – The mysterious Virtuadoll Regret, has used her songs to pull people into REDO, a simulated world devoid of guilt and created to free the denizens’ of their past mistakes making them forget reality. The Virtuadoll X breaks into this simulation to bring it down, encountering the Protagonist as they realize that the world around them is a lie. During this awakening, X jumps into the body of the protagonist and becomes their soul partner.

The two must now work together to recruit others to their cause, forming the Go-Home Club, a group that seeks to shatter this false reality and return to the real world. However, this will not be an easy task as the Virtuadoll Regret, has a group of followers that seek to stop this attempt to bring down REDO, as well as the soulless inhabitants that wander the simulation. The soul partners, must do all they can to bring REDO down, while learning more about the other Go-Home Club members.

Gameplay – the Caligula Effect 2 is a JRPG, with dungeon styled exploration, sprawling areas to explore and unique hybrid of real time/turn based combat. The game takes place in the simulation of REDO, with the player taking the role of the Protagonist, a second year student from Tatefushi Academy who has an awakening of what is truly going on. Due to this realization that this world isn’t all it appears, the Virtuadoll X chooses the protagonist to help her bring down REDO, taking half their body.

To achieve this goal, the player must travel throughout the world of REDO, exploring different areas and recruiting more people who have had the same realization. The gameplay is split into two different segments, dungeon crawling action and hub-world exploration. When roaming the dungeon zones, the player will encounter enemies that will be wandering around, following simple paths either alone or in groups and charging the player if they are seen.

The player can engage an enemy in two ways, if direct contact is made either from the player running into the enemy or vice versa, combat will just start. However, if the player is able to get behind an enemy and press the action button, an advantage will be given to the player for that battle. The combat uses a system called the “Imaginary Chain” where decisions are made with time paused, but when all current party members have had actions assigned they will occur simultaneously.

The “Imaginary Chain” system uses a timer for all actions, counting down on screen for all actions that have been assigned with the party. When the timer counts down for the assigned actions, that player will be able to a take their turn again, making timing important to maximize damage potential and minimize risks. Each action varies in how long the timer will last, giving a flexibility and tension to combat, as a poorly timed attack could lead to ruin.

The majority of commands use the resource SP to be performed, which will slowly refill over time and completely refill upon completion of the battle, but can be refilled via actions or items (described below). Here are the battle commands that can be used in combat when battling foes;

  • Attack – these are the damage dealing attacks that the party can use to damage enemies, with a percentage meter that will appear during the timing phase showing probability of success. Attacks are broken up into three types, melee, ranged and guard, with special attacks that can counter other attacks and deal additional damage when conditions are met.
  • Support – use support skills that will provide various effects, including healing allies, providing buffs to party members and negative ailments to foes.
  • Action – utility effects that are commonly shared with the party, including defending from attacks, dashing across the battlefield and refilling SP with soul charge.
  • Item – use the items in the party inventory to heal, revive allies and more.
  •  Overdose Skills – during battles, a stress gauge will fill up for the party members, allowing them to use special ultimate abilities called Overdose Skill. These skills have the potential to deal massive damage against enemies and can turn the tide of battle, with each skill unique to the character that wields it.  
  • X Jacking – the Virtuadoll X has the ability to support the party when a voltage meter on screen is full, providing various benefits to the party and lasting until the meter runs out. The voltage meter charges over time during battle and by destroying objects during exploration, allowing for the X Jacking ability to be activated faster (X can also be leveled up by using X points to buy upgrades and special skills through X points earned during play).

When a battle ends, the party will gain experience for defeating the enemies, leveling each party member up when they reach specific milestones. Each time the party members level up, they will gain some increases in stats and new skills/abilities depending on the level that they reach. Allies that have fallen in battle will also gain experience, leveling up even when incapacitated which eases some of the potential headaches that uneven leveling can cause.

Completing battles will provide rewards for the player, including money and items that drop at random. These rewards will vary depending on the level of the enemies defeated and the current zone they are in. The money earned in battles can be used in shops, to purchase supplies and items that have been obtained as rewards can be sold to merchants in stores.

As well as the battles with the enemies encountered in the dungeons, there are items that can be collected by interacting with objects called Rifts and Soul Remnants. The Rifts appear as crystals and must be broken by the player to retrieve the items inside or gain voltage points for X, whereas the Soul Remnants simply need to be activated. However, the Soul Remnants can be in areas that can’t immediately be accessed or hidden out of sight.

The Soul Remnants also contain special items called Stigmas, a form of equipment that can be given to party members and provide different bonuses and passive effects. These passive effects from the Stigma can be learned by the party member that is holding the, becoming a permanent skill boost that can be equipped and unequipped at will. The Stigma system and passive effects are the only form of equipment in the game, with some being character specific and providing only that party member with a bonus.

There are also puzzles that must be completed in some areas in order to progress, ranging from collecting keys to activating switches and more. The puzzle segments, allow different areas to be entered and open up new paths for the player to explore. To help the player with some of the navigation and to help locate Soul Remnants, there is a mini-map that will gradually fill out as the area is traversed, showing the routes that can be taken and where the Remnants are located.

During the dungeon crawling sequences, story scenes will play out with each set making up a story arc or chapter, offering multiple choices for dialogue. These dialogue choices will give different responses and have the potential to impact the final ending of the game, while also being able to uncover some of the secrets of the world of REDO. At the end of each of each arc, the player will encounter a boss battle that works as the climax of that story section before moving onto the next.

Outside of the battle and story focused dungeon crawling elements, the player is able to explore different areas and interact with the residents of the world. By interacting with different NPC characters in free roam environments, the player can get side quests that will provide rewards and boosts for the protagonist, while unlocking the true reality of the quest target. This gives additional depth to the world of REDO, by shining a light on the people that are within this false reality.

There are also interconnected quests and stories that focus not only on the quests giver, but other NPC characters that they may be connected with and even party members. This means that some quests will require others to be completed before that specific one can be done, which does add to the intrigue of some specific character quests, but can become frustrating to backtrack for single quests. But some of the back tracking can be alleviated with the save points that are scattered through the world.

In most areas, there is a save point that the player can use to record their progress. These save points also act as fast travel points and allow the player to move between different areas under certain conditions. This allows for some time to be saved when completing the side quests given by NPC characters. The save points can also be used to travel to the home base for the party and home of X, a train called the X Express.

While the player is on the X Express, they are able to talk to the party members freely and can choose to learn more about them. The personal stories for the party members play out in character episodes, which are unlocked by raising an affinity level with each of them over the course of the game. These stories are optional, but do give more detail on the motivations of the party, adding additional context to dialogue and story scenes.

The X Express is also a mini hub world where the player can move to different areas, shown by a map of the train lines with each location listed on the side. The player is also able to trade with X while on the train, with a service where the player can buy/sell Stigmas, alongside special offers that can be purchased with X points. The train will also change in appearance over time as more party members are recruited, with each new person adding elements of their personalities to the décor of the Express.

Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this game are balanced well, with the thumbsticks used for movement and camera controls, as well as all main functions being mapped to the face buttons. The menu navigation and battle commands work well, with all inputs having little in terms of lag and the precision in the Imaginary Chain that is possible with the D-Pad adds to the comfort of the game. This title plays comfortably with the pro Controller and Joy-Cons in both docked/undocked play.

Difficulty – there is a balanced difficulty curve to this release, with mechanics that ease the tension of encountering several enemies one after another. The way that the player health and SP is refreshed after battle makes the higher difficulty levels more manageable, as any allies that are incapacitated are revived at the end of the battle. This means that the battle difficulties easy, normal, hard and extreme adjust the amount of damage that enemies deal/take during combat.

Presentation – this release has a pleasing visual style to it, with character models, environments and story scenes that are designed well, with smooth animations. There are also character portraits and art that have the distinct JRPG look to them. However, there are some minor flaws to the graphical output, with some of the textures having a slightly fuzzy look during cutscenes, but that is likely due to the hardware limitations of the Nintendo Switch system.

The sound for this game is fantastic, with music tracks that have a distinct J-Idol vibe to them, offering unique compositions for each location. During play the music will also shift from instrumental to vocal, seamlessly adding the lyric track to the song when battle commences, then removing it when combat concludes. This gives the music a dynamic edge and enhances the flow of gameplay. There is no English language voice over, however the Japanese voice track is performed well and all voices fit their characters.

Final Thoughts – this was my first time with the Caligula Effect franchise, as I had not played the previous releases in the series, but I can say that the experience I had was pleasant. The combat and dungeon exploration flows well, with the Imaginary Chain system that allows strategy to be implemented to time attacks perfectly for maximum effect. The story has a lot of depth to it and I found myself being pulled in, wanting to learn more about the characters that I encountered in the world.

I can happily recommend this title to JRPG and dungeon crawling fans. The story doesn’t need much if any knowledge of the previous release, which allowed me to follow easily and the combat/party system is robust with a lot of flexibility to it. The game doesn’t feel too punishing either if mistakes are made, as the usual no XP for downed party members is absent, as well as damage being healed after battle. The only minor complaint that I have is that the textures can look blurry in at times but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience too much.

In the end, I give The Caligula Effect 2 a final score of 4.5/5. This JRPG offers a story that is engaging with a lot of depth, characters that have their own charm to them, combat that flows in a unique way and an excellent soundtrack of Virtual Idol songs that enhance the experience. if you want to check this title out for yourself, links to each version of the game are below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

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