Standing on the shoulders of Gigants
Ray Gigant, the latest dungeon-crawling epic from developer Experience Inc., is poised to bring grand adventure to the Vita on May 3rd. We’ve been digging deep into the game over the past week, and I’m pleased to report the game looks like it could well be best offering from the developer yet. This may seem like a bold statement considering the quality of the studio’s previous releases such as Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, and the recent Stranger of Sword City, but Ray Gigant’s streamlined gameplay and strong focus on building a compelling narrative really make the game stand out from the crowded pack.
The Story of Ray Gigant revolves around different heroes, each with their own tale to tell before their story arcs intertwine at the end of the game. The first chapter begins after a tremendous tragedy befalls the planet. Earth’s major cities have been left in ruins following the appearance of massive, otherwordly creatures known as Gigants. On what has become known as “Zero Day”, the world’s military forces tried to unite to combat the alien invaders but were crushed almost instantly. Just as it seemed the annihilation of mankind was imminent, a boy named Ichiya Amakaze defeated a Gigant with the help of a mysterious power called the Yorigami. However, the power of his new-found abilities consumed him, causing Ichiya to lose control and tragically destroy much of the city in the process.
Following the cataclysmic episode, Ichiya is taken into custody and, due to his immense potential, enrolled in an organization tasked with unraveling the mystery behind the Gigants and sending them packing once and for all.
Suffice to say, Ray Gigant lays the story on a bit thick compared to Experience’s previous DRPGs, and the game is all the better for it. This is due in no small part to the its lively cast of characters who really stand on their own compared to say, Operation Abyss and Stranger of Sword City, which featured largely player-made parties that lacked a sense of identity. Ichiya’s playful banter with his Gigant-hunting squad mates Mana Izano and Riona Kagarasu is entertaining and endearing, while the tension between your cocky newcomer and hotheaded Kazuomi Miwa and the organization’s shadowy leader Uzuki Nanashiro work well to underscore the dire situation the team are faced with. Each character brings their own unique dynamic to the story, and every conversation does a great job of fleshing out Ichiya’s relationship with his new comrades.
While Experience’s focus on expanding the narrative in Ray Gigant is certainly appreciated, the game’s dungeon-crawling elements are also much more refined and streamlined this time around. Exploration takes place in Megalosites, strange, inter-dimensional areas of Tokyo warped by the game’s opening event. Sure, the first-person dungeon crawling in these areas will feel familiar to fans of the genre, but a host of subtle improvements to the established formula make things much less of a chore. Firstly, gone are the random encounters that are the bane of many players, as you can see each potential encounter displayed on the map. These battles are represented with icons of varying colors; blue, yellow and red. Each action you undertake in battle spends AP, or Action Points, and the way these points are consumed varies depending on the color of the encounter. Blue Encounters are classified as “light”, meaning each action will cost half of its normal AP consumption, whereas yellow is “Normal”, and Red battles will consume double the AP per action. As AP aren’t replenished between battles you’ll have to choose your attacks carefully to ensure you don’t overexert your party, leaving them helpless in the next battle. However, issuing “wait” commands will replenish some AP in battle, and defeating enemies in just one or two turns will award you a sizable AP bonus after the fight.
That said, while things are certainly a bit more streamlined, the AP mechanic definitely adds a bit of strategy to the mix, ensuring players pay attention to their choices in battle, or they’ll pay dearly when faced with one of the game’s more formidable foes.
As for the battles themselves, they’re handled a bit differently from what you may expect as well. Using a mechanic called the “Three Way System”, players can initially choose from three actions mapped to the Square, Triangle and Circle buttons. These range from magic attacks, healing abilities, standard attacks and waiting. However, over time you’ll gain access to a second set of abilities you can swap from at will, doubling the available actions in your arsenal. Additionally, turn order is no longer something you need to consider, as you can freely swap between your party’s three available characters, inputting up to five actions (that is, if you have the AP to spend) per each character before executing your turn. This adds a welcome sense of fluidity and customization to the way battles unfold. Overall, it works really well, and the tug-of-war between performing an all-out assault or playing conservatively to ensure you have the AP to adapt to any situation adds a great layer of depth to the combat system.
One of the most interesting mechanics Ray Gigant brings to the table is the Slash Beat Mode. As you lay on the damage to your foes, a counter adds up in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Once it reaches 50 or 100, you can execute the SBM with a tap of the Right Shoulder Button. Once activated, this initiates a flashy anime cutscene that kicks off a rhythm game. Each button command you successfully input during this rather gory scene counts as one attack, and once the song is complete you’ll unleash a relentless volley of attacks that can shear even the most fearsome Gigant’s health bar in half.
While we typically try to restrain ourselves a bit during our previews here at Hey Poor Player, Ray Gigant has left quite the impression on us in the hours we’ve managed to sink into the game so far. Though it still remains to be seen if the game can manage to keep its impressive pace over the course of its final chapters, we feel it’s safe to say this is going to be an adventure DRPG fans will want to keep on their radar when it lands on the PSN store on May 3rd. Stay tuned for our full review of Ray Gigant next Friday, April 29.