After staying fairly under the radar since its forming, new publisher acttil comes more to the fore with its upcoming release of Experience's Ray Gigant. Having played through the first of its three interconnected story arcs, Ray Gigant feels a bit different to Experience's regular fare, being far more welcoming to new players than other titles such as Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy and Demon Gaze, though it keeps a heavy focus on dungeon crawling. The counter to that is it may not quite pose the same level of hardcore challenge that Experience's current fans expect, but there certainly seems to be wider appeal here that I've been happy to take.
It's noticeable from the beginning how the game is much more accessible to those who aren't hardcore dungeon crawling fans than other Experience-developed titles that can easily overwhelm those not used to building up every facet of a large party with a vast array of attribute growth and equipment options. Ray Gigant keeps things simple enough to get to grips with at the start, but there's enough depth to keep players engaged in character growth. The game also paints a much more straightforward path to progression, with a linear overall structure and easier to follow dungeons (though indications are these will get more complex), but successfully keeping exploration as a key focus.
The turn-based combat uses a three-way command system. Each character has three possible actions or items equipped — be it physical or magical attacks, healing abilities or items, and a wait command — and assigned to either the triangle, circle, or square buttons. Soon enough this expanded to offer a second set that can be switched to freely. Individual characters can use up to five actions per turn, but each of these actions uses up a shared Action Point total. AP is replenished when enemies attack or by using the wait command, though waiting precludes any other options for a character that turn. Figuring out how best to use their AP and keep it replenished means players are always engaged even when an individual battle does not pose much challenge itself, as AP does not replenish into the next battle.
Encounters are fixed in place on the dungeon map, with many being mandatory to progress. There are three types of regular encounters shown by the colour of the encounter icon, the type of encounter determining how heavy the AP consumption of each action is. Difficulty of individual encounters varies: battles against solo enemies are almost trivial, but ones with multiple enemies can surprise those not paying attention. However, the overall balance strikes a good point when considering AP maintenance throughout a dungeon. That said, with the party brought up to max health after each encounter and no usage limits applied to battle items, more experienced players may find things a bit too forgiving.
Boss fights put up the sternest challenges and hence are where the Slash Beat Mode primarily comes into play. A special attack available once the hit counter in the top-right reaches fifty (or the full hundred for a better version), its execution takes the form of a rhythm mini-game with every successfull input adding an attack to the massive combo at the end. This is certainly the most effective method of knocking chunks off the bosses' very large hit point totals and it introduces an worthwhile extra dynamic to boss fights.
Certain boss fights make the best use of Ray Gigant's nifty perspective-based camera angle, doing a nice job of showing the party fighting against the hundred-foot tall beings. This approach helps the game stand out visually along with its nice, distinctive character art and animations. The soundtrack has also stood out so far, providing a fairly up-tempo, yet atmospheric, audio backing to combat and dungeons.
A lot of the plot and character elements for Ichiya Amakaze's storyline will be familiar to fans of Japanese media. However, it's still so far been an enjoyable tale with an interesting cast and plenty of lingering threads promising later resolution, even if a few aspects feel like they could be fleshed out a touch more early on. The fact that the party is made up of important characters also helps give things much more identity compared to other dungeon-crawlers with blank slates of no relevance to the plot.
In this particular doomsday scenario, extraterrestrial beings called Gigants are laying waste to Earth's cities after mysteriously appearing one day. Convential wearfare proves ineffective, but a young boy named Ichiya manages to destroy of one of the Gigants in Tokyo by using power from other beings called Yorigami. Soon enough humans are able to try and strike back using this new-found measure, but are still rather disadvantaged. The game features three interconnected plots, each with its own set of protagonists, so it remains to be seen what direction things end up taking once these other strands get moving. There have been grammatical errors or typos dotted around the localisation that, while not enough to detract from the overall experience and storytelling, are noticeable.
At this early stage, Ray Gigant's streamlined gameplay, with more of a focus on story and the playable cast, puts it in a decent light for a wider RPG audience. However, it still keeps enough depth that it should satisfy those who are already fans and could end up being the one to point to when suggesting Experience dungeon-crawlers to others. It remains to be seen if it holds up for the full duration of the game, but at this stage Ray Gigant feels like another solid addition to the Vita's pleasing RPG library.