When I played Wizardry 8, Sir Tech's final creation in 2001, I walked away with bittersweet memories. Bar none, I had more fun in that adventure than any other dungeon crawling RPG (DRPG) up to that point. However, I would not see another major DRPG release for some time. Fast forward to 2007, when we received the very excellent Etrian Odyssey, and soon afterwards Class of Heroes. DRPGs returned and since then we have received a steady stream of these games, mainly on our handheld consoles and the PC.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a remake of the first two games of the Generation XTH trilogy. Released in Japan in 2008, the trilogy included Generation Xth-Code Hazard-, Generation XTH -Code Breaker-, and Generation XTH -Code Realize. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo is brought to us by the same company who created Demon Gaze, another DRPG I still enjoy today.
When the game starts, it invites you to choose between basic and classic mode. As far as I can tell, only aesthetic differences exists between the two versions. In classic mode, you customize your paper doll party members with a variety of eyes, skin/hair colors, clothing, glasses, jewelry, etc., allowing for a near infinite combinations of appearances. In basic mode, you choose from about a dozen action oriented still shots of characters, similar to Demon Gaze's approach. The modes also impact the appearance of the UI slightly during the game itself.
RPGamers familiar with older Wizardry and Class of Heroes titles will feel right at home here. Players create a party of six characters and choose from eight different classes. While the player chooses the gender and look of their party members, they are limited to only playing as human characters.
While DRPGs are rarely known for their deep stories, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy bucks the trend a bit by tossing you in the role of students with special abilities who work for a secret police-like organization. Weird pockets of darkness that are formed into monster-filled labyrinths called variants have popped up all over Tokyo. Your teams works from within the organization to explore and research these phenomena with the hopes of eventually shutting them all down. With limited voice acting and dialed back fan service, the story and setting feel quite tame compared to Demon Gaze.
Despite its modern setting, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy characterizes a typical old-school dungeon crawler through and through. While I encountered some of the mechanics and trappings seen in Demon Gaze, the game feels a lot closer to the before-mentioned Class of Heroes. For example, using the party's ability to create gear is the most optimal way to obtain the best new pieces of equipment. The group finds parts needed through breaking down pieces more than through finding mundane gear in dungeons. The spell casting system, broken down by level (similar to the NES classic, Final Fantasy), forces careful planning and diversification of utilization. Along those lines, including an Academic class in the party is nearly a requirement. His ability to pick locks, detect hidden doors and disable traps will come in handy often. Even loot dropped by enemies poses a significant danger to unwary adventurers, due to dangerous machinations hidden inside.
The dungeons themselves seem well designed, and they auto map as the party presses forward. Similar to Demon Gaze, once a party has explored a part of the dungeon, they can easily move back and forth using an auto-navigate option available from the map. Random encounters seem to pop up a little less often than the typical DRPG. However, continuous battles, encounters where groups of monsters attack the party one right after another, ensure no shortage of conflict. Given the rather slow rate of leveling, these challenging engagements provide spurts of precious experience as well as a slew of items and parts.
One of the more intriguing mechanics, the rise and drop system, monitors the threat level of the party as they proceed through the labyrinths. As the party defeats foes, the encounter gauge increases, which makes enemies stronger and increases the quality of item drops. Also, the chance of a wanted variant, or wandering boss, rises as well. Running from battle decreases the gauge. This introduces a welcome risk/reward element to the game.
The dungeons also feature a bit of old school puzzle solving. A few times I had to search carefully or use an item in order to move forward through the second maze. At one point, I was struggling to figure out what to do next, but have since broken through that. This is definitely a game that benefits from having a strategy guide or FAQ handy. While these types of obstacles frustrate me, I enjoy the old school depth and approach used with the classes and item creation. Due for release on June 9, 2015, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy promises dozens of hours of dungeon crawling adventure for the PlayStation Vita.