Over the past few years we have witnessed a sudden and much appreciated proliferation of playful experiences, distinctly JRPG. Between large operas and small indie productions, it would not be wrong to say that the entire genre has experienced - and is still experiencing - a rebirth from the proverbial ashes in which it was almost forgotten. There would be dozens of titles to be taken as an example in this sense, just think of the amazing Persona 5 by Atlus or, again, the much appreciated Dragon Quest XI by Square Enix, but today our spotlights are totally turned towards The Caligula Effect: Overdose. The original The Caligula Effect, released in Europe in May 2018, presented itself to the public with numerous problems that unfortunately proved capable of quickly dropping the production into oblivion. Despite this, however, with the passing of the months a large group of fans was created who saw the good in what Aquaria brought to light, a niche of users large enough to push the development team to retrace its steps with a revised and corrected version of its original creation. The Caligula Effect: Overdose aims to restore splendor to a series that seemed to have run aground after the first chapter, all through various playful tweaks and additional content designed to expand and deepen the narrative sector even more. We at Resources4Gaming were able to play the Nintendo Switch version of the work well in advance by carefully studying every feature and today, finally, we are ready to give you our final judgment on it.
The lair of the White Rabbit
Within a school like many others, our digital alter-ego is witnessing the meeting with new students, as usual. In the middle of the event, however, some of the kids around us begin to show strange deformations, almost as if there was an interference that makes their faces unrecognizable. Panicked and visibly terrified, we flee in a hurry only to be stopped by Aria, a strange little creature with a vaguely human appearance who calls herself a virtualdoll. The girl, noticing our anomalous behavior, immediately realizes that we have revealed the deception of the world in which we find ourselves, a capacity that only a select few possess. What surrounds us is not the real world, but a virtual universe designed to escape the horrors of a life made of regrets and pain, an Eden where all the souls in pain can find refuge. Mobius - this is the name by which the virtual environment is named - is controlled by Mu, another virtualdoll who has decided to commit himself to the realization of an ever more perfect dream planet, a place where no one will ever feel any pain. Yet, with the passage of time that dream has been distorting more and more and now, although Mu continues to offer an idyllic sense of total freedom and lightheartedness to anyone who decides to join Mobius, each newcomer is deprived of all his negative emotions, also losing the awareness of being in nothing more than a simulation and forced to live an eternal student life. Not even the time to find out about what we have just been told that we are immediately joined by another group of "students" awakened from the dream now turned into a nightmare, who have been fighting secretly for weeks now to try to find a way out of the virtual prison in which they are locked up. After a few quick greetings, we too are then invited to join the Go-Home Club to join forces and find a way to finally return home.
Although the narrative incipit is not among the most original that have ever been seen, The Caligula Effect: Overdose features a decidedly intriguing script full of interesting ideas on which to reason that it will enrich itself especially in the second half of the game, when we will be given the opportunity to discover in detail the past of the companions who will accompany us on this difficult journey. The adventure continues pleasantly from the beginning to the end, even managing to offer some well-aimed twists, but unfortunately it is getting lost in a simply disastrous cast. Don't get us wrong, the main members of the Go-Home Club are multifaceted, charismatic and well diversified, precious allies towards whom we will feel sincere empathy and with whom we can form a strong bond of friendship depending on how much time we decide to dedicate to each of them, all within a dating system not unlike the one seen in Persona 5. What does not convince, unfortunately, are all the other recruitable members. To try to add some meat to the fire, Aquaria has in fact decided to include in-game over five hundred characters to add to their team, secondary members who, despite being described as well-rounded individuals with their own history, soon become they will turn out to be simple extras without depth that will be forgotten very soon. In this case, in short, more attention was paid to quantity than to quality, an unfortunate logistical choice which resulted in a huge wasted opportunity. Said this, however, we must not forget that The Caligula Effect: Overdose presents several narrative innovations compared to the original chapter, various additions that contribute to giving greater thickness to the entire production. Among new members - fortunately well developed - with whom to enrich the Go-Home Club, unpublished endings, new explorable environments, the presence of the Forbidden Musician Route and the addition of a female protagonist, it is impossible not to denote an appreciable effort carried out by the team to offer an intriguing experience also to all those who already had the opportunity to enjoy The Caligula Effect.
From a purely playful point of view, there is no doubt that the backbone of The Caligula Effect: Overdose is summed up in a decidedly interesting and unconventional combat system we are used to. While we will move in the labyrinthine stages representing the different explorable environments, with a maximum of three other companions who will form our team, we will meet various enemies who will attack us on sight; however, there is the possibility of launching a preemptive attack useful to obtain a slight advantage at the beginning of the fight. Once the battle has begun, we will be placed in front of the innovative “Imaginary Chain”, a peculiar idea at the base of the combat-system capable of offering a profound strategic connotation to every battle. Whenever we choose an attack to make - all within a turn-based combat structure - we will be able to see in advance not only the effects of our attacks and their success rate, but also the way in which the enemy will react to our actions from time to time. In this way, the user on duty will always have a clear picture of events that he can use to his advantage to study the situation and try to turn the battle in his favor. In this sense, the most experienced and attentive players will be able to play cunning by attacking and defending themselves at the right time to create devastating combos with which to slaughter their opponent. Furthermore, we must not forget that every possible move, be it offensive or defensive, will consume a certain amount of MP - rechargeable, wasting a turn that could however be wisely used by the enemy to get you involved in some lethal combo - from a bar that you will always have to keep an eye on it, under penalty of being discovered in the most crucial moments of the clash.
Unfortunately, such an interesting play structure was not accompanied by a minimally sufficient variety of situations. The enemies that can be faced are in fact divided into very few types - which, among other things, all appear generally similar to each other - while the maps that can be explored are nothing more than long labyrinths of corridors all equal to each other in which the environmental interaction is reduced to minimum terms. It only takes a few hours to see all that the title has to offer, with a general redundancy of the whole experience that in the long run will become really nerve-wracking. Of course, it is possible to level up and unlock new skills useful to try to diversify the gameplay a little, as well as there will be several objects that can be equipped with which to improve the statistics of each character, but this is not enough to mask the obvious limits of a production. without the right courage that would have allowed her to take flight within an industry that nowadays churns out small pearls without giving the public a breather. Worse still, as much as the optional missions related to the main members of the Go-Home Club deserve to be enjoyed, all the others turned out to be weak fillers designed solely to lengthen the broth, an infinite cyclic repetition of events that will tire very quickly. Not even under a more strictly technical profile the title manages to offer some reason why joys, all due to a graphic sector which, although improved compared to the original chapter, on Nintendo Switch continues to show all its backwardness. Washed-out textures, empty settings, mediocre effects, barely sufficient polygonal counts and woody animations are enclosing themselves in a product that will greatly dissatisfy all those who require a certain level of quality from a video game even under a more strictly visual profile. On the other hand, the portability of the Nintendo-branded hybrid console turned out to be a pleasant presence - although the experience is plagued by a rather dancer frame-rate - and the work done in terms of character design proved to be decidedly convincing, but this is not enough to hide the serious technical deficiencies that afflict the production. On the other hand, the Japanese dubbing turned out to be excellent - only accompanied by an English subtitle localization -, followed by a soundtrack with pleasant tracks.