First, let’s address the elephant in the room (specifically, the one with the big sparkly anime eyes): this isn’t my kind of game. That’s not entirely accurate, though, because it’s more that I’ve never bothered giving these types of games a chance. All of my experiences have been of this deeply anime style bleeding into places where it doesn’t belong—like Fire Emblem—leading to stories that try to be grim and dark and then resolve things through the power of friendship. I’m always interested in exploring parts of gaming that I’m initially uncomfortable with, though, and Omega Quintet is a uniquely fascinating case; when I looked up reviews of its original PS4 release, many of the negative ones didn’t really say much and instead came across as finger-wagging. The user reviews, on the other hand, tended to be much more positive, but only among those in a certain gaming niche. Long story short, there are a lot of dissenting opinions here, and that allows me to put on a hat that I greatly enjoy wearing: that of the objective outsider drilling deep into a game’s core to discover who’s right and who’s wrong about its merits and/or shortcomings.
It’s not like the game is hiding what it’s like
Basically, the story here is that monsters are ruining the world and the only thing that can stop them are a bunch of young anime girls singing songs. Oh, and the power of the girls increases as they become more popular with the people through some mechanism absolutely no one seems to understand, so they basically become monster-slaying pop stars who make a show of it. As per Japanese law (or so one could be forgiven for thinking), an apathetic male character ends up at the center of all of this and is forced to live with the girls. In this case, the thin justification is that the newest member is his childhood friend, and he’s effectively the safety blanket that enables her to function in the face of pressure. This is all kind of weird and convenient, so we’re going to be sweeping a whole lot of this under the rug for now.
Omega Quintet also features visual novel elements. As in, that other thing I have no experience with whatsoever. I do have a lot of experience with game dialogue, though, and I already have some thoughts about it here. Right now I’m finding the characters amusingly weird, which is definitely much better than hating them immediately, but these visual novel sections start to meander for no obvious reason. It’s never a good idea to have important text sandwiched between a whole lot of meaningless filler because it slowly creates a sense of resentment as players start to pick up on the fact that their time is being wasted. Then again, I’m still really early in the game and it’s not possible to tell if the dialogue will become more focused.
In the home base hub area, there are occasionally visual novel sections that you can trigger between missions (you can see this in the embedded video above), and these seem to resolve in someone’s “affection” stat rising. I’m still being barraged by tutorials—more on that later—and don’t have a handle on all of the gameplay systems yet, but I remember seeing something about this stat increasing main character Takt’s damage in combat or something along those lines. He can be used as a kind of quicktime event to attack or block damage a certain number of times in combat, but that’s yet another thing I’m still figuring out. Regardless, I saw something about this game having multiple endings, so I can’t help but suspect that affection ultimately becomes a choose-your-waifu thing later on down the line.
Oh hey, there’s also gameplay
There are a ton of systems here, and I’d be lying if I said I had any idea what they all do yet. There are different stats (named obscure things like “divinity,” which seems unnecessarily confusing), crafting, multiple currencies (or maybe a single currency in different elemental denominations?), and a combat system that’s kind of like a more rigid Grandia where special attacks delay your next turn, with there being beneficial effects on certain turns that can be leveraged by carefully planning out which abilities you use and when. That’s barely scratching the surface of all of the systems at play here, too. Obviously it’ll take some time to get used to all of this stuff.
There are a bunch of things that I’m unused to in this game, but invisible walls are definitely something I have experience with. This is a typical modern jRPG thing to run into (very common in later Final Fantasy games, Lost Odyssey, and others I could mention), with it usually being best to check the map to see where the paths are rather than trying to navigate a series of invisible barriers with your eyes.
I should probably mention right now that this game doesn’t run quite as well as I expected it to given its PS4 roots, so some of the footage won’t be quite as smooth as it could be. It runs perfectly during the visual novel sections, and fairly decent during combat, but wandering around the field is proving to be quite choppy. Speaking of wandering the field, you can get into combat with an advantage by initiating it with an attack, or with a disadvantage if enemies catch you from behind. That’s reminiscent of a lot of games over the years, though the most recent (and similar) comparison I can think of is Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
I hope you like tutorials
One of the reasons why I don’t have a great grasp on all of the mechanics right now is that the game pummels you with tutorial screens early on. The first few of these are adequate and manage to teach you some of the ins and outs, but the advanced ones later on come one after another and throw all kinds of terminology at you before you’re comfortable with it. That means that it goes in one ear and out the other. Worse, they’re just a bunch of screens with text. It’d be much better to learn by doing, though it’s hard to illustrate advanced abilities when you’re still early enough that most combat boils down to hitting the attack command a couple times.
It can get a bit overwhelming having 3-4 of these screens hit you every couple of minutes with a new gameplay facet. Other than that, though, the game’s been decent thus far, and I’m interested in seeing where it ends up going. Since this appears to be a bigger (and thus slower) game necessitating more of a time commitment than most, I probably won’t post progress logs for it every day like I would for other games, but I’ll continue playing through it and figuring things out.