The Caligula Effect is probably the closest thing we have to an actual Persona game on the Switch right now. So… how good is it? Here’s my review of The Caligula Effect!
I received a review copy of this game from Nis America.
The gameplay in this game is the saving grace. What I mean by that is it’s the only thing this game does amazingly well. Chaining up combos is easy and I like the imaginary chain system. This mechanic let showed me how things could potentially play out in combat by letting me see the actions of my characters. What I like to do is launch enemies up in the sky with a stiff uppercut and then unleash holy hell on them with various aerial combos. The gameplay is what kept me engaged for over 30 hours, but it’s not without problems. For starters, the imaginary chain is really cool for about an hour before it became a huge nuisance because it would drag battles out longer then they needed to be. I eventually just stopped watching the chain and just did what I wanted and I managed to do just fine like that. Another thing that’s really bad is the animations. I know this was originally a PS Vita game so I’m going to go kind of easy here, but they could have at least did something here because the general movement and animation quality are terrible. Navigation isn’t much better, but it’s not Xenoblade 2 bad and I was able to find where I was going without much issue.
This game tries really hard to be Persona. Everything in this game screams Persona, but none of it is done nearly as well as those games. You even get a talking mascot that loves to scream, “go live” as a catchphrase whenever someone’s power awakens. The whole thing started off super ridiculous, but as I got to know the characters and made my way through the game I started to like certain parts of it. This game is not Persona levels of good. It’s not even close, but some of the characters may surprise you and you might even feel something for some of them. Some of them are also super annoying and add nothing to any scene that they’re in. The main story is about a group of people being led by the main protagonist (you) to escape a virtual reality called Mobius. The Go Home Club are the only people who know that they’re living in a fake reality and they want to go back home, but the creator of this new reality won’t let them. The story in this game did drag on for too long. Like I said above this game is basically a Persona clone and that means there is a LOT of dialogue here, but most of it is pretty average while a game like Persona 5 took its time and let the story play out I felt that this game rushed the story and the end result is a pretty forgettable experience. I did enjoy getting to know some of my companions and that’s why it’s in the good section.
The big thing that was advertised for this game was the causality link. It was advertised as you getting to know 500 companions. The truth is everyone you talk to only have a few lines of dialogue and never have anything interesting to say. You can skip the entire conversation just to unlock the passive bonuses, but the only way to unlock the passive bonuses is to complete a quest for the person that you’re trying to become friends with. The problem is it’s really hard to figure out how to complete the side quest and where to go because everything looks the same and there are so many people to talk to it borders on ridiculous because none of them are interesting at all.
Most reviews that I’ve read hate the soundtrack to this game. I personally like it. I don’t love it because there are some tracks that got on my nerves, but I do like the majority of the music in this game. I even had a few songs stuck in my head after I finished playing. The voice acting is good and I wish there would have been some sort of English dub to go along with the good Japanese voice acting, but I thought it was done really well for the most part. I like how the lyrics of the songs only play while you’re in combat. It fades out to just a beat in the background when you’re exploring and changes completely during boss fights.
You get a bunch of companions in this game. Some of them are interesting and some of them are not. These guys aren’t Persona levels of in-depth, but they’re okay. I enjoyed getting to know everyone and what deep, dark secrets they held inside themselves. Not everyone is as they seem in this game and I really like that. You would have a perception of what a character would be like, but be taken completely by surprise later on when you realize why they behave the way they do and do the things they do and this goes for both the hero and villain characters because you can team up and get to know both sides. This game even has the rank up straight from Persona 5 that happens when you deepen a bond deep enough with a character.
I know this was originally a Vita game, but this is one ugly remaster. Not even the character models look good and for a game to be this ugly you would think it would at least run well on the Switch. It doesn’t. This game rarely sticks at 30 fps. I played a good chunk of this game at under 20. It was a literal slide show at some points, but I powered through. The performance is terrible outdoors and somewhat good indoors. If I’m fighting more than 3 enemies and if there are other NPCs walking around, which is often, you can forget about hitting 30 fps. I really hope that there’s a day one patch releasing on release day because this is a real issue with the game. The character models look blurry up close no matter where I’m playing it. On my TV this game is ugly and in handheld mode it’s ugly. The performance is mostly crap and the character shadows didn’t even have arms. The background is super muddy and there’s no reason why this game should run so bad when it looks the way it does.
This has to be one of the worst designed games I’ve ever played. While games like Persona had some unforgettable locations everything this in this game are just corridors that look exactly the same filled enemies for you to avoid. None of the stages in this game are memorable. None of them and that’s sad because I think this game has so much potential to be great, but lazy design decisions hindered what potential it has and the end result is a mixed bag.
The Caligula Effect has moments of brilliance and is a great game at times. The story, characters, and world are interesting, but the lack of execution is what hurt this game the most. It has bland environments, horrible graphics and really bad performance issues that I don't know will be fixed. I can't recommend this game in this state, but I can't totally shit on it either because I did enjoy it. The gameplay is really good and I can see myself playing through this game again at some point. The Caligula Effect tries its best to be Persona, but it still has a long way to go before it can reach that level of brilliance that Atlus has provided to us for so many years. That doesn't make this a bad game though. The Caligula Effect IS a good game it's just not a great one.