Imagine if the world was overcome with a strange phenomenon that saw demonic creatures appearing from a mysterious purple mist. What would you do? Who would you turn to?
Well in the world of Omega Quintet, Compile Hearts’ first JRPG for the PS4, you’d pray that the Verse Maidens turn up pronto to beat the monsters into submission before singing a nice song to eradicate the mist.
For some reason, the scantily-clad Verse Maidens are the world’s only hope when it is threatened by the Blare, a worrying occurrence that constantly spawns monsters. As if battling the monsters wasn’t enough of a task for them to do though, they also have to entertain the world whilst doing so; keeping up a twee public facade to enrapture an unhealthily obsessive fanbase.
A satire on the Japanese idol culture, the main story of the game follows Takt – a snarky wisp of a boy who becomes manager in-training and bodyguard for the Verse Maidens – and Otoha, an air-headed young girl that unwittingly lands a job as a Verse Maiden after the retirement of their main attraction. With Otoha aspiring to follow in the footsteps of her haughty predecessor, she haplessly shambles from scenario to scenario in an attempt to raise her profile. Regrettably, the story isn’t particularly engaging. Much time is spent listening to the girls talking nonsense that does nothing but waste your time, interspersed with the odd blunt yet amusing comment from Takt, which usually makes him seem like a bit of a douche. To its credit however, the voice acting is pretty good and its humour does often raise a smile, so it’s not all bad.
Where Omega Quintet really shines is with its battle system. Those who miss the turn-based battles of old will be appreciative of Omega Quintet, with characters waiting for their turn to attack based on their speed and the attacks that they use. Starting with only Otoha, your party of Verse Maidens eventually grows to be five strong, and although Takt isn’t permitted to take part in battle directly (god forbid the lovely Verse Maidens being seen alongside a boy) he can be paired with any of the girls, ready to jump in and follow up their attacks or defend them with a well-timed press of the X button. With a plethora of skills for the girls to learn, and multiple advanced systems such as chain skills and live concert mode available to turn the tide of combat, the battle system features considerable depth and complexity. Another plus is that unlike most JRPGS, the difficulty of combat can be changed, allowing you to negate the usual grind that other games in the genre often devolve into. This enables you to proceed through the game at your own pace without being frustrated by difficulty spikes. The only thing I can really pick a fault with is that it doesn’t do a good job of introducing or teaching new features to you. During the first 10 hours or so, the game frequently tells you about the advanced techniques available, but it never really shows you to use them effectively. As the instructions are pretty vague, this often just leaves you confused, unsure whether or not you can really use that feature at the point that you are in the story.
Like most modern RPGs, Omega Quintet proudly sports a crafting system, enabling you to create consumables and equipment for your adventure. Unfortunately, it’s largely redundant. The resources required to create new weapons and dresses for your group of girls are considerable, meaning it’s easier to just find them out in the field. What is useful however is the ability to upgrade your girls’ dresses, as this enables you to modify them with Amps in order to boost defences against the elements and status ailments. The crafting station is also your go-to place to maintain your girls’ dresses, as being attacked in battle takes its toll on them. Letting the dresses deteriorate too much can leave your girls experiencing an embarrassing costume mishap, and doing battle wearing only their underwear results in their defences being drastically reduced. Definitely not ideal.
Graphically, Omega Quintet is a mixed bag. Character and enemy designs are pretty good, although their animation leaves a little to be desired. The field environments that you traverse on your adventures on the other hand are very basic, and at times a plain eyesore. The story is told via wonderful 2D images of the characters that are ever so slightly animated to emphasise some of the unfolding events, but you may grow tired of seeing them due to the very many dialogue scenes. Backing up the varied visuals is a surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack and a full English voiceover, which is great, although you’ll have heard all the voices countless times before in other JRPGs.
Overall, JRPG fans with an interest in the Japanese idol culture will find Omega Quintet pretty enjoyable. It’s obviously aimed at a niche market and is perfectly happy at doing so, but unfortunately for everyone else the lacklustre story will probably be a barrier to their enjoyment. The battle system remains to be praised though, and with a zany band of characters this is definitely a JRPG worth trying for those interested in the genre. As the only new JRPG currently available in Europe for the PS4, fans really haven’t got much to lose, have they?