The Caligula Effect Overdose Review-Second Time is the Charm
Publisher: NIS America
System: PS4, Switch, PC
Back in 2017, The Caligula Effect released on the heels of Persona 5 on the Playstation Vita. It launched to lackluster fare due to poor performance and some poor pacing issues in the game’s story. Fast forward two years and an anime later, we now have The Caligula Effect: Overdose, a remake of the original Vita game completely done in the Unreal Engine 4. Along with nicer visuals and better performance, the game also had a ton of added content such as new members of the Go-Hom Club, a new dungeon, some story changes, and the ability to play as a female protagonist.
The Caligula Effect: Overdose story starts out pretty frantic. As you are beginning a new school year, you come to realize everything in the world around you is not what it seems. The people around you start getting distorted like you are in some kind of computer program. After fleeing from the entrance ceremony, you learn that the world you are in is indeed a fake one created by the idol, Mu. Mu’s dream is to make everyone happy and every person in this world are people who wanted to leave their old lives behind, including yourself. Not satisfied with these chain of events, you join the Go-Hom Club. The Go-Hom Club is an organization at school centered around the common goal: to go home. It’s from here you begin your investigation into the world of Mobius and uncover the dark secrets that lie in wait that is preventing you from returning to reality.
In order to find out what in the world is going on, you begin your investigation into a crypto government that runs this world. A group of composers pulling the strings to make sure everyone is locked into Mobius. Each composer you face will have a dungeon of their own to explore. Don’t worry if the entire game at first feels like you’re only exploring a giant school house. You will be able to explore more parts of Mobius the more truths you begin to uncover.
What sets The Caligula Effect apart from a lot of other turn-based JRPGs is the fact that you are able to view your actions in real time. When you engage with Digiheads, the other inhabitants of Mobius who are a bit corrupted, you will pick your attack and you will then see your attack play out in front of you in real time. From here, you will get to see what affects your attack will have and how it will play out in the battle. This combat becomes much more in depth when you finally have a full party at your disposal. You will be able to set up combos for other characters to play off of.
Such as you launching one of your enemies in the air and having another one follow up to gun them down keeping them airborne, thus allowing another party member to go in and finish them off. It should be noted though that your visions into the future are not always the be all, end all. If an attack does not go as planned and the enemy does something else, you will have to plan your moves again when your next turn comes around.
Outside of the dungeon crawling around Mobius, you will run into literally hundreds of other people that you can befriend. I use the term befriend very liberally but I will dive more into that later. You have the ability to befriend your classmates, text them, do favors for them, and recruit them to your party. I found this system interesting, as it attempted to make the world seem much bigger than it actually was, but sadly it just led to being one of the few issues I had with the game.
Honestly, I really do love the story that the Caligula Effect is trying to tell. It can be a very dark story at times with many twists and turns, and with Overdose adding a lot more story content, there is a lot to explore in this game. However, the issue is trying to get to this content. One thing that was not fixed from the original issue with this game is the game’s overall pacing. Sometimes, the dungeons you’re in can drag on for far too long and the challenges of each dungeon really just boil down to exploring maze-like hallways and streets to find a certain item to bring back to an arbitrary start point. This just makes me wonder what in the world is the point of doing half of the things I am doing between story beats. This is an honest shame because of how engaged I was in the game’s story, but I could not play the game for longer than an hour and a half or so due to the constant slog it became.
One more issue I would like to talk about is the game’s social issue. You have the ability to befriend literally hundreds of students and each one supposedly has their own story as to why they are in Mobius. It’s just a small blurb, but I can overlook it. What the game is trying to accomplish is creating a realistic school environment. You see of all of these people they are grouped into subsets each one having its own sub-story going alongside the main one. Even though you’re trying to escape Mobius, things are still moving on without you. The problem is there never is a real incentive to do any of these. Sure, I befriended a few people and started a few of these quest lines to see what it was all about but really they were not engaging. I would have much rather preferred a smaller pool of students to befriend with much more fleshed out plots as opposed to just constantly going from point A to point B. I kinda had enough of that in the main game, so it couldn’t even serve as a distraction. This is unfortunate because the character development of the main cast is top notch and enjoyable.
I will say one of the biggest improvements to Overdose would have to be in the visual and performance department. On the Playstation Vita, the base game targeted thirty frames per second and it had a very hard time trying to keep it there. On the Playstation 4, the game manages to hold a lock sixty frames per second as far as I could tell. As for the Switch version, it stays at a consistent thirty frames per second in handheld mode. This solved my largest gripe with the original game because of how blurry and sluggish it ran. The original game was physically hard for me to play. I guess that can explain the lack of reviews for the Playstation Vita version. Outside of that, the music is just as good as ever. Each area has a different song that plays, with an instrumental version for the overworld and a lyrical version for in battle. It’s just a shame that these are all the tracks you can really expect to enjoy, so after wandering these dungeons for several hours it can get a bit grating in the end. I for one really did appreciate the enhanced performance this version had to offer.
Honestly, The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a really solid game. I am very surprised at how much I was enjoying myself playing this game compared to the original release. With all of the performance issues addressed and the new content, this game is honestly worth playing. If you are a fan of the original Persona and Persona 2 duology, the game might be for you. This game is definitely not for everyone. A lot of the issues I mentioned here are what is keeping me from giving it a ringing endorsement. The Caligula Effect: Overdose is an enjoyable time once you get into the groove of it. Just try to take it in reasonable quantities.