Obsessions with musical icons has always been such a predominant thing in the history of the known world. As far back as records go, there was always a standout musical talent or act that caught the hearts and minds of the people of the generation. Like anything else that stretches so far back into the past, it is a social phenomenon that has only continued to grow. In this day and age we have young girls self-harming for the sake of proving a point simply because one particular member of a boy band decided that the life of a young star was way too much for him to handle, so I think I’m safe to say it’s reached somewhat of a destructive point.
We look at Japan and it’s pop idol obsession like it is something so foreign to us but if you just think about it for more than a split second you’ll come to realise that…no, it’s not that different to the way us living in Western countries like North America and Australia act. At least, for the most part.
Why is this? Why is it that people decide to dedicate themselves so whole-heartedly to other human beings in this particular way? The answer to that question is way beyond me, all I know is that this type of thing exists and that it’s not going away anytime soon, so I guess you either embrace it or fall to the wayside. The Japanese populace has, as mentioned before there’s a real deep culture that surrounds themselves in all thing pop idol which, in the great country, is mostly personified by young girls in extravagant garb.
Idea Factory!, a Japanese video game distributor, was kind enough to provide for us a review copy of their latest game Omega Quintet which has been described as the very first Role-Playing Game/Idol Simulation in video game history. With a description like that it was hard not to be intrigued, but just how much love could this game demand? As much as the idol culture it is based off of? Perhaps…if that’s even possible.
Omega Quintet features a story that I’m sure you’d be able to figure out whether or not you’ve read about it, it’s pretty damn simple: The modern world is in a state of absolute chaos. A malevolent, mysterious force known as the Blare has begun sweeping the world, unleashing gruesome monsters in every area known to man. Earth has tried to combat it, but has failed at most attempts. The only thing that CAN take down this creatures…are young girls who also double as pop idols. How they figured that out, I have no idea. We follow the story of Otoha and Takt; two life-long friends who’re thrown into the world of the Verse Maidens, that’s what they call these battling girls. One having to fill the role of a retired idol and the other training to become a Verse Maiden Manager, these two may be the defining elements that can shift the terrifying state of the world.
This, for the longest time, is about as much depth as the game gets when it comes to story. Why for the longest time? Because A great deal of the game is spent having menial conversations about simple things that mostly have nothing to do with saving the world. As part of the gameplay, Omega Quintet’s story is played out through visual novel-style cutscenes that basically have you reading lines or listening to dialogue for a handful of minutes at a time. Usually these dialogue pieces end in the same place where they began and give you really nothing to work off of in terms of actual likability. The cast isn’t too big, but even then what we’re delivered are a team of one dimensional characters that each instantly give you a reason not to like them as much as you should. The reason why is that they all blatantly fit into a standard personality trope and once you know what it is you can pretty much guess everything they’re going to say and do next.
While the game does indeed feature some pretty good English voice talents, the dialogue that has been written for them doesn’t exactly make these talented men and women come off as anything more than B-Grade voice actors and actresses. While, at times, I found myself liking a character because of their voices or because of the way they deliver lines, I quickly caught myself disliking them because of what it is that they’re actually saying. No character made a lasting impression on me because of how simply blunt they all were. With a game like this that doesn’t necessarily feature a story that’s too compelling, it’s usually left to the characters to make up for what the story lacks. Unfortunately this was not the case for Omega Quintet.
The game itself actually played in a fairly simple way. It was your typical dungeon crawler RPG that boasted a fresh and new gameplay system but really just splashed lots of odd visuals on a set of mechanics fans of the genre have been experiencing for years and years. To be short; it was fairly disappointing. Having to deal with long dialogue sequences did not aid in the enjoyment of this game seeing as you spent more time talking about maybe fighting monsters than you did actually fighting them and even when you got to a point where you COULD battle some crazy-looking beasts…it leaves you feeling empty and wanting so much more. There’s no payoff for having to sit through long and boring dialogue scenes.
There’s a whole customisation system, like in any RPG, that allows you to beef up the girls as you progress through the game. Pretty simply stuff right? Yeah, I thought so too, but I didn’t think it’d get as simple as it was in Omega Quintet because you basically didn’t have to use it much. In fact, after playing about ten hours of the game I never had to upgrade or change my equipment once yet I still had no trouble demolishing every enemy in my path. Even when I tried to do so, I never seemed to have enough of what I needed to purchase or create the item I would have liked to, and I even followed the proper steps just to make sure I could. Turns out that didn’t work for me either.
Beating enemies is as simple as hitting the X button over and over again. Once again, like any RPG, you have special techniques with elemental buffs but I honestly barely used them. I quickly came to understand that I could just hit the same button over and over again to win pretty much every battle. This is not a hack ‘n’ slash title…this is a turn-based RPG. Some mechanics were even rendered entirely useless thanks to what I assume were technical glitches or bugs: You could sneak up on an enemy and nap yourself a surprise attack by hitting it with the Square button before it notices you. At least…that’s how it was described to me. It turns out that only once the enemy has noticed you and has begun running straight for you can you use this little Surprise Attack to get a head start at the battle. Maybe this was just a problem I had, I can’t really say. All I know is that it simply didn’t work.
Something else that also put a huge hindrance on my gameplay experience is that the tutorials just kept going and going and going. I remember looking at my playtime after the first day I got the game, it was an hour and a half and I had still being doing a tutorial. As the days went by I kept an eye on my game time and at five ours in I was still getting tutorial prompts. Then at seven hours in I was still getting tutorial prompts. Eventually they stopped, in fact it was soon after that, but after that much time to still be getting tutorials is like hell.
Backing up the actual gameplay was that of the game’s visual which looked as though they were more suited to a PlayStation Vita or early PlayStation 3 release than that of the high capable PlayStation 4. While everything was fairly smooth, it all looked a little too flat for me to be able to properly enjoy. Environments were huge and seemed as though they went on for an infinity but they had no pizzazz, they had no spunk, no vitality, no life! The best looking models were the girls themselves but you only ever saw them up close when you got a level up which, I suppose, makes levelling up a little more exciting.
Thankfully the game did have a pretty catchy soundtrack. If there’s anything I enjoyed about Omega Quintet it would have to be it’s soundtrack. Music was such a predominant thing throughout the game, especially considering the theme of it, and helping drive that point home was a nice soundtrack that was made up not by pop music but mostly orchestral composition. Oddly enough they fit very well despite the genre clash! What I found to be odd, especially in a game about girls having to sing to destroy monsters, is that, after ten hours, I still never heard one of them sing. I found it even more odd that the game cut just as one of the characters was about to sing. This happened many times. More times than I cared for.
Omega Quintet was, at it’s very core, a light RPG. It tried to do something different, something new, something exciting, but it, for reasons unknown to me, simply could not pull it off. There was just too much there that made me want to put the game down forever, yet I picked up my controller time and time again because, really, I wanted to like it. I did, but I couldn’t. For a PlayStation 4 release, this was lacking in so much. The content was all there, ready to be experienced…but it wasn’t anything I really wanted to experience because it all just didn’t seem interesting enough. I’m no stranger to a visual novel-style game paired up with some dungeon crawling and relationship-building…but this is so far from Persona it’s almost not even worth comparing.
Galapagos RPG tried to do something different with Omega Quintet, that much is clear. They just couldn’t pull it off. Because I like to be even a little bit positive, I feel as though I have to say this; I CAN see some people getting a lot of enjoyment out of Omega Quintet. I honestly can. It’s simply, it’s easy, it compresses the JRPG experience into something cute and colourful which is great for those of you out there who aren’t really gamers but would like to experience what Japan has to offer. It’s not the best the country has to offer but I’ll say that it’s not the worst. Unfortunately for seasoned gamers like myself and a lot of you out there reading this…it simply doesn’t hold up.
Omega Quintet is out now and purchasable at any good video game retailer thanks to Idea Factory!.