Experience Inc., a company known for their Wizardry-style Dungeon RPGs that offer full party customization and dungeons of traps, try their hand at a more story-focused approach in their collaboration with Bandai Namco. Boasting anime sequences and 2D animated characters in battle, Ray Gigant appears to be an ambitious effort.
..For about a few minutes, that is. The anime sequences are only reserved for a few short clips during the protagonists’ limit break attacks, and while the battles show the characters animated in 3rd person during the command input stage, it doesn’t take long for them to switch back to Experience’s standard first-person view with enemy stills and a few slash effects for the actual attack animations. The entire story is told VN style with stills and portraits with the occasional voice acting, and the dungeons are in Experience’s usual first-person view. At the end the presentation is what you’d expect out of Experience’s budget based on their previous DRPGs, even though initial trailers and Bamco’s involvement may have suggested something more grand.
However, Ray Gigant is indeed a lot more story-focused compared to the company’s previous dungeon crawlers, cutting back on the actual DRPG gameplay at its expense. The dungeons are very short for the most part, and only do the later dungeons actually have the size, puzzles, and traps to match proper dungeon crawlers. Instead of random encounters, the game uses forced encounters at fixed points that disappear once you defeat them, but reappear if you leave the dungeon or force them to revive at the save point before the boss. You can exit dungeons at any time free of cost, and the game’s structure is linear to the point where each dungeon is only available for a chapter or two of the game’s story before being inaccessible forever. Also, enemies and treasure chests appear on the map from the very beginning, even if you haven’t mapped out the actual paths yet.
Similarly, the battle difficulty is geared towards beginners as well. In battle, you have three command slots (later expanded to six) where you set the skills you actually want to use in battle. Normal attacks, defend, and wait all count as skills, as well as each item counts as its own skill. You may have learned a myriad of skills from your evolve tree, but you only get to use six of them in battle. It doesn’t matter, since you won’t be needing many of them once you get weapons strong against specific types. For example, you get a sword later down the road that’s strong against every enemy type, rendering all the type-specific attacks useless. The elemental weakness system doesn’t go by the traditional rock-paper-scissors relationship between fire, ice, and thunder, but instead makes it so that in the order of fire –> ice –> thunder, each element is strong against everything before it and weak to the one directly after it. That means thunder trumps all and once you get the basic thunder attack, all the other elements are worthless. The game is ridiculously easy to break and most of the boss battles end up trivial.
In battle, every skill costs AP and you can basically keep inputting commands for the characters in one turn until you no longer have enough AP to do anything or reach the maximum of 5 commands per character. AP can be recovered by choosing wait in battle, and completely recovered by leaving the dungeon. Finishing battles quickly also recovers AP, rewarding you with 25 AP if you manage to finish the enemy in one turn (believe me, that isn’t hard to do at all). The maximum AP you can have at any time is 100, and everyone’s HP fully recovers at the end of each battle given that no one is dead, so the sole strategic element to the dungeon crawling is managing AP.
Since you are always forced to use a set party of at most (and usually) 3 members, there isn’t character creation or any of the customization options that defined previous Experience games. Instead, Ray Gigant uses an evolve tree in which every category requires a different type of resource, and you gain levels, items, and skills for a character through allocation resources to their evolve tree. This means that you don’t miss out on any “EXP” by letting someone die in battle, and you can distribute resources amongst characters however you want (the easiest way to break the game is to give them all to the protagonist of the current arc). To get items, you use Material on an item category to level it up, and Breed to obtain an item of that level. Basically, leveling a weapon category to level 20 using one type of resource will allow you to obtain +20 weapons, but you need to use another resource to obtain a +20 weapon that you can equip. At each level, there are several different weapons you can get, so you can get, say a +20 normal sword and a +20 sword strong against undead from the same slot.
There’s a weight factor where each character can lose weight by performing actions in battle and gain weight from eat or waiting. There are story scenes where you can choose from foods that will make you lose or gain weight as well. Having one’s weight at +1 or higher increases their attack and defense, while having weight in the negatives will increase accuracy and evasiveness. It feels like a very Experience thing to do, but I can’t say that I felt the weight of this aspect in the gameplay.
The most ridiculous element of the game is the SBM, which is this game’s name for its limit break special attacks. When you activate the SBM, it basically turns into a rhythm game in which the amount of damage you deal directly relates to how well you perform. The actual rhythm portion is not very good for a rhythm game, and it’s also a very broken attack as long as your rhythm game skills aren’t completely terrible. You can tell the developers tried to be unique and experimental with this game through individual elements, but didn’t bother integrating them with each other to create a seamless work.
The story follows three protagonists, who initially act separately with their own party of side characters, but eventually join up at the end. One day, otherworldly creatures called Gigants appeared on Earth, and started destroying cities beginning with Tokyo. However, a teenage boy fused with the power of a Yorigami managed to defeat one, and they start appearing periodically rather than all at once. By creating weapons named Kurogami based on Yorigami, compatible users around the world formed defense organizations to fight and survive. Half a year has passed since the first day of the attack, and Amakaze Ichiya, the who fused with the Yorigami Habakiri, is released from the hospital and invited to a school for students who use Kurogami to battle Gigants.
Ichiya’s arc has a bit of high school antics mixed in, which can feel obnoxious when you are constantly reminded of the dire situation they are in. Things pick up pace in Kyle’s arc, which moves the stage to a more serious organization with a more “adult” cast and atmosphere. Then you have Nil’s arc, which brings forth a even more laid back setting with girls fishing in swimsuits in tropical weather, despite being physically closer to the truth than ever. Each protagonist brings with them a setting that entirely suits his or her character, and it’s satisfying to see them come together. The story keeps up a brisk pace and the characters and dialogues are pretty entertaining (Kyle’s gang in particular), which makes the story scenes enjoyable to read through. I can’t help but feel that the game could have been much longer, since it took about 25 hours to clear, with no post-game content. The text could have gone a lot more in-depth with the story and setting since the scale is quite large, but I guess no one wants to get bogged down with technical infodumps in a DRPG.
The characters have great chemistry with each other, and the idiot hero + intelligent jerk dynamic that Ichiya and Kyle have going on is invincible. The interactions were surprisingly enjoyable considering how positively annoyed I was at Operation Abyss’ story and characters.
I mentioned the budget issue before, but it’s kind of ridiculous that a game this short has to use recolors of previous bosses in its last stretch. Thankfully, the music is great, and pretty much made a lot of the game’s graphical and gameplay shortcomings bearable.
Overall I actually enjoyed the game and its characters, and I guess I really like the multiple protagonist structure, but it’s hard to actually recommend it to someone else because it’s not a very good dungeon crawler. It has a lot of experimental parts that don’t work that well together, but I can’t really dislike it either. Ray Gigant sits firmly in the “I liked parts of it, but would hesitate to recommend it to anyone else” category. I mean, even Idea Factory’s Moero Chronicle is a more competently designed dungeon RPG.