There was a fiasco at Nippon-Ichi Software (NIS) a while back, where the Disgaea 4 director left the company for Compile Heart. He was also the director for The Guided Fate Paradox and Zettai Hero Project, the latter of which being one of my favorite NIS games. At Compile Heart he and his team developed Makaishin Trillion under the Makai Ichiban-kan label, which feels like a NIS title through and through.
Makaishin Trillion is a mashup of several concepts inspired by the director’s previous games at NIS, with enough unique things to make it be a game with a similar yet completely different feel than his previous projects. It borrows the tile-based roguelike system from Zettai Hero Project/Guided Fate, but isn’t quite a roguelike. It can be best described as ZHP stages chopped up amongst a stat-raising SLG.
The game is set in a dimension that is split into the Netherworld, the human world, and Heaven (or Celestia, as it would likely get localized as). Each ‘world’ is powered by its core, and a overwhelmingly powerful monster dubbed Trillion wanders the multiverse eating worlds’ cores out of pure hunger. Trillion arrives at the Netherworld ruled by Overlord Zerbolos, and proceeds to eat his brother. Zerbolos falls to Trillion as well, but he gets revived by a mysterious necromancer named Faust who agrees to help him bring forth the defeat of Trillion in exchange for his soul at the end. The catch is, Zerbolos is revived as a zombie with his power greatly reduced, so he must train the other demon lords in the Netherworld to defeat Trillion in his place.
The other catch is, only someone with an Overlord-class soul can even get close to Trillion without instantly dying, so Faust has engineered a ring containing part of Zerbolos’ soul that can be equipped on one demon lord to let her approach Trillion. This means that the heroines have to be sent out one-by-one, with the next demon lord replacing the previous when she dies. Trillion itself has, as the name indicates, one trillion HP. That’s 10^12, and even if the game likes to start counting its numerical units in the ten thousands, it will take forever to kill Trillion. You certainly won’t kill it before it kills you at least once.
The flow of the game involves training the current demon lord through a stat-raising system in order to gain experience points that can be distributed into stats, passives, or active skills — all to power up for the fight against Trillion at the end of the training period. The fight against Trillion utilizes the roguelike tile-based system where the enemy moves each time you make a move. As the story of the game suggests, there is a single boss fight throughout the entire game, and it’s basically a ZHP end-of-chapter boss on crack. Trillion has three forms
because a final boss must have three forms to change up its attack patterns and make sure that the game gets increasingly more difficult with each form.
Training period consists of selecting commands to raise experience points in one of six categories. You have a time limit of seven weeks to prepare for the Trillion fight, and each training session takes up a day. The chosen demon lord has a fatigue level, and the higher it goes, the harder it is to have a successful training session and the easier it is to get injured — rendering you unable to train for a few days. To reduce fatigue, you can either make them rest (reduce by a lot) or interact with them, which doesn’t recover much but increases their affection level and gives them a decent amount of affection points. Affection points (思いpt) are an integral part of the system, since they replace the current character’s HP and MP until they run out. Damage will be dealt to affection points instead of HP, and skills will be cast from them instead of MP. Considering how things will deal loads of damage and you will want to spend most of your experience points on skills and increasing ATK & SPD, it’s usually a better idea to increase affection points instead of HP and MP.
Very successful training sessions give you medals that let you enter the training dungeon, where you can fight monsters in a randomly generated dungeon floor and open chests to get items. To ‘win’, you must make it to the portal within the turn limit, so you must try to defeat all enemies and open all chests in the optimal amount of turns. There are obviously skills that let you cheese this, but embedding a strategy guide in a review is probably a bad business decision. Entering the training dungeon takes no in-game time, and you get a good deal amount of experience points at the end if you ‘win.’ At the end of each week you get to do a mock battle against a wooden puppet who will pretend to be Trillion and use similar moves, and gives you experience points depending on how much damage you did to it. Defeating it is the first step, overkilling it is what gives you substantial amounts of experience. With each defeat, the wooden puppet becomes stronger and harder to overkill, and this carries over across characters so if you happen to defeat it five times with the current demon lord, the next one will have a really hard time gaining the extra experience points. Oh, and the mock fights stop once you get Trillion down to its final form.
When the current demon lord dies, you move on to the next one. That means you have to re-do the training process, but the next demon lord inherits a percentage of the previous’ total experience points, which means that as long as you don’t slack off on your training (totally not speaking from experience, I swear), the demon lords only get stronger with each death. When the current character dies against Trillion, she gets to unleash a final powerful skill. She can unleash powerful attack that will deal massive damage towards Trillion (depends on the character’s stats at the time of dying), permanently seal one of its body parts and thus preventing it from using certain skills (until it evolves to the next form, anyway), extend the next character’s training period by 3 weeks, halve the amount of experience points needed for active skills for the next character, or have the current character become the next’s familiar that will go into battle with her (don’t expect too much here).
Trillion is a ridiculously powerful enemy and the final form pretty much allows no room for error, since its attacks will probably kill you in one hit and they cover a wide area so running away by normal means is difficult. However, they all take at least one turn to execute and the floor will mark the tiles that the attacks will land on, color-coded for how many turns it will take until Trillion strikes with that particular attack. The go in the order of white –> yellow –> orange –> red, with the latter implying that the attack will activate on the next turn. Some attacks will start at the white stage, whereas many will only take one turn to execute and begin at red. The key to victory is to use the floor indicators to evade Trillion’s attacks while damaging it enough before it advances beyond a particular line.
No matter how high your stats are, you can’t win unless you know how to utilize the system and figure out the tricks and skills that work in a particular situation. Nothing is impossible, but there are certainly parts that appear to be if you don’t know what to do or don’t have the right skills. Of course, figuring out ways to break the system is the fun part.
My major complaint for the game would have to be the amount of save-scumming that is encouraged. You can turn a blind eye to it if you wish, but there are event-only skills that you are only given a chance to obtain from randomly occurring events. One of them is the precious Double Attack passive skill. Of course, save-scumming is also the way to optimize experience gained from training, since tiring your character out enough to get the doctor to yell at you gives you a slim chance of a decent experience bonus if you choose to ignore his warnings (don’t try this in real life).
The setting is very similar to Disgaea, with the stage being a quirky depiction of the Netherworld and demons taking the center. The sole angelic character sounds like one of those hardcore Christians who try to convert random strangers at subway station exits. Many aspects are played for laughs in side scenes, but due to the tense nature of the situation, there are many serious scenes as well. The dialogue is good, and there were quite a few number of scenes with memorable lines. Zerbolos spends time with each demon lord individually, and they all have their good moments and heroine-worthy events during their training period. I managed to like most of the heroines, and every one of them have their moments. The concept of the game and the serious story really manage to make things work, and it’s easy to sympathize with Zerbolos. He’s a pretty cool honorable demon-type protagonist, by the way.
The six heroines are based off of the seven deadly sins minus one so they’ve got quite the distinctive character traits, but they all get their sweet moments later down the road. Most of them are also related to Zerbolos, and are either his cousin, sister, or niece. The (not blood-related) childhood friend is amongst the first three characters you have to send out to fight and die, so you can see why Onikage mentioned that this entire game’s concept is one that you can’t do in eroge.
The heroine deaths can get rather cruel as you see their shining moments shortly before, and the death scenes are anything but clean and beautiful. Every one of them will die frustrated, crying, and screaming for help as the moment hits them, combined with some -very- uncomfortable sound effects. Beating Trillion with a heroine gets you her ending, and letting her die moves you on to the next chapter of the story. To get the true ending, you have to screw up and let all of them die before finally defeating Trillion in the very last chapter, and you really see the desperation here as you unlock playable characters beyond the six main demon lords you start with.
The director’s original concept was to have a game where you send out members from a family of heroes, starting with the eldest, and working your way down with each defeat until you have to send a baby off to fight out of desperation. I’d say he got pretty close to realizing his original idea here in the final product, as you have to send out Zerbolos’ sickly sister and the family dog (very good arc) if you want to reach the true ending.
The music and art are both very fitting. Even though the game is on a low budget and the 3D parts in the gameplay look cheap (what did you expect from Compile Heart), the 2D assets look good so overall I don’t have that many complaints. The art is drawn by that artist at Compile Heart whose style is similar to Nippon-Ichi’s Harada but isn’t actually him, for a Disgaea-eqsue aesthetic. Makaishin Trillion is most definitely trying to look like Disgaea on purpose, but it turned out a tad more serious on the story side.
I really liked the concept here, and despite the game being rough in some areas and lacking the polish and endgame content of the director’s previous works at NIS, it had neat ideas and I enjoyed the overall package. It’s definitely a weird game that can put off someone with more conventional tastes, but I have a massive boner for the system and single powerful boss that takes many tries to defeat concept from Zettai Hero Project. I’ve got my eye on Makai Ichiban-Kan’s future projects now.
Also Faust is the best girl, Fegor best relative.