The Caligula Effect: Overdose (Switch) Review

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Title: The Caligula Effect Overdose
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Aquria (Vita original)/Historia (PS4 remake)/Engine Software (Switch version)
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software America
Release Date: March 12th, 2019 (NA)
ROM File Size: 5.3GB
Amazon retail purchase pages: US/UK/JP
eShop purchase and info pages: US/UK/JP

Review copy provided by Nippon Ichi Software America

This is a port of a remake so to speak. The game originated as simply The Caligula Effect on Vita which was localized by Atlus some bit ago. Last year the game was sort of remade for PS4 by a different dev called Historia. The PS4 version was made on Unreal Engine 4 instead (I don’t know what engine the Vita original used), had numerous changes including rewriting the script and changing some things around, and added a female playable character (you could only play as a male in the Vita original). The Switch version is a port of the PS4 version. This port was by Engine Software, a dev well-known by Nintendo fans for a variety of ports.

Engine Software did the Switch ports of games such as Little Nightmares: Complete Edition, Monopoly, Risk, RIVE, Into the Breach, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, etc. How does the game and Engine’s port work handle on Switch? Let’s find out!

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This is an example of a 2D sequence showing μ/Myu.

This game stars a character whose name and gender you can choose. You start by meeting this mysterious girl in a white dress who promises you a place of freedom from the outside world. You then show up in this school at a graduation ceremony, but upon getting up on the stage, you start seeing the faces of other people start to glitch out. You run out and outside you bump into the same girl again who goes by a name of an odd character which is “μ”, but the pronunciation in the game seems to be “Mew” (actually Wikipedia say it’s Mu and My, so it can maybe be Myu, Mew (the Pokemon)’s Japanese name). See, she helped create this world called Mobius (no, not Sonic’s world) and she is an idol who’s considered to be essentially a goddess by her fans… which she kind of is I guess! But her fans seem to only adore her for her music, because they don’t know this is a made-up virtual world. These crazed people are what are called Digiheads (surprisingly there are no Digimon puns).

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A look at the first battle in the game as the female main character.

Digiheads are the corrupt people you saw before. This happens when a person essentially loses their way and their emotions take over, but this is also tied to Myu’s music (I’ll just call her that from here on). When they get corrupted, they transform into these warped beings with black objects on their body, usually replacing limbs, it’s hard to explain. So after you meet Myu, another girl pops up, this time it’s a tiny fairy-like person named Aria, who is actually the other creator of Mobius. The two get into an argument where basically Myu is obsessed with trying to make people happy, but doesn’t want anyone to escape Mobius but Aria wants to actually do the right thing, then Myu just takes off. Aria then just sort of joins you. You both quickly meet another similar person like yourself who can also see Digiheads named Shogo Satake. Quickly after, you’re discovered by the Digiheads.

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A look at the battle victory screen with the male main character.

But what do you do? That’s where Aria comes in. Aria has the ability to awaken your dormant powers the right way by converting your true feelings into power. After a short multiple choice questionnaire where you vaguely tell Aria what you strive to be and why you’re here (answer choices seem to not matter here), she GOOOOOES LIIIIIVE and boom, you now are a similar, not corrupt equivalent of the Digiheads and you begin your first fight.

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Another look at a battle scene this time in portable mode.

To explain the combat the best I can, it’s turn-based, and you can select from a variety of attacks, support abilities, and such. Your characters essentially get three turns in one. Take you main attack, Dual Triggers. You can select it three times if you want. You can also just do one move by pressing X after selecting a move if you wish. Each attack uses up SP, your Mana as you’d expect. You do have an SP recovery move so you don’t have to worry about running out. Better still, your health and SP fully restore after every fight. You and your opponents can also move around the battlefield which is a circular arena by pressing Y, but you use up one of your three turns so keep that in mind. This is key because you’ll want to line-up your shots where opponents are in a line in front of you, that’s because once an opponent goes down, you do not just move on to the next opponent automatically and you will waste your shots unless the next opponent just happens to be in your line of fire.

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Here’s the school field and you talking with one of the NPC students (hey wait a…)

Once the fight ends, you, Aria, and Shogo all go back to the music room at school to meet up with the rest of Shogo’s crew, where you are invited to join the Go-Home Club. As the name implies, the club consists of folks who just want to get out of this world. And you all try to track down Myu to find out how to do so. You begin by exploring the school in 3D and fight your way though whatever Digiheads you pass by. On the field, you can move freely and move the camera with the right stick freely as well.

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Here’s the WIRE app you can use in the pause menu to chat with friends.

You can also talk with most of the other students that wander around who each tell you something (these are bits of dialog basically taken from a hat and put together to form… something, it’s odd). Each time you speak to a person, your relationship level grows from Level 0; Stranger, to Level 1; Acquaintance, to Level 2; Acquaintance again, and finally Level 3; Friend. When at Level 3, the person will actually give you a unique bit of info about themselves and how they feel about their life. Literally you can just button mash past everything until then, it’s gibberish until that point. Doing these unlocks friends as part of this web of friends in a menu, but I’m uncertain as of yet how to use this. Seemingly you can chat with them via the WIRE app via the pause menu that you can also use to get tips from Aria on where you can go to progress if you get lost.

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Chatting with Aria for the first time with the WIRE app.

Each of these people have a round meter from 0 to 100, and if that reaches 50, it’s said that they become Digiheads. Frankly this doesn’t seem to affect much as Digiheads will already exist and seemingly can’t do anything but fight you. Some have actual names while others are named Lost Souls, but the former can’t be talked to or anything. I was hoping for an opportunity to befriend one of these Digiheads that still have their own name and maybe restore them, but alas it appears you can’t do so. You have this roundhouse kick ability when running around which immediately starts a fight. This is handy since sometimes you can run right up to their face and nothing will happen. Another note is that you can hold the R button to run faster on the field which is nice (surprise, I didn’t discover this until a while later, sometimes you miss something that’s right in your face. :P).

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Your skill upgrade list.

You’re also able to upgrade your skills using the skill points you earn when leveling up. Each level up gives you three skill points, and your skills start at level 1 and can be boosted to level 3. Doing this seems to beef up their attack power. Another note is the name you create for your character; the game asks for your first AND last name. Obviously you can make up any name you want, but understandably some may not want to use their real full name. The game actually gives you a suggestion via the tutorial vids; abc 123. For screens that show your name on the screen, I’ll be using a second file with said name just to be safe. Also, I played as both the male and female main character in each file, and to my happy surprise, the game makes zero distinction between them other than changing the gender pronouns on occasion (like in the 2D animated sequence at the beginning). Big props to the team for that. The game also has four difficulty levels to choose from; Easy, Normal, Hard, and Extreme.

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The entrance to the mall I describe of below. That’s just a flat background with that cube being a foreground layer.

Visually it’s a mixed bag. For a port it’s competent enough. Textures surely took a hit because some look REALLY low-res at times. But the game looks high-res, like maybe 900p at least or even full 1080p docked because screenshots I’ve taken look blurrier and those are always 720p max (though seemingly sub-720p in portable mode). Framerate also seems to be a consistent 30fps (with some dips here and there) but you get some hiccups like very brief pauses, but that’s it. Art-style wise, it’s pretty bland. For hours you’ll spend in the school and it looks the same at every corner and most rooms look the exact same as well. You get sick of it after a while. Thankfully once you beat the first boss, you’ll then get to see more of the game and it’s a definite change of scenery, so bear with it if you can. One odd thing is when you get to the Town Map after the first boss and you go to this mall entrance area, you’re put into this really iffy 2D pre-rendered background area and have to move around it in 3D. It’s so weird and kind of off-putting.

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The Town Map.

Audio-wise it’s not terribly good. First it’s Japanese-only which is very odd for a NISA-localized game like this. The game is virtually fully-voice acted in Japanese so maybe it was too expensive to dub? The voice-acting sounds fine though. The music is quite repetitive, especially the battle theme where it’s the same J-Pop song over and over again. Give me Sonic Unleashed’s Night stage jazz battle theme any day! 😛

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The beginning of the second field. it actually looks pretty nice.

Overall it’s an okay game but honestly nothing that special. The combat is cool and does get a bit better once you expand your party in battle. It’s a real shame it wasn’t dubbed which could’ve helped a lot in my opinion. The game also seems to be expensive at I think $50 USD and $65 CDN? But it’s a retail game so that really helps. The game has numerous tutorial clips you’re given but I find I just spam the basic attacks and everything seems to work out, but that can be a good or bad thing depending on how you feel, though I’m just probably missing a lot of details here (you can rewatch the tutorial clips in the pause menu however). It’s fun for what it is, but I’ve played much better games.

You’ll Love:
+ The combat is pretty cool with the three turn thing. It’s also cool seeing your party attack at once as you progress.
+ Visually it’s alright. Cel-shading on the models looks good, and the second field looks much nicer than the school.
+ Fully-voiced in Japanese which is neat.
+ Aria is hands down the cutest and best character in the game, she even just randomly speaks English! 😛
+ Seems to be above 720p docked, but lower in portable mode. Framerate also holds up at 30fps well enough.
+ Talking with other NPC students is a cool idea if flawed. Same with the WIRE app, neat touch.
+ Music’s alright, the J-Pop music is kind of good.
+ It’s a bit expensive depending on how much it looks appealing to you.
+ Has screenshot and video capture support.

You’ll Hate:
– Visually it’s lacking, particularly in texture quality and overall art-style, at least early on in the school, it’s pretty bland. It does look better afterward though as seen above.
– No English voice-acting (other than Aria’s adorable little English bits).
– Music as said is kind of more of a negative to me than positive (even if I do give an okay compliment above lol), if that makes sense. You’d think it’d be better and more varied with the focus on it in the story.
– Framerate does dip on a couple occasions and it does pause in very brief instances like when battles begin.
– Some confusing elements admittedly when it comes to getting the combat. I find just smashing the default attack works well.
– Very little in terms of character animation during cutscenes. Worse, there’s zero facial animation. The only emotion you get is in the 2D portraits which do look nice.

Score: 6.5/10

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