Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy is the sequel to Operation Abyss: new Tokyo Legacy, a dungeon crawling first person JRPG from Experienced Inc. Originally developed in Japan. It is one of the many games that now have started to get a western translation and for a good reason too. Originally released in Japan in 2015 it is available in the EU on May 19th, 2017 on PlayStation Vita and Steam.
The story starts by initially dropping you into storming the “Embryo” as a senior member of the Xth squad. Alice. This giant structure that hovers over Tokyo is responsible for the appearance of variants (monsters) and the labyrinths they inhabit. After a quick fight you are then placed back in time (although this is really not very clear at the start) and placed into the shoes of a new recruit to the xth squad, a group of teenagers who fight these variants with powers obtained through the blood codes of heroes such as Joan of Arc or knighting gale. As the story develops more of this becomes clear providing a genuinely interesting story. But, I do have issues with the story, more on how it is presented then its content. Assure it is interesting but, especially at the start, the story is very obscure. Being a direct sequel to its previous game Operation Abyss you would think there would be at least a little bit of a back story but it seemed to expect that you knew about most of this and as I did not play the previous game this approach was not entirely helpful in understanding what the Jiminy-cricket was going on.
The gameplay focuses on the first-person perspective as you play the game by traversing a first person dungeon map encountering monsters to fight to advance missions. The fighting mechanics are pretty simple at first with the basic turn based approach however it develops into a more complicated process when rows, monster types such as spectral beings (or going to ruin your current team set-up species) and status conditions get involved. These missions can vary from investigating labyrinths to hunting specific variants but not much else. But, the game does have a set of rather unique mechanics. One of these is the Danger level gauge. When fighting monsters in the dungeon and defeating them this builds meaning that more and higher level monsters are encountered during your exploration. This only being decreased by running away. This neat idea is great as it tailors the dungeon more specifically to a player allowing the challenge to fit the player better making a more engaging experience.
The second is how the game deals with progression as items are not automatically gained instead they have to be appraised, paying a small fee to attain the item that the creature has dropped. But, there are many other things the game allows you to do with items such as craft items from parts found, dismantle them, and modify weapons by adding materials and effects and “glitch” items into new items. All of this gives a very customizable and allows a more personal touch to your experience. But, of course, equipment is only half the progression as levelling your team is very important to move forward in the game. The system is much like what you would expect from an RPG system with killing monsters and completing missions earning you experience however this experience is split between two “blood codes”. Blood codes are similar to jobs like in final fantasy games or classes in most RPG’s and function the same way giving stat boosts and allowing that party member to use various skills according to the type. The game also uses a similar system to older final fantasy games in terms of using spells with a limited number of uses rather than direct MP consumption that gets bigger as the character becomes stronger. Another great feature of this levelling system is that blood codes can be swapped whenever and brought back without losing their level allowing you to be very adaptive to your approach during the game which is vital for later encounters with bosses.
In General how the game plays is great but, similar to my issue with the story, it is quite complicated without a lot of help. One area this is especially present is opening a box an enemy can drop upon defeat. You have an option of either disarming the trap, investigating or straight up opening it along with leaving it or using some kind of skill. The issue with this is I am not sure at all how disarming a trap works at all still. When investigating it gives you your parties names along with traps such as poison snare, no trap or other descriptions etc. But, when using a character to open it or disarm the trap I am often hit with a completely different trap if the disarming fails. Also with the poison affliction status affect being completely over powered (as to be honest it was the only thing that really destroyed my team) which is not helped by the massive money drain from levelling up characters, healing them (being dead or just low health along with status effects), appraising equipment, buying equipment, dismantling equipment and modifying equipment the game itself feels much harder than it should be.
The game is a great looking game with that very animated look you would expect from a JRPG along with some interesting looking characters well, if you played the original mode rather than the classic mode. The main difference being that classic mode allows you to add your own roster with characters designed by the player and well, there not quite as well designed as professionally drawn characters oddly enough. The soundtrack fits beautifully with the world created too giving a slight reminder to games such as Shin megami’s devil survivor but maybe a little more with a touch of modern animation.
Overall the game is a great take on dungeon crawling JRPG’s with a very interesting story and great set of game mechanics fleshing out the game and adding complexity to the experience. I do have one major issue with the game and that is how unfriendly it is to new players. This is present in its approach not just to telling the story which would have probably worked well with starting the game to a future part and then reverting it back if within that space we had gotten a better run down on what was actually going on. Again, this is also present in the core of the game with a real steep learning curve which happens in order for the player to attain just a basic understanding on how to play the game let alone getting into the more nitty gritty strategies. This along with the absurd amount of money you have to collect in order to afford gear and maintaining your party’s health to just scrape by in the game. This May be different in the Original mode however in classic mode the game is rather unforgiving. But, the game may be hard – it is still an enjoyable experience. You just have to grit your teeth for a little bit every now and then and immerse yourself fully for a great experience. No pain no gain, right?