Ok, time to restart this thread.
THIS GAME IS GOOD
I just played 5 hours straight. To get me to do that on a portable machine takes a lot. The fact that the only reason I stopped is because I have actual work to do in the morning tomorrow or else I would have played another 5 hours straight says even more.
This game is win
Imagine your favorite parts of Disgaea combined with gameplay straight out of the latest Ys games combined with the best parts of Shiren...yeah, that is a good combination.
Before I get into details about the inner workings of the sub-systems which are very confusing and hard to explain, I'll just give an overview of how the game works.
Like Disgaea you have a main base town. There's a shop, a place to make characters, ITEM WORLD, a place to change your color scheme, and the main dungeon portal. Like Disgaea you click on the dungeon and do a floor of it and then the next one unlocks and after a handful of floors the next dungeon unlocks. Between floors (which are about 1-3 mins long; perfect for portable size) there are story scenes like Disgaea.
Just like Disgaea you can make characters at any time and you'll get a bunch of story characters that cover all the basic job types if you prefer to use them.
Now when you get into the dungeon floor, that's when it stops being Disgaea and starts being Ys x Shiren. You move around realtime arpg style and you move quickly aka Ys. You can dash and slide from a dash at any time by holding R. But while R is held down your DEF is halved. On the other hand if you hold Square you pull out a shield and your DEF is doubled while you have it out, but you can't run while holding square.
As you can see by this, what's nice is that you always see your ATK/DEF stat so in realtime you'll see how running/slide & shielding affect it
You can run and slide in 8 directions, but you can only attack in 4. The goal is to move/run/slide to the side or back of an enemy and hit them for critical damage. The enemy will try to do the same to you because likewise you take critical damage from the back or side. You can attack with combos or charge attacks from your weapon. Or you can use magic (you can equip 3 at a time and switch with L, cast with triangle) that uses up SP. There are loooots of spells. Attack spells, healing, support spells, random. Each job class learns a different set of spells. For example the shopkeeper will learn spells that increase the money and item find %, whereas the guardian will have heal & debuffs for enemies while buffs for themselves. Fighter will have elemental sword slashes and dash rams and stuff, mages will have all sorts of things that go boom. The classes also have different base stats and stat growth.
The enemies are varied and have different patterns, some will breath fire on you, some will run away and shoot you with spit that casts slow on you, some will try to run behind you and slash you in the back. The environment is just as evil. There are trap panels EVERYWHERE and they activate a second or so after you step on them. Some fire ice arrows, some cause earthquakes (damaging all enemies on screen), some heal you, some cast status effects, etc... the icons are all different so you can tell what a panel does before you step on it. On top of that there are environmental dangers such as fire, tar pits, grass that slows you down, slippery ice. Luckily between dashing and jumping (yes, you can jump with X) you have the skills to avoid things. And even if you get set on fire you can usually find some water somewhere in the level. Each stage has a "boss" type enemy that unlocks a gate which leads either to the exit or the next section of the stage. The combat is pretty intense and like the Disgaea games, it's a high damage game for both parties. The stages are very short and it's more about CAN YOU BEAT THESE ENEMIES than longterm endurance (although that does come into play later). Oh and the monters drop gold and random loot.
Ok, so hopefully that gets the basics out of the way. You go through dungeon floors and fight monsters like Ys and boss monsters with attacks and spells and avoiding traps and environmental dangers and there's story between stages. That's the general sense, but of course since it's an N1 game there's far more to it.
As I mentioned earlier, you have job classes with unique stats and spells. You also have equipment in the Disgaea/Diablo style where you might pick up two iron shields but one has better stats than the other and is strong against fire. Then you have the configuration circle, which like stats and spells is unique for each job class. As the class levels they will get more and more configuration circles. If you have played Soul Cradle (or whatever they called it in the US) it's very similar to the "rooms" that you got in that game to put your characters in.
At the center is the character you want to play as. You can switch at anytime outside of a stage. The character you play as determines what spells and configurations you'll use.
In all 4 directions from the center there will be 2 circles each. These are where you place your characters you aren't playing as. Think of it like your party. When you take damage from an enemy in a dungeon. They are the ones who lose HP, not you. When they lose all their HP they die. When all 8 support people die your main character's HP appears and if they die you lose the stage. Thankfully when you die the only penalty is loss of all items picked up since the stage started and loss of 50% of gold and exp earned since the stage began. Anyhow look at that first pic. The four circles in the top right are your support characters and the numbers are their HP. When you heal you heal them until they are gone. Now what else do the support characters do besides soak up damage (and gain xp along with the lead)? Well they allow you to equip stat and skill modifiers. See all those items in that 2nd screen? See how there are lines going from them to the circles?
A circle can connect to artifact equip boxes. These boxes will vary depending on the overall configuration circle and will either say ATK/DEF/SPD/SP/HP/etc... in these boxes you can equip items from the same category. So for example, in the 2nd pic the guy on the far left has 2 lines going from his circle SPD/SPD and DEF/DEF/DEF/DEF. In those spots he put two speed items that will each increase the speed stat of the main character and 4 def items that will raise the def stat. But for every item a support character equips, it comes at the cost of mana. If you look below the "lvl.29" on that same guy you will see 2 numbers. The first is his HP, important to know how much damage he can absorb for you and the 2nd is his Mana, important to know how much he can equip. For example a DEF item might be "DEF+10 for the cost of 50 MANA". These aren't permanent so once you unequip the item you get the mana back. Between 8 characters and all sorts of stat increasers, this because a major aspect of making your lead character strong. In fact thinking about it now this whole system is REALLY similar to Soul Cradle where all the support people affected the main units' stats. I wouldn't be surprised if this game was made by the same team.
On top of this the support circles might have bonuses and disadvantages. For example, a circle could say EXPx3, HP-60%, Michizure. This boils down to:
1. The character in that spot will earn 3x the xp
2. The character in that spot will have -60% of their HP, so they will be more likely to die and get less xp
3. Michizure description will say "if one support character dies...they all die together"
So you have to not only take into account the advantages and disadvantages of a circle, but the artifact equips that are attached to it. A circle may have 10 equip boxes attached to it while another has zero. This means whoever you put in the 10 equip box one needs to have A LOT OF MANA to support all those equips :P
So yeah, that was complicated as hell to describe. Luckily, after an hour or two of playing it's all fairly sensible and works in practice.
Now lastly I will talk about THE ITEM WORLD or here it's called the RANGEON short for RANdom dunGEON. If you've played a Disgaea game you know the addiction of the item world. Well it's here and it will eat your soul.
You jump into a randomly generated dungeon floor with all the enemies lvl.1. On this floor there will probably (but not definitely) be an exit. Take this to get out. There will also be at least one GATE but up to six. The gates take you to the next floor. There are six different types of gates and while taking you to the next floor they all randomly adjust 3 parameters: X/Y/Z
1) enemy level + X
2) item drop rate +/- Y
3) rare item drop rate +/- Z
Hell gates (the worst) will bump the enemy levels and drop the item/rare rates. OTOH Angel gates (the best) will bump the enemy level by 0 or 1 and will bump the drop rates by possibly A LOT.
This stacks every floor.
So say you get 3 angel gates in a row and are on the 4th floor. Your enemy level might be only lvl.3 but the item and rare drop rates are lvl.15. Maybe you'll find some great loot. Say you find an exit. You can leave with your loot and exp/gold. But then you lose your item/rare rates and have to start over again next time you enter. So you keep pushing it and pushing it to get your rates higher and higher and get all kinds of amazing loot.
...and then you stumble into some floors with only hell gates and no exits and now you're fighting enemies that are SCARY and you've accumulated all this rare loot over 20 mins and you know if you die you will lose it all (but you'll keep 1/2 the xp and 1/2 the gold you've earned). So you're scrambling around looking for an exit and all you find are gates so you keep going further and further ...and then you find an exit and are REALLY HAPPY and everyone doubles their levels :P Or you die :P :P It's this feeling of pushing the grind as far as you can while risking more and more that makes these runs so addicting in Disgaea and just as much here.
Also like Item World, set floor numbers (10, 20, etc...) are preset "boss" stages and if you beat them you get access to a room with an exit and all 6 gate types for your choosing.
So yeah, that's the game in a nutshell. The addicting item world grind of Disgaea with a fresh different feel in the palm of your hands to steal many moments of your life away. Coupled with a main (designed) dungeon, very good and fast combat and deep stat systems. For some people, the game will be pretty much what they've always dreamed of.
By the end of my 5 hour session I was playing a Guardian Monk I'd made, equipped with a staff that shot 3 balls of light, a cool looking armor (all equipment is visible!), and a rare shield that has high resistance against all elements. With DEF BUFF, ENEMY DEBUFF, and HEAL equipped and support skills that buffed his DEF to high heights and highly increased his running speed to make him super fast (speaking of which, every story stage has an optional "clear time". If you go back and beat it quickly later on you'll get a star or something. If you beat enough you get access to the private shop for winners). I was running and slide dashing around enemies. But when they got tough I'd pull out my shield and would be A FORTRESS and take like .5 damage per hit. Sure I'd do less attacking them head on, but it got me through some tough bits already. I like my walking fortress healing/buffer monk :P
So yeah, really really good and now after writing all that I think it's the spiritual successor to Soul Cradle x Ys x Shiren x Disgaea.