Experience inc. is a developer famous for their hardcore dungeon crawlers that feel “old school” but can also please the newer audience. They were once very good friends with Cyberfront, until they stopped working with games all of a sudden. Since then, Experience kept making games on their own while their works were being published by 5pb. However, Bandai Namco is funding them now with enough money to make Ray Gigant their biggest project with a budget that far surpasses any of their previous titles. But was it worth?
Unknown life forms by the codename of “Gigants” attacked many cities across the world, except for Tokyo, that was saved from major damage thanks to a boy wielding the ancient power of the “Yorigamis”.Not knowing much about what happened with his own body, the boy accepts the invitation to visit a facility to train people on how to use “Kurogamis”, a man-made Yorigami replica, but since these copies lack in power compared to the originals, the young savior of Tokyo is forced to get involved into being the hero the world needs.
Amakaze Ichiya saved Tokyo by being possessed by his Yorigami, Habakiri. He remembers nothing about this event and feels very bothered by being in a symbiotic state with Habakiri.Even though Izano Mana was nothing more than Ichiya’s classmate in the past, she considers herself a childhood friend of his and feels responsible for him when he first arrives at Tokyo’s facility, but gets all tsundere on him when she sees the boy getting along with other females. She is a very violent girl who does not hesitate to attack people with her Kurogami arrows when she is displeased with them.Miwa Kazuomi is striving to be a strong man to protect his little sister, who is his last remaining family, but he can feel his Kurogami’s limitations, thus he envies the superior capabilities of Ichiya’s Yorigami.Just like Ichiya, Kyle Griffin is a Yorigami-compatible who possesses all the talents and resolve that the Japanese boy lacks, which gave him the title of ace at the Holy Rock base. The source of his capabilities came from his harsh childhood, being pressed to the limits by his parents who were obsessed with their clan’s honor and fame. Kyle was eventually discarded by them but he finally found a mother figure in the form of Annie Third – the AI in charge of the base.Conner McBride is a mercenary who is too familiar with the battlefield. Having survived through many battles as a soldier and as a mercenary gave him the title of “immortal”. The current Conner, however, is tired of battles, but since he can’t find another path in life, he goes to work at the Holy Rock base as the oldest Kurogami user. He always shows a laid-back personality when he’s around his brother-in-arms, and is always trying to help the youngsters.Liona Kogarasu is a very smart and sharp woman working for different organizations. She is a hardcore gamer at heart and always uses her Kurogami to challenge any threats with a gamer approach. Her hobby is to collect retro-games.Also born with the natural affinity to wield Yorigamis, Nil Phineas was raised by her adopted father with the sole-purpose of becoming a soldier to defeat “Gigants”, which granted her the strength to be recognized as the strongest human alive, being even able to easily take on the combined efforts of Ichiya and Kyle. Ironically, She has no other abilities other than fighting and spend most of her free-time sleeping. She tries not to be too much of a bother to her sisters but trying to do some minimal house chores from time to time.Redney Syphias became Nil’s older sister by also being adopted by her father and ever since, she dedicates her life to protect her new family as a Kurogami user.May Mizerele is a very innocent child who was raised alongside Nil and Redney as their little sister. She loves her family and would do anything in her power to protect them.
The game is divided into 4 arcs, the first 3 with different protagonists and theme, while the final one combines the 3 groups to the final showdown. However, if you care for the story and characters of the games you play, you will have a hard time surviving through Ichiya’s arc, which is the first part of the game. Ichiya is an awful protagonist! He’s at a level of “lameness” that I used to find only in love-comedies, dating sims and such. I can only describe him as a coward who tries to run from battles; A lazy bastard who push his responsibilities onto others; A pervert who gets excited even around monsters trying to kill him and his comrades; And above all else: an idiot! A REALLY HUGE IDIOT! MY GOD!Does Ichiya get to say at least one line that is not utterly stupid in the game? NO! No, he doesn’t! This means that every time he tries to act on his own accord, it ends in total failure, and every time he does something important or interesting, it was not his own idea and he even have to be forced to do it! There’s no “hero’s journey” when it comes to this monkey for a hero, because Ichiya got zero character development! Yes! He keeps being this human waste to the end of the game!The support cast doesn’t help any bit! Ichiya is surrounded by characters who treat him like shit, even though he’s their final hope against the Gigants. Even if you’re not the type who puts yourself on the shoes of the character you’re playing with, it’s still likely that you’ll get pissed-off by how badly Ichiya is treated by his supposed “allies”. Just like Ichiya, you know little to nothing about this world, so everything you learn about the story in the first arc has to be through his perspective, but everyone treats him like shit, calling him a retarded, because he doesn’t know what a “Type II” is and question why he’s even there.Well, I didn’t know what the hell are those things, too, so I started to question myself why I was still playing the game. It’s like the Tutorial is telling you to Fuck yourself! I know it looks like I’m overreacting, but since this happens too often during Ichiya’s arc, you would be a masochist if you felt otherwise.Thankfully, things get much better once you get past this first arc, as Kyle is a much more complex character who is accompanied by unique allies with whom he has interesting dialogs. But at this point, even Nil’s team is a better choice than Ichiya, even though they mostly talk about eating and doing laundry, which is a very misogynist writing, but it’s what usually happens when a man tries to write about a female-only group to a male audience. Still, I would take this over Ichiya’s stupidity at anytime!The plot itself is very intriguing once you get to see it through the perspective of the other two protagonists. Each arc takes place in a totally different environment and has a whole new cast of characters to work with, but each chapter connects with the next one and brings back a bunch of characters from the previous arc.
I’m not a big fan of the “dungeon crawler” sub-genre and the last and only Experience title I’ve played was Demon Gaze, which was considered to be “incredible easy” by hardcore gamers, even though it was really difficult for me. Well, Ray Gigant is certainly even easier than that game was, since it was the easiest dungeon crawler I’ve ever played!You built a very detailed map as you go through every dungeon, but you don’t even need to fully explore the field to get all its secrets, since the map gets automatically revealed once you reach a save point in the dungeon. This is probably the first dungeon crawler I’ve seen without any kind of random encounter. You can see every enemy on the map and they remain still until you touch them to start a battle. Still true that many will be inevitable, as they block your path, but it’s still a big help to be able to deal with them at your own pace.The level-design of every dungeon is fairly simple, and rarely has a big gimmick behind them. It makes the game even easier, but it also makes it kind of boring and uncreative. You get something a bit more challenging at the third arc, but still nothing too complicated.The character-growth system is also very simplified. Each character gets a single “skill tree” that includes equipments, items, magic abilities, attributes and special attacks. There are not many options to how you will customize your characters, as the paths in this “skill-tree” are pretty straightforward. You collect multicolored crystals called “resources” by defeating enemies and by finding “treasure chests”, you use those resources to upgrade those skill trees, which means those crystals are also the only currency in the game. This also means that the Skill Tree Menu is the only “shop” in the game and the only one you would ever need anyway…You don’t get much freedom in this game either. You don’t get to revisit dungeons from previous chapters, so you better hunt all the treasures you can find, because of that, there’s no back-tracking with new areas in an old dungeon to be opened later by using new abilities. When you’re at your head-quarter, you don’t get too many places to visit either and there’s nothing else to do aside from the main quest. No extra-events, side-quests or dating sim elements to distract you or give you any illusion of choice.The battles are also pretty simple. You get a certain amount of Action Points for your whole trio. Each action uses a certain amount of AP, but this amount is higher when fighting against enemies represented by a red icon or it gets lower during blue icon encounters. Only a few of this AP gets replenished on the next turn, but there’s a special action to recovers more AP in exchange for doing no other action at that turn.All the character are really strong and each can have up to 5 actions on each turn, which is usually more than enough to kill anything that moves on each battle. Therefore, the basic strategy should be obvious, right? Just put two of the weakest units to replenish AP while you save the strongest character (which is usually the protagonist of the current arc) to wipe out all the enemies in the screen in a single turn. If it’s a boss, you just need to use one of the actions of the attacker to cure everyone. I used this strategy through my whole playthrough and it never failed! It was never necessary for me to grind. Just remember to use some of your resources to raise the defense attribute of your AP tanks!You also get SP for whenever you deal or receive damage. Once you reach 50 SP, you can unleash a powerful barrage of attacks in a single turn by going through a simple rhythm mini-game that reminds me of those “Project Diva” games. Getting accurate hits in this mini-game gives you extra attacks. It’s your ultimate attack when dealing with bosses!The main campaign is completely linear. You do get multiple choices on how to to react to some situations at some rare occasions, but this doesn’t have any influence in the story and it feels that they put those there just because it’s a RPG.
As aforementioned, this is the Experience title with the highest budget yet, and it really shows, since it’s full of animations and interesting graphics everywhere! All playable characters have smoothly animated fighting poses during battles, which looks a bit like Time and Eternity (that lovely game that made Imageepoch go bankrupt) the difference is that the animations in Ray Gigant are much better and don’t feel out of place! Unfortunately, there’s no animations for attacks, as the screen goes on the regular first-person view whenever the heroes charge to attack and you only see the spark effects of their attacks hitting their opponents. And yet another lame aspect of the battle graphics are how the enemies only have poorly animated flash effects. It’s a real shame, but at least the animation for when they use their SP attacks is freaking awesome and almost compensates for all this!There are 6 more artists to make designs for Yorigamis and Gigants, but when it comes to human characters, I thought there was more than 3 different artists working with that at first, but it turns out it was just 2. The main character designer and illustrator for the Visual Novel events are made by Fuji Mogeo. He’s a very talented artist, but I could find very few info about him. He still has a twitter account and I could find a bunch of his old drawings on Tumblr but he deleted his pixiv account for reasons unknown to me, so I couldn’t find much about his previous works, but it seems he illustrated some of those monster-girls from Kantai Collection, which actually explains a lot: Someone called Miki Erina was in charge of the CG illustrations, but I found even less info about this person, so it’s probably a beginner, nevertheless, she did a pretty good job! All illustrations are pretty detailed and have a very stylish color to it with a very pale skin texture to characters, which feels closer to the semi-realistic style found in most “Seinen” works, than the “moe” style that Experience inc. has used in most of their games, which is more commonly found in “Shounen” titles.Character designs are really good in my opinion, as every single character looks very distinct from each other, except from Ichiya, who looks similar to Kazuomi. Their weapons and fighting styles are pretty distinct as well, which specific designs for each Yorigami and Kurogami.The weakest points in the visuals goes to the level designs, since dungeons look very repetitive! You have a single dungeon design for each arc, which means all the dungeons found in the same story arc will look exactly the same. You get a storage room for Ichiya, a temple for Kyle and an underwater level for Nil. Aside from that, there’s a mini dungeon before some bosses that looks pretty much the same regardless of the arc you’re in: A cave full of crystals. You will inevitably get bored from looking at the same walls.
This is yet another aspect in the game where you can notice the difference in the budget: Abe Atsushi as Ichiya, Hatano Wataru as Kyle, Nanjou Yoshino and many more big names working here! Up until now, most people doing voice work for Experience inc. games were not nearly this famous. Sadly, you don’t get to listen to those awesome voices all through the game. Only some important events get voices, and for the rest of it, you will only hear an occasional “hey!”, or “Hello”, or “Yes” during some dialogs. It seems even Bandai Namco couldn’t cover for everything…
There are some big names involved in the openings, too! They got talents like Faylan and even freaking T.M. Revolution! (my favorite of the bunch). There are a different set of songs for each arc, giving a different “flavor” for each protagonist and environment, giving plenty of variety to the soundtrack and making it difficult to get bored with the BGMs.Ichiya gets a more Jazzy song while he explore dungeons and beat monsters. Kyle gets a techno beat with a mysterious feel to it, and finally, Nil gets a more upbeat soundtrack with a relaxing violin that feels closer to the pop genre. Each style makes a fantastic job at portraying the atmosphere of its respective story-arc and some tracks are pretty catchy.
This was a nice RPG! It could have been much better with more freedom at character-building and exploration, but I would be already much more satisfied if there was no Ichiya. I almost gave up playing the game to the end because of him too many times! I just hope the next Experience inc. title have nothing similar to him, because all the rest that Ray Gigant has to offer was pretty enjoyable and I wouldn’t mind playing another dungeon crawler like this in the future…but my favorite Dungeon Crawler is still Etrian Odyssey Untold 2! I hope to get Untold 3 very soon!