Written by Richard Brown
Trinity Universe is one of those big multiple company collaboration games, a spiritual sequel to Cross Edge, featuring Nippon Ichi (Disgaea), Gust (um, nothing I’d heard of) and Idea Factory (er, still nothing I’d heard of). The game appears to be a dream product for fans of Japanese RPGs, but is it any good? Read on to find out.
The Basic Plot
In an obscure region of space, there exists the Netheruniverse. It’s a strange place where the detritus of infinity collects, be it space ships or humongous donuts. One planet has an idea to protect itself from being hit by such things, Prince Kanata will undergo the ritual to become the Demon God Gem, which will repel these strange asteroids. Kanata’s reaction to this can be paraphrased as “Screw that, I’m going on an adventure”, and he leaves mid-ritual with his aid. Shortly afterwards, the Valkyrie Rizelea happens on the Netheruniverse, and tries to sort things out. Will Kanata and Rizelea solve the mysteries of the Netheruniverse and save everything they hold dear? Probably not, Kanata is having too much fun dungeon crawling, and Rizelea has certainissues.
Elephants in the Room and Demon Dog Kings
I am going to deviate a little bit from my usual review style, and talk about another game entirely, one I actually got a PS3 for, Disgaea 3, a game from a series known for its hardcore RPG elements and sense of humour. To say Disgaea 3 was a disappointment would be a massive understatement, as it looked exactly the same as 2, and that was a primitive looking PS2 title. While it was still a good game, it was a game that I had played at least twice before, and it made basically no attempt to improve on the formula or take advantage of the PS3 platform. Production values are arguably the least the important aspect of games, as they age far faster than gameplay. Then again, that doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the visuals and innovation, as Nippon Ichi did with Disgaea 3. This soured me towards Nippon Ichi products, and my expectations were low for this title, though it proved to be a pleasant surprise. Trinity Universe, while not the best-looking or most innovative JRPG on the console (Valkria Chronicles holds that title in my opinion), appears to have had much more time and effort spent on it than D3. I know very little about Gust and Idea Factory, so there is not muchI can say about the crossover, but them working with Nippon Ichi has produced something worthwhile. It’s still a game that’s incredibly niche, with its talking head cut scenes and level grinding obsession, but its well-made example of its genre.
The gist of the game is this: you watch a few cut scenes, then spend a while searching orbital debris for goodies, getting into a few fights, before finding the macguffin that will prevent said debris from hitting the planet, getting into a few fights on the way out, or running into a boss. While the combat system is superficially simple, done in the old line-up-and-take-turns style, but it gets really involved really quickly. Each character has “action points”, which allow for multiple actions in a turn, but in order to do the most damage, you have to save up for a turn. The reason for this is that the anime borrows from fighting games, and triggering attacks in the correct sequence sets off specials and allows you to build up combos. The length and complexity of these combos can get pretty over the top, as the “Fury Chain” concept basically allows you to pull off one long pummelling involving the entire party and get massive bonuses. It’s definitely not a matter of “press X repeatedly to win”, and you have to stay on your toes, especially in the boss fights. Unfortunately, Trinity Universe does suffer from the experience and levelling issues that have blighted JRPGs since time began. The only way to improve your characters is through time consuming and repetitive battles, and once the number of characters you have exceeds the 4 you can actually field, its gets worse. There are few things more annoying than finding out you have to substitute someone for story reasons, and realising all the possible replacements are 20 levels behind. The game does help out with little things like “Hunting Points”, and its not really a big flaw, but it’s a nuisance I could do without, especially as fixes for this have been floating around since Final Fantasy 7 came out. On the positive side, Trinity Universe does not suffer from another common flaw of JRPGs, the lack of replay value. With two different campaigns, each with different lead characters, and a unique game mechanic, Trinity Universe has a good lifespan. Getting your head around all the nuances of the combat system will take time, but it’s worth it.
Return of the Prinny Squad
Having spent the better part of six weeks on this game and still enjoying it, I can safely say that Trinity Universe has solid gameplay. Ultimately though, there is only one question worth asking of any game tied to the Disgaea franchise, is it funny? The answer is a definite yes; Trinity Universe made me laugh with almost every other cutscene, the voice acting and script being that good. The style of humour bounces between satire, in-jokes, barbed insults, otaku culture riffs, breaking the forth wall to cheerful insanity, and watching the cutscenes is a pleasure, not a chore. Of course, humour is very subjective, and if you aren’t laughing by the end of the second hour or so, you aren’t going to laugh at all, at which point the game is probably going to get irritating for you. There’s also no real plot, unlike most JRPGs, as the characters mess around too much. While the characters are great, their appeal isn’t universal. However, when you have such personalities as a dark hero who can only think out loud, a fallen angel with plans to launch an anime starring herself, a team of exploding demonic penguins, a villain with budget problems, a shut-in too naïve to understand fear, and an assassin who has confused her job description with that of Britney Spears, its hard not to giggle at them.
Trinity Universe, being obscure and quirky to extremes, does little to attract new fans to the whole obscure and quirky Japanese RPG genre. However, those of you who like such things will find much to enjoy, as will anime fans in general.