If there is one thing that cannot be denied absolutely to a title realized by NIS (Nippon Ichi Software), is its being uniquely unique. We had already seen it in The Liar Princess And The Blind Prince, with a highly inspired artistic component that could only come from a land like Japan. We see this further in this new one Lapis x Labyrinth, this time however in his ability to combine together in the same dish a multitude of different genres. At what price though? While The Liar Princess made its structural simplicity its pride and strength, along with a moving story, Lapis x Labyrinth launches into an excessive desire to insert everything a little, presenting a dish rich in ingredients with some of them having a good taste, but with others that make the dish a little confusing.
The game will be released on May 31 up Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. We got to play it on this last console, but I think that Lapis x Labyrinth he will be able to assert himself more on the first thanks to his spirit that I could define as a flash game, or rather as a consumable game in small short sessions. This because Lapis x Labyrinth can be defined as a dungeon crawler mixed with a RPG mixed with a musou. It is a mixture that could potentially give life to something with a strong personality that you would hardly find in other products, and in a sense it is. The problem is that all these different features do not allow any of them to shine, except for a few good ideas. In the game, play the role of several adventurers, who have arrived in a city at the foot of a golden tree in the Golden Forest. The city is located at the entrance to a dungeon, but is left to itself. For this reason, the mayor is launching an invitation to any adventurer wishing to take on a new challenge. Only our guild responds to the request and receives the task of exploring the dungeon, reviving the city's reputation and bringing new merchants and new adventurers to it. Forming a team of up to four people, it is our task to ensure that the company of guilds returns to consider our city as a place in which to collect precious treasures.
Nothing could be more banal, a mere pretext to launch into action, and that's okay because the plot in this type of games is not necessary to be a strong point, but an enrichment. The tutorial in intent is with few frills, very direct and immediate, perhaps too much. The game HUD is full of bars, numbers and information that you will be able to fully understand only after a few hours, making the initial approach rather confusing. The combat system is much simpler and easier to understand, requiring very little time to master. Few basic commands, divisible into simple attacks, special attacks, support attacks, group attacks and changing the party leader. I believe this minimalism is one of the strengths of the title, allowing it to be enjoyed even by those who do not have too much desire to dedicate their time to statistics and numbers, making the game not overwhelming for newcomers to the genre. This is not to say that the title cannot attract even veterans to itself, because the RPG components combined with the countless percentage calculations can offer them some decent entertainment too. And I too have launched into these calculations to analyze the actual effectiveness of the various damage or defense modifiers. These variables are not far-fetched and work, increasing the damage against different types of monsters and reducing the damage suffered by certain types of attacks. But you quickly realize that it's not so much worth wasting time on, given that the enemies in almost all cases will be simple cannon fodder, as already mentioned musou. It creates a certain sense of fulfillment in devastating everything that intrudes on its path, but this makes some of the mechanics that should push the title to acquire a distinct personality superfluous. This is not necessarily a defect, but the admirers of mathematics applied to video games, among the main fans of titles of this genre, find an exercise of skill that is effective but an end in itself.
Different adventures for different teams
There are eight different classes to choose from, each with a different fighting style and specialized in various fields. You can try to create a balanced party that knows how to juggle in every situation, or even enter more characters from the same class, even all four. If you like challenges, there is also the possibility of exploring with just one adventurer. Like every dungeon crawler self-respecting, everything revolves around the acquisition of always better equipment that allows us to face missions of ever increasing difficulty. Each item of equipment has its own value determined based on its power, and the sum of the values of all objects cannot exceed a certain limit. This limit can be increased allowing to reach ever higher power levels. The missions are divided into levels, and each level is based on a specific setting with specific enemies. Complete all the missions of the level, you get access to the boss fight, which once defeated unlocks access to the next level. Upon completion of each level, a new merchant arrives in the city ready to offer a different service. We pass from the exchange of objects to the strengthening of the weapons in own possession and to the training of the characteristics of every single character inside the dojo. These places help to enrich the RPG element, allowing you to create endless combinations of statistics for each character.
The greater the risk, the greater the result
Since we have already ascertained how this component fails to emerge, what remains is the exploration of the different levels of the dungeon and how to obtain the rewards. The party moves inside the dungeon in a totem formation, with the leader at the base and the other members resting on his head. The statistics of each party member are added to those of others, incarnating in the leader who turns them into attacks. If you are hit hard, there is a risk of losing a team member from the totem. If this happens, he begins to constantly lose life points due to the maze of the labyrinth, but he can be saved by recovering it before his life points run out. If a party member dies, the whole team loses the improvements of his stats. Each mission is based on unlocking a portal that allows access to the next floor, until reaching and defeating the mission miniboss. The portal unlocks by destroying a number of purple crystals scattered throughout the floor. Once this is done, you can decide whether to continue exploring the plan in search of additional treasures or to find the location of the portal leading to the next floor. Only five minutes are allowed to explore a plan, at the end of which a huge specter appears which causes the mission to fail at contact. Another way in which the mission can fail is the death of the whole party, which however is not immediate. When the life points of all adventurers fall to zero, control of the mission kit is obtained, which can revive a member of the team as long as they are not touched by any enemy in an attempt to carry out the rescue procedure.
The end-of-mission rewards are based on the speed of completion, the score obtained by defeating enemies and the number of chests found in the plans. The score also increases thanks to Fever Mode, another of the points in favor of the game. Filling the bar to the maximum Fever, you become invulnerable for a certain period of time, during which by defeating the enemies you get gems that give special bonuses. This condition creates a lot of chaos on the screen, but provides a huge sense of fulfillment, giving the player the impression that he is doing something incredible. In reality the bonuses that are obtained are rather marginal, therefore the Fever Mode it is more an illusion than anything else, but the satisfaction of seeing the screen explode with color is one of the things that can give a reason to keep playing. And this certainly does not help much the combat system, which is so simple and immediate, but it soon falls into repetitiveness, making the missions of the same level a bit 'all the same as the others. For this reason, as I mentioned at the beginning, I believe that the title is more suitable for a console like Nintendo Switch, which lends itself more to fast play experiences.
In conclusion, Lapis x Labyrinth it certainly has so much potential and a unique personality, but it doesn't have a strong one. The mixture of so many genres and its ability to be accessible to any type of player ensures that a vast audience can approach it without difficulty. However, this merit is also its biggest flaw, because it does not allow any of its peculiarities to stand out from the others, creating repetitive experience suitable to be consumed in small sporadic sessions. The short moments of satisfaction that it generates are not enough to allow an intense and profound fruition, and are similar to those experienced with some mobile games. A title suitable only for those looking for a simple experience to begin to become familiar with the genre and to the avid fans of the aforementioned. For everyone else, the market is full of dungeon crawler decidedly more demanding with which to try.
The strength of the games NIS it is their ability to be uniquely unique. Perhaps this time it turned out to be a double-edged sword.