Exquisite Japanese anime art style, rich storytelling, and unique combat systems — JRPGs have always been a game genre that I pay close attention to. In recent years, there's been no shortage of awesome JRPG series that have captivated me, such as Persona 5, Atelier Ryza, Octopath Traveler, and more. Therefore, without a doubt, Marvelous' latest game LOOP8: Summer of Gods has immediately piqued my interest since its announcement a few months back with its introduction of some unique gameplay features that totally align with my taste in JRPGs.
With high hopes for some fresh gameplay and an engaging storyline, I kicked off my adventure as the main character, Nini, in LOOP8: Summer of Gods. However, it didn't take long for this game to disappoint me in various aspects I was looking forward to. But before we dive into how I feel about the game, let’s talk about how the game works.
The story of LOOP8: Summer of Gods begins eight months after humanity's last ray of hope was destroyed. You’ll take on the role of Nini, who has lost his family and home due to the Kegai – an ancient force that threatens the survival of humanity. You find yourself in the tranquil rural town of Ashihara Nakatsu, where you will live with your cousin, Konoha, who is around the same age as you. Just when everyone thinks life in this peaceful town will remain uneventful, and as you try to adapt to your new life, the Kegai finally descend upon this town, jeopardizing its long-standing peace. With your rare superpower called the Demon Sight, the fate of humanity lies in your hands, and you’ll have to forge strong relationships with those around you in order to defeat the Kegai with the power of friendship.
Unlike mainstream RPG games, this game doesn't feature various main quests and side quests. Your goal in the game is simple and straightforward: to reach the game's ending by defeating various bosses within a time limit. Each boss typically needs to be defeated within five days, or else it's game over, and the protagonist will Loop back to August 1. With the ultimate driving force behind the story progression being "defeating the Kegai", you will need to allocate your time wisely within a day between social interactions, training, exploration, and battles.
The battles in LOOP8: Summer of Gods take place in an alternate world called Yomotsu Hirasaka, which has a similar overall structure to the real world. In this world, you must complete trials to collect magatamas, which are used to unlock barriers to the bosses, who are waiting in different corners of the map. The game features a turn-based combat system where you can bring along up to two companions to fight with you. Each companion will take actions based on their own will, such as attacking, buffing, or healing. Attacks are categorized into three types: Friendship, Affection, and Hate. Affection attacks have the lowest power, while Hate attacks have the highest, but they also carry the risk of strengthening the enemy. In battles, you can rely on Nini’s Demon Sight to predict the actions of enemies and companions, using that information to determine your next move.
As long as you make sure to regularly improve Nini and your companions’ stats, the battles won't pose much of a challenge. Also, as each boss is represented by a townspeople who is abducted by the Kegai by manipulating their negative emotions, this means that Nini and his party will share a relationship with the bosses too. And the better the team’s relationship with the boss, the easier the encounter will be. It also worth noting that characters who are on bad terms seem to assist each other less in battles, so it’s actually interesting how the game’s battle is so closely related with the emotion-driven AI system.
The social gameplay mainly revolves around having conversations with NPC characters. During these conversations, you'll have the option to make Suggestions, which include choices like "Get to know better", "Flatter", "Tell it like it is", and so on. Successful Suggestions will increase the relationship values between you and the NPC, while failed ones will decrease them. The success rate of Suggestions depends on your current mood, as well as the character's current emotions and desires. You can gauge the success rate through Nini's inner thoughts displayed before deciding on a Suggestion. As the relationship between you and the characters changes, more options for Suggestions will be available, as well as character events that are also triggered through Suggestions.
On the other hand, the relationship between characters is determined by three types of emotional values: Friendship, Affection, and Hate. Different combinations of these values will result in various relationships such as Buddy, Duo, or Estranged. It’s interesting to note that these relationships are in fact one-sided feelings which differs between both perspectives of a relationship. For example, Nini may consider Konoha as a Buddy, while she sees her relationship with Nini as Complicated. Additionally, when a character’s total emotional value with other characters reaches a certain threshold, he or she will get to unlock new combat skills.
In the game, each character has seven stats, including Strength, Agility, Intelligence, and so on, all of which can be improved through performing daily activities on the map, such as attending classes, exercising, and playing arcade games. Other than that, these stats can also be enhanced by obtaining Blessings from the gods, an important gameplay element that is closely associated with the exploration gameplay.
By exploring specific locations on the map, such as the school store, shrines, and the spirit stone, Nini and his companions have the opportunity to receive random Blessings, which is similar to a gacha system. However, the more blessings they collect, the lower the chances of obtaining new ones in subsequent interactions. Similar to emotional values, increasing stats also unlocks new combat skills for the characters. It's worth mentioning that when the game ends and loops back to August 1, stats and emotional values will be reset, except for the obtained Blessings.
Given the game's unique concept and combat mechanics driven by the emotional system, LOOP8: Summer of Gods has incredible potential to stand out from the mainstream. Unfortunately, the game falls short with its lackluster storytelling, hollow Suggestions, repetitive gameplay, and flawed visual presentation, which significantly diminish the overall enjoyment of playing it.
The advantage of not having main and side quests is that players can focus solely on the core gameplay and fully enjoy the game's storyline, battles, and social simulation experience. However, since the game is solely focused on these gameplay elements, our expectations for them naturally become higher. Sadly, the game's lackluster storytelling makes it difficult to fully immerse ourselves.
For example, towards the end of the tutorial, players are taken to the Yomotsu Hirasaka for a battle, where two female characters join the player's party. However, the events that unfold during this time are not properly explained and seem to be taken for granted in the storyline. Why was Nini not curious about their sudden introduction? It was their first time teaming up and fighting together, so wouldn't it be natural for Nini to be curious about their combat abilities and backgrounds? Well, perhaps it's just the character’s setting that Nini is generally a person of few words.
But where did the other characters' weapons and abilities come from? Is there a more fascinating story behind their exceptional combat skills? These are important story elements that, in my opinion, were only lightly touched upon in the game, highlighting a drawback of the game — its vast potential for plot expansion that wasn't fully utilized by the development team.
Besides, although the game's Carrel system allows NPCs to bring up different topics and provide various reactions based on their current emotions, desires, and relationship with the main character, which does provide players with a social simulation experience that is different from many other works, however, the lack of content during Suggestions make the gameplay feels more like luck-based number grinding rather than engaging conversations.
For instance, after choosing a Suggestion that you want to make, the other person would respond with a short phrase like "Thanks a lot!" or "Thanks! ", and then immediately proceeds to the screen showing the increase or decrease in relationship values, without any meaningful content in between. It also feels kind of weird that choosing the Suggestion "Get to know better" elicits a response of "Thanks!" with a smile, which seems out of context.
Apart from that, the monotonous objective in the game, which is to defeat each of the bosses within five days, also foreshadowed a highly repetitive gameplay. It’s like a routine of chores: interacting with the same few exploration points, making Suggestions to characters, and when the gates to Yomotsu Hirasaka open, it's time to fight the boss. It’s pretty much the same gameplay experience repeating day after day.
What's more, it's pretty easy to max out a character's relationship values in just a couple of days. If there’s a character in good mood who’ll easily accept all your Suggestions, just keep interacting with them as there’s no limit to the number of Suggestions per day. But here's the thing—it leaves the gameplay feeling shallow.
The repetitive gameplay also stems from the fact that there are only a handful of places to explore in Ashihara. And these areas aren't just small, they're seriously limited in content. You're stuck with those same old points of interests and a few special spots like the shrines and cafeterias. It's honestly not surprising if you tell me that you’re bored of the game just few hours into it.
As if it isn’t disappointing enough, the concerning visuals shown in the previews actually made their way into the final game ... It was evident from the trailers that the game suffers from lowered frame rate, which is especially noticeable during battles. Some players expressed their concerns in the comments, wondering if the game would maintain the same visuals upon release. Regrettably, their fears have come true.
Some people argue that lowered frame rate can be seen as a unique visual style, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most gamers nowadays aren't going to be too thrilled about it. I mean, seriously, we all know the Unity engigne is capable of delivering way better visuals than what we're seeing in this game. Whether the "lowered frame rate" was intentionally chosen as a visual presentation style by the developers remains to be officially clarified.
On the bright side, I must say that the character designs and Japanese voice acting for the female characters in this game are actually quite remarkable. They've got a diverse range of personalities and appearances, catering to every otaku's taste — from the cute loli who's taller than the protagonist to the young and hot grandma (yep, you heard that right), there's someone for everyone. But when it comes to the male characters... well, let's just say you'll get the idea after watching the trailers. Sorry guys but it looks like the ladies have stolen the show this time.
While the game boasts an innovative combat system, it's disappointing that the story, dialogue, and animation give off a rushed and incomplete vibe. It seems like a wasted potential when it could have been a modern masterpiece in social simulation RPGs. The game feels like a rushed work that has left many imperfections which could be improved with more meticulous development. Things like richer stories, well-paced script-writing, and more polished animation would have made a significant difference. Instead of relying on post-release content updates to fix all the game's shortcomings, I think we would be better off hoping that the developers will build upon the strengths of this game and create even better titles in the future.
That concludes Lluvia’s review of the Chinese version of LOOP8: Summers of Gods.