Originally released for Sony’s PlayStation Vita last year, Mind Zero takes a page from Persona and makes something a bit different in the Wizardry Dungeon Crawling style. Thrown into the shoes of Kei on the very day in which fate reared its head for good or bad, explore a world unseen by others as it runs parallel to our own safe for those with the ability of MIND.
Mind Zero at its core is a Japanese RPG that will take players on an interesting ride through an at times terrifying reality. It’s never hard to imagine our world as it is one we live in but honestly who hasn’t dreamt of monsters under the bed, creatures prowling the park, or even portals to different worlds that only they can see. Taking this as its core, those who posses the possibilities of MIND may traverse from our world into the other in which is a place made of nightmares. MINDs are being of their own volition and if a person is not strong enough they are taken over with only the MIND itself remaining to do as it pleases. Going this route allows for some interesting story elements as our main characters can not only walk around openly with their weapons, but also with their MINDs as no one but another MIND user can see them which leaves room for some rather interesting conversations in the early hours.
Dungeons are built with a bit of exploration in mind. What could sometimes look like the best direction can often turn into a dead end either because of a prompt end to the hallway or a locked door. Finding the right direction can often require a bit of backtracking but that is part of the fun and the aspect that can either make or break an experience like this. As the story elements are but half of the equation, if these gameplay portions are not properly designed then interest can drop off fast enough. Adding to this balance is that “random” encounters are random and not every few steps offering a decent amount of time while wandering instead of spending all of the time within the combat window which is intriguing to itself.
While similar in terms of principal to said Persona series, the summoned MINDs are in a category of their own. Unlike spirits or beings that can either be equipped or forced upon for physical or elemental resistances, the MINDs themselves serve a dual purpose with the ability to either be summoned into battle or left on the sidelines. With MINDs summoned out onto the battlefield, character’s essentially receive a bulwark to protect themselves against enemy strikes at the cost of their Mind Points (MP). As long as there is enough MP for the MIND to stay on the field they will protect their counterpart’s Life Points allowing to spend more time exploring before having to exit and replenish your party’s strength.
With MINDs already being a force to be reckoned with, there’s still more than can be pulled out of the proverbial hat to keep an edge above the enemy as often enough there are more of them than there are of you. Having access to a Burst meter allows for some pretty crazy combinations as they exist outside of the standard initiative order. On a full meter more than one burst can be performed allowing to turn the tide on what could be an already losing battle as it can happen readily enough. Using bursts to turn the tide can essentially prevent the need to dismiss the MIND in order to replenish MP and finish the battle as all MP is restored upon victory.
Exploring dungeons is mostly for story advancement but there’s no reason not to take on a couple Quests to spice up the dungeon crawl. These can be picked up from the Private Investigations’ Agency that your party becomes part of to help ease the workload of one of the more experienced party members. Quests add a bit extra to the dungeon crawls and in certain cases act as a push to force a bit more exploration past what is needed to in order to find either items or enemy types not currently found. In a manner to either block progress or keep portions for later there are many different forms of “road blocks” that will lay in the path of the party. Some of these will be locked doors that require a switch to be thrown down another hallway which are easy to move through and generally mean that they are meant to pass through in the immediate future. Others barrier types require actions to be taken such as rapid clicking to fire at a barricade or slashing attacks to cut throw a cloth wall. Inspection of these should always be performed as you never know if you can currently make it through or not.
Travelling between locations can be a bit odd at times as not everything is on the same overworld map. Locations are split between various Prefectures that can be visited by train as they are opened up as events unfold. In each of these zones are points of interest that exist either to forward main storyline quests in purple or blue points such as shops or smaller events between characters to increase their friendships to one another. Making sure to do a thorough search while on a quest is important as the littlest of details is important in order to move forward.
Sadly the port to PC at this point is not running as smoothly as its counterpart did on Sony’s smaller portable system. Other than the text that looks clean and crisp clean allowing for easy reading when the voiceovers are not in effect that’s about it for the more positive side from a technical aspect. The loading times can vary on the ridiculous every now and again giving enough time to get up and go get something before the process finishes. If this wasn’t enough, a lot of the graphical assets come across as unpolished and pixelated or unrefined at their new sizes. A quick glance shows things looking well however after a while there is more than enough time to notice that not everything is actually as nice as it may have originally came across as. This ranges from character conversations to both enemy and ally character models in battle. It makes the overall experience look unfinished or rushed instead of the decent appearance from the Vita.
Further to these are issues with controllers not working and needing to use keyboard keys. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue however instead of mentioning which key should be pressed, the on-screen prompts are for the keys that would be uses on an Xbox controller such as A, B, X, Y, L, and R. As the default controls were Z, X, A, S, 1, and 2 it was confusing to remember that Z and A and as for the rest there were a few key changes made for easier accessibility.
Mind Zero overall is a good game though the PC port is sadly lacking in a good portion of its presentation. While there may not be anything ground-breakingly new to the genre, what it does it does well with some interesting mechanics and some interesting and fun characters. With a couple tweaks to the visual presentation as well as the control schemes and Mind Zero can be so much better than it currently is on the PC. From a gameplay perspective however Mind Zero offers a solid JRPG Dungeon Crawler which is a lot of fun.
Article by Pierre-Yves