The Caligula Effect: Overdose Review

The Caligula Effect: Overdose by developer FuRyu and publisher NIS AmericaSony PlayStation 5 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimate reading time: 4 minutes

When Caligula Effect first came out, it was to a mixed reception. It had the pedigree and some of the vibe from the popular Persona games, but with far less polish. The Caligula Effect: Overdose takes that original Vita title and brought it to consoles a few years later, and now in its most advanced form on PlayStation 5. Does going back to the well here pay off? By and large it does, as The Caligula Effect: Overdose manages to improve upon the original in ways that don’t fundamentally change the experience, but make it a better one that allows for the game to show off some of its many ambitious ideas.

The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a JRPG that starts off with your protagonist giving a speech and realizing that something is wrong as faces around him begin to visually glitch in some strange, unexplained way. Naturally, this leads your character (who can be male or female, one of the updates Overdose brings to the table) to panic and run out of the building. At this point your character is faced with a hard-to-believe situation: they are trapped in a sort of alternate reality called Mobius and a strange virtual doll named μ. She apparently decided brainwash a bunch of peoples’ souls after abducting them.

Probably where the Persona DNA is strongest is in the social links you can form with a ton of other students within Mobius. This is a nine level system that works to help portray the backstories of the characters. This building of bonds happens through conversations and texting with them via your phone. This can lead to new quests and some pretty heartfelt stories that were among the highlights of the game for me. That being said – there is a lot, I mean a lot, of content here, as you can pursue this relationship-building with almost every student you encounter. Obviously some are more fleshed out and interesting than others. These can help play into the various endings, of which there are multiple – both good and bad. There’s even an option to play on ‘team bad guy’ for lack of a better way to put it, and it’s interesting because of the new stories it presents, but from a gameplay perspective doesn’t really change up the formula a whole lot, which feels somewhat like a missed opportunity.

Visually, the game looks pretty solid. The Vita version had some skipping and other hiccups that I didn’t notice at all on the PS5 version, which is a win. That being said, the visuals are not incredibly impressive. They’re not bad – the visual style itself is pretty solid in terms of being colorful and pleasant to look at. But this game was made for a handheld device over half a decade ago now, so it’s not exactly leveraging the full power of the latest gaming gear in either of its character models or it’s somewhat flat-looking environments. The music was a bit hit and miss for me as well, with several really catchy, memorable tunes and others that were more forgettable.

There is something about the pacing of The Caligula Effect: Overdose that seems just a bit slow at times, even for a JRPG. Maybe it’s the hundreds of students that can be interacted with, or the semi-grind of related quests and the exploring that goes with it. It starts to take on an almost chore-like quality after a time. However, the combat is a high point for me. Your characters can stack up to three actions per turn, and each one has a duration on the timeline they take to complete. This timeline gives you a ‘glimpse’ of the future (called Imaginary Chain), where you can better map your strategy against the enemies. It’s a fascinating way of presenting turn-based combat, especially since the predictions are not always one hundred percent correct, leaving some randomness in the mix.

That being said, this level of detail’s really not required for most of the more mundane battles, and you can use an auto-battle to advance things at a quicker pace. Just don’t go into a boss battle expecting to see you through these. There are some trickier non-boss battles too that require your thinking cap, or they will absolutely own you if you get sloppy and don’t leverage the Imaginary Chain to its fullest ability.

There’s enough quality of life improvements to be had in The Caligula Effect: Overdose, that even if you played the original and just felt like it was close but not quite what you were looking for? Well, Overdose might push you the rest of the way. For those such as myself who adore all things Persona, there’s enough interesting backstories here to scratch that itch, even if after a time there are probably too many of these relationships to pursue without going a bit numb to them. Combat’s probably the greatest strength to be had here, and it’s well-done. The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a solid if unspectacular JRPG that is a good way to burn a few dozen hours.

Score: 7 / 10



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