Pick Your Target
When it comes to media marketing, there are several different directions a company can take in who they wish to target. Are you looking to attract the widest audience possible? Maybe you’re looking to get the attention of a specific subset of the population (which is very popular in television), like children or the ever-important 18-49 age group. Or, perhaps, you want to get more specific.
The gaming industry, as far as I can tell at least, can be somewhat unique in that whole companies or subsidiaries are created to specifically target a certain group. While it’s not uncommon to hear of in other media, you’re not going to see, say, Warner Brothers deciding that they will only create movies for teenage male rom-com fans. Many gaming companies exist, though, to fully commit to narrow niches like this.
One that I see commonly accepted as a company like this is the developer Compile Heart. A subsidiary of the company Idea Factory, Compile Heart has a rather well-known and accepted niche it works in: teenage and early-20s Japanese males who are interested in role-playing games and cute anime girls. While it would be a lie to say that games for this market are the only games they produce, a great majority of their catalog does seem specifically aimed to this demographic.
While a large chunk of this company’s releases remains Japan-exclusive, two of their series brands have some major niche popularity in the West, both of which fit the aforementioned market very well: Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War.
The game we’re looking at today is a Compile Heart title that is intended as the start of a new series, and I would say is also aimed toward the demographic they specialize in.
Trillion: God of Destruction was developed by Compile Heart and Idea Factory, and published in the West by Idea Factory International. The game was released in the US on March 29th, 2016, for the PlayStation Vita.
Hell Rains Down
Trillion is set in a fairly standard fantasy setting, which is a universe that is divided into three: Heaven, the Underworld, and the Human world. The game’s main focus is the Underworld, which is currently ruled by the Great Overlord Zeabolos, the grandson of Satan. Assisting him in his rule are six regular Overlords, each related in someway or another to Zeabolos, and each representing one of the seven deadly sins (Zeabolos himself representing the seventh).
One day, while two of the Overlords are slacking off rather than guarding the gates of the Underworld, their world is besieged by a gargantuan beast known as Trillion. The monster makes quick work of all the soldiers sent against it, and manages to kill Zeabolos’ brother, Astaroth. In rage at his brother’s and citizens’ deaths, Zeabolos attempts to fights Trillion himself…but he is quickly killed as well.
However, right before his soul is lost, a young girl named Faust appears before him…and if you know literature, you can guess where this is going. In exchange for Zeabolos’ soul, Faust brings him back to life and offers her assistance and powers in defeating Trillion.
While Zeabolos is revived, his rebuilt body is now too weak to fight. Having no other choice, he enlists the six Overlords to destroy Trillion.
While the overall story of Trillion is somewhat weak and can be rather cliche, its strengths lie in the characters. More specifically, the game is excellent in building up your attachment to each of the Overlords, as the main mechanic of the game revolves around spending time training an Overlord of your choosing to defeat Trillion. While the personalities of the Overlords can be cliche as well, the time that goes into building the relationship between an Overlord and Zeabolos (and, in turn, the player) is excellent, which can make some major parts of the plot quite painful to work through…in a good way.
The main complaint I would have in the story section comes in some of the random character interactions that can occur in between Overlord training sequences. These interactions typically involve Zeabolos speaking to a random NPC or side-character, and the random nature of them means that some of these interactions can repeat. Many times. If I have to catch the same maid in my Great Overlord mansion slacking off by eating snacks again (after around five or six times), I should probably just have the option to fire her, right?
Like An Office Project
Now, the thing about many games, and especially role playing games, is that all you’re really doing while playing is manipulating numbers. You’re completing different tasks to increase the number of your character’s level, so that the numbers associated with their various statistics change. These numbers are then put up against the numbers of your enemies, and you hope that your numbers are better than theirs. Most games disguise this kind of work behind…well, gameplay. You’re changing these numbers by controlling a character to beat the crap out of something, or completing some kind of mini-game, and so on. The less time spent working in menus the better, typically.
This right here is a massive stumble on Trillion‘s part. The game is presented as a strategy game with rogue-like elements, where you’re spending most of the game figuring out the best way to train your Overlord. Some of the time, you’re actively in battle against Trillion or a giant wooden training robot, and these portions are presented in a turn-based roguelike format. Occasionally you wander through a small dungeon to collect items, also presented in the same format.
However, these portions make up maybe 10%-15% of the game. Outside of this and reading the story segments, the rest of your time is spent entirely in menus manipulating numbers. The goal is to increase your selected Overlord’s stats and learn various skills for your battle against Trillion, which are increased and learned from menus. This is pretty typical. To accomplish this, though, you need to earn points in various “attributes” which must be trained, and these points are spent for the upgrades. Still, not unusual.
To earn these points, you take your Overlord through various training exercises. This is where I would imagine most gamers might think “Oh, I’m going to play some sort of minigame or something to earn these points, right?” Well, unfortunately, no. You select one of six exercises to earn points in one of six attributes. Then, you watch a few seconds of animation, get told how well your Overlord did, earn the points, and go back to the menu. No gameplay involved.
Aside from typical health, magic, and strength stats, your Overlord can also increase her “affection points.” These act as a kind of buffer while in battle; damage will be taken from these first, and spells cast from these first as well. If you still have affection points in your battle against Trillion, you can retreat at anytime. If you run out, though, your Overlord will refuse to retreat and will fight ’til the bitter end. These points are increased primarily through giving items to your Overlord. Unfortunately, these items aren’t earned though “gameplay” either. Instead, you spend tokens you get from training in a menu, the game spits out random items at you, and you give the items to your Overlord through another menu to increase the points.
I could drone on at this point, but I hope you get the picture. Trillion is severely lacking in what people would typically call “gameplay”. Now, in some games, this is to be expected. For example, visual novels aren’t expected to have significant gameplay. However, this game is, as mentioned earlier, presented as a strategy/rogue-like blend. A genre typically associated with gameplay.
To end here on a positive note, the battle sequences against Trillion are actually quite fun and engaging, especially with what’s at stake in the battle. I mentioned affection points earlier and how they are used to retreat from battle. These can be vastly important due to the way the game really bonds you with your selected Overlord, as if they fall in battle…they’re dead and gone forever. The character you spent hours training and getting to know, gone. These sequences can really hit hard, too, so with that in mind, the fights against Trillion feel climactic and enthralling every time.
Style and Substance
The staff behind Trillion includes members of the staff behind the Disgaea series of games, and their influence is evident in the graphical style of the game. In fact, the character designs in particular feel like they’ve been heavily influenced by Disgaea. The majority of the game is presented with character sprites against still backgrounds. Probably assisted by the relatively small cast of characters, each character design is quite detailed and very distinct, as are the various backdrops (of which there are also only a few).
To tie back to the opening remarks on this game’s demographics, the majority of Trillion‘s cast is composed of cute anime girls. This game ended up breaking my expectations, though – I originally entered
Trillion expecting the character designs to be a gaggle of hypersexualized anime girls, much like many other niche JRPGs of this type I’ve experienced. Much to my pleasant surprise, these expectations were averted. The only character I would say that fits that description is the Overlord who represents lust, which makes sense in that context. The character designs overall, though, are well thought out and mostly tasteful.
The detail in the character design translates fairly well into the battle sequences as well, which are presented in full 3D. The characters and monsters on the field during these portions can be a bit rough around the edges, and some of the animations can feel a bit jerky, but everything put together remains pleasing to the eye and plays well.
An Upbeat Disaster
Given the whole “Underworld Demon Battle” general theme around Trillion, most of the game’s soundtrack revolves around string orchestras and chanting choirs. What I found relatively unique is that, despite the foreboding atmosphere and occasional heavy moments in the game, the majority of the tracks in the game keep a light-hearted air about them. It fits the overall feel of the game quite well, actually, with the interjection of humor playing about the looming threat in the background throughout.
Trillion does include voice acting during major story moments, and the game does offer dual audio for the purists out there. As far as the English dub is concerned, the actors and actresses are…decent. Aside from the character Faust’s VA, the performances in this game come across as woefully generic. I wouldn’t call the acting “bad” by any stretch of the word, but there really isn’t much that stands out.
A final note about the voice acting: there are quite a few moments where the voiceovers do not match the onscreen dialogue. However, the copy of Trillion I played was a prerelease version of the game, and I was informed that a release-date patch was rolling out to fix some dialogue errors. Therefore, this discrepancy could very well have been fixed at launch.
Work To Be Done
Overall, Trillion presents a set of intriguing and well-designed characters that are easy to get attached to in a relatively entertaining story. However, the gameplay wrapped around said story is greatly lacking. While gamers that are into management and simulation games might enjoy this kind of gameplay, they don’t really seem like the market that Trillion is aimed toward. The JRPG and roguelike gamers that would probably find this game appealing might very well be turned off by the sheer amount of time messing with numbers in menus, without much else to do.
While the training portion of the game feels more like work than play, the characters and the battle gameplay do help to balance things out, if at least a small amount. If you are able to look past (or sleep your way through) the menu-heavy portions, you may end up enjoying the other things Trillion has to offer. Taking the package as a whole, though, I can’t really say Trillion even reaches mediocre.
~ Final Score: 4/10 ~
Review copy provided by Idea Factory International for Vita. Screenshots taken by reviewer.