When a game does well, it tends to spawn clones. That’s just the way of the industry. It’s not necessarily even a bad thing – witness the proliferation of first-person shooters after DOOM knocked players’ socks off, for instance. Still, some games are more obviously a “homage” than others. Persona 3, for instance, was something of a revolution for the more traditional Japanese RPG market, and it served as a template for numerous titles to come after. Case in point: Mana Khemia, Mind Zero, and, years later, The Caligula Effect: Overdose.
Living an idyllic high school life is one thing, but how about living it forever? How long could you exist in a world designed to be perfect before you started to pine for reality? The members of the Go-Home Club of the world of Mobius are facing that question, having started to face the truth: that Mobius is just a simulation built by the virtual singer μ. As part of the Go-Home Club you’ll work to find a way out, but the path is fraught with danger, both from μ’s deranged Digihead servants and from the Ostinato Musicians who seek to keep the status quo in Mobius.
The other part of this that bears mention, though: it’s not like you came to Mobius for no reason. Everyone who’s here wanted to be here on some level, and that typically means they were running from something. Escape, then, will mean confronting the trauma you initially tried to get away from, and in many characters’ cases that trauma can be surprisingly bleak. The Caligula Effect refers to the urge to break taboos and do what’s prohibited, after all, which should give you an idea of what we’re talking about.
Overdose, a remake of the original PS Vita title, takes the concept a step further: what about the people who prefer life in Mobious? Is it really right to take their perfect lives away from them? Toward that end, Overdose actually offers the option to play as one of the Ostinato Musicians, serving as a leader of the game’s villains and experiencing the plot from their side. It’s a fantastic addition and a huge change for the better, taking a fairly standard anime plot and making it a little more intriguing. There’s also a fair amount of new content following the Go-Home Club as well.
Combat in The Caligula Effect has a lot in common with Supergiant’s RPG classic Transistor. As in that game, you’ll stop time and queue up attacks, then watch how the results play out. Unlike the quasi-turn-based mode in that game, though, here you’ve got multiple characters to work with and victory revolves around teamwork. Many enemies have powerful defenses that you won’t be able to break through with brute force.
Instead, combo attacks are the way to go; try knocking them into the air then having one of your gunslingers blast them while they’re helpless. After queuing up your attacks, you’ll get a visualization of how your actions will play out in the coming round, allowing you to refine your choices as the battle goes on. You can also delay characters’ actions in order to time everything just so. The whole thing’s very satisfying once it all comes together, but it’s also fairly time-consuming so it’s nice that there’s an autobattle option for dealing with mooks. Overdose offers a little more complexity with a set of stylish new super attacks.
The most damning aspect of the original Caligula Effect was the absolutely abysmal performance on the PS Vita. The game simply was not made for that platform. It was practically unplayable. Overdose, mercifully, isn’t restricted to the cramped confines of a handheld, so it runs ten thousand times better. It looks great and, more noticeably, it sounds great. μ’s music is central to the plot and plays throughout each area; in a particularly nice point, dungeons and battles use the same music, as when you engage in combat the soundtrack kicks into gear and a vocal track is added. It’s incredibly endearing.
While the original Caligula Effect lasted around 25 hours, the updated The Caligula Effect: Overdose adds a bit more content and is likely to run you around a solid 30 or more. That’s not bad at all given the fantastic combat and sound. Now that this game’s at home on a set of platforms that can actually handle it, this is the best time to get into the groove.