Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a near-future themed dungeon crawler from Nippon Ichi Software (NIS), and was originally released stateside for the PlayStation Vita back in 2015. Now out on Steam, players everywhere will have the opportunity to play it on the big screen (or monitor) without having to dust off the ol' PlayStation TV. (Everyone has that thing, right?)
A mere $19.99 American will get you Operation Abyss, and give you many hours of monster bashing, stat-crunching fun in this Wizardry clone that's perfect for those of us who want to dip our toes in the classic dungeon-crawler universe without diving in and drowning.
One of the best things about Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is that it wastes no time dropping players into the fray. Unlike the massive AAA hits of the season that require you to call out of work just to make it through the introduction, less than five minutes gets you into the heart of Abyss's light sci-fi world.
While the game opens with what seems like a typical amnesia "where am I?" plot, it's just an excuse to throw the player's characters into their new role as clandestine government agents in a speedy fashion. As new agents, it's your team's job to fight the monstrous "variants" that are infecting Tokyo via portals that crop up throughout the city.
You may be saying "Isn't that basically the plot of Conception, or that anime Tokko, or any other manga series from the past decade?" The answer is yes, but that matters about as much as bad press matters to G2A's bottom line–that is to say, not at all. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is fun, fast to get into, and uses a hub-based mission system that gets players into dungeons faster than most games take to get to their title screens.
There are some typos here and there, which have been carried over from the Vita version, but they're never so critical as to obscure meaning.
For those unfamiliar with Wizardry games, especially their later Japanese-spawned entries, suffice it to say that they consist of first-person dungeon wandering through grid'ed environs, where players control a party of characters in turn-based combat and have a metric ton of stats, gear, and spells to play with. Operation Abyss contains all of those traits, but trades the more common sword and sorcery theme for a near-modern future filled with high-tech laboratories and medical facilities hidden beneath local high schools.
Where Wizardry games, and their recent ilk such as Stranger of Sword City, often lose people is in the complexity of their numbers' systems. Players need to be aware of no less than two dozen stats and traits to fully utilize their party, and often the mere act of equipping a new sword can take minutes. The fun comes from eventually fine-tuning your crew into the ultimate monster-slaying heroes, but it can come at the price of playability. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy skips this terrifying time-sink by using story progression as a way to spread out the introduction of new stats and systems. Certainly this is nothing new to the gaming world, but being able to plunk your way through a few dungeons before having to worry about crafting is a nice change of pace, and makes learning the complexities of the game engine a gradual pleasure, rather than a brick wall on the highway.
The dungeon crawling portions of the game (by far, the bulk of it) have players moving through various locations (office buildings, sewers, netherworldly hell-pits, etc.) one square at a time, sometimes discovering hidden doors or passages to new floors. There are enemy encounters, some of which are visible on the map, and some of which are random, during which the player is given a first-person view of an enemy illustration bordered by their characters' portraits. Players select each of their characters' actions for that turn (such as attacking, using an item, casting a spell, or running), and then all character and enemy actions play out in a predetermined order. It's a classic system that feels satisfying, and the wide variety of spells, attacks, group actions, and weapon/item varieties keep things from getting dull. It can be challenging as well, as items are needed to save in-dungeon, leveling up can only be done between missions, and enemies frequently call for backup. All of that means players must plan their excursions well, or face the butt-whooping consequences.
The gameplay segments between missions are light visual novel-style story bits, and occasionally require players to visit different locations and speak to NPC's. While the dungeon content can be graphic, (dead student corpses are pretty much littered around like throw rugs,) NPC's are often humorous, and range from the traditional ditzy schoolgirl otaku, to the bizarre wannabe-comedian Texas transfer student (not kidding). The plot is delivered during these segments, often by your government handler Alice. The system is not original, but it's crafted in such a way that we never felt as though our time was being wasted. Missions were quick to come and satisfying, and Abyss never played the much-hated "no time to level up or upgrade your loadout, it's an emergency!" card that always sucks.
Stats range from the normal physical stuff (Strength, etc.) to obtuse traits (Competitive, Academic, etc.) These matter, but for players who just want to beat up variants and go through the story, the pre-made party is balanced to require minimal upkeep. There's enough in the character creation system (known as accepting applicants,) to make another play-through of the game worthwhile to try out different traits and spells, not to mention the million different weapon varieties.
Since it's a Vita port, Abyss handles a gamepad well; what's more surprising is that it seems most at home with a mouse, and shows it's old-school roots when played with one. The only UI downside we came across is in the "Development Lab," where goods are crafted, scrapped, or enhanced. There are a few unnecessary clicks needed to go from developing gear (which must be done in order to purchase it), buying it (aka "issuing" it), and then equipping it. The interface here is the same as the one present in the Vita version, and is an area where the port could've been tweaked to improve upon its forbearer. Still, the game's performance is whip-quick, even on a low-end laptop, so an extra button press or two can be forgiven.
graphics and sound
The graphics of the dungeons are nothing special, but that's the case with most dungeon crawlers of this type. The real glitz comes from the character and enemy illustrations, which come in both beautiful anime designs and funky monsters. The latter are in equal measures terrifyingly serious and goofy-ishly grotesque. Take the troll family of variants–one wears gaudy jewelry and a skin-tight pink jumpsuit, while another is in a child's baseball uniform and wielding a wicked-looking knife, and yet another is clearly a delinquent father in a ripped and tortured wife-beater. The variety adds some quirky character to the game, and had us pausing at each new encounter to take in the weirdness.
The downside to the illustrations is in the resolution. On the Vita they were crisp and clear, but on the big screen they show their limitations. Edges are sometimes jagged, and details are occasionally muddy. While we'd much rather have the port (which is in all technical ways expert) than not have one at all, the low-res illustrations are a slight disappointment. The colors, at least, are on point, and the whole package looks heads-and-shoulders above the cartridge's performance on a PlayStation TV.
The voices included are English, and are high quality if a little silly; those who don't watch anime regularly may be unnerved. The music is nifty, however, and we never tired of hearing our party yip in pain as we accidentally walked into a wall for the umpteenth time.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is both fun and approachable, like the best guest at a party. It doesn't bore you with convoluted ways to make your guacamole taste better, but you know it could if you asked for it. It's as complicated as you want it to be, and a nice challenge no matter what.
If the illustration resolutions had been upped, some typos fixed, and the UI improved a few ticks over it's initial design, Operation Abyss would be a must-have game; as it stands, it'll have to survive just being a great one. Don't miss out on the sequel, either, Operation Babel, coming out May 31st, 2017.
|+ Easy to pick up and play||– Images aren't crisp|
|+ Plenty of stats for dungeon crawling pros||– Some excessive UI clicking|
|+ Nice anime artworks||– Typos every now and again|
|+ Fun enemy variety|