It’s difficult to talk about this title but it’s one that has been in the news recently and consequently due to it’s controversy a game I wanted to play. If you’re unaware Omega Z, originally created by Japanese publisher D3P, was to receive English localization by UK publisher PQube. PQube specializes in releasing niche’ titles from Japan primarily for the UK market. However as their titles are in English and Sony’s PS4 (and PS3) have no region lock it’s easy for American gamers to play their titles. The whole PAL/NTSC issue is also largely a thing of the past.
Omega Z seemingly flew under the radar of releases until March 2018, when the UK’s Video Standards Council refused PQube a Certificate of Classification, nullifying any physical box release. Now conversely to what the bulk of this blog has been about in regards to owning niche’ (also read ‘cringe’) games physically, refusing a physical release does not necessarily doom a title since many games on modern consoles see digital releases only. Digital releases ultimately are very convenient and it is something I’ll have to personally accept in that eventually there will be titles I’ll have to play that will be digital only; I’ll live.
So PQube continued with localization, anticipating a digital-only release.
After finishing up most of the English text (fairly quickly, to be honest) and having most of the game’s English localization sorted out, seemingly from left field PQube announces that all plans to release the title have been dropped, not only angering many players but also causing a good deal of confusion. In no way was the confusion helped by PQube’s refusal to field any inquiries regarding what was told to them by, their own admissions, Sony themselves.
This post isn’t to argue semantics or stance on censorship. Personally I believe it’s a very difficult subject to touch upon, especially with video games. It’s a bit of a Catch 22 of sorts; many video games are excessively violent and cater for adults, however when companies attempt censorship their efforts are reciprocated through loss of sales. A primary case study that most everyone knows of was with the home port of Mortal Kombat. Nintendo, it’s console marketed towards a family audience, censored most of the blood and gore of Mortal Kombat on the SNES. On the other hand, SEGA allowed the title to release near true to it’s arcade roots, and conversely many more copies sold on the Genesis than the SNES.
The Video Standards Council’s statement also doesn’t really make a lot of sense when dissected. In their admission, there is concern that individuals under eighteen (the game would have received a PEGI 18 rating, which is similar to the ESRB’s Mature 17 rating) would have access to the title. You could seemingly make that argument for ANY game with a PEGI 18 rating. You cannot sit in front of me and say that PLENTY of teens did not play Rockstar’s hit games such as Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption 2. Kids were all over those games. It’s so short sighted to believe that only adults played these titles I’m going to go sell beach front property on Everest.
The Council does bring up legitimate concern in the focus of the game – a school setting with questionable characters – which I think could have been adjusted. As I’ll discuss, there is an extreme amount of fan-service and mini-games; a lot of them fairly pointless and in many cases skip-able anyways. I think most of these could have been replaced with static images or automatic segments, and they would have not detracted from the title itself, albeit many would have still cried censorship foul. Most of these changes were likely out of the ability of PQube however, since they’re primarily a publisher (or is localizer a better term?) of games. And again there is a legitimate argument in presenting the title as-is, rather if it’s altered beyond recognition what is the point?
So onto the game.
Omega Z recently received it’s “Asian market” release. If you’re unfamiliar with games in Japan they often go through a long lifecycle. The initial releases are typically in very few numbers and often themselves accompanied by special editions. Gamers in the US complain about $60 USD prices but in Japan most games are well above that in USD equivalence. Eventually if a game has sold well enough the Japanese market will receive a price drop version (for PS4, and in the case of Omega Z, they’re often called “The Best” version) of the title, placing it in roughly the $25-$30 USD price range. Even further after time the larger Asian market, China, Taiwan, Korea, receives the “Asian market” release. These are typically still in Japanese but accompanied by text translations from the aforementioned countries. This particular game reviewed is that later Asian market version, and having come from Hong Kong took quite a while for me to get through standard PostNL of roughly around a month.
Despite it’s heavy fan-service focus, Omega Z is a roguelike RPG at it’s core. These type of games have a decent & consistent following since the 1980s. The way to think of them is similar to RPGs you know, but with particular challenging aspects added. The two biggest are randomly generated dungeons – often the most touted feature of roguelikes, increasing replay value – and a return of all playable characters to Level 1 once dungeons are exited, while retaining any items acquired. The idea is that the player will eventually accumulate the ideal equipment and items with play throughs and elimination, but at the risk of losing all their hard earned equipment should they be killed.
And that’s what really unfortunate about Omega Z, as for a roguelike it is decent. It plays out in a turn-based -style RPG, where when you move your character(s) enemy characters will move. It gives you time to plan out routes and anticipate combat. Combat itself is fairly simple but rewards strong strategies and usage of equipment. You also are faced with an almost unfair ceiling for item limit, so eventually you’ll have to drop or needlessly use items to clear space.
It’s challenging. But you’re not here to read about that. You want to know what makes Omega Labyrinth Z Omega Labyrinth Z. Alright then.
Omega Z is actually a sequel to the PS Vita’s Omega Labyrinth, but the original need not be played to understand the gist of the story. The main character, Aina Akemiya, attends Anberyl Girls Academy. Akemiya learns of an item called the Holy Grail that can grant wishes. Her wish is to obtain it and use it to – can you guess?… make her A cup breasts larger. A bunch of stuff happens, Akemiya finds the Grail, and… destroys it. Some time later, a mysterious dungeon opens in Anberyl, a new rival comes to the school, and that sets the stage for Omega Z’s story.
The game switches back and forth between visual novel elements and dungeon crawling. Item management and usage is a key theme throughout the game, as mentioned items are retained once a dungeon is completed and more powerful equipment need be eventually secured. Items form the first real cringe segment of the game, and that is in item’s “appraisement.” When you pick up select items, the characters won’t know what they do or the specific stats levels for the item. When the dungeon is left, the characters have to appraise them… by utilizing their breasts. Guess what you’ll have to do with the PS4’s analog thumb sticks? After you’re “finished” – and you’ll know when you’re finished – you find out what item you received.
After brief segments back at the school building, it’s back into the dungeons. As you progress new levels are unlocked, with both difficulty and the amount of floors need to traverse increased. Prior dungeons can be replayed, which allows stuck players attempts to obtain equipment that hopefully appears through luck of randomization. In addition to retaining items, players retain Omega Power, which is utilized for a lot of item related features back in the school sessions. Eventually players will be able to obtain many levels in one play through. Continuous leveling up also increases the characters bust sizes, which awards them stat bonuses (Akemiya, being A, gets a wider range of bonuses due to the… um… length she has to travel).
I’ve elected to not show the mini-games – sans the item appraisement segment – because many of them were controversial. If you want to know what most of them are, there are many story segments that produce character specific mini-games. The majority of them are move the analog sticks and click or hold a specific segment. There are also dungeon segments that often randomly generate, such as a hot springs that heals the current party. Back at Anberyl the player can elect to use items for an “awakening” session that has a lot of cringe to it depending on both the character you’ve selected and how far you’ve progressed. There are also points that strangely enough the game seemingly wants you to have your companion captured, as it’ll produce a mini-game or similar fan-service session.
All of this basically culminates in you trying to get all items, enemies, and events & images discovered in the game’s “library,” which can be accessed at any point. My only major complaint in the roguelike aspects is the progression; not a lot truly changes from each level. After a while you start to get a good idea of how particular dungeons will generate and you can plan accordingly. Traps and item drops also have a clear consistency as to where they appear. There’s overall not a lot of surprises, yet the difficulty curve is very linear, with not a lot of need to actually replay levels unless you had a difficult time with item management.
My final though; Is this something you should buy? The roguelike gameplay has a very difficult time redeeming this title. It’s premise and overall presentation is just way out there, even by cringe Japan standards. Want to know a better way to spend roughly thirty dollars if you just have to have anime and fan-service? Buy Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash. Maybe I’ll talk about that title in the future.