There are some games that come along once a generation that beg the question: why did this game get released in America? These games usually are the ones to only be released in Japan, and ones that if you really want to get your hands on it, you need to import it from the far side of the world. Well, Trinity Universe is one of those games. Developed by Nippon Ichi Software and Idea Factory, this game defines the term Japanese RPG. With a turn-based battle system, anime character and cut scenes, and weirder gameplay elements than you can shake a stick at; this game is definitely one that is going to find a niche audience. However, at the same time, if you are a fan of any JRPG, you still may want to give this game another look.
There are two main stories in this game, each with its own storyline and characters, but it takes the story as a whole and looks at it from different angles. First is the story for beginners, which is the story of the Demon Dog King Kanata. Your job is to eliminate all drifting objects in the Netheruniverse. The goal to do this is to embark on a grand adventure traveling to all the object’s dungeons and destroying their gravity core, allowing them to float away. The second story is of the Valkyrie Rizelea, which goes in conjunction with Kanata’s story. In Rizelea’s story, you are tasked with trying to figure out why all the objects are in the Netheruniverse in the first place. The stories work well together, but are a bit confusing to pay attention to at first. Once it gets going though, it can be pretty interesting, and makes for a good diversion from the gameplay. It’s not the main draw to the game, but the story is pretty well done.
The gameplay in Trinity Universe is the standard JRPG turn based battle system. It does offer a few twists. You rely on Action Points to survive and attack. Every action that you do within the battle drains this meter constantly. You can also choose not to use any in a round by pressing a button to save them. When you do enter into a random battle with an opponent, you are given the option of choosing from three different attacks: Rush, which is one blow with multiple hits, Mighty Blow which is a single strike at full power and Magical hits all enemies, but drains a lot of AP. If you are able to chain certain types of attacks together, you are able to launch a superior attack, which is a canned animation that deals extra damage. Along with these three attacks, the fourth face button allows you to use an item, heal the party or perform another action, depending on the characters applied abilities. There are a couple extra elements to the battle that I will not go into here, but they attempt to add more and more depth as you progress through the game.
Overall, I liked the battle system. However, it can get very overcomplicated, very quickly. It can also get off to a really slow pace. They do make a habit of explaining everything pretty well, and adding things in slowly, but I often forgot some of the things I learned earlier in the game as they continued to add stuff and bring things to my attention. It’s a very well done battle system, and also ramps up pretty well, becoming very challenging in points. As with most JRPGs, grinding is key, and will be the determining factor of life or death in some battles. However, if you grind enough and stick with all the various elements that make up the gameplay, you will have a very satisfying time with the battle system.
Other than the battle system itself, there are a few other gameplay elements. Each object in the Netheruniverse is a dungeon to itself. Once you decide to pick an item, you get to embark on a dungeon crawl. You can choose from a couple dozen dungeons at a time, and if you are particular to exploring a certain dungeon, you can anchor it to the Netheruniverse to explore it at your leisure. I like the dungeon crawling system, as it keeps things interesting, and makes for some varied gameplay when you want to grind levels. You can also use a search mechanic in dungeons to search for hidden treasure that you would not see otherwise. In addition to all this, there is also a days of the week system in place, and certain items and dungeons will only stick around for a day or so, so you need to be getting to them quickly if you want to explore each one. The days of the week also affect some of the other elements in the game, such as when certain shops are open.
When you are not doing battle in the dungeons, there are also “events” that you can go on. This basically means that you will be experiencing a cut scene about an upcoming dungeon or to progress the story. These cut scenes are only static images of the characters, with some voiceover work. The characters simply stand there and change poses every once in a while in the cut scenes, which doesn’t really provide much character. It can make them kind of boring to watch. I wish that there would have been full cut scenes with the character walking around and such, but the static images are all very good looking and colorful and fit well with the style of the rest of the game.
In terms of presentation, Trinity Universe goes for a full anime style. It has catchy Japanese music, and also like I said all of the characters are colorful and over the top animated. Kanata and Subaki are the most over the top, as they present an animal style of a dog and cat, along with a human counterpart. Again, I really like this visual style, as it really fits with the game perfectly. The voice acting, when it is there is pretty well done, and there is some really hilarious, tongue in cheek dialogue here and there. Some of the characters joke like they are aware that they are in a video game, and they can have conversations that really catch you off guard and make you laugh out loud. However, the rest of the voice work in the game is pretty poor, as the characters will spout the same lines of dialogue in battle, and when they are walking around in dungeons. The art style of the dungeons is good, as the enemy designs are interesting and unique. Overall, the presentation is really strong and well done, and gives the game a unique feel.
As a whole, I did enjoy Trinity Universe. It kept me hooked while I was playing it, and when I wasn’t, I felt like I should be. As I have said, it is a very niche title, and I am really not expecting everyone to go out and play it. This is definitely for the hardcore JRPG crowd, as I know they will fall in love with this game and it will keep them busy for hours on end. It is definitely a game that I think deserves attention from those willing to look past its weak points, and if you have a JRPG itch that needs to be scratched, this game is definitely one that can fill the void.
Review copy provided by publisher.