Trapped in a virtual world, humans have fallen under the influence of a virtuadoll. However, most humans don’t realize that this virtual world is not the real world, and thus are perfectly content to stay there. Welcome to the world of The Caligula Effect.
The Caligula Effect is a turn-based strategy-like RPG in which you play as a member of the Go Home Club. You have recently realized that the world you are in is not the real world, and that you are trapped amongst a ton of other people who are stuck repeating high school over and over again. In order to escape, you will need to face down the Ostinato Musicians, each one tougher and more devious than the last. Who knows what will await you around the corner, but all you can hope is that you are able to escape from this world.
The writing in The Caligula Effect is pretty good overall, although I did find myself frequently just tuning it out as certain things got repetitive. It didn’t really help that there were some plot lines involved in it that I simply couldn’t stand. One of those plot lines, presented pretty early on in Chapter 2, almost made me just want to turn off the game and never look at it again. In Chapter 2 (and some points later), your team is trying to get in to meet with the second Musician. This involves running around to do things for the “Flower Princesses”. The thing is, these “Flower Princesses” are shown as slightly overweight models. The game makes it a very strong point to fat shame these characters, and continue to do so even beyond that chapter. This sort of fat shaming was making me extremely agitated and, as I said, nearly caused me to just completely turn off the game from how over the top it got.
The combat is… well it’s extremely repetitive. That’s a big theme I found in this game. If you’re like me and like to fight all of the enemies in your way, you’ll quickly find that to win battles, all you need to do is just spam the default skills a few times (with a few exceptions on some characters). Turns are done through inputting up to three skills per character and placed along a timeline. As you choose these skills, you’ll be able to see how the turn will play out… well, play out for the most part. Sometimes the game will decide to have slightly different timing from what you inputted and just completely screw up your inputs. Anyways, once you’ve input one character’s turn, you will move on to the next one, until you’ve confirmed all four character’s turns.
Following the confirmation of the fourth character’s turn, the turn will start to play out along the timeline. All you can do is watch until a character’s turn comes up again. This may sometimes come sooner than expected if a character is stunned or otherwise interrupted, which will happen even if you, yourself, stun the enemy to interrupt their turn due to the game sometimes deciding to go slightly off what was supposed to happen anyways. It’s partly due to this, and partly due to choices changing depending on later characters attacks, that I wish the game would let you go back to another character so long as you haven’t completed that initial turn. Of course, completing the battle in that initial turn is pretty important as doing so will grant you a 2x experience bonus for doing so.
The Caligula Effect features a social link-like system, however instead of only being with a handful of people, you will instead be able to get all up close and personal with over 500 NPCs. By doing this, you will be able to unravel the secrets of the 21 different classes. The thing is, much like everything else so far, this ALSO gets extremely repetitive. The basic idea is that you get to know them, they’ll give you a “quest” in which you need to recruit them to your party to complete (available starting midway through Chapter 2), you complete that quest, and you’ll then be allowed to get closer to them. I only actually did a few of the quests – for now, at least – as I decided to just focus mainly on my main party members and the story, but simply the act of trying to find all these NPCs to even start to get to know them was getting extremely boring.
As if it’s a theme of this game, the music will quickly prove to get repetitive and annoying. Each song is supposed to be that musician’s song that the characters trapped in here are listening to to stay trapped within. While they are nice for about the first 5 minutes in each area, after you’re in an area for a good 2+ hours, you’ll likely find yourself muting your Vita to not have to hear the music anymore.
The Caligula Effect suffers from a major technical issue as well – the game runs like absolute garbage at some points. Actually, it runs like garbage at a lot of points, and some are just more garbage than others. You’ll frequently find yourself watching battles play out in slow motion from all the effects trying to happen at once as the game just crawls to a halt framerate-wise. One battle in particular had the game actually skipping portions of the fight just to try and keep up with everything that was going on. It’s not limited to just combat either – simply running around will sometimes see the framerate drop down, causing a noticeable chug as it attempts to load everything around it. Having played the game on both Vita and PSTV I noticed this issue happening on both, and I don’t know if it’s due to having some of the worst of it happen on PSTV but I saw some more serious framerate drops happen there.
The Caligula Effect had a good premise to start out with, but the repetitive nature of it along with the technical issues simply bog the game down. Unless you’re really desperate for an RPG to play on Vita, this game gets an immediate pass from me unless they do manage to patch this. Of course, seeing as the game ran the same way on the Japanese version, I’m not very hopeful it will get patched but who knows, maybe it will someday!
The Caligula Effect Review Score
I didn’t try out any other post-game content which may have provided some harder content for me to play with, but simply beating the game proved to be a hard enough task with all the issues within.
I was provided with a review code for PlayStation Vita by the publisher.