Okay, finished first cycle so I can finally do a good review.
Gameplay is like a slightly dumber version of Ogre Battle. You put units in a grid formation, each one having different attacks depending on whether they are on the front, middle or back, and they fight automatically without any way to give them input. Once some conditions are met, you can use special attacks (usually team attacks between some characters) that have some special characteristics like attacking the leader specifically. Just like Ogre Battle, Leader KO = Unit KO and Main Character KO = Game Over.
The biggest difference is in making the units. You need to roll (Actually, press the Change button) and get a specific type of “room” (The platform where you place your unit). The number of slots you get is random, so you can get rooms that can house four units, or five, or six, until the best 3x3 room that houses 9 units. Size of the unit is irrelevant unlike Ogre Battle, so all characters occupy only a single slot regardless of what they are (That’s nice). To make things more complicated, the rooms come with specific “decors” (To make it simple, bonuses such as +atk, +exp and so on, though most are more complex than that), so rolling rooms until you get one that has the decor you want as well as a good number of slots can be VERY frustrating at first.
You also can “inspect” rooms. Which is basically the equivalent of going into Disgaea’s item worlds, except you’re going inside the room. This has four uses: First, it’s the only way to grind levels outside story battles. Second, killing the boss on each floor increases the bonuses you get from the room’s decors. Third, every twenty floors the room gains an additional slot (So it’s possible to “make” yourself a 3x3 room). And fourth, you gain Room Points which can be used to upgrade several stats relevant to the overall unit, such as stamina, movement, range, and so on.
Overview battle is turn-based and grid-shaped unlike Ogre’s RTSish style. However, even though there are “rounds”, the turns are actually determined by the unit’s (Or rather, the unit’s leader’s) Action stat, so it’s possible to move several times in one round. Each action consumes Stamina, and you suffer stat penalties when it gets too low, while on the other hand special attacks can only be used when stamina goes under 80%. Movement type (plains, mountains, water, etc) affects your movement range.
Inspection battles behave differently from regular battles in that there are several rules present. To begin with, even though battles end when you kill the level boss, there’s a limited number of rounds before everything ends prematurely, at which point you are declared winner and move to the next floor (But don’t get the decor bonus from the boss). Second, there are random rules in each floor that can be beneficial or completely fuck you over, such as either Double EXP or Infinite skills, or enemies being invisible or getting about 20% stronger each round.
Finally, job classes are pretty simplified. You usually get new unit options after you fight that unit type on a story battle. You do not unlock new units through any achievement (Except for one that’s unlocked at the start of the second cycle) and they do not have tiers (Meaning there’s only one type of each one). Somewhat lazily, hero characters are almost all just stronger color swaps of regular units, attacks included
The story however, is worthy of note. While we’re not exactly dealing with any Shakespeare work here, it’s still likely the most plot-heavy game so far. While there’s a lot of comedy (<3 Gig), it can get pretty dark at times in the Good path, and the Demon path unlocked in the second playthrough lets you become a psychopath genocidal monster with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, making the whole thing pretty damn hardcore. It can be somewhat surprising compared to other N1 games, though they’ve generally showed they CAN stick a few dark elements in an otherwise comic tale, such as Seedle trying to rape Salome in Makai Kingdom. This is still the bloodiest game so far.
I still wish they had made the whole deal at the end clearer since there are a lot of plot points that get really confusing though…
Finally, there’s one weird thing to note: Revya, the main character. On some aspects, he is a silent protagonist in that you can rename him if you don’t like the default, choose gender, and has no voice acting. On the other hand, there’s the detail that he actually speaks. You sort of get “dialogue options” for what to say, but all you get, with one exception, is only one option each time. Basically, the only difference with other characters is that the dialogue appears in a little box in the middle of the screen instead of the bottom, but on any other account he’s just a normal quiet character with a slightly low number of lines. He also does speak a whole lot in the Demon path since, well, the whole thing is about him going apeshit insane on everyone.
Overall, pretty fun game. My only real complaint is the scarcity of high-level challenges and no crossover super bosses other than Asagi.