Title: Mind Zero
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Aksys (Acquire, Zero Div)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, and Use of Tobacco.
Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series has started a lot of trends. It’s led to JRPGs with visual novel elements, titles where the main characters have something of a supernatural, alternate identity that helps them battle evil, and of course games where people are living an ordinary life, perhaps even falling in love, by day and fighting at night. Mind Zero is unique in that it samples from the first Persona games in nearly every aspect. The result of such callbacks is mixed. In some ways, it reminds me of the original dungeon crawling and turn-based battling I loved so much, but sadly, occasionally falters as well.
It’s all in the MIND.
As in most JRPGs, Mind Zero essentially puts the fate of the world in the hands of high schoolers. Of course, this happens accidentally. For our main character, Kei, it begins when he’s walking his friend and classmate, Shizuku, home. Shizuku has some supernatural abilities, and senses a young boy is in trouble. Kei sends her to safety and steps in, only to find himself at what appears to be death’s door. He’s told to choose a weapon, which also results in him pairing with a MIND. He awakes, and finds himself in the midst of a battle against someone who’s MIND meeting didn’t go so well. Fortunately, another classmate named Sana who’s also mind a deal with a MIND, is there to help. The two beat the enemy, save the child, and get to safety with Shizuku before the police arrive. Because of course the police are after all MIND users and victims.
It turns out our world is the Outer World, and there’s a parallel Inner World. For some reason, entryways to the Inner World are opening to the Outer World. People are getting sucked in and MINDs are seeping out, and Kei, Sana, and Shizuku form a team and get involved with an investigation to find out what’s going on and hopefully stop the madness.
Brief shining moments, accompanied by stretches of ennui and routine.
There are things I loved about Mind Zero. Aksys’ translation and localization are wonderful, as usual. Especially since the story tackles some important issues like identity, individuality, and the nature of power. The mythology is interesting, and I was especially curious about what would happen to Leo, who had entered a less-than-ideal relationship with a MIND. But, as often is the case, such bright spots were countered with elements that often left me in alternating states of wanting and boredom.
For instance, as good as the translation was and interesting as some characters could be, moments highlighting their development were surrounded by story segments that would get bogged down in tedium and the explanation of every little thing. For every five minutes where dialogue was crisp and realistic, there were 10-15 minute blocks where nothing remotely interesting was happening. Skipping said dialogue was an option, sure, but who knows what good or informative points could be skipped by such an action.
Perhaps the one area where Mind Zero continually impressed were when my team went into action. Anytime I entered a dungeon, I knew I was in for a good time. Exploration was fun, and reminiscent of first-person dungeon crawlers like Revelations: Persona, Etrian Odyssey, and Wizardry. The turn-based battles were even better, with a system that challenged me to think which approach would be best for each fight – to have my party attack as they were, allowing their MIND to recover MP and TP for attacks at the rist of losing LP and possibly dying, or relying on the MINDs to act as meatshields and attackers to breeze through a fight. Even the skills, which could be swapped between characters thanks to cards, allowed me to put together a party of who I wanted and formulate various battle plans around them. I relished opportunities when I’d be able to make the best use of this system where I’d alternate between having my characters rely on their own strengths or their MINDs, and even when each new area ramped up the difficulty, I welcomed the challenge. However, I would recommend players spend a lot of time making sure Kei, Sana, and Leo keep their levels up.
Yet, there were some things even a fantastic battle system couldn’t distract me from. I suppose my biggest problem with Mind Zero is that it takes too much from Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series. The idea of having an otherworldly guardian that represents a different face of one’s self, the first person dungeon crawling that mimicks that of the first two Persona games, character designs, and the use of adolescent heroes and occasionally drama to add layers to the story all borrow so heavily – too heavily. It left me wondering if, when I was enjoying myself, it was because I liked Mind Zero, or if it was because of the callbacks to games like Revelations: Persona. It made other issues I had with the game, like story pacing problems and a hatred of nearly all the female character’s dubs, seem minor.
Yet, a part of me feels the other issue I had with Mind Zero haunted me more. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this JRPG ends on a cliffhanger. Part of me was torn up as, after over 35 hours, I expected some sort of resolution. I felt like I deserved answers, and robbed because I endured so much dungeon crawling and so many tedious events to find more mysteries awaited me. On the other hand, a small part of me was excited by this prospect. Because while I enjoyed Mind Zero, there were so many areas where this game could use improvement, and a sequel could not only rectify these missteps, but inject a well needed dose of originallity and enthusiasm.
Finding something to love.
With Mind Zero, it’s all about finding a reason to play. If you can discover something about this JRPG that you enjoy, be it the battle system, the visual novel elements, the callbacks to the original Persona installments, the mythology, or simply a love for Aksys, you’ll find a reason to keep going. It may prove hard going sometimes, especially due to an overwhelming amount of exposition, but I’m confident that there is an audience for this particular JRPG. It may not be a large number of people, and even they may find themselves bothered by the tedium and copycatting, but Mind Zero does have its moments and I’m sure its localization and release will make some Vita owners happy.
Site [Mind Zero]