Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy Review

After finding some modest success after last year’s Demon Gaze, NIS America took it upon themselves to localize another dungeon crawler from the small Japanese development team at Experience Inc. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is the second title from Experience to get an English translation. While it shares many similarities with Demon Gaze, it is more attuned to the classic Wizardry style type of gameplay despite the futuristic and cyberpunk setting.

While it might not be obvious to western players, Operation Abyss is a combined remake of two of Experience’s first developed PC games: Generation XTH -CODE HAZARD and Generation XTH -CODE BREAKER.  So while the game might be seen as a follow up, it feels a bit more ‘old-school’ in structure with more of the standard elements that dungeon crawlers are known for.

The modern setting and stylish artstyle highlight this dungeon crawler.

After a bit of a cold-open, the game begins at the headquarters of the Code Physics Agency, where the player learns about the threat of genetically engineered monsters known as Variants, and the emergence of portals leading to a mysterious dimension called the Abyss. A team of specially equipped teenagers called The Xth Squad (pronounced zith) is tasked to investigate the abyss and put an end to the Variants threatening Japan.

Let me get this out of the way first. Operation Abyss is a Wizardry-style dungeon crawler through-and-through. This means most everything is seen from the first person perspective. Rather than dedicated cutscenes, the narrative is delivered as text set to stylish character sprites and artwork. You move around dungeon hallways in a grid step-by-step with a first person viewpoint and in these dungeons, you battle monsters sprites with a round-based battle system. Don’t come into the game expecting choreographed animations or visible characters outside of their menu portraits.

As with many dungeon crawlers, the heart of the gameplay lies in a class system, and the player has full control in how they coordinate their team of six. Your party can be arranged into a front and back row, and each class has different equipment types they are allowed to wield, as well as special abilities that can be used to deal damage or bolster your squad. The basic set up is satisfactory and allows for a fair bit of customization in how you pick classes and roles to build your team. In fact, the system is so open that those unfamiliar with these sorts of class systems might be a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, the game throws you a starter party to use if you don't want to deal with party creation.

Variants are faced in a first-person perspective.

Where Operation Abyss gets a little confusing is how it renames many of the classic aspects to fit the jargon of the game’s world: “Classes” are now called Blood Codes, Races are Types, your inventory is called the ‘sub-disk’, money is called GP, you ‘issue’ something to ‘buy’ it, etc.

The game is fairly light on tutorials in general. While a couple of the very basics are explained, most of the rest is left in an in-game manual – things like what various stats do and a glossary to explain specific terms. If you are familiar with the genre, wrapping your head around the systems isn’t too much of a hurdle but for newcomers, having many of the game mechanics dumped on you at the beginning it could be very off-putting.

In addition, the very first dungeon is oddly one of the trickiest ones in the game. While it’s not especially lengthy, it involves finding secret passages between floors, and using particular ones in order to find a hidden switch. The game is not one to ease the player into it, and it might take some time to get comfortable.

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Oddly enough, I think the game still works as a decent introduction to the genre, despite a bumpy introduction. The battle system, dungeon designs, mission structure never become too overwrought, and the flow of the game remains relatively simple the whole way through. Because Operation Abyss is a remake of an older title, it carries more traditional mechanics than something like Demon Gaze, which introduced a few of its own things with the rent systems, tertiary demon party members, and loot portals. Instead, Operation Abyss keeps a more standard loot system, without any need to worry about item gems or rent.

I totally creamed this boss .... yeah

This game is also generally less difficult than Demon Gaze. Because you don't have to rely on an autonomously acting demon, I felt in much more control in Operation Abyss. While not a total cakewalk, basic strategies - such as using a knight to soak up damage – will get players through most of the game’s major boss fights. Even post-game encounters are far less hair-pulling than Demon Gaze, which often relied on bosses with high amount of HP regeneration every turn. 

It’s also worth noting that Operation Abyss is quite light on ‘fanservice’ elements. Outside of one individual artwork of two of the characters in bikinis, there are really no other cases of pandering to speak of.

The game is structured with a mission system, categorized either as a Key Mission or side missions. Despite the distinction, a side mission may sometimes be needed to progress the story, so it’s best just to complete most of them as you play. Most of the ‘sidequests’ involve taking out a sub-boss Variant, which you would likely normally encounter anyway, so it’s not really a distraction or extra time commitment to beat most of them.

As with some dungeon crawlers, you can find yourself spending a lot of time exploring and fighting battles without too much to look at other than similar looking rooms and many monsters you fight again and again and again. The game automatically fills the dungeon map for you, and there are systems in place to allow auto-traveling to certain spots that have been previously visited. Exploration of dungeons lead to finding items, as well as shortcuts, to make revisits a little more convenient. Eventually you gain the ability to 'warp' to any visited place on a map, which makes additional expeditions in the late-game less stressful.

Overall, Operation Abyss is a solid dungeon crawler with a stylish aesthetic and satisfying core systems. The narrative isn't very compelling, but works well enough as a vehicle to drive the game forward behind the plentiful dungeon crawling. It's a surprisingly cohesive game and a gratifying experience that dungeon crawler fans will likely find enjoyment in.

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