Attack the Backlog: Letting loose in Trinity Universe (#2)

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Yesterday, we took a first look at Trinity Universe, a game I’ve had on my shelf for probably a good eight or nine years or so, but which for one reason or another I’d never gotten around to. I liked what I saw enough to want to continue — so here we are again with another look at what this collaborative effort between Idea Factory, Gust and Nippon Ichi Software has to offer.

Once again, we’ll be accompanying our commentary here with some straightforward gameplay footage for you to check out, so please feel free to enjoy that as you read or at your own leisure.

With that preamble over and done with, then, let’s get right into it!

Getting into Trinity Universe proper

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The little over an hour of Trinity Universe gameplay that we looked at yesterday was mostly exposition and tutorial, so today we have our first real opportunity to get to grips with some of the game’s systems. There’s still a few tutorials to be discovered — and likely to be a few more even after today — but at least in today’s session we have more of a feel that we’re actually being left to our own devices to explore a little more.

The opening to Trinity Universe’s second chapter, which we saw at the end of yesterday’s exploration, introduced Violet, a character from an Atelier game that has never been localised for the west. She certainly fits the mould, though; an overall gentle, kind and calm personality, with some sort of mildly endearing flaw that doesn’t particularly inconvenience anyone. In Violet’s case, she has an obsession with carrots.

The setup for the second chapter actually ties in with our choice of playable character at the start of Trinity Universe. Playing as Demon Dog King Kanata means that you’ll have more convenient means of levelling up in the early hours of the game, while playing as Valkyrie Rizelea as we are means that you unlock access to the game’s “Meteorite” system of character customisation much sooner — and Violet plays a key role in that.

Trinity Universe

Specifically, the second chapter of the game involves accompanying Violet on a quest to obtain some Rune Water, which she desires not only as an ingredient for the Planet Rings that Rizelea wishes to outfit herself and her companions with, but also as a seasoning for her carrot stew. Sensing that they can probably be of help to one another, Rizelea agrees to let Violet tag along — and thus we’re starting to form a delightfully unusual ensemble cast full of clashing personalities.

We already have the entertainingly complementary duo of Rizelea herself and the supposed “Dark Hero” Lucius, who Rizelea pressed into her service prior to the opening of the game. Lucius, it seems, committed some unspecified crimes prior to us joining the story, and Rizelea offered him a choice: serve her, or be handed over to the authorities. He initially chose what he believes to be the wiser option, but the more time he spends with Rizelea, the more he starts to question his decision.

Lucius talks a big game, but one gets the sneaking suspicion he’s not really capable of true “evil”; he’s too much of a lazy idiot for that, as Rizelea takes great joy in pointing out on a regular basis. The two are constantly at one another’s throats — and thus the relatively calming addition of Violet to the mix makes for a nice contrast.

Trinity Universe

In some ways, these three characters highlight the typical approaches to characterisation the three collaborating developers who worked on Trinity Universe tend to adopt. Rizelea embodies the loud, brash Idea Factory (later Compile Heart) character; Lucius is very much the “incompetent dark lord” you’d expect to find in a Nippon Ichi game; and Violet… well, she literally is an Atelier protagonist.

The three complement one another well — they’re all quite different from one another, but seeing them all interact is an absolute joy, particularly when one rubs off on another. The end of the dungeon where the party are looking for Rune Water is a great example; Lucius does a huge build-up, expecting a boss monster to appear, but nothing happens, so both Rizelea and Violet give him a thorough beating and plenty of pouting for making them worry over nothing.

Mechanically, today’s session introduces a few new mechanics to the mix. Progression-wise, we’re introduced to the idea of “Managraphics”, which are images that can be painted on the characters’ weapons in order to affect their abilities. While the mechanic is unlocked at this point in Trinity Universe, it doesn’t appear to be possible to do much with it — the process is both expensive and requires materials that it seems you’re unlikely to have by now.

Trinity Universe

What we do have the opportunity to play around with a bit is Trinity Universe’s aforementioned Meteorite system, once Rizelea and company have retrieved the Rune Water, of course. This allows characters to equip a ring and outfit it with stones that can boost their various stats and resistances, thereby allowing you to customise each character to your preferred specifications — amplifying their strengths or perhaps covering for their weaknesses.

The Meteorite system ties in with the game’s synthesis system, since many of the stones you might want to put in your ring can be crafted. And thus it’s made clear that collecting materials both from the field and from defeating monsters is of particular importance when progressing through Trinity Universe.

We’re also given a bit of additional depth to the combat system. Rather than each character’s turn unfolding completely independently, we now have the opportunity for them to finish their turn slightly early and basically “tag team” with another party member. This means that the hit count for the combo you started isn’t reset, which can lead to increased damage, and also confers a randomly selected buff on the character you pass the turn to.

Trinity Universe

Not only that, but any of the character’s left-over AP when they pass the turn over gets saved up and added to the next round’s stock, potentially allowing for longer combos and special moves. It’s clear how this system will prove increasingly helpful as the party comes up against tougher and tougher foes over the course of the game as a whole — the more you can get the party working together, the more efficiently you’ll fight.

Once we get into the game’s third chapter, which we do towards the end of today’s session, we finally get the opportunity to visit some non-story dungeons and explore. Unsurprisingly, these unfold pretty much as you expect, providing the opportunity to gather items, grind for levels and obtain more ranking points — and doubtless as Trinity Universe continues, we’ll need to make good use of these optional dungeons in order to craft better items and unlock our characters’ full potential.

I’m enjoying myself with Trinity Universe so far. It definitely has that distinct early PS3-era low-budget RPG clunkiness to it, but to be honest that’s sort of part of the charm at this point. The mechanics are interesting but a lot less esoteric than the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, and the characters are likeable and enjoyable to hang out with.

Trinity Universe

I’m particularly intrigued to see how the game builds on its systems as you progress — I’m expecting some distinctly Nippon Ichi-esque huge damage numbers as we continue, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Anyway, I’m certainly up for sticking with this for a bit — we might punctuate our Trinity Universe sessions with some other stuff just for variety’s sake, but I’m certainly happy with what I’ve experienced so far. I hope you’re enjoying this journey too!

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Pete Davison
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