So far I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with Trinity Universe, the PS3 RPG that was developed as a collaborative effort between Nippon Ichi, Gust and Idea Factory. I was expecting a completely janky mess, and while there’s certainly a slight element of that going on, on the whole the game so far has been quite satisfying and enjoyable to play.
The main downside of our experiences so far has been how tutorial-heavy the opening hours are. Thankfully, during today’s session we’re explicitly told that we’ve seen the last of the battle tutorials at the very least — so from hereon, with any luck, we’ll be left to our own devices quite a bit more.
Exploring some optional mysteries in Trinity Universe
The first thing I wanted to do in today’s session is delve into the optional dungeons that opened up last time we played. While some of these drift in and out seemingly at random as Trinity Universe’s in-game calendar and clock advance, some, such as the Yoma King’s Castle, are fixed in place. So before moving on to advancing the main story by heading for the area specifically marked as an “Event Dungeon”, I thought I’d clear out the three levels of said castle.
As I’ve played more, I’ve noticed a few things about the main game flow in dungeons. Firstly, battles can be over and done with very quickly if you know what you’re doing. Making good use of the ability to chain party members’ attacks together as well as ensuring each member uses the best attack for them — Violet does a lot more damage when unleashing “Magic” attacks than both Rizelea and Lucius, for example — means that you can easily obliterate even groups of enemies before they even have a chance to get a hit in. This is immensely satisfying, as always — plus it helps prevent that feeling of dread you can get in some RPGs whenever a random battle occurs.
Secondly, you level up really quickly in Trinity Universe. This isn’t a complaint by any means, and it would definitely be in keeping with the “Nippon Ichi” side of the equation. Back in our first look at Trinity Universe, you may recall a hands-off teaser battle in which Rizelea was depicted fighting at her full power, unleashing obscene hit counts and ridiculous amounts of damage — I’m anticipating this is what we can expect after levelling up a bit throughout the game as a whole.
Thirdly, sometimes the optional dungeons actually play host to important events. For example, prior to delving into the Yoma King’s Castle, I saw an event where shopkeeper (and interminable tutorial-giver) Macaroon spoke of a young man seeking a cursed sword, recommending that we track him down before he gets himself killed. I was expecting this to be the main event for the third chapter of the game, but no; this is actually an optional event that can result in you recruiting one of three optional party members if you follow it through to completion.
The main narrative for the game’s third chapter instead culminated with the appearance of “Galaxy Flonne”, an incarnation of a fan-favourite character from Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea series. While the battles up to this point in Trinity Universe had all felt fairly straightforward, this one was actually pretty tough — Flonne hit hard and necessitated the use of a powerful full-party healing item in order to stay standing. I’m not actually 100% sure if this was a battle you were “supposed” to lose, but I managed to overcome her anyway and got some rewards for my efforts — so I’m not too mad about using up the healing item.
As you might expect, Flonne joined the party after we beat her, and she’s a delightful addition to the developing ensemble cast. A particularly enjoyable highlight of this side of things is how Lucius begins to feel like he’s being gradually edged out of the picture by the growing group of girls who are dominating proceedings — they all get along very well with one another, and thus he starts to feel a little bit left out.
In some respects, Lucius’ role in this regard can be looked upon as a precursor to how Compile Heart would go on to handle male characters in the Neptunia series; to date, Neptunia games have focused exclusively on their female cast, and any men present are depicted either as faceless shadows or, in more recent installments such as Megadimension Neptunia VII and Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars, as armored or robotic figures with all their identifiable features completely covered.
It’s a sly nod to the fact that so far as popular media is concerned, cute girls sell well — while the substantial otome market will, of course, be keen to point out that cute boys can also sell well, cute girls are still very much considered the “mainstream” option for some reason.
Mechanically, this chapter only really introduced one major new thing: the ability to perform combo skills with multiple characters. Upon meeting some unspecified conditions, the gauge which appears when passing the turn from one character to another in battle features a green segment. If you switch to another character while the timer is in that segment, they’ll do a special combo attack for considerably more damage and hits. The game deliberately doesn’t make it clear what the trigger condition for this is, and I’m yet to see it outside of the tutorial — but it’s something to watch out for from this point onwards.
From hereon, I suspect a lot of the interest in Trinity Universe’s mechanics will come from experimenting with crafting, the Meteorite system and trying out various combinations of Managraphics on the weapons. This chapter felt very much like the training wheels were starting to come off — particularly with the surprisingly tough Flonne battle — and so I’m looking forward to seeing precisely how ridiculously overpowered you can make your characters using the various options available to you.
I mean, this is at least partly a Nippon Ichi game, after all — so how long d’you reckon before we start doing six-figure damage… or more?
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