Where is my mind?
At a glance, it’s easy to look at Mind Zero and compare it to the Persona series given its art style and the narrative advertised within early trailers and promotional materials. And you wouldn’t be incorrect in declaring that it borrows several elements from the popular role-playing series.
Still, it’s unfair to call Mind Zero a copycat when its most fundamental elements are much different from the Shin Megami Tensei spinoff. That doesn’t mean the game is actually all that impressive, however. Acquire and ZeroDiv’s Vita RPG features an interesting premise, but in the end it’s a weaker product than those that obviously inspired it.
Mind Zero (Vita)
Developer: Acquire, ZeroDiv
Publisher: Aksys Games
Released: May 27, 2014
Step into a world where bizarre creatures known as MINDs occasionally cross over into the human dimension from the Inner Realm and take over hosts. In Mind Zero, they’re found forming contracts with a group of unassuming high school students after they stumble into a strange old shop where they’re faced with a harrowing decision: choose a MIND “weapon” or be killed.
The obvious choice is to go with a MIND, but perhaps that’s a curse in itself, as they become bound to their host. The group of teenagers is tasked with getting to the bottom of a rash of crimes caused by those who have misused their own MIND contracts. In a world where the police think they’re dealing with some sort of illegal drug, this is easier said than done.
The plot does an admirable job of holding your attention, despite the fact that some of the characters do their best to push you away — especially protagonist Kei, whose apathy is frustrating. The rest of the cast, including Sana Chikage, suffer from voice actors delivering repetitive dialogue and performances that grate on the nerves.
It’s tough to stay engaged when the game seems to do everything it can to ensure that you’re not, but the premise is interesting enough that you’ll want to push through and continue playing to see what kind of resolution awaits. And given the fact that there’s an overabundance of talking and exposition, this is an impressive feat. Thankfully, you can switch between the Japanese and English voice tracks for a reprieve from the latter’s irritating nature.
But of course, you won’t be standing around reading and listening to the characters talk amongst themselves the entire time. Mind Zero is comprised of story missions and dungeon-crawling. You can engage specific characters’ stories to find out more about them, and earn extra equipment and sojourns back into dungeons. Otherwise, most of your time is spent excavating dungeons via a first-person perspective. This is a strange design choice, but one that does enhance the “alien” feel that Mind Zero exudes out of nearly every pore.
As you travel throughout each dungeon’s grid in four directions, you’ll come across treasure chests, enemies, and exits to subsequent floors. It’s akin to other games of this ilk like Demon Gaze or even Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers, but it will take some getting used to if you’re a Persona fan entranced by the possibility of this being similar — this is one way in which it’s incredibly divergent.
Combat is a turn-based affair with three party members. You can attack, defend, use items, attempt to escape, or use “burst” move twice. MINDs step in much like the Stands of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, protecting those who have summoned them and absorbing damage. They can also go on the offensive, with elemental attacks and special moves that you can use to fell enemies much quicker. The variation between MINDs is interesting, as are their attack illustrations, but using them is nowhere near as dynamic or engaging as, say, the Personas they resemble.
The one saving grace that Mind Zero has going for it is its absolutely gorgeous character designs, which channel the work of the great Kazuma Kaneko. It’s a sight to behold, and undoubtedly one of the main reasons buyers will have been drawn to the project in the first place. Regrettably, multiple typos and a bizarre font choice brings forth the feeling that the editors didn’t care about creating a translated project so much as a finished one.
Mind Zero is in no way a travesty, but despite glaring shortcomings, it’s very average. A premise that sets the stage for an exciting thrill ride gives way to a rickety dungeon crawler with little to offer in the way of combat genius, looting, or even life sim elements. A game will collapse if there’s nothing in it, and while it’s not “nothing” per se here in Mind Zero, there certainly isn’t enough good to recommend it as even a Persona competitor, let alone imitator.