Mind=0 or Mind=Zero or Mind/Zero is…a game that is very confused. Sometimes it wants to be Persona: Revelation. Sometimes it wants to be Persona 3. Sometimes it wants to be Persona 4. Sometimes it wants to be Shin Megami Tensei. Sometimes it wants to be Demon Gaze. Sometimes it wants to be a…visual novel of some kind.
Actually it almost always wants to be a visual novel. And it very, very rarely seems to ever want to be a game.
“BUT XEAWN IT’S AN RPG!”
Hush your biscuit portal I know that! Here’s the thing…
I held off on this initial impressions article for a good while. I kept playing, boring conversation after boring conversation, with awful sound effects and plot devices that I had to guess at because apparently no one could be bothered to like…draw a picture…or write words to explain what was going on…or even…yeah.
I gave Mind=Zero ten hours to get better. Because, I hated Tales of Abyss SO FREAKING MUCH until I gave it a good three or five hours. Basically long enough for Tear to finally be like “Luke, you’re a spoiled brat and everyone hates you. Shut up.” and for Luke to be like “Oh…I do kind of suck, don’t I?”
I’m really desperately trying to like this game. It’s a Playstation Vita JRPG with Dungeon Crawler elements, so, it’s kind of everything I generally like. Except there’s…just…so many problems.
The story, at least what little bit of trickle down the game has graced me with is that there’s these things called MINDs that are basically Shadows. They live in the Dark Realm, er, TV World, er, Tartarus, er, the “Inner World”. They feed off of negativity…and they aren’t supposed to be in our world…but if someone succumbs to the negativity or darkness in their…hearts…they…
This game is a bad version of Persona 3. Which was a decent version of the at the time not released Persona 4.
The hero looks like Minato. His idiot best friend who is obsessed with being a hero because he feels like he doesn’t quite have a purpose in life looks and acts like Yosuke:
The hot blooded fighting girl who is afraid she’s not enough of a girl looks like Chie and has Yukari’s inferiority complex:
And you even have a sort of handsome mysteriously also sort of albino moody guy with white hair:
I honestly don’t even know the names of anyone in this game. I pretty much just call them Minato, Aegis Chie, Junpei and Zion (Bloody Roar Primal Fury).
So the Minds are bad, but not all of them. Some of them become good Minds. Like how you have Personas and Shadows. And then you make a contract with them…because, ya know, thou art me and I am thou. Except this game has a really strong and not very subtle transgender vibe going on, so everyone’s Mind is the opposite gender of their user…because…mirrors or something.
This so far hasn’t been explained beyond…mirrors and stuff. So anyways, the police think that MIND is a drug I guess, except for certain people in the police who know that its not but decided not to tell the other people because…they just…didn’t.
So, knowing that the other officers are fighting demons that they can’t possibly kill they tell them to do it anyways and then get mad when they don’t get results…
The game talked at me for like, a good almost hour before I got into a fight. The script is extremely hit or miss, erring far more on the miss scale. Rather than trying to actually draw you in or invest you into anything at all it basically goes “LOOK WE’RE LIKE PERSON AND SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI! ALSO LOOK! THIS GUY IS THE MOODY HOT MAIN CHARACTER AND THIS GIRL IS A KIND OF LIKE A TSUN AND THIS GUY IS YOUR DOPEY BEST FRIEND LOOK WE HAVE ANIME TROPES AND WE’RE IN A HIGH SCHOOL AND STUFF YAAAAAAY!!!”
There is no depth to any of these people thus far. Did you guess that Minato’s lady friend is his childhood friend who has a crush on him but is too shy to say it? You’re probably right. Is Minato secretly a really nice guy? Yeah. Yeah he is. Is mister idiot friend/hot blooded hero wannabe secretly jealous and hiding how sad he is inside? Yup. You guessed it.
Because you’ve played this game about five times already, but in far better forms.
The A-Life Aspect
There is a needlessly cumbersome map you have to navigate to find your destinations. Ya know, two or three hours later when you get to “explore”. This map is navigated by moving a circle to your destination, a common method to avoid having to develop an overworld, generally used to cut down on file size. Now, the dungeons are first person, there’s not much in the way of fresh art, and there’s no movies aside from the opening which was random live action places with Japanese dance music playing so…I’m not sure where the 1.4 GB this game is eating on my memory card came from…but…yeah.
You basically push the map around because we’re doing a weird broken glass thing. Once you’re done trying to shove the map into submission, you click on green links to do skits that are part of larger quests that you have no bloody idea are quests because the game doesn’t tell you that you’ve started a new sub-story until you finish it…
Once you’re done desperately hopping back and forth on the map trying to complete things you weren’t aware you started, you can go to pink dots to stare at your screen for another hour or so hoping that everyone will shut up about how trope they are so that you can maybe learn something about the story.
Said story is on rails, so don’t expect to pick which girl from your harem will be your bride for the summer.
In between all that sometimes you go to Rosemary to get accessories from this guy…girl…guy… I haven’t decided yet…
Sometimes the guy who looks like hippie Akihiko has quests for you. These are tedious and you will not enjoy them. Also he will randomly leave your party and take with him all the expensive armor you just bought, so by default I hate albino Akihiko and will never give him anything nice again even though his Mind is a schoolgirl with a machine gun for one arm and a shotgun for the other which is just plain amazing in every way.
Combat: Persona Lite with a twist of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Combat in Mind=Zero is pretty standard JRPG fair. As a human you can’t use magic, because you’re a human. You don’t learn new moves by leveling up though; instead you collect skill cards given to you for winning battles. Kind of interesting, right? Massive potential to hose you later when you have to grind for that obscure ability you need, but interesting. Except you can only equip one ability per character until you reach level five. I didn’t learn that because the game told me, despite the game stopping me every five seconds for another bloody intrusive tutorial. No, I learned that because I eventually was like “Oh hey I have another skill slot now…”
The fights continue this game’s state of schizophrenia in which it can’t decide which major JRPG franchise it wants to be. You stare at enemies with a first person perspective a la Shin Megami Tensei, Etrian Odyssey or Dragon Quest. When you get attack, they just rush the screen and swing at you. The portrait of whoever they hit gets larger and they yell. In Japanese they make whatever grunt or comment you would expect. In English sometimes the girl squeals “WHATTHEHE**” in a pitch that is just below what only dogs can hear.
When you attack, the game decides to be Persona instead:
And you or your mind runs over and lands a blow.
Fights take longer than they should. When you don’t have your mind up, you take damage. When you do, your mind takes damage. When your mind points run out you Break and can’t use your mind for a while. Some enemies are mind resistant so you have to fight them as a human. You can build up a meter that does not exist to be able to attack twice in one turn. Or three times. Or four times. Ya know. Whatever the game feels like doing at the time.
Despite what the Vita can do, and what other JRPG’s have shown us it can do, the devs went with low res chibi Persona style art instead. Seriously, if I didn’t tell you this game was Mind=Zero and you saw the screenshot above you would assume the powers that be have finally given you a Persona 3.5, wouldn’t you?
You know you would.
Oh, bee tee dubs you have skills that drain tech points and skills that drain life instead and skills that drain both. Because we really wanted to be Persona.
Exploration – Demon Gaze but not as fun
For no real reason aside from the fact that Etrian Odyssey makes a lot of money, you explore in the first person. This is the same as any other game that does this, except sometimes there’s windows that appear to lead outside and you can catch a teensy view of something really pretty that you can’t actually look at because the art team hates you.
There’s not much to say here. You can’t bump into walls, so don’t expect to find secret passages or encounter wall hazards. There don’t appear to be traps on the floor two dungeons in, your quests aren’t marked, doors that were previously locked that you unlocked will eternally appear as locked on your map, and you can’t pick a point and make your character auto walk there which Demon Gaze was courteous enough to do.
There’s not much else to say here. Oh, beyond random crap like this:
This is a dungeon block thingy. I couldn’t go through here before because it was blocked. Later I got a quest that made me have to find a monster in this dungeon that never spawned before. On absolutely random chance I put albino Akihiko into my party and came back here. Nothing happened until I hit X just because. Then I got to do a touch screen minigame (that had horrible accuracy) to shoot the barrier down. The game never once mentioned that I might have to bring certain party members to be able to make it deeper into the dungeons. This is just a thing that occurs.
Music and Sound and Voice Work
The English voice actors are not horrible. Minato and Albino Akihiko sound pretty much the same, but Minato and Yosuke have great voices. Chie sounds like her actress should have voice Generic Childhood Friend, and vice versa, but they work. In Japanese they’re phenomenal because every Japanese voice actor is phenomenal.
The music is about the only thing I like about this game. It’s bloody amazing. I will be looking for the soundtrack. There are just as many great dark and moody gothic tones as there are ambient tracks or upbeat tones.
The sound effects will make you want to pull out your ear drums. Especially when the chief chews on…whatever he chews on. He’s trying to quit smoking so I thought maybe gum except it sounds like graham crackers and cardboard and soda cans. It comes in a paper bag of some kind, I’m assuming from the sounds, so I thought it was maybe chew but that makes no sense. Anyways that and the sound of people walking or running are both horrible.
Again, I’m not sure what this game is about. Minds are bad but also good and bad minds devour people and use them to come to our world which is bad and the police think its a drug which it is not and only people that have a mind can see the mind even though the mind can hurt people who can’t see them but Generic Childhood Friend can see them just because she can and we need to learn more about them.
Ten hours. Ten hours during which I only got to actually directly interact for maybe an hour to an hour and a half, and this is literally all I can tell you about this game.
That and it desperately wants to be Persona. Why do I keep bringing that up? Am I aware I sound like those GOD AWFUL people who won’t shut up about how Ragnarok Odyssey and God Eater and Lord of Apocalypse and Toukiden shouldn’t exist because apparently Monster Hunter is the only game in the universe allowed to be a co-op fight big monsters title?
Here’s the thing; I don’t mind when a game tries to do a different take on another game. There are very few things new under the sun; it is impossible to do something completely original. What’s more, Persona didn’t even make up the whole using your ID as a physical manifestation and extension of the self to fight; Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure was doing that forever the heck ago:
So no, that’s not why I’m hating on Mind=Zero. I’m ragging on this game because it’s just…not a very good game. Or a fun game. Or a well written game.
Now, it’s not a bad game either, per se. It’s just very…mediocre at best.
I was a bit concerned when I saw that it bombed in Japan. I was even more concerned when I saw that on its launch day this $40 game was $26 and change on the Playstation Network. I was quite frightened when I saw the low budget opening, heard the terrible sound effects, noticed that every character looked exactly like the main cast from the game it was desperately trying to be, and seemed to be going out of its way to keep me from playing it.
When I spent ten hours and still have no idea what this game is supposed to be about or quite why I’m still playing it, well, I think it’s safe to say this is a “die hard JRPG” or a “I have nothing else to play on my Vita” type of game.
I want this title to be good, I really do. I keep hoping that just around the corner will be a moment where I go “OH MY GOODNESS THIS STORY JUST PICKED UP AND IT’S AMAZING!!!”
I just honestly don’t believe that’s going to happen. What’s more, you could be playing Demon Gaze, Conception 2, Ys Celceta, Danganronpa, Zero Escape, Soul Sacrifice Delta (more on that later), Sorcery Saga, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X2, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Persona 4 Golden, Persona 3 Portable, Generations of Chaos: Pandora Tomorrow, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Atelier Totori Plus, Atelier Meruru Plus or Phantom Brave: Hermuda Triangle if you need a new JRPG or Visual Novel that badly, and those are all games that are actually exceedingly phenomenal and leaps beyond this one.
What’s more, in a month you’ll have Xblaze Code: Embryo, Atelier Rorona Plus, Child of Light and One Piece: Unlimited World Red. A month after that there’s Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth 1 and Akiba’s Trip, and somewhere in all this there’s Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment and Tales of Hearts. There’s just…really no reason to spend your money on this game. Not unless it pulls an insane 180 in the next thirty minutes before I question why I’m playing this long enough to do a full review.
Mind=Zero is exclusive to the Playstation Vita and will set you back $40 at retail, $26 on the Playstation Store if you’re a PS Plus member, and somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 there if you’re not. At this point I would say though to only buy it if you just desperately feel the need to give Aksys money for this very poor attempt at stealing Persona and Demon Gaze’s thunder.