Loop8: Summer of Gods is clearly too ambitious for its own good. It had all the great ideas of what could have been a revolutionary experience pushing the boundaries of a new genre of gaming, but it ended up butchering the execution on all fronts.
Developer – Marvelous Inc.
Publisher – XSEED Games
Platforms – Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
Review copy given by publisher
It’s hard to stand out as an enticing new game in today’s day and age, especially when so many experiences feel similar to one another. Well developer Marvelous Inc. and publisher XSEED seek to break out of this norm with their newest project Loop8: Summer of Gods, a game that refreshingly combines concepts of visual novels and roguelikes. While I applaud the team for their valiant efforts and extraordinary vision, I can’t help but be disappointed that the overall experience fails to live up to its full potential due to a myriad of bad design choices.
You play as a young boy named Nini, who happens to be the last remaining survivor of a space station after it was destroyed by monsters called Kegai. He relocates to a small rural town in 1980s Japan called Ashihara, one of the last remaining safe havens on Earth. There he discovers he has a strange ability called Demon Sight which allows him to reset time back to the beginning of the month so he can prevent the monsters from destroying his home. Despite the impending doom of the world, he spends his summer making friends and developing relationships with the various inhabitants of the island. It’s a coming of age story that doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspirations.
I’ve never played a game quite like Loop8: Summer of Gods. At a high level, it plays like a dating sim visual novel combined with a roguelike JRPG. This isn’t like any typical role playing game, as there’s no attributes to level up, gear to equip, weapons to find, or items to use. You don’t level up your party members through gaining experience points from battle, but rather from getting to know them from conversations. This is where the visual novel dating sim elements come in. Most of it still boils down to clicking through mountains of text, but at least the voice acting is quite nice.
Your goal after all is to see the relationship meter with each character go up. Time management plays an important mechanic here because every action you take with your friends sets the clock forward, so you must be strategic with how you form your bonds before time runs out. Once the end of the month rolls around, you get transported into an underworld version of Ashihara, where you must fight demons and monsters to progress the narrative. Oh, I forgot to mention your friends also get possessed by Kegai, which can lead to a character dying.
Don’t be fooled by the high school setting, relationship bond system, and turn based combat, because this game is not a Persona-lite. There surprisingly isn’t much combat to begin with, and when you do engage in battle, it’s a complete mess. You can have up to three members in your party, but you can only take control of Nini, as the other characters are controlled by the AI. How your other party members act is based on your social bonds with them, which can vary dramatically depending how you talked to them. Even with relationships fleshed out, don’t expect the computer-controlled party members to do anything smart, as they’ll choose baffling moves that lead you to your demise more often than not. Need a heal because your health is low? Your party members will just buff themselves instead!
Oh and if someone dies, they’re permanently gone until the loop resets, which is triggered when Nini falls in battle. Blessings received from the Gods are the only things that remain after each loop, which is seen as the permanent progression in this roguelike gameplay loop. Unfortunately every character’s stats are reset and you must tread through every single line of dialogue over and over again, which becomes increasingly frustrating and tedious. Loop8 isn’t a roguelike game where each run is a matter of minutes, but instead a matter of hours, so you can imagine how much repeated content you are going to have to sit through when you have to restart. There’s just too many loops!
I was a bit surprised that there’s no native PlayStation 5 version of the game, as I played it on the PS5 through backwards compatibility from the PS4 version. Maybe a native next-gen version would have improved just how many loading screens there are and how long each takes. Keep in mind I’m already button mashing through the talk button, and seeing a loading screen pop up every few seconds just lowers the overall enjoyment even more. Thankfully there is a fast forward dialogue option that skips over everything, but it would have been nice to see a skip dialogue option to skip through only certain parts. It’s also baffling to not have a text log feature, which most if not all visual novel titles have, so players can sift through potentially missed dialogue.
The two aspects that drew me in in the first place are the game’s impeccable visual design and excellent soundtrack. The bright color palettes combined with the crisp character animations make Loop8 an absolute delight to look at. The relaxing and beachy vibes of Ashihara evoke a feeling of warmth and coziness and I’m all for it. The music, on the other hand, really brings the atmosphere together, with soft piano and violin themes that fit the vibes of the fishing village. Even when the world turns upside down, the transitions in instruments effortlessly set the mood for the tone of the narrative.
Loop8 is clearly too ambitious for its own good. It had all the great ideas of what could have been a revolutionary experience pushing the boundaries of a new genre of gaming, but it ended up butchering the execution on all fronts. What started off as a compelling coming of age story with an enticing social bond system turned into a laborious and repetitive mess of a game that features terrible turn based combat and an aggravating roguelike experience. Even the beautiful artwork and soothing soundtrack couldn’t save this game from itself.