The world is dying. A mysterious darkness known as the Blare has taken over most of the world, turning animals into monsters and people into mindless wretches. A hopeless situation, if not for rare girls born with the natural ability to harm the Blare with music, whose power is fueled by those they protect. These girls’ power usually only lasts around 5 years before they have to hand the torch to a new girl – if a new one has shown up, that is.
A long time ago, when they first started to appear, someone recognized the source of their power and had a brilliant idea – turn them into a performance act. Make them idols. And televise them defeating the Blare, to increase their support and make them stronger. Thus were the Verse maidens born… but never in big enough numbers to do more than stall the advance of the Blare. The story begins with Momoka, a Verse Maiden who is nearing the end of her power after protecting the city for an unbelievably long time – over 15 years.
This game has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen in a while. You get an exposure to the game’s basic mechanics as you control Momoka, the aging Verse Maiden who is extremely skilled and experienced, but not all that powerful anymore. The basic enemies you fight are easy – for her anyways – but she is still exhausted after the first act.
It does a great job of providing a logical reason for you to start powerful but not remain that way… since shortly after the game starts, Momoka discovers a potential successor and retires. The majority of the game is spent learning how to be a Verse Maiden and exploring the history and world.
This game is one of the few truly episodic games I’ve seen, although not in context of purchase model. Each of the game’s chapters is bounded by an opening and closing preamble, opening cinematic, closing credits, etc. It really does feel like you’re playing an anime. They’re all skippable, but it’s a nice touch and it makes the game’s length feel better.
Omega Quintet’s story is… very Japanese. It takes a lot of the elements of idol culture and tries to apply them to a world on the edge of destruction. I won’t say the story is fantastic, but it is entertaining and it has its moments where it shows signs of greatness. Most notably, the story wasn’t predictable. It had a fair number of surprises throughout, even if a few of them made no sense whatsoever. The biggest problem with the story are the locals – the npcs. In a world on the brink of destruction, these people do not act in a way that makes any sense at all. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll be shaking your head and wondering who came up with these reactions.
It is told using the standard JRPG style, text boxes with the character above to show who is talking. It is also only partially voiced, which is a sticking point for some but has never really bothered me. The English voice acting isn’t bad, but certainly wasn’t spectacular… and while dual audio is included, the Japanese option does not subtitle the in-combat banter. This last point was a huge mistake, and really prevented me from enjoying the Japanese audio. I had to switch back to the English because I really hated not knowing what was going on.
One of the biggest signs that you might just be playing an anime with this one are the characters. Our cast is fairly small. The protagonist’s name is Takt (ironic, since he lacks it completely) however the story really revolves around the Verse Maidens: Otoha, Kanadeko, Nene, Aria, and Kyouka. They follow all the tropes and types expected of a harem anime with very little deviation.
Otoha is Takt’s (only) childhood friend and despite there clearly being something beyond friendship there, they’re both completely oblivious. Kyouka is your standard tsundere. Nene is probably the most unique of the bunch, being shy to a fault, scared of men, but having an extreme and almost terrifying love of firearms. Kana is a bit of a shameless jock. Aria is a bit slow and vacant, but her lack of social awareness makes her hilarious. She is also capable of sleeping anywhere. Takt is probably the worst character I’ve seen in a long time, but just ignore him and you’ll be fine. There are also a few supporting characters like the aforementioned Momoka and her manager Ayumi – who is now in charge of the new generation of Verse maidens.
That being said, the characters other than Takt aren’t bad and between the eccentric traits a few characters have and the meaningful growth others show… the characters are mostly fairly likeable. Especially Aria – Aria is awesome. But her cat is terrifying…
Games typically like to end after a crescendo. Everything usually builds up to a final high, then it quickly wraps up. Not so much with Omega Quintet. The normal ending, which I will briefly mention here and hopefully never speak of again, is one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen. It resolves nothing, leaves you feeling unsatisfied, and kills off a key character (or well, you’re left to assume she’d dead). I feel confident spoiling it because my advice to you is to never experience it. There are several spoiler free guides to the true end out there, so don’t make the same mistake I did.
The true ending isn’t spectacular, but it does a pretty good job of tying up some of the loose ends and leaving you with a bit of satisfaction. I think the biggest problem is that they talk too much during the ending. The length of their conversation really kills the suspense during the whole scene, and a scene that could have been an exciting 2-3 minute scene turns into a fairly slow 20 minute scene. It’s not uncommon for JRPGs to overarticulate matters, but this one scene is a particularly good example of it.
Battles in Omega Quintet are turn-based like many JRPGs but they went to great lengths to try to make the game distinct from other turn based sources. A lot of this was done by adopting mechanics reminiscent of those found in other games. Sometimes, they were successful, other times not so much. The most successful of these methods is the Harmonics system and the concept of Magnetic Field breaks, somewhat reminiscent of Record of Agarest War Zero’s combat systems.
The animations and naming conventions of the abilities are also very fitting. There was a level of attention to detail in the spell animations that made them work for the characters for whom they were designed extremely well and when you had a character using a weapon that isn’t their specialty, they never seemed entirely comfortable with it. For example, Nene is our adorable little slightly psychotic gunner… give her a fist weapon and she keeps complaining about how close the enemies are. Give her her gun, however, and she does this evil laugh – almost a cackle, really – during a lot of her abilities. It’s subtle, but noticeable… and is a great touch.
As to the spells names, I didn’t realize this at the time… but most of them are actual musical terms. Not being an expert on music theory, I thought they were just intended to sound like musical terms. It wasn’t until I started doing research for this review that I realized that Larghetto, Heldentenor and Quadrille were actual musical terms. Some of them are a bit more obvious… but they certainly did their research here. It is just one of the little details that made the game feel cohesive.
Harmonics is the game’s core mechanic and allows characters with consecutive turns (ie. no downtime or enemy turns in between) can sync up for that set of turns to allow them to perform their attacks together. This allows the use of the game’s most powerful attacks, which require combinations of abilities that must be performed by different people. This is the bread and butter of the game’s combat, as fights typically consist of trying to align people together for harmonics and then unleashing chains of attacks.
If Harmonics is the bread and butter, then Live Concert Mode is the gravy. Not necessary, but rather an optional yet amazing function. In Live Concert Mode, the game’s music changes to one of five songs (performed by the Japanese voice actors), you get a variety of combat bonuses, and the ‘audience’ – remember you’re supposed to be televised – will give you requests that award bonus exp for completion. It is fully customizable, allowing you to pick which songs play and which bonuses you get at different levels of Live Concert Mode. This is a great system, and I’m actually a little disappointed they didn’t play it up more. That isn’t to say it isn’t cool, but it would’ve been great if they’d made it feel more impactful. The combat bonuses are good, but not very noticeable… and there’s no visual impact to it. The biggest thing is the change in music.
One of Omega Quintet’s greatest assets is the music, which makes sense since we’re talking about a game based on idols. I didn’t fall in love with the soundtrack right away, it took a little while, but once I did I fell hard. Each of the game’s vocal tracks are distinct and unique, and they are all worth a listen. But this game also featured some absolutely fantastic background music, especially the melancholy theme used during sad or lonely scenes. While the soundtrack is very good, it is sadly not used terribly well at some points. There are moments where the music will show a complete tone switch without the game’s tone changing all that much itself.
Omega Quintet has one really cool feature – one that I did not explore as much as I probably should have – called the PVS. It’s a completely optional feature with no gameplay impact. PVS stands for Promotional Video System, and that is exactly what it is. It gives you the ability to create music videos for the girls’ songs. But it’s not quite that simple… you get to choose which girls are in the video, what they’re wearing, what dance moves they do, who is singing at which time, the camera angles, and more.
It is a really impressive system, not one that I had the skills to take advantage of… but it has a lot of really cool features that I wish I could do more with. I can imagine the talented JRPG fans out there creating some absolutely fantastic pieces. The one part of it that I had a ton of immature fun with were the aftereffects. While watching the videos, you can perform little effects every ‘scene change’. Some of these are just fanservice – you can remove the characters’ clothing and leave them dancing in their (fully customizable) underwear for example… but those aren’t the good options. The good options are the ones that just let you mess with the video… you can throw bombs that send the girls flying or blind them causing them to stagger and fall over. It’s hilarious, because the next ‘scene’ they’re back dancing as if nothing had happened.
There are a number of costumes, although not nearly as many as I’d hoped, for each of the girls to wear. This is important, because you’ll want multiple costumes per character because they break over time and Live Concert Mode isn’t available if an outfit is broken. These outfits are expensive, but can be repaired at the office. In addition to the costumes, you can also get accessories and underwear for the girl to wear. Yes, you get full control of the character’s underwear too, which is weird. The strangest part is the variety: there are a half-dozen or so relatively easy to get costumes but there are dozens of underwear options. It’s weird. You can also choose their hairstyle, hair colour, and eye colour. These options are a bit more suitably varied than the costumes – but with the anime art style – hair colour and style are the biggest defining factors between characters.
The game has a rather awkward crafting system. It allows you to create a plethora of items, but it is really difficult to use. There are so many different components and the requirements for crafting are so specific that it just feels unfortunate. Which, really, is the story of the entire inventory system. There are so many different weapons, armor items, attachments, and otherwise that it can be a bit overwhelming. I recommend not digging too deep into it, ’cause you’ll waste a ton of time with minimal impact. Just upgrade when you have big upgrades and be happy with that.
This game surprised me. I expected to enjoy it – it’s a JRPG, generally a fair bet – but I was not expecting to be as enamored of it as I was while playing. The overall story is fairly interesting, and the gameplay is incredibly satisfying. The fanservice was a bit awkward, but it was expected given what I know of idol culture. Oh, and Aria is awesome.