Before I begin with the review, let me just say (what I suppose will become apparent if it has not been thus far already) that I am a huge Persona fan. I like everything about the series from the twists and turns its story brings to its quirky characters, interesting gameplay, character design, and the game script itself. So, you can see how I became curious when I saw the box cover of this game–MIND Zero (MIND?0)–on the local videogame store.
I was intrigued since the protagonist and his posey looked very much like the protagonist from Persona 3 and a bunch of other Persona casts look-alikes could be seen throughout the game. And so I began to wonder what other things this game has that was reminiscent to Persona.
That–and the fact that Persona 5 will still be a while–made me purchase the game and try it out for myself.
As of the moment, I’m not entirely happy with the purchase. And if you think that is harsh, read on (don’t worry, there isn’t any spoilers in this post because I, honestly, haven’t gotten past Day 3 yet).
Basically, the premise of the story is as follows:
Kei, a high school student whose life turns upside down when he forms a contract with a “MIND,” a weapon/being with deadly powers. With the government and other forces trailing him and his friends, Kei will need to discover the secret behind “MIND.” Will these newfound powers help him or ultimately be his doom?
– Taken from MIND Zero’s STEAM Product Page
When you start the game, however, you will be treated right off the bat to the police chasing after someone who is “infected” with MIND. And, before long, you will be introduced to the hero–Kei–who will get sucked into another world, forced into making a contract, and then fighting off a monster. From the first sequences, I am immediately reminded of how basically Persona 3 and 4 games start. And while it is interesting that Kei actually has a choice–though not really if you consider failing to choose correctly resulting to death–the fact remains that the contract, the MIND, the shop…it all glaringly feels like a carbon copy of Persona’s contract, Persona, and the rooms where Igor meets with the protagonist.
Even when you get to the point where MIND and MINDers (aka the people who use MIND) are explained, one cannot help but feel as though you’re playing a poorly adapted and low-budget Persona game. Seriously, the whole wild MIND and the MIND the characters have screams Shadows and Personas, even the whole wild MINDs being tied to the negative emotions of the people in the “real” world. [You can watch that explanation here]
I wouldn’t be this upset if there was something–anything–that would make me feel as though this whole thing (albeit very, very, (extremely) similar to Persona) has something different that can make it stand alone on its own without being compared to the series I have so much respect and love for.
Granted, I might still be early in the game and there might be more to it further along, but the point is…if you’re going to make a game, you have to make it interesting from the get-go. And if it’s something like this which screams of Persona all over, then you would have to distance yourself from such a popular and well-loved series right off the bat.
Characters. I know from writing stories and novels that your characters–if you want them to be liked (which I am sure you do) would have to be memorable. There must be something about them that would capture the audience and engage them–much like how it is when writing a story.
MIND Zero’s characters–or the ones I have come across with up to Day 3–is sort of…meh. It seems their characteristics are a bit forced to take on the shoes of the roles usually found in games such as this.
There’s the protagonist–Kei Takanashi–who people could easily be reminded of Persona 3’s protagonist, brooding and silent with a bit of a sarcastic streak to him and who only seem to relax around Shizuku.
There’s the protagonists best friend–Leo Asahina–who tries to be like Persona 3’s Junpei and Persona 4’s Yosuke but failing miserably and makes for cringe-worthy screen time. Where Junpei and Yosuke could be likable and funny (even witty from time to time) Leo comes off as a whinny, self-absorbed hero-wannabe. (Yes, I do not like him much).
There’s the protagonist’s classmate who is first amongst them to obtain a MIND–Sana Chikage–who looks like Aigis from Persona 3 but acts like Persona 4’s Chie Satonaka (not sure if Sana is a meat-lover too, but she and Leo as a tandem interacts the same way that Yosuke and Chie does).
As of Day 3, I’ve also come across the Private Investigator, Yoichi Ogata. He’s the only one thus far that doesn’t seem very much like a Persona character. I can’t compare him to Persona 4’s Naoto Shirogane since Naoto is cooler and much smarter (it would seem) when it comes to her investigations. But yeah, they are a bit similar.
I can’t say much about Kotone Shiragiku and Lina Albertine since I have yet to actually meet them in-game (though I am quite aware that I will be coming across Kotone soon).
As for the supporting cast…well, the police duo that is going after the MINDs are extremely like Persona 4’s Ryotaro Dojima and Tohru Adachi. And even the shop owners would remind you of the random characters you can meet in the Perona games.
It isn’t just the way characters are that is a blatant copy of the Persona characters we all know and love, but also the artwork…although, that should be flattering. Still, in a game where everything seems like Persona, I don’t think that’s a good idea…
Music–which includes the Background Sounds (BGS) and the Background Music (BGM) itself–is somewhat…original. Like, maybe, around half Persona-ish and half-original…if that makes sense. I cannot really fault anything when it comes to the BGM since it helps make the game less…annoying? Albeit they sound repetitive and at times it doesn’t make sense why on earth the music would be used for a particular scenario.
As for the BGS, well…it is not as good as one would have hoped. The BGS sounds a bit “old” and often the sound effects are a bit muffled. Sometimes it even reaches the point of being screechy.
As for the voice acting. Well, I don’t have anything against the English voice actors. Leo’s VA is actually a favorite of mine (Yuri Lowenthal) but most of their voices do not match the characters themselves. Which is why I reverted to the Japanese voices right after Day 1…it just feels more “generic” that way.
For a Playstation Vita game, it’s alright. But the steam version…oh, boy…it’s pretty bad. It is simply a blown-up version of the Vita game. No enhanced 3D graphics. And there are even instances where you can see glitches in the visual novel part of the game where there are lines here and there.
The 2D artwork, however, is pretty cool and crisp. Very anime-like. The character designs are good, but with how I’ve already compared them to some of the Persona characters, it does nothing to shake off that “Persona rip-off” feeling you get when playing this game (unless, of course, you’re one of those people who have yet to play a Persona game).
Ah, we finally get to the main point of video games: gameplay.
What can I say about MIND Zero’s gameplay? It’s a visual novel game mixed with first-person dungeon crawling. Basically, if you’ve played Persona Q, that pretty much sums it up. The big difference, however, is that Persona allows for more than 3 characters in battle whereas MIND Zero is simply stuck with the maximum of 3 and the only one who can break that max 3 limit, it would seem, are the enemies you find in the dungeons.
MIND Zero also has requests–which are unlocked upon speaking with Ogata at Day 3. Basically these can be fetch quests, battling enemies a number of times, or simply speaking with the characters “scattered” around the game. Where Persona has the Social Links, MIND Zero has these requests that only allows you a glimpse of what the characters are like and the reason why they do the things they do and they do not really matter much to the game, except maybe for the items you receive in some of them.
The battles are done in first person as well, similar to the Dragon Quest games. Now, here comes the difference between Personas and MINDs. In Persona games, your Persona doesn’t have it’s own life points and you can’t actually use them in a way that the Persona are the ones doing the fighting. They are just summons. In MIND Zero, the opposite is true as the MINDs have their own life points (the MP or the Mind Points) that are depleted every time you “summon” them. And once that MP is gone, the MIND disappears until you can charge up the Mind Points once more. That’s the only interesting thing I’ve come across with in this battle system apart from being able to speed up the battles.
The dungeons themselves are repetitive and are poorly designed. Even the quest provides little to no explanation, especially those “kill enemies” kind of quests. If you like these sort of no-hand-holding thing, where they don’t even give you at least one healing item at the start of the game, then you might–might–enjoy this.
So, what can I say that I haven’t already said before?
For a Persona fan such as myself, I’m really quite disappointed in this game that is trying to mimic (very badly) the Persona series. It wouldn’t have been too painful if it had been executed nicely, but the way it is, it is just a very bad ripoff of the series.
Now, if you’ve played the STEAM version, one more problem you would have to contend with is in exiting the game. There is no main menu where you can quit the game from. Instead, you will be forced to use the trio that is “CTRL+ALT+DEL” or “ALT+F4” to exit the game.
Would I recommend this game? As of the moment, I’m not entirely jumping up and down and giving this game a standing ovation. If you’re much of a Persona fan as I am, it would be better to stay away from this game and just pick one of the Persona titles and play those instead. If you are curious about the game, just watch one of the Let’s Play videos of it instead of using your hard-earned cash for this…or, borrow it off a friend or something. If you don’t care either way, then you might–might–like this game.
As for me, I’m giving this a 4/10. I would have given it an even lower score, but considering Yuri Lowenthal’s involvement as a voice actor in this, I had to give at least a 4 (any other game I would’ve given a 5 for Yuri, but this…this is just…ugh).
I would have also given this game a look with a fresh pair of eyes, if not for the constant and glaring similarities it has with the Persona games.
So, have you played MIND Zero? What do you think of it? Tell us in the comment section below. And, until the next update, dream on; fly on!