Omega Quintet is developer Compile Heart’s first game for new generation hardware, available exclusively on PlayStation 4. Although somewhat of a milestone for the Japanese studio, this latest title doesn’t exactly signal a dramatic departure from the developer’s previous works. It’s a vibrant, anime-infused roleplaying games that shuns many of the genre’s tropes in favour of a cartoon-esque modern setting embedded in Japanese pop culture.
Set in a world overrun by a sinister force known only as The Blare, humanity’s last hope lies within the hands of a singing supergroup known as The Verse Maidens. By channeling their unique powers, they are the only ones capable of expelling the looming threat, their talent also garnering the love of an affectionate fandom.
It’s a bizarre set-up to say the least, reflecting Compile Heart’s approach to other series such as Mugen Souls and Hyperdimension Neptunia. Neither sci-fi or fantasy, they exist in their own colourful universe where words like “gritty” and “grounded” are completely unheard of. Omega Quintet is populated by a number of anime archetypes with most of the lead characters being scantily-clad girls who come in an assortment of flavours, from shy and stroppy to headstrong. They’re not an unlikable bunch, truth be told, but those searching for impacting human stories aren’t going to find them playing Omega Quintet.
Much of the story centres around Otoha, the newest member of The Verse Maidens. She joins the group along with her friend Takuto who serves as both manager and bodyguard. Together, they go from region to region, repelling The Blare while slaying creatures collectively known as MAD. When not in the field, players will speak with NPCs, take on new missions and customise their idols using a spread of in-depth options.
Although it can be described as a hybrid of genres, much of the focus in Omega Quintet is placed on exploration and combat. The remainder of the game is largely optional, giving players the chance to interact with the idols through Takuto’s perspective, either speaking with them or conducting dance routines. Unless you become really invested in these characters, there’s little else reward in carrying out these pursuits.
They divert from the core of Omega Quintet where The Verse Maidens roam large albeit tunneled-out maps for loot to find and creatures to kill. Combat is exactly what you would expect from a Japanese role playing game yet there are some welcome revisions on-hand. For example, the R2 button can be used to skip combat animations, whether it’s your turn or the AI’s. This means that easier battles can be completely bypassed without having to really pay attention. Although not ground-breaking, it strips away much of the monotony-inducing waiting that occurs between actions in just about every JRPG.
Advanced mechanics include options such as harmonising and the use of the supercharged skills and abilities. Beneath the bonnet, however, Omega Quintet is still propped up by the same turn-based experience grinding the genre is know for. Here, as in hundreds of variations on the template, the developer has refined some minor parts while also serving up their own unique twists.
Despite Compile Heart’s move into the latest generation of systems, not much of that is conveyed in the way Omega Quintet looks. It may carry a decent frame rate and smooth animations but environments and character models lack detail – at least by PlayStation 4 standards. That said, the studio is on point when it comes to menu and interface design, combining slick artwork with fluid functionality. The game also scores high when it comes to audio thanks to a fitting soundtrack and frequent use of english dubs – something which is becoming increasingly rare for Japanese imports.
Omega Quintet is a competent role-playing game that builds on Compile Heart’s previous successes. The combat system works well and there’s an absolute glut of content for those willing to stray from the beaten path. That said, it’s not a particularly stunning game to watch, looking more like a remaster than a title genuinely meant exclusively for PlayStation 4. Then there’s the inevitable culture clash that comes from Omega Quintet’s story and setting, as well as its emphasis on popstars as opposed to armoured knights and space travellers that just won’t have the same appeal outside its original market.
Version tested: PS4