Compile Heart deliver a unique experience which is undoubtedly their best on Vita so far – an amusing strategy and stat-raising simulator with a surprising amount of heart.

 

World-building & Story

Set in the underworld, Trillion: God of Destruction stars Zeabolos – its great overlord – who sees the land of the fallen invaded by the titular character, a gigantic monster with a trillion HP. Witnessing his brother’s death at the hands of this creature, Zeabolos charges in only to face a similar slaughtering. In any other game, this would be game over, but the great overlord finds himself (partially) resurrected by a mysterious woman named Faust.

2016-12-18-174559Faust poses a deal – in exchange for Zeabolos’ soul once Trillion is dead, he will be granted a temporary lease of life in order to train up six overlords to slay the beast. The catch (aside from the earmarking of his soul) is that only one overlord can be trained at a time due to the lethal miasma that Trillion releases, nullified only by a single ring.

The premise is easily one of Trillion: God of Destruction‘s strong points – very Disgaea-esque, yet with a poignant twist as you slowly uncover the overwhelming mountain that needs climbing to destroy this boss. The game plays with a number of ideas and themes – most notably heaven and hell and rebirth, but handles them well in a humorous yet touching package.

2016-12-19-000611Central to the story is character development – as Zeabolos spends time with each overlord he slowly uncovers layers of their personality, each often drastically different to the initial facade they present. Each one though exaggerated, feels like someone you could genuinely care for with time, which makes it all the more devastating when the game requires them to be sent to their deaths as the story progresses due to the overwhelming odds being faced. My only complaint in this regard is that previous overlords are often forgotten far too quickly, despite often being close relatives of the main cast.

In general, the tale told here is an emotional, well-thought out one and something that was well worth experiencing. There’s a level of mystery introduced in the beginning of the story that is slowly unveiled as things progress, meaning there’s just enough information drip-fed to keep you coming back – pacing is definitely on point.

2016-12-28-195354.jpgWorld-building is done through conversation scenes, but mostly this is done in the background. The game assumes you’re familiar with concepts such as the underworld and the seven deadly sins and characters such as Cerberus – the focus is squarely on character and story development instead.

 

Presentation & Sound

Fairly modest even by niche Japanese game standards, Trillion employs two main systems for its presentation – visual novel conversation scenes and grid-based combat battles, alongside a tonne of menus. Both are appropriate for what they’re attempting to achieve but neither are visually spectacular.

2016-12-18-234348The vast, vast majority of your time in game will be spent navigating a series of menus with the goal of training and interacting with your overlord. These are stylishly drawn and functional but generally don’t do anything to impress, although little touches such as mini-animations that play when you choose certain tasks such as ‘interact’ help bring life to the proceedings.

Similarly the visual novel sections are pretty well done – well drawn characters, but a lack of animations based on different moods let it down. As usual there are unlockable CG’s viewable only after meeting certain requirements and while not animated, I found these all to be extremely well drawn and often quite touching additions to the story that are well worth hunting down.

2016-12-29-175300It’s worth noting the character designs separately, however. These are the exaggerated portraits you’ll have come to expect if you’ve played any recent Compile Heart game, yet they feel incredibly well done here with each overlord being based on one of the seven deadly sins. Even superfluous characters like Zeabolos’ grandmother have exaggerated designs that are awesome to observe.

The rest of the game takes place in turn-based grid combat, which will be very familiar if you’ve ever played a Japanese rogue-like such as Sorcery Saga before. Characters are chibi-fied for these sections and generally the presentation is pretty lackluster, with things like enemies being monotonous re-skins repeated throughout the campaign.

2016-12-26-203644There are high points to these sections – things like special attacks often have a lot of visual flair to them, making them enjoyable to execute. Similarly backgrounds rotate based on where you’re fighting – this does a lot to add variety to the graphics and gives a feeling of impending doom as Trillion inches closer to the underworld’s core.

Sound is generally high quality – although the vast majority of the game isn’t voiced, the VA that is here is pretty high quality. Sadly it mostly panders to tropes that are commonplace among anime-inspired games these days, but that doesn’t detract from the experience. Music is pretty good and the tracks here are memorable, just overused – for example it’s literally the same piece of menu music throughout a playthrough.

Soundtrack highlight – Believe again

 

Gameplay & Content

No matter what your impression of Trillion is, it’s worth noting that this is primarily a raising simulator that requires you to navigate a lot of menus. As previously mentioned, your goal is to defeat the titular monster and you do that by training your chosen overlord over a set period before heading into battle.

2016-12-18-213138As such, nearly everything you do in the game is time-based and follows cycles. In general you’re given 7 days at a time to train before taking part in a mandatory fight with ‘Mokujin’, a training dummy. What you do in those 7 days is your choice, but each action will have some kind of effect on your overlord’s development while simultaneously progressing time by a day.

Although the game is menu heavy, it’s fairly simple to get to grips with things. Your two main actions will be to either physically train your overlord to raise her stats, or interact with her to raise her affection towards you. Various other actions exist such as taxing the population to raise money, but generally you’ll work hardest on making your candidate as strong as possible.

2016-12-18-213142In order to do this, you’ll find a number of activities under the ‘training’ menu ranging from parrying attacks from two instructors to cleaning the hot springs. Doing these will award you points which are used to increase a variety of stats ranging from hit points to reaction speed, as well as buying special attacks to use on the battlefield. Different activities award more points in certain categories, so you’ll find yourself rotating through them depending on what you want to raise the most.

Aside from physically strengthening your overlord, its also important to increase your bond with her. The game uses ‘affection points’ as a battle mechanic – the closer you are to an overlord, the more points you’ll have and these are critical as they act as an extra hp/mp buffer by being depleted first. Affection is raised by interacting with the overlord – spending time with her to understand her better, which produce some of the game’s most emotional scenes as you slowly unravel the reasons behind some of the harsher aspects of their personalities. It’s also possible to give them gifts from items gathered and working out which will provide the perfect present based on their likes and dislikes is often quite amusing.

2016-12-26-020518The remaining aspect of training the overlord is the ‘Valley of Swords’, a rogue-like dungeon which you can enter after gaining 5 training medals. This is the first place the true gameplay mechanics show – the game is a traditional turn-based grid rogue-like played from an isometric perspective, where every enemy can take action immediately after you. The game drops the overlord into this dungeon and gives you 120 turns to reach the exit – if this is achieved, any loot and exp gained can be kept, otherwise it is forfeited. The big bonus of ‘Valley of Swords’ is that it consumes no in-game time, making it a great way to boost your character’s stats before a battle.

While this provides an introduction to combat mechanics, Mokujin battles drop you in the deep end. While all the core pieces are the same – movement is turn-based on a grid etc., the difficulty is ramped up substantially and new ideas are introduced. Chief among them is anticipation of attacks – Mokujin, being a colossal representation of Trillion – causes devastating large attacks which take time to connect. This is represented by colours on the grid – white for an attack which isn’t coming for some time; red for a blow which is imminent. This makes even reaching the beast a chore as he’ll often block off routes to him with a barrage of pending attacks.

2016-12-19-232008All of this would be manageable if you could bide your time for an opportunity to arise, but time is not on the underworld’s side. Mokujin – as with Trillion – is slowly advancing towards the underworld’s core and if he passes a certain point the battle will end, meaning you’re pressured to cause as much damage as possible in the time given. Whether Mokujin is beaten or not, the training cycle begins again at the end of the battle.

All of this creates an interesting progression system – time is constantly against you and you’re fighting to make the best decisions you can with the opportunities available. Although things can become tedious towards the end of your first run due to the largely samey tasks you’ll be doing, I felt engaged to see things through to the end just so I could face off with the destructive monster himself.

2016-12-18-174827And what a battle it is. Battles with Trillion will push each overlord to their limits, demanding perfect positioning; timing and attack choices in order to inflict maximum damage. Mokujin provides a taster of the mechanics at play here but everything is tuned up to the max for the god of destruction himself – attacks hit wider and longer and for much more damage; additional enemies are spawned which take time and effort to dispatch and he stomps towards the underworld’s core more rapidly.

If you’re able to cause enough damage, you can force the battle to end and Trillion will change forms – 3 in total – but this will be very difficult on your first attempt. If there’s a second thing to note about this game, it’s that your overlords will die – you’re not expected to beat the boss in one attempt and he’ll likely slay many of your friends before he’s finally dispatched. Thankfully each character has a special ‘death skill’ activated upon their passing which can have varying effects from increasing the beast’s slumber to inflicting massive damage.

2016-12-22-002032The emotional impact of seeing your fallen comrade draw their last breath is surprising. I wasn’t expecting Compile Heart – masters of lewd humor – to elicit such a reaction from me – and I found myself genuinely sad when my chosen overlord perished after we spent so much time bonding. My only criticism of this aspect would be that deaths are quickly forgotten in the narrative and rarely mentioned again, detracting from the impact somewhat.

In terms of content, Trillion is both a meaty and light package. There’s nothing more than the base game here – once the boss is dead, that’s it – but you’re encouraged to replay to see endings for every character. In this respect, the game is as fulfilling as you choose to make it, but it makes for a good ‘return to it every now and again’ title to do a new playthrough.

 

Conclusion

A game I wasn’t expecting to enjoy nearly as much as I did and a big surprise of 2016 for me, Trillion mixes a number of elements together to create a cohesive whole. While there were times I felt the premise was being stretched thin, the title managed to remain amusing and emotional throughout and is something well worth checking out if you’re looking for something a little different on your Vita.

8.5/10

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