Right off the bat, I’m going to say what everyone is thinking; this game is similar to Persona. Every publication, every blogger, and every reviewer has compared it to the Persona series, more specifically Persona 4. After putting some time into it, I have to agree that Mind Zero is exceptionally similar in concept. The story focuses on a bunch of high school teens that summon spirits or demons to fight for them, there’s a mystery to solve, and the battles follow the generic dungeon-crawler RPG format (with a few twists).
The plot focuses on the main character that I like to call Kei McCoolGuy. Kei is your typical Japenese high school student with a huge personality issue: he’s a total douche. Everything Kei says and does seems to be done without a hint of passion and his responses to others can be completely nonchalant. The plot begins with Kei and his classmate Shizuku walking home after school. After an exchange of confusing dialogue, they notice a problem and Kei runs to help. Teaming up with a girl named Sana, Kei ends up discovering his MIND (summonable demon/spirit helper), picking his weapon (a scythe) and fighting off some monsters. I don’t expect you to be following this, because I sure as hell wasn’t. The plot initially makes no real sense.
The characters also feel reminiscent of Persona. Out of the main four characters you first meet I immediately found their Persona 4 equivalent, which makes me question if the developers actually designed these characters or just took heavy inspiration from other sources. The “mystery” that this game’s plot is centred around is also uninteresting. There’s genuinely no motivation for the player to actually care about the plot.
Battles feature three different bars – Life Points that serve as your character’s health, Mind Points that act as each character’s MIND’s health, and Tech Points that are required to do special attacks. When your character’s MIND is summoned, it takes hits for the player and can also use different abilities. However when your MP runs out, your MIND has to be removed from the battlefield and recharged. Admittedly the combat is actually a lot of fun, possibly being the only real highlight of the game.
The sound effects of the battles however, are not so memorable. The “crash!” “boom!” “bash!” onomatopoeia gets old fast, and the sound effects accompanying it remind me of listening to VHS tapes ( back when I was a wee young laddie…). It honestly feels like the sound was an afterthought that the designers remembered at the last minute. The battles are supposed to be the most engaging part of the experience that the player spends most of their time doing, but they end up feeling awkward and lifeless when played with the sounds on.
You can equip your team with a variety of equipment and techniques as you play, enabling you to actually change the use of party members and give them roles in battle. For example, Sana’s MIND’s first ability is a heal called Candle. You can however unequip this and give it to someone else’s MIND, swapping it for an attack technique. You unlock a variety of characters and techniques as you play, some being more suited to certain roles than others.
I sincerely hate to compare this game to another, but since I’ve already done that a bunch during this review I’ll just add some more here. Sana and Leo, two of the first few characters you meet, are exactly like Chie and Yosuke from Persona 4. Sana is a tough-as-nails fighter-style character with a strong will, and Leo is pretty much comic relief. They might look pretty different (although Sana is quite similar to Chie) but when it comes down to it, I can’t help but get Persona 4 characters out of my head while playing this game. There’s even a couple of detectives you are introduced to within the first minute of the game that are exactly like Dojima and Adachi of Persona 4, with one being strict and one being a noobie.
With all these things in mind though, the game controls extremely well and looks really nice graphically. There’s definitely a dark, gritty theme going with the dungeon exploration. There’s also tons of pinks, purples and blues used in the interface and battle menus, which is a nice change to the typical RPG themes. Again though this is similar to Persona 4’s intense use of the colours pink, orange and yellow for menus and text boxes.
The character and enemy design, graphically, is really nice though. For a game based on Japanese highschool students, they’ve got some really different designs that reflect the darker themes of the game. Enemies also look unique, interesting and there’s a wide variety of creatures that pop up through the dungeons as you progress so they never really get old.
When it comes down to it though, Mind Zero is ultimately a good game that has just been done in the past. Nothing feels particularly new or innovative, resulting in me constantly questioning if the game is even worth finishing. This game feels like it just doesn’t have an identity. It’s just pieces of other games compiled into one mediocre experience. Pick this one up if you’ve played other games of the genre and just want something to fill the void, but don’t expect it to hold your attention long.
This game was reviewed on the digital version of Mind Zero given to us by the wonderful people over at Aksys Games.