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Yes, you are the demons.

  • Tonfa
  • 09/21/2009 04:42 PM
This review is based on the final version of Demon's Gate, v1.6.

Demon's Gate is a very simple game. Let's start by listing off what it -isn't-. You are not going to find an intricate woven plot here. Renameable demon #3 is not going to stab renameable demon #2 in the back and create touching character drama. Amazing custom graphics and sounds? No. Fantastic worldbuilding and ultra-pretty map design? Go away. Demon's Gate is all about dungeoncrawling for battles and loot. There is a simple backstory, but it serves as nothing more than window dressing - you get several lines of dialogue upon reaching a new area or boss, but that's all there is in the way of your rise from hell to heaven.

So how is the actual gameplay then? You start from your home base of Tartarus and must work your way through five areas consisting of five floors on the way to the showdown with Creator. The floors range from tiny to gigantic, and are largely mapped well enough for exploration to be worthwhile and rewarding, though there is one lategame misstep in the form of a huge maze floor covered in darkness. You can use a restockable item named Dark Portal to teleport to Tartarus and back at any time - which is a good thing, because Tartarus is the only place where you can go on a shopping spree, change classes, and in a very convenient feature, check how many treasure chests you are missing in each area.

Class changing is your growth system - each of your three demons starts as a woefully underpowered Underling, but near the end of the first section of the dungeon you start finding Crystallized Souls, which unlock new class options. Each class has its own levels, from 1 to 20. As you level up in a class, you gain skills and stats for your demons. With class changing being free at any time inside Tartarus, you can fully customize what kind of skillset your characters will have.

There is no limit to the amount of classes you can master. An aftergame character may look something like this.

The battles themselves come mostly in the form of random encounters. You can adjust the encounter rate with an item found early in the game, and eliminate them completely with a later item in case you just want to find that last treasure chest in peace. The game uses the Rm2k3 DBS with its myriad inherent flaws - and yet, thanks to the class system and highly varied enemies, manages to push it to its limit to create an enjoyable battle experience. The game starts off easy in the first floors of Tartarus to ease the player in - but starting from the second area, difficulty starts climbing up steeply and you will be looking at a wiped out party numerous times. Not the Game Over screen, though - if you lose a battle, you are simply returned to Tartarus and even get back whatever consumables you used in the battle you lost. You can also save anywhere in the game for the first four floors and absolutely anywhere after you find the Save Disk in the midgame. This means you can never lose progress in the game, which is welcome with the game's unforgiving difficulty.

Each area features the same set of enemies throughout it, which would make the difficulty curve drop drastically during the five-floor stint of each area if not for Power Enemies. Power Enemies are palette-swapped upgraded versions of the area's normal enemies, with much nastier tricks and a distinct battle theme. After you defeat them all, the area's encounters will only consist of Power Enemies from them on. There are boss fights at the end of each area, but they aren't a large focus - if you can handle the area's power enemies, you can take them easily. The focus is in the random battles - nearly every fight is a battle for survival and you need to throw everything you can at the enemies to win.

oh god I am being assaulted by bad SNES games

You don't only have your large variety of possible skills to combat the enemies, though. You can also find a lot of great equipment and items from the loot boxes the enemies drop, chests on the maps, and by paying the merchants at Tartarus enough Souls (demon currency, of course) to upgrade their inventories. You will frequently make large leaps of power with seemingly amazingly broken equipment setups - but don't worry, the next encounter will most likely inflict 13 different exotic statuses on you and then slam you for ridiculous damage. This power tug-of-war only ceases at the very endgame, where you most likely have godly enough setups for the enemies to hardly be even capable of touching you. And even then, there's the aftergame! (And New Game+, but that honestly seems quite pointless)

As you may have inferred from the above screenshots, the game loves its references of varying obscurity levels. Everything from ancient chinese generals to statues busting out wrestling moves will try to kill you, and you will fend them off with equipment stolen from Megaman robot masters and skills named after videogame songs. If you crack a smile at seeing a reference you recognize, you will find a lot of little funny moments here. On the topic of writing, though, typos are a somewhat common occurence even in the revised version. There are a few minor battle system related bugs too, but while they detract from the polish somewhat it's nothing that will hinder the game experience.


Overall? If you enjoy a dungeon crawl with fun, fast, furious battles, you will enjoy this game. Just don't expect anything else. Total play time clocks in at around 7-8 hours.

"Never give up! Never surrender! Even if you fall in battle you'll end up here fully restored. Even every item you used during the battle will be restored! Game Over? Well I imagine that would be a pretty rare sight here." - Defeated Demon, Demon's Gate