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It's SMT with a Serious Identity Crisis...

Disclaimer: As the game is presented as long, this is based off of about 6 hours of gameplay and is broken down into five points: Writing (Plot and Dialogue), Aesthetics (Graphics, Audio, Atmosphere and how everything meshes together), Gameplay (Self Explanatory), Engagement (Is it fun? Interesting?), and Effort (Did the creator show that they put work into it?). Also, because of the game's nature, I also included a section of issues that may or may not affect the score, depending on the magnitude. There are very minor spoilers.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Shin Megami Tensei. It's exactly my bread and butter; deep, complex stories stitched with excellent, challenging gameplay. It was natural for me, then, to pick up this game, Blood Haze, when it claimed to be an SMT-inspired game. I can't resist Press-Turn battles! I know this game has been out for a while, but I still felt an urge to give it a review since no one else did.

As a big SMT nut, though, do I feel like this game lives up to SMT standards?

Well, I actually think it's a pretty fun game. It's just no traditional SMT, if you can call it that.

(Warning: The following contains a ton of references to Atlus games. Your mileage may vary with my opinions of this game.)


Blood Haze starts with our protagonist, Elioth, along with his brother Kaleo and companion Gesley, a group of Excavators ready to get their hands on the treasures of Gharos ruins. As they go in deeper, they meet an old witch, Marlene, who's been living there for a while for who-knows-what-reasons, and a whole hoard of Magicite, all while fighting lots and lots of monsters. Upon return home, Elioth decides to take a nap and his girlfriend Catherine (or is it Katherine, hmm? I wouldn't be surprised by the reference) catches a disease known as the titular Blood Haze, causing the victim to go into a coma and burst with blood in about six months. Yikes. Obviously, Elioth doesn't want to see his lover's blood all over the bedroom, so thus begins a journey that is probably much more than that and involves demons. (I'm six hours in, don't hurt me!)

So, now I got that out of the way, let's breakdown what makes this game tick.

Writing: Maybe not perfect English, but it did manage to invoke feelings! (1.0/1.0 Star)

For the record, if you plan on playing this game expecting a SMT plot, read my special notice in yellow near the end of this review before playing.

The writing is this game was good on its own right. Though, if it weren't for the nature of review scores on the site, I would've given this section more of a 0.75.

The plot gives very little exposition to the world; you figure it out as you go along the story. I actually like that, even though a little bit would help me understand what's going on. No overly long cutscenes; you are able to get to the gameplay pretty quickly compared to some other games I've played. Not 100% original flavor in the story department, but it works for me.

Each character is actually personalized well; even though they aren't radically different like night and day, they are distinct from one another to a fair extent. Elioth is shown to be the level headed one, but is cautious and worries about his coma-stricken lover. (We only see Catherine interact for one scene, but I was able to feel his worries, which was good! He connected with me.) Kal is a bit of a child, but is very loyal to his brother, Gesley tries to act as the authority figure but is usually shot down by the others with words, and Cyrielle is a hot-headed and aggressive mage. Maybe these ideas aren't the most original; however, I liked the way the story shows these four interact with each other. There is a lot of humor in the writing, yet not to the point of overflowing, which I appreciate a lot. My favorite scene was Cy's introductory scene; it showed the kind of character she was perfectly. (Well, maybe not perfect, but it was pretty fun to play.)

Scenes like this make my day. All day, everyday.

So then why do I say it should be 0.75? The grammar. There are often a bunch of random missing punctuation marks everywhere and some parts just don't sound right when said aloud. I really don't see why any good writer should ignore spell checking; you could just have someone help in that department! Still, I liked the writing from what I played. There were emotions that I got from playing this; a good indicator that they must have done something right with it.

Aesthetics: Your maps are killing me. (0.5/1.0 Star)

The low point of the game is probably some of the mapping. Sure, there's good map designing in dungeons or trails (though to some they may be cluttered). My problem is that that some of these places don't really look right at all when placed side-by-side with the sprites. In fact, towns in general have probably the short end of the stick in design.

I guess no one caters to the vertically-challenged here. (Except for the window makers.)

Usually, like in the image above, the sprites and maps are not proportional to each other. That house just looks weird. Lots of other buildings in this game are like this, too, so that can be an issue with some of the more design savvy here.

Also, sometimes the game pulls stuff like this:

What force of nature carved this totally natural mountain formation?


Also, I wish battles looked a bit prettier. I was never really a fan of games that had the map you were on as a battle background, but I can get past that. However, enemies... could at least fit in with the game better.

Slime or a slug? You decide! (Hint: It's supposed to be a slime.)

Another nitpick I have about the game is that sometimes the font gets hard to read. Maybe not for everyone, but when you have white text on a whitish backdrop on a transparent window setting, it gets problematic. Some of the music choices range from good to okay; in particular, I feel like a lot of the rock music was tacked on to be more like SMT, when some of the other tracks aren't remotely rock at all; at least in SMT, dungeon/town themes had a guitar/rock organ/whatever in them, making everything sound unified as a game. Just listen to SMTI's Ginza.

Then again, I may be overreacting with the music. Though it certainly is jarring to hear Nocturne's level up theme in a not-Vortex-World or Megami Tensei II's battle theme arrange for fighting in not-Tokyo.

Despite these, I'm giving it a half star for some solid dungeon/maze design. Still, work on those maps, you certainly don't want to shatter suspension of disbelief or get the Mapping Nazis on your case.

Gameplay: Fun, Difficult battles with too many features and some bugs (0.5/1.0 Star)

This is the section that I will probably drag out the longest out of each of these sections, and also the section I go SMT fanatic on. I give this a 0.5 since everything was solid and not horrible. Here's a tl;dr version if needed:

  • The battles were a bit buggy/incomplete feeling (Specifically an exploitable Turn Press bug, and Skips not working as they should...)
  • There are moves that are just not worth it or don't work as they should
  • SMT is being mixed with other gameplay mechanics such as weapon/armor levels, synthesis and build-up that I just don't care for and is too complex
  • Who's the person who came up with Armor cards? It's tedious!
  • Field Enemy AI is not aggressive enough
  • Puzzles should be handled better
  • Sidequests which I actually enjoyed

First, the Press Turn system. This is the most SMT gameplay you'll get out of this, so it's important if you're advertising this game as SMT based. For the most part, the system does work. Weaknesses give half turns, misses/nulls deplete 2 turns, etc. That's all good. However, the system has a few holes. For starters, I would very much appreciate the game more if it had an option to pass a turn for the cost of a half-turn (like in all the other Press Turn SMTs; TurnSkip flat out doesn't work like that), and options to change formation. Weaknesses may be a key part of the system, but so is turn order, since you're pressed if Gesley's God Hand misses the boss and you can't use Cyrielle's Mind-Charged-Taru-buffed Megidolaon because of it, since then it could just kill her and ruin your strategy. A simple formation changer is all you need! (Unless it's there and I didn't notice, but the main menu didn't have a Formation option.)

Also, there's an exploitable bug where if you keep hitting weaknesses, you get more out of a single turn than you should. For example, with a full party, when I had one turn left and spammed Garu on an enemy with wind weaknesses, I managed to get 4 attacks in. FOUR! This bug actually saved my bacon quite a few times, but it's something that shouldn't be there.

Moving onto the skills. Skills are handled a lot like SMT: Digital Devil Saga I, where moves have to be learned in sequence, though here you don't need to AP grind and instead learn skills immediately. Now, right off the bat I noticed the availability of Megido early on; usually those spells are for the mid-game. And with good reason; I took advantage of this to use Megido as a Disk-one-nuke of sorts, coupled with Tarukaja and Rakunda. I think the game did good with making you feel like you made good choices through these moves. However, there were times when skills showed that the game wants to screw you over. When Cyrielle joined, she had no skills but had 6000 points to spend learning skills, so I decided to invest in Mind Charge and Mana Drain, using all 6000 points, and having her use knuckles for a while. Mind Charge definitely works. Mana Drain, however, WAS A WASTE OF MY POINTS. It drained HP, not MP! What the heck. First rule of thumb in game-making, make sure everything works as advertised. Because if you don't, you just waste players' skill slots.

Also, I felt Lunge did less damage than a normal attack. Don't do that please. Give it more ommph.

Lastly, I want my Hamaon and Mudoon. There is none. Your summary lied to me too! There's not even light or dark elements. ;_; /slap

Okay, okay, on further play there is... for enemies. But why can't we learn any of those from the get-go? You had Megido on there...

It took me a while to realize those Resist skills are for a character's specific weaknesses, but it would be helpful just to have resists for all of them for consistency (and why doesn't Cyrielle have Resist Ailments? Geez, that's what made Cielo of Digital Devil Saga a scrappy.)

The beef of my gameplay issues is that this game is trying to shove a whole lotta features behind this simple system of learning skills and exploiting weaknesses. For instance, there's an armor/weapon leveling and building system that, as a SMT player, I could really care less about. Also, generally speaking, there are too many numbers for me to keep track of anyways.

Seriously, don't care, too many levels to manage.

There's also Synthesis and a "Build-up" system, but again, when you advertise the game as SMT, usually this is stuff we don't really need! (Nocturne and DDS had no armor besides Magatamas and ammo, respectively!) I wouldn't mind it if it was its own game, but calling it SMT just because of battles, skill names and a few demons is... it just doesn't cut it. Actually, scratch that. I wouldn't mind these extra systems if they weren't so needlessly overwhelming. Too many numbers. Don't shove in these overly complex systems on an already refined play system. Remember, K.I.S.S. Throughout the game I simply managed by learning skills and buying the latest armors, and that's usually what is done, like in pre-Nocturne SMT games, SMTIV and Persona.

If I couldn't do this right without a guide, there's either something wrong with me or the in-game explanations.

Also, who's bright idea was it to have players buy Armor cards instead of just buying armor directly? I mean, seriously. It may be a form of world building, but it's damn tedious to enter and exit menus multiple times to use several cards to get armor when I need to buy a bunch of them! Geeeeeez. It reminds me of Ragnarok Online games and their cards, but more annoying.

I just did. Your cards are terrible.

Now onto the field. Dungeon crawling is simple. Usually, a dungeon is a maze that you simply need to find your way through. Simple. However, I have gripes about the on map encounters. For starters, these enemies are not aggressive at all. For the person who wants to speed run, or escape, this is good. However, it seriously makes it easy for someone to skip every fight. To be fair, this would make bosses tough as hell, but the lack of urgency these creatures have for human flesh deserves a RPG Nobel Peace Prize for advocating anti-hero-consumption. Also, these on map encounters are not randomized well. If I run away and run at the same enemy again, it's the same enemies. Something to consider. One other nitpick is the inclusion of rare enemies; they give more items, sure, but why not more EXP, like in Etrian Odyssey? The harvest points seem inspired from EO (to me anyways), so why not? That is a much better reward, imo, and would give players more incentive to actually kill these things. That's just me though.

Another issue: Puzzles. Puzzles. Puzzles. There were not many in my current play-through so far, but so far I don't think they were handled in the best way. (It didn't help that these puzzles were in a hellish dungeon where I couldn't think straight; see Special Issue under the Effort section.) These puzzles I speak of were number puzzles. You had to walk on tiles to add numbers up to a certain amount when you get across. I thought that while these puzzles were tricky, I had to ask, what does MATH have to do with this bloody place? (It didn't help my impressions that the numbers on the floor didn't appear the first time.) Read the ever-so-helpful RMN guides, they were written for a reason.

Oh, I know why! This place is evil, so Math must be evil too!

Despite all my complaining at this point, I liked how sidequests were implemented. Again, like harvesting points, this sounds like it was inspired by Etrian Odyssey, where doing quests nets you rewards and hefty amounts of EXP. Except, instead of retreading dungeons you've been to before, Bloody Haze actually takes you to extra dungeons outside of the main quest. What's more, sometimes these quests are mentioned in the main story. For example, when Gesley explains the lawless land, he refers to the first sidequest and how a thief convinced you to steal beer for him. I just love little details like that, so that there is a plus.

Somehow they fell for it. Somehow.

Ultimately, the gameplay is solid but could use lots and lots of polishing.

Engagement: Fair and rewarding (1.0/1.0 Star)

Despite gameplay issues, I actually had fun playing through the game. Maybe it's because I'm starving for Press Turn and really want SMTIV soon, but the game just feels good for a grindaholic like me to play. It's fun obliterating enemies with a Mind Charged Megido at level 15 that you stocked points up for. Bosses are difficult, but I managed to get through them with some hard work. And it feels like it paid off. If you don't mind a little grinding in your RPG, you will be satisfied with this game.

Effort: They showed it! Just needs polish. (1.0/1.0 Star)

The creators, despite not doing something completely perfect, clearly paid attention to what they were making, even if the English was off at times. I have to respect anyone who manages to pull off such a long game (with some good content, too) that I enjoyed for hours, even if it's faulty in some areas. Kudos to you guys.

However, now that we got through with those... my personal issues. :U

Special Issue: Hotel Falls was uncalled for! Serious mood whip-lashing almost ruined my will to play! (-0.5 Stars)

Another section I may drag out. For the record, this section of the game was good, yet absolutely horrible considering the genre. I am deducting points because it's a matter of consistency. It's very important to be consistent.


Dear god! This game is a JRPG in the vein of SMT, right? Because this is probably the freakiest JRPG dungeon I've played ever, even compared to SMT. Seriously. I may give minor spoilers, but if you can't stomach horror games (like me), this is for your benefit.

Maybe it's just that I am a total wuss, but I came in this place expecting something like Digital Devil Saga's Coordinate 136; abandoned, silent, but not horrific.

NOPE. The game went straight up Corpse-Party-Witch's-House-Ao-Oni on me. I knew this wouldn't be a happy-sunshine-Persona-4 world, but... gah.

Game... stahp. You're creeping me out. STAHP.

To the potential players who don't have a clue what I mean, basically in this dungeon you have foreboding music playing constantly in its first half, with menacing sound effects. Nothing too bad yet. But then you start seeing flashes of dead people. And a little girl. Okaaaaay.
Then, you enter a room in search for keys to open various doors. In this room, you suddenly get locked in, and everything starts getting bloodied up, all culminating to... the room unlocking, with the key suddenly appearing in the corner. The hotel now looks bloodier.

To not go on and on, to summarize the whole experience, the deeper you go, the more heart-racing it gets. A little dead girl (with what appeared to have gorged out, bloody eyes) begins to start chasing you. It begins as a harmless walk in the room you can easily avoid. Then it starts getting faster. Things go creepy more frequently. And then, the second floor. The DAMN SECOND FLOOR. Once you get the key up there, that girl suddenly gets smart and puts barricades on your exits, which made me freak out the first time and led to multiple deaths on my part. After getting through the (thankfully not haunted) second portion, she comes back at you and full on chasing you as you backtrack back to the first part, until you reach the save point room at the end, or when she catches and kills you.

Now imagine all that with horror chase music just popping out of nowhere randomly and with that little girl laughing her horrid laugh.

I need to be unprofessional to show my reaction, but just... Jesus Christ Almighty, that was f*cking TERRIFYING to me. I almost didn't want to continue, and I really don't want to back track there for any reason, even if that girl is gone.

(It was so bad, I had my sister play this part after I did and we both were hugging and fake-sobbing once we died.)

Ugh, maybe I'm just a wimp and it's not that scary... still...

Now, I can appreciate a good horror game. I can. But, throwing this kind of stuff in a JRPG is just outrageous! JRPG players play this stuff for combat, world, story, etc. etc... but not for HORROR! They are not expecting it! Shin Megami Tensei is philosophical, NOT SCARY! If they wanted that, they could just play Corpse-Party-Witch's-House-Ao-Oni-Silent-Evil-Man or whatever's good horror out there! At least if you're doing something like this, have it conform with the rest of the game (i.e. an unwinnable battle or something!) And for Christ's sake, if you're going to break standard conventions, at least don't do it in a SINGLE DUNGEON. Seriously, that dungeon has now made me expect more horror later, especially in dark places, despite the fact that so far, now it's back to standard fantasy fare. I simply have to deduct points for this because this may be totally detrimental to some of the JRPG audience who can't get past horror games for whatever fear they have, and expect, I dunno, a JRPG! It's plain inconsistent. If you have more horror later in the game, at least label it in the summary so we can steel our balls appropriately.

Did I mention this section is one of the few places you'll actually see the Game Over screen? The actual screen? The one that doesn't show up when you die in battle? (It doesn't, usually it just sends you back to the title.)

Ack, I'm getting no sleep tonight...

Minor Issue: Tentarafoo is the SMT confusion spell, not Marin Karin...

I'm just nitpicky about this kind of stuff, but if you're going to borrow names/moves, at least be accurate to the source. :P

And finally:

Special Notice to the Reader: If you're expecting a full SMT styled experience, turn around unless you can brave the first hours. Demons aren't appearing for a while. I dunno how long, but a while.

At least in the beginning from what I've played. Unless it pulls a SMTIV with a medieval and modern world, but I highly doubt it.

This game claims to be Shin Megami Tensei, but that is only in combat. Outside of it? With the story and characters? I could draw waaaaaay more parallels to, say, Final Fantasy and possibly some Tales of. Heck, with some of the darker aspects, it follows more horror games than SMT. There aren't demons in this part as far as I know, mostly just monsters. The only referenced is Satan, but that is usually a given with games that have demons. The main character isn't silent (mind you, that isn't necessarily bad) and you have no control of his stat growth. The game is not as grim in the beginning, though I can imagine things getting a lot worse later on.

In all honesty, this game is possibly hiding roots of a SMT worthy story somewhere. But so far, it's appealing more to my FF-Tales senses due to it's character writing/banter and its world.

That sounds more like the Lifestream than Magatsuhi.

It's not bad at all. It just needs to stop putting SMT front and center, or convince me that it is from the get-go, other than gameplay/skill names.

(NOTE: After some rummaging through sources, there are actually SMT demons in this game! Angels! Demons! They didn't lie after all! Still, we fight a whole lotta normal monsters before that point. This is a very misleading game... all the more reason why I call it an identity crisis.)

Final Verdict: 3.5/5.0 (Good, but needs more work)

Reasons: Good gameplay and writing that suffers in a slew of features, trying to include a bit too much at once in one game.

Play this game if you enjoy: A fair, challenging and rewarding RPG, Press Turn Battles and enjoyable characters.

Don't play this game if you dislike: Grinding, unnecessary extra features to SMT battles that may overwhelm later on.

Additionally, don't play this game if you expect: A traditional SMT type of storyline that breaks fantasy conventions. At least for the first several hours.

Personal Advice to Creators:
I like this game. I usually don't like a lot of RPG Maker games, but I like this. Maybe because I'm biased towards Press Turn, but this is pretty good in my eyes, especially considering I sank several hours into it. I don't know if you're still active, and maybe you already learned from this experience, but next time, if you're going to borrow from something, understand how it works at its deepest level. SMT conventions work because they're simple and easy to learn, yet hard to master and control. The other stuff with the millions of equipment pieces is a bit too much, at least for me. Polish your gameplay. And work on that mapping and grammar!

And, uh... make sure your game can't qualify for more than one game genre if it's not going to be a main feature. Never before have I seen a JRPG fit a single level into the horror genre. Just saying. Some people can't handle that kind of stuff well. *cough* ;P


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lol, I didn't expect someone to say that found the hotel part horrific. I mean, I've played some horror games like Silent Hill and I found that part funny because of how he was trying to scare me with really simple stuff. But it was a really awesome dungeon for me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game in my opinion :P.

Great review :D
Thanks for the review, I'm glad someone decided to do one for the game after all this time!

You summed up the game pretty well, a mangled mess of all kinds of systems that shouldn't have been there, but were put in to make it "better".

-The Upgrade System-
The upgrading of armour/weapons was actually not in the game at all until a few months before I released it. I did have up-gradable armour/weapons but it was a very simple system where you would obtain Upgrade stones (lvl 1 through 4) from monsters/chests that would allow you to level up the basic types of armour/weapons using the Synthesis shops like the ones you see in the game.
Then at a certain level it would upgrade into the next tier and you kept going like that.
No fiddling around in a menu or keeping track of 30 extra items like in the current system. Also the current system forced me to use armour/weapon cards due to the way the RPG Maker engine keeps track of equipment; buying gear the traditional way was how it worked a few months before release.
Why did I add it? Because I thought the old system was "boring", it wasn't "Free form" enough so I put in the current one thinking it would make the game more interesting. I guess you could call it scope creep since that's really what happened. Also I'm a big numbers and loot nut but I should probably keep the number crunching down to a minimum in games where it doesn't belong.

-The Story-
The story is very much as you described for the first half of the game. Demons play a major part after the first half and heaven and it's angels (and of course God) start coming into the mix near the end (though not center-stage).
That's not to say you should expect something like SMT1/2/3, because it's definitely not.
Since you haven't beaten it yet I can't really say much else at this point.

-The Battle System-
The bug you mentioned is something I intend to fix for when I use the PTB again, along with adding passing and some other goodies. It won't be included into this project as a patch nor will it be done any time soon.
Also, I swear I fixed Mana Drain in one of the patches since someone reported it not working a week after release (it drained HP instead of MP like you say).
Maybe something messed it up again, but I'm not supporting the game with patches anymore.

-The Hotel-
Oh god, where to begin...
Uh, yeah. Maybe I went a bit overboard here. Just keeping the general atmosphere would have been enough but I started adding stuff to it until it became this giant hell-hole, I like giant hell-holes! I actually have a horror game planned so I'm going to put all my sick demented stuff in that game instead ;)

The eye stabbing part in the diary wasn't in until a month before I released it, the way the room that locks you in works was also changed a bit before release. Some of the jump scares weren't even there either; the chase scene was there from the beginning though.
But yeah, I can understand your point of it coming straight out of nowhere. Some people liked it and some people do not, but it's certainly unexpected either way.
As for "Seriously, that dungeon has now made me expect more horror later, especially in dark places" I can already tell you that yes, there is one more dungeon that fits the bill, however not in the same way as the hotel. It's creepy and tense but it does not have any jump scares or chase scenes (it does have some messed-up parts) and it's also there for back story on certain characters.

Something similar is in my next project, but it fits in with the narrative better, does not have any jump scares and it's just a tense atmosphere and nothing else.

This is the reason why I'm not making a sequel to this game yet, but instead working on another project first; to get better at writing and telling a story.
English is not my first language, though I have a pretty decent grasp of it, writing a coherent story is on a whole other level.

Hopefully that will help make Blood Haze 2 stand out a lot more, I'm fully expecting it to in multiple ways.
Though it's going to take a very very long time.

-Final Words-
Not much else to say. I enjoyed reading the review and since it's been so long since I made this, I laughed a bunch of times at the things you mentioned. This game IS pretty silly now that I look back on it, with a lot of things I wanted to put into it but ultimately resulting in something that could have been better if I kept my focus.
Thanks for playing! :D

Edit:Now that I looked back on my patch notes, I should point out that I forgot to mention that in patch 1.03 I added an "Automatic Card User" system that automatically uses all equipment cards in your inventory the moment you go into town or after you are finished buying them from the store.
Also just tested Mana Drain and it works for me, looking back in the comments section I fixed this in patch 1.03a.
Either way, if you didn't get the patches I HIGHLY recommend them since they also fix some of the grammar and punctuation errors.

lol, I didn't expect someone to say that found the hotel part horrific. I mean, I've played some horror games like Silent Hill and I found that part funny because of how he was trying to scare me with really simple stuff. But it was a really awesome dungeon for me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game in my opinion :P.

Great review :D

Haha... I mean, I don't play horror often for a reason. Thinking back on it, I think the reason I went hard on it was probably because I was still steamed at a friend for sending me a link that both scared the crap outta me AND made my computer die on me. I'm thankful I saved my projects beforehand... but yeah. It did impact how I took the Hotel. I wanted to get away from that kind of stuff xP


Oh, a patch? I must've missed that. I'll look into it, thanks. Maybe I should've checked everything before reviewing, but I think the score still stands. Hope to see what you have in store later on! If I liked this and you think it's silly, oh boy.
Oh, a patch? I must've missed that. I'll look into it, thanks. Maybe I should've checked everything before reviewing, but I think the score still stands. Hope to see what you have in store later on! If I liked this and you think it's silly, oh boy.

The site kind of hides them a bit compared to the main game download. Patch 1.04 and 1.04a can be downloaded by clicking on the small "downloads" link located in the row beneath the main download link.

And who knows, maybe I'm just being too hard on the game. It's just that working on my 2nd project and looking back at this, it pales in comparison.
Of course, we won't know if that's truly the case until it's actually completed. :D

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