Mind Zero is, in the end, a game done in by its own averageness, which is a shame because it had some pretty interesting ideas buried in it. Too much of the game reminds you of its overall drabness, especially the actual dungeon crawling and encounters, which is probably the most damning part, because it is thick with random encounters.

The game isn't all bad. The general premise and aesthetic are derivative at first glance, but the theme of Mind Zero manages to be basically engaging, even if it's underdeveloped. The skill card mechanism of upgrading skills and spells is fairly interesting, using random skill drops to level up the ones you care about, but it sucks having to leave the dungeon to upgrade them, since it's a pretty major disruption to the game to trek back out to Yokohama when you fill up on skills.

The most redeeming feature of the game is that it has an interesting meter system. There are three meters, Life Points, Mind Points, and Tech Points — Tech Points power your skills, and Life Points and Mind Points fall into a kind of balance where LP is the health of your character and MP the health of your MIND, a Jojo's Stand-esque entity that you can have fight for you. Take damage in one form, and just switch modes and heal up. It sets an interesting kind of rhythm to some fights where you have to be careful with the meter management.

Unfortunately, the complicated balancing act of the meters makes the many, many random encounters feel all the more tedious, and it isn't really compelling enough on its own to make all the fights feel engaging. The game has some balance issues, as a mob of the right enemies can quickly drain your meters and leave you with rounds of recovering before you can get back to addressing the fight.

Additionally, the same meter system also makes solo enemies, including many of the later bosses, extremely trivial if you have a good party dialed in — the boss's damage output, even with the occasional special or two attacks per round, just can't crack through both meters fast enough to really be a threat. The last few bosses, including the two-phase final boss, were nothing but battles of attrition, chipping away at huge health bars while never really being worried about occasionally healing.

Otherwise, the game is an average gridder. You talk to your friends in the overworld, then dive into the dungeon, which has fairly average environments, mostly unmemorable music, and a disappointingly underdeveloped graphics engine. And maybe that's the hardest part of the game to stomach — compared to the wonderful Demon Gaze that came out just months ago, Mind Zero, by itself, offers so little, even if it has plenty of potential good ideas that never fully pay off.

The game pretty shamelessly ends with a setup for a sequel, which may or may not ever come as it was considered kusoge in Japan (an overblown label, in my opinion) and didn't do much better here in the West, but I do kind of hope they try another game, if they improve on it — the core idea is pretty good, and I do think they have the beginnings of some interesting mechanics to work with.

Ultimately though, I wouldn't really recommend for or against Mind Zero. Check it out if you feel interested, skip it if you don't. Not bad or not great, I kinda liked it, but it's a difficult thing to like.

Updates on some games

Vita games!

Mind Zero

This has been pretty alright so far. I heard a lot of bad things from a vocal group of people, but actually playing it, I'm enjoying it enough. It doesn't compare favorably to Persona or anything, but that's an unnecessary comparison and it's decent enough on its own merits. A nice, kind of moody game, with dungeon crawling gameplay and amusing little visual novel cutscene interludes. It could use a bit more polish throughout, but unless something changes I'm definitely going to play this to completion. I'm enjoying the narrative and even when the gameplay is a bit rough or lacking, it's still good enough.

Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection

Lots of amusement here. The game is an idol maker sim, but the gameplay is pretty light and I understand it's neither difficult nor long (I'm only around 1/4 of the way through my first playthrough). The draw is absolutely in hanging out with the Hyperdimension Neptunia CPUs and getting in all sorts of silly little scenarios. Being a HN game, there's a lot of little gaming nods, and the main narrative excuse for the game, an idol group named MOB48 has started taking over and the CPUs need to fight back by becoming idols themselves, seems like some kind of weird parable on mobile games in Japan. Maybe I'm just reading into it though.

Monster Monpiece

I bought this game out of curiosity, but it turns out the actual gameplay is pretty solid — the deck-building nature to the game's core card game is very well done. You can buy more card packs with real money, but so far I haven't had a single need to, and I've been running over most opponents with the occasional difficult one or two. It's shockingly well-done! I can't help but be self-conscious while doing the rubbing monster girl cards thing, but aside from that the game is absolutely clean (which just makes the rubbing all the more curious in its contrast, really). I don't know if it's my "favorite" game of the three, but I usually put aside a half hour or so every day just to get a couple battles in before playing other stuff.