The PlayStation Vita is what I like to call an “anime trash” machine. The platform’s chock full of oddly named videogames like Criminal Girls and htoL#NiQ which are all, to one degree or another, offbeat — at least by Western standards. They tangle with mechanics traditionally eschewed by larger video games on different systems, and “anime trash” is the best way I’ve come to describe the aesthetic: high school students or younger with vibrant hair and clothes, often dealing with the supernatural, alien, or bizarre.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is another installment in this genre, but a somewhat boring one.
The game works fine enough and features a number of different aspects that will be familiar to any JRPG fan, like leveling up, various types of characters who have abilities that grow over time, and two lines of combatants. An interesting deviation is the two modes offered at the beginning of the game; the Basic mode features incredible portrait art for characters, while the other mode allows players to dress their characters with gear-like dolls. (This mode gets a bit creepy when you’re putting something called “Battle Pasties” on a character that’s ostensibly 12.) The game’s premise includes a whole section that glosses over the usual shorthand definitions of “monster” and “dungeon,” replacing these words with “Variant” and “Abyss” for reasons that aren’t explained particularly well. Why aren’t these things called monsters and dungeons? Because. That’s why.
Probably the best part of the game is wandering around the various dunge — I mean, “Abyss” locations and exploring them while the map fills itself out. A number of games use this kind of mapping function, but Operation Abyss makes it feel both less tedious and simultaneously less interesting. The fact that I don’t really need to pay attention to the map because I’m not actively adding to it means that there’s little reason to bother with it, other than the fact that the empty squares might drive some people batty if they don’t walk everywhere to fill them in.
Other than that, the combat feels repetitive and forgettable, the odd hacking mini-game with traps feels like an additional nuisance rather than an intriguing layer of complexity, and the storyline sways between laughably bad amusingly quirky — but it’s usually more of the former and less of the latter. Like a lot of “anime trash” on the Vita, Operation Abyss is a perfectly functional video game. But you might be better off spending your time elsewhere.
Rollin Bishop is a writer and tinkerer who tweets too much about anime and terrible jokes @rollinbishop. He is also bad at briefly describing himself.