Review: Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy is a questionable undertaking

Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy finds itself in a difficult position. It’s an Experience RPG that gives people an opportunity to once again create a party of custom characters and crawl their way through dungeons with a first-person perspective. This is a genre that has done well on the system. However, it is the sequel to Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, one of the developer’s less exciting games. Seeing as how it doesn’t learn from its predecessors’ mistakes, this may be a legacy that fades into obscurity.

While a game’s story and character motivations don’t often matter in dungeon-crawlers such as these, Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy takes that concept to extremes. It assumes the person playing has gone through Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy. There is very little immediate exposition introducing the game’s plot. We follow Captain Alice through a successful mission into the Embryo to fight its core and protect Earth, with no real explanation as to how and why things are happening, then find ourselves on Earth, outside Tokyo, watching a three-headed dragon terrorize the city and glare ominously at a mysterious girl with heterochromia before flying off to the Embryo soaring above the city. While things are expounded upon after we join the force to save the world, everyone assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the series’ lore.

Here’s what you need to know about Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy: variant monsters are invading our world and abysses filled with such abominations are springing up around the city, but you and whomever you decide to make in the character creator has a Code Rise ability that fortunately lets them fight back.

Not that the actual story matters. Here’s what you need to know about Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy: variant monsters are invading our world and abysses filled with such abominations are springing up around the city, but you and whomever you decide to make in the character creator has a Code Rise ability that fortunately lets them fight back. Naturally, everyone in the Xth Squad is also a high schooler, because of course teens are the only people capable of wielding the sort of power that would allow them to save the world. There are recurring, named characters, such as The Seven Hands villains, CPA authority figures, and wildcards like Hikaru, Ilith, and Kieru. In general, they’re unmemorable and exist to give you reasons to go back into the dungeons.

Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy has a promising character creator available to players. When you begin, you can choose between Basic and Classic mode. The former has default portraits to choose from and the latter lets you alter every element of a character’s design to make them unique and actually displays each users’ weapons and armor when they are equipped. Once you’ve chosen these characters’ alignments, starting stat determining types, and assigned bonus points, you give them their primary Blood Code. This is basically your character class and allows you to use certain skills after reaching certain levels. The Cross Blood system now eventually allows you to have two Blood Codes, giving you higher stats, bonuses, skills, and spells at the cost of decreased leveling speeds. This, combined with XTND abilities, makes your party more formidable whenever they head off on a Mission in an Abyss.

This means you have more range when creating a viable party. Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy is a game where you need certain sorts of people around. Magicians and Physicians are necessary, as they are good at exploiting Variant weaknesses and healing the party. You also need an Academic for getting past traps and finding secrets in dungeons. The front row has to have a Knight, Monk, Samurai, or Warrior to actually deal substantial amounts of physical damage and protect the party. With the Cross Blood system, you can double up on functions and make an Academic with Archer skills or create other combinations in the name of efficiency.

Actually traveling in a dungeon is rather nice. Experience knows what it is doing when it comes to the genre, and the labyrinths in Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy can be rather elaborate. You can see icons for events, enemies, and items, giving you hints as to where to go. There are booby-traps and puzzles to work out. They aren’t always visually interesting, but they do offer some twists and turns. Even early on, an Academic is a must though, so make sure your party is properly arranged at the outset. It doesn’t do much to solve the problems of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, which means you could see palette swaps of the same enemies and some environments that are too similar to be exciting.

The biggest problem when traveling is the UI, but then it is also a problem in safe spaces.

Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy’s battle system is equally competent. It’s turn-based, with players picking out their actions then choosing how fast they do or don’t want the battle to proceed. Depending on their positioning and range, as well as the opponent’s places, you can attack different characters. Still, just because it works doesn’t mean it is perfect. As in the previous game, you can only choose to attack groups, rather specific monsters. This can lead to trouble, since you can’t specific the most dangerous target. Another problem is the way in which experience is doled out. You don’t actually level up after a battle. You hold on to the experience and it is only applied after to visit the Medical Lab back at headquarters. (Which costs Growth Points, since you need to pay to rest.) This can lead to a lot more entering and reentering a dungeon so you’re actually at the proper strength to deal with a situation. Especially since each Abyss gets more dangerous the longer you survive, thanks to the returning Risk & Drop system that makes monsters more dangerous the more battles you complete.

The biggest problem when traveling is the UI, but then it is also a problem in safe spaces. Like Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy has an infuriating series of menus to navigate, something that is compounded by an unpleasant font that can be difficult to read. In a dungeon, you have very few options. You may only see Status, Change Squad, View Mission, and Identify to start. To actually equip a character or use items, you need to go into Status. There are no such menus in the hub, with the triangle button only bringing up what is normally the Status screen for each character. Instead, you have to visit specific areas of the academy to perform different functions like roster changes, which is thoroughly frustrating. It takes a bit of stumbling in the first few hours to remember where things are and how to properly manage your party.

At least it is easy to make new items. A crafting system is in place in the Development Lab. When you head into there, you can create entirely new items or apply upgrades to existing equipment to make it more viable. You’ll start accumulating Codes as enemy drops almost immediately, which means from the very start you’ll have the materials necessary to make your people bigger and better than before.

Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy has a very specific audience. It is for people who both love dungeon crawlers and played Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy. If you don’t fall into that space on this specific Venn diagram, you probably won’t have a great time. It’s a game that’s often competent, but never outstanding. When when it does a few things well, there will swiftly make another mistake. It them comes down to being patient enough to accept such incidents, forgive them, and keep going.

Score: 5/10
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Developer: Experience
Platform(s): PlayStation Vita, PC
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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