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Loop8: Summer of Gods (PS4)

By Thomas Froehlicher 21st Jun 2023 | 3,434 views 

Loop8 has interesting gameplay ideas but absolutely disastrous execution.

With producer Kenichiro Takaki leaving Marvelous to join Cygames and the Senran Kagura era apparently well behind us, I've found myself paying little attention to Marvelous' release line-up. Little seems to have come out of the developer other than Rune Factory and the likes, but the company did manage to draw my attention again with the reveal of a new Japanese RPG IP: Loop8: Summer of Gods, which stood out amongst an otherwise lackluster-looking catalog of titles.

For those who saw the excellent anime called Summer Time Render, the concept behind Loop8 will feel familiar. Nini, the protagonist, arrives at a small Japanese town called Ashihara in order to fight demonic creatures known as the Kegai. The Kegai have a very bad habit of taking control of someone's mind and then triggering a world-collapsing catastrophe - something that you certainly don't want to happen.

Nini has to repel every attempt by the Kegai to use someone to destroy the world. This brings us to the (only) very interesting point of Loop8, which is its unique progression system. The game takes place over 30 days, with the Kegai acting every five days. The player must find out who in the town is possessed by the Kegai, build a strong party, and then defeat the boss monster before the fifth day. This is repeated every five days until the end of the month. But the tricky thing is that if you lose to a boss at any time during the month, you enter a time loop and are sent back to the very first day! This is just like in the Summer Time Render anime. Nearly everything, including character stats and relationships, is reset to base value. You do, however, keep "blessings" obtained in shrines, which add to your allies' base stats, meaning you're a bit stronger every time you go back in time.

Loop8 differs from most RPGs in terms of battle and party management. You don't gain any experience from fighting fiends. The boss fights are the only ones that matter, and there are barely any encounters besides those. Among Ashihara's townspeople, five characters can join you in battle, but this isn't automatic. When you start the game (and every time you restart), you must build the relationship between Nini and anyone you want to ally with. When you reach a certain level of friendship, the character will accept to join your party and come with you in dungeons. Nini can also more easily go on activities with them at that point.

Certain choices can grow dislike in these relationships, so you need to be careful in what actions you take towards your companions. These actions vary from complimenting or teasing, to asking them on a date, and more. Activities like studying, exercising, or eating together are a means of boosting Nini and his party's stats, allowing them to be better prepared for the next boss. Leisure activities like these consume a few hours in the game, as does traveling from one part of the town to another, so meticulous time-management is de facto required, like in Atelier games when time was still limited. It's genuinely engaging, but having to do everything all over is absolutely frustrating. Bear in mind that you must go through the very same conversations, the very same cut scenes, and the very same fights with every loop. Upon losing on day 20 after tireless efforts to build my team across ten hours or so, I must admit I couldn't take it anymore. The skip feature doesn't even skip the dialogue, it just fast-forwards the text and even that still takes ages.

The truth is that Loop8's overall content and value doesn't really motivate one to go further. It's certainly also the cheapest Persona-like I've ever seen. There's barely any meaningful conversation, and characters usually respond with either "thanks" or "I don't have time right now". Even when choosing the option "get to know better", you won't learn about your interlocutor's background or personality. Worse still, there's no proper introduction to the main characters. This makes chatting with them quite confusing -  Machina or Ichika, for example, hint at their personal stories but these are never divulged. Dating events also happen on the same still screens each time; there are next to no animations for any event. Finally, the music constantly changes based on Nini's mood which, annoyingly, can be every minute or so.

Visually speaking, the character modelling is decent (but that's the least to expect given Senran Kagura's graphical prowess many years ago). The anime-like design is also rather convincing, with the female characters especially having cute reactions. Only Ichika seems to have appropriate battle animations though. But the real pain is that Loops8 runs at a horrible framerate; it makes Nini's ultra slow walking tiring, and gets choppier still in battles.

Battles are another aspect where Marvelous could have invested more resources. To my surprise and dislike, no character besides Nini is playable. I was looking forward a traditional turn-based RPG in which you make every decision for every character, as has been the tradition for decades, but that's not what you'll find in Loop8. Instead, you only decide Nini's action at the start of the turn: he can attack the enemy, boost an ally's power, shield them, and cure himself. The main problem with all of this lies in the erratic behavior of the AI-controlled party members, who constantly waste very precious turns. For example, when you have Nini take a supportive action for them, they'll also cast support spells on Nini, with the result that no one attacks for the turn. They'll also spam actions like this for several turns while the boss is having a field day hitting you...

Loop8: Summer of Gods had the potential to be a serious outsider with an innovative approach to the JRPG genre, if only it were better executed. There's a poor amount of content and it's a technical disaster. The concept is a good hook, but everything else is so barebones that my interest dried out fast, and that's without mentioning how hard and tedious it is trying to reach the end. Loop8 is such a massive disappointment that it will make me think twice before purchasing a Marvelous game again.

After graduating from a French business school, Thomas felt an irresistible force drawing him to study Japanese, which eventually led him to Japanese Profeciency Test level 1 in 2012. During the day, Thomas is a normal account manager. But at night he becomes Ryuzaki57, an extreme otaku gamer hungry for Japanese games (preferably with pretty girls in the main role). His knowledge now allows him to import games at Japanese release for unthinkable prices, and then tell everyone about them. You may also find him on French video games media. Feel free to contact on twitter at @Ryuz4ki57

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This review is based on a digital copy of Loop8: Summer of Gods for the PS4

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