By: Casey Curran
Every now and then I play a game which tries to copy another game or series’ identity rather than create its own. Mind Zero tries to imitate Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 in this way, and in doing so it creates a hollow and empty feeling game that often misses the little details which made Persona work.
Mind Zero is a game that is based around navigating menus and does not try anything stupid to ruin tried and true navigation. The game never throws too many menus at you, and it keeps both the quality and quantity of your options clear. Because of this, Mind Zero had absolutely no control issues.
It is hard to judge Mind Zero graphically. On the one hand, the talking head sections are well drawn. However, the cut scenes never venture further than talking heads, often asking you to fill in far too many blanks. The game will suggest something crazy is happening, only to see nothing but a flash of light maybe accompanied by a sharp noise. Many games have used this to good effect, but the talking head bits take up an absurdly large amount of the game with no other way to tell the story, making them bore very quickly.
Characters, meanwhile, are not well written and are often accompanied by grating voices. It does not help that there is very little original in these characters, but even if they did feel fresh their execution leaves much to be desired. Dungeons look very basic. I have seen 3DS games with nicer looking first-person dungeons than this. Monster designs are both creative and look sharp, yet they contrast a little awkwardly with the background.
You ever see that episode of South Park where the boys get a new console, then some weird government conspiracy causes it to get stolen, and when the four get involved they can’t emphasize enough that they do not care about what is happening, they just want to play video games? Well, that is the exact feeling I got while playing Mind Zero. There are numerous talking head segments scattered throughout the game, each of which has about 10 or 20 more dialogue boxes than it needs. Everyone talks way too much, most of the conversations don’t go anywhere and it just gets boring.
This is the key way it fails in imitating the Persona series. Yes, Persona was wordy. It was very wordy. Yet, for the most part, it did everything it could to keep things interesting. The characters were interesting and just enough information was given to keep the plot mysterious while letting the player know the really important details. In Mind Zero, the characters range from boring to annoying, while the plot feels similar to Final Fantasy XIII in how hard it is to follow.
I realize that comparing it to another game as a focal point of my review may not be fair, but when Mind Zero has a cast consisting of more annoying Yosuke, talking Yu, and bland Chie/Yukiko complete with the first three discovering a doorway into another world in a blatant copy of Persona 4’s first transport into the TV, it is very hard to get that out of my head. This makes The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’ similarities to Ocarina of Time look subtle.
Combat meanwhile, is decent, but it does very little to stand out to other RPGs. There is more of a focus on characters’ individual abilities rather than an open ended “make whoever you want however you want” approach to them. Each character has his or her own entity, known as a MIND, to assist in combat similar to a (gasp) Persona to suit this approach well. Here, however, the game actually takes a little different direction as the MINDs only assist when called upon and drain magic instead of life when hit. Think of them more as a special move, which makes combat more interesting.
This twist is still not enough to make the combat stand out. If you have played through several other dungeon crawlers, then this will soon blur with the others. It does little to shake up how you must approach dungeons and enemies in interesting ways, which, due to its long length, makes combat get boring a lot sooner than when the game ends.
Mind Zero is a game that wishes nothing more than to be a Persona title. It attempts to mirror the mysterious story and atmosphere from those games and pairs it with a dungeon crawler: The result is a game that ends up feeling like diet Persona, losing much of the flavor and fun of the original. If you have played both Persona 4 Golden and Final Fantasy X HD and are still looking for an RPG fix on the Vita I might recommend it. Otherwise, steer clear.