Omega Quintet Review
First released in 2014 (2015 in the West) for the PlayStation 4, Omega Quintet is a JRPG with light visual novel elements from the developers of the extremely popular Hyperdimension Neptunia series. It made its debut on PC on December 15, being one more title JRPG fans can gladly add to their Steam libraries… Or will they gladly do so? While it has some interesting concepts that feel both familiar and fresh, Omega Quintet also commits sins that help make it appealing only to a tight audience instead of average JRPG lovers.
Developed by Compile Heart (a subsidiary of Idea Factory that’s primarily known for the aforementioned Hyperdimension Neptunia as well as Record of Agarest War), Omega Quintet puts players in control of a teenage boy named Takt as well as five teen idols—Otoha, Kanadeko, Nene, Kyouka, and Aria. To be very honest, it can be difficult to pin down the protagonist as the narrative perspective is constantly shifting to benefit the player with exposure. Whatever the case, the story revolves mainly around Otoha and the other four girls, all of which are Verse Maidens. In this alternate futuristic universe, Verse Maidens are idol-like heroines capable of fighting off an evil force known as Blare, which threatens the citizens of an unnamed city.
The story is told entirely through a visual novel perspective with long—and I mean long—dialogue sequences, most of which are only punctuated by the background music. Even for visual novel fans, the story of Omega Quintet is hit or miss. It isn’t particularly original or interesting with how the plot develops and how the core cast comes together. It also makes use of popular anime stereotypes such as the sporty short-haired girl with lesbian tendencies, the tough black-haired girl who has a soft spot, and the “unintentionally cute” and yet extremely aware white-haired girl whose most remarkable feature are her red eyes. Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of anime stereotypes being used in a clever way as the story concerns itself too much with fanservice instead of artistic integrity or the satirical elements it lays in the beginning.
A few characters escape the rule, however, but they seem to gravitate around the one or two traits that make them memorable. For instance, Nene is a quiet intellectual type with a “secret” passion for firearms who can be exceedingly blunt. Ayumi not only is a grown woman, but she acts as such and even presents some other facets that make her all the more relatable. Otoha herself barely escapes the rule of cute clueless female protagonists thanks to her peachy hair and over-the-top bubbly personality. Takt himself, however, is better described as the Bella Swan of otaku culture as he’s written as someone every otaku boy can easily relate to. Yep, I went there—I called Omega Quintet the Twilight of anime-based JRPGs. Rush those fiery comments right up!
The aspect that makes Omega Quintet a tough sell besides its storytelling is the aforementioned satirical element. It’s clear early on that Compile Heart was trying to poke fun at the Japanese idol culture, which is even more exacerbated there than what the Western music industry did to Britney Spears—albeit not as devastating. Unfortunately, that side of Japanese culture is quickly overshadowed by fanservice, which this game has enough of to justify an entire new collection of body pillows and bumpy mouse pads. The underaged girls (one of them says with all the letters that she’s sixteen) are often thrown into sexually charged situations, commenting how weird and “gross” it is that Takt is the only male around, and having their clothes ripped off by a destructible mechanic solely put in place to get them in their panties. For once, it might be worth praising Idea Factory and Ghostlight (publishers of the PS4 and PC versions respectively) for not overly-censoring the international release but on the other hand, the sexualization of minors is a delicate topic in the West.
Moving on to gameplay, Omega Quintet doesn’t stop being divisive here either. As a visual novel, it does a poor job at conveying choices with absolutely no options during interactions. Instead, the selected difficulty, side quests cleared, and affection towards specific characters (raised in a variety of ways, but also by simply watching their respective interactions) defines which possible endings players get as well as which parts of certain maps are accessible. This isn’t a new way to provide branching paths to players but when half of the game revolves around visual novel elements, it’s weird not to have any dialogue options or direct control over the narrative.
Fortunately, as a JRPG, Omega Quintet does enough to stand out. When the visual novel isn’t playing itself, there is a fair amount of areas to explore. These areas are decently sized and offer a variety of enemy encounters which, thankfully, can be avoided with little effort. And going into battles, the game is quite familiar to those used to JRPGs. You have your party to the right and enemies to the left, all the information regarding both sides, and the menus where you can perform various actions. However, as standard as Omega Quintet is, it attempts to bend the JRPG formula a bit by giving a lot of power from the beginning.
Each Verse Maiden can perform decently on their own with some providing a strategic twist to encounters while others are able to dispose of foes in a single turn. However, there are a few little details that make this game stand out from the herd. The first is the ability to pair Takt with any of the five girls, which allows players to use him momentarily in combat whether it is to damage foes and slightly change the turn order or help mitigate damage dealt to the character he’s paired with. Another is the Harmonics, a party ability which allows the Verse Maidens to perform in sequence as long as their original turn isn’t obstructed by an enemy. During Harmonics, it’s also possible to trigger chain attacks, which combine the powers of regular skills to let the Maidens attack at once and deliver a more powerful and devastating move.
While the JRPG aspect is certainly the most mainstream part of Omega Quintet, it also does a few things that may be odd to those used to Final Fantasy, Pokémon, or even Persona. For instance, one thing that stands out is attack effectiveness and elemental weaknesses. An attack’s effectiveness depends on the weapon the character is using (which in turn have specific ranges) and the specific skills, each with their own specialized ranges. It’s an interesting mechanic that often requires knowledge of your party beforehand but even if an enemy is “out of reach” and an attack is supposed to be ineffective, some damage will still be dealt.
On the other hand, elemental weaknesses are complicated at first since they don’t follow regular JRPG rules. Instead, the standard players have to go with are positive numbers. If an enemy has 100 or more in any given elemental type, skills of that element will be extremely effective depending on how distant the number is from 100 and the skill’s range. On the other hand, numbers below 100 make the skill less effective but not any less lethal. As a whole, despite its oddities, combat is rather enjoyable and no less complicated than other JRPGs, which is always a plus.
And finally, we get to the part of this review that actually matters. Since this is a port of a three-year-old game, we have to consider its options and how it performs when talking about its value. Priced at $30, Omega Quintet isn’t as disappointing as other PS4 ports that came out in the last few years and yet, Idea Factory and Ghostlight could’ve handled it much better. But before we get into that, yes—it runs well enough. I had a few FPS drops with my i7-7700HQ and GTX 1050 Ti (with the few graphics options enabled) but not at any moment was the game unplayable. In fact, these performance dips were far and few in between, with every area and situation running as is expected from a title this technically simplistic.
If you’re into the lite visual novel aspects, heavy fanservice, and the twist on the JRPG formula, you will certainly get your money’s worth. Still, it’s difficult not to question why the seven $2 DLCs aren’t part of the package. Looking at the Hyperdimension Neptunia titles available on Steam, it seems Idea Factory is very comfortable charging extra for old games, but there’s little to no reason for them to do so. Looking back at my favorite game in the genre, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is also priced at $30 and has previously released DLC as part of the purchase (and I would say Acquire needs the money more so than Idea Factory considering the popularity of Hyperdimension Neptunia). Hell, even Square Enix releases PC ports of the Final Fantasy franchise with most DLC previously available on consoles, with Lightning Returns costing $20 and the recent World of Final Fantasy at $40, both including most DLCs. But of course, if you’re a fan of Idea Factory, this business decision is a no-brainer.
- Decent price for a port of a three-year-old game
- Interesting approach to JRPG mechanics
- Lots of fanservice with cute teenage girls and their panties—if you're into that
- Runs well enough for the little optimization options it offers
- The sexualization of minors might be a delicate subject to some
- DLC available on the console version has to be purchased separately
- The lite visual novel aspect is underwhelming due to a lack of branching paths
- Its JRPG elements count with some confusing mechanics that, though easy enough to understand, are unnecessary