In all fairness, I did not play the original Demon Gaze, so I have no idea if this sophomore installment is better or worse than the original. But I have played lots of other JRPGs and set against that large sample, Demon Gaze II comes across as a game with some interesting mechanics, an intriguing story premise, but presented in a package that is scaled for handheld systems. Blown up to PS4 size, every flaw becomes that much more apparent.
Few JRPGs -- outside of the Final Fantasy games or their triple-A cousins -- are known for their elegant and well-crafted stories and Demon Gaze II is no exception, starting with that hoariest of premises, the amnesiac hero. From the get-go the story is relatively incomprehensible but the gist of it is that you reluctantly join a band of resistance fighters in order to defeat a tyrannical leader. As the cast of characters emerge you're not sure who are your true allies but soon enough things come into focus.
As the player character hero, your biggest strength is your ability to capture and control demons with your, er, gaze and to add the demons to your dungeon crawling party. Of course, a captured demon needs to be leveled up through lots of combat and there is a mechanic for dating your demon in order to make them more affectionate. Eventually you will assemble a large collection of demons that you can swap in and out of your party, each with his or her specific strengths in combat.
As a premise, this game could be taken in a number of directions. It could be a dark, brooding story or a silly, anime romp with comically exaggerated characters and dialogue played for laughs. Unfortunately, Demon Gaze II has no idea what tone it wants to consistently maintain so that the characters, their appearance, the dialogue and the voice acting veer from serious to silly to simply strange. The world is some sort of high fantasy/steampunk place where dictators broadcast over the radio and dungeons are filled with pipes and machinery. Costumes range from medieval to modern and likewise, the writing can't seem to find a consistent center.
While there are fleeting moments of wry, understated, self-referential humor too much of the dialogue is overlong, excessively expository and lacking in emotionally effective substance. At least in the English localization, the dialogue is often simple and generic. The voice acting suffers from a similar lack of consistency with average being about the best it ever gets. Ditto the music, which often feels frantic but never really exciting.
From moment to moment, playing Demon Gaze II can be fun, as the combat is simple and yet there are a lot of options, upgrades and different characters to make it interesting. The missions and dungeons are rinse and repeat collections of trash enemies and a final demon boss at the end but taken in small bites, the repetitive feeling is minimized and both melee combat and magic are varied and effective.
Graphically, Demon Gaze II very much looks like a handheld game blown up to PS4 size, with apparently little adjustments made to the resolution or textures. The game is a riot of color and light but the environments are simple and repetitive. Visual distortions abound and the tile-based movement system feels primitive on a current gen system.
Demon Gaze II is a confounding experience, with enjoyable combat and a strong premise undercut by poor writing, inconsistent tone and graphics that really belong to a tiny screen. Hardcore fans of JRPGs that lie on the fringe of mainstream gaming might appreciate its quirky humor but for the rest of us, there are better RPGs to spend our limited time with.