Loop8 mixes an RPG with Roguelike and visual novel elements that see the player take the role of Nini, a teenager who has moved to a remote Japanese village after his home on a space colony was destroyed. In Loop8, giant monsters known as Kegai terrorise the world destroying everything in their wake, which has led humanity to either escape into space or take refuge in remote villages where the attacks are less frequent. The game takes place during a Summer in the month of August and revolves around Nini building friendships with the local residents with the help of his demon eye. This unusual ability allows him to read others emotions and to see the demons/spirits that populate the island. By interacting with friends Nini can forge strong bonds which will help stop the end of the world and possibly break the time loop that resets everything back to the start of August when things go wrong.
Loop8 starts with an interesting premise that mixes Sci-fi with fantasy and promises an experience akin to games like Persona, where the bonds forged between friends gives strength to the player. However the execution feels more like The Sims, in which the player would make their sims constantly talk to each other in order to raise numbers to show how much they like each other. This is the crux of the interactions in Loop8.
Nini will use his demon eye to see if an interaction option will have a positive benefit, starting out simple with things like “get to know them better”, “take a walk”, “flatter” until things open up like “ask to study”, “ask to fight by my side” and so forth. The dialogue options consume energy which acts as the player's HP and MP in combat. These values can be raised by training in various activities and can be restored by visiting the town's cafe and restaurant. The training and status raising aspects take up time however, usually making time pass by an hour to 90 minutes.
The game's clock is always moving, so planning out the day is a crucial aspect to progression. The game opens by giving the player a set routine to adhere to, but confirming that after this point they can do what they like. This is shown by waking up at 6am, going to school for 9am class which skips the day to 1pm and then the player needs to be home by 3am or they crash. Thus the player gets set into a routine fairly quickly. What makes things interesting is the aspect of receiving blessings. By exploring certain areas of the town and interacting with objects, a small spirit will appear that grants a blessing, which can range from an increase to a status like Strength or Agility, or increase to a relationship between two characters. Blessings also appear when the player interacts with characters and can be applied to both the main character and the party members.
The game itself has a timer letting the player know when a Kegai has appeared and the gateway to face them is open. This usually happens every 5 days, in the lead up to which the player will need to build up stats and relationships with other characters. The main point in doing this is that characters gain better stats and skills. In the menu you can see that characters will learn a skill when certain stats increase or relationship values go up. This gives an indication on how to best approach the game, however with this and ensuing battles the game doesn't really give an indication on how strong you need to be to best challenge each boss.
This leads to the main crux of the game, the "loops". When a game over occurs the game resets back to the start of the month. The player loses all relationship progress and status gains, though much like a roguelike, some progress is retained - Blessings are kept and the gains that go with them., making the aspect of training and building up relationships easier. However I found that the gains and benefits were only marginal and having to replay all over again multiple times to make any progress felt tedious. It took me 5 hours and my third loop to successfully defeat the first boss and move on.
With regards to combat the game mimics Persona 3's approach with the player only able to control the main character and the party of (at most) two extra characters being controlled by AI. However the game features the demon eye which allows the player to see what moves they'll make by showing the phrase each character will say and who it is aimed at. This gives the battles a bit of strategy where the player can focus all buffs on the character who is planning to attack or can choose to attack when they see the party members will be using buffs on the main character. Its an interesting approach to battles, but the problem is the game doesn't really do enough with it and battles are so infrequent that you'll go through the tedium of the other aspect to get to these parts.
In terms of presentation, the backgrounds and character art are nice enough. The voice acting is fun and vibrant, while the animations feel a bit off at times but overall the visual experience is pleasant enough. The main problem is you'll have to repeat pretty much everything you've done multiple times, going through the same intro to the game. The same dialogue moments eventually lead up to the same battles you've fought in a previous loop. The only way to break up the monotony is to try a different approach by interacting with different characters and planning your day a bit differently. This would be fine if the game wasn't so restrictive with what you can actually do, as there are only so many locations, places and people to interact with.
What sounded like an interesting concept is let down by a tedious time loop mechanic, an interaction system that feels more the Sims than Persona and sporadic battles you can't get to unless grinding repeatedly through the same personal interactions.
Review Code Sent Courtesy of Marvelous - PS4 Version reviewed on PS5