Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangame! The game interprets the opening of the worlds in the season 5 finale as creating a hodge-podge dimension of characters and locations from other works, resulting in a massive crossover world. Unfortunately, I am culturally illiterate and Buffy was the only one I was familiar with. The opening involves a hotshot demon hunter dude trying to protect her from demons only to get oneshotted while she beats them herself, which amused me and was delightfully in keeping with canon. Unfortunately, Buffy gets outclassed by everyone else pretty quickly. I can understand the necessity of flattening the power levels for an RPG cast, and it’s stated that the purgatory world is giving people additional magic powers, but it’s still rather annoying that Buffy isn’t that special gameplay-wise. At first I thought she was meant to have a unique weapon type that was superior in some way… except there’s another party member who can use more weapon types than her including her specialty weapon, and her specialty weapon kinda sucks anyway, having a lot of skills with random targeting and high health costs.
Despite that, I did find the Buffy characters to be very in-character, and Buffy has the same degree of proactiveness I liked about her from canon. Cordelia also shows up and is basically the best party member, which is awesome.
I don’t think I can judge the story fairly, since I don’t recognize the references that seem to be the main draw. It’s also camp horror, which is not my thing. Every demon enemy has an over-the-top description about eternal torment or horrible sadism, but after about three dungeons of that it just becomes white noise. Battles are also pretty easy and the villains are pretty incompetent, which rather undermines the attempted horror. (And there are a lot of misspelled words, for some reason.) The characters are also weak — almost everyone is optional, so scenes have to be structured modually and the seams are really obvious. You occasionally run into special scenes where one character advances their subplot, but otherwise they just chip in for one line before going back to being scenery. I’m also annoyed by the arbitrary party size limit. Was it a limitation of the engine? It just felt like a really tacky way to force replays.
Gameplay is… confusing. The main mechanic is that skills are heavily tied to what weapons you use, which tends to make characters feel really samey. Some inherent skills are obtained by leveling up, but this is mostly limited to dedicated casters. The rest of the strategy seems to revolve around the game’s metric ton of status effects and elements, but unfortunately there are so many that they broke the status screen and it appears impossible to see weaknesses and resistances properly, so most battles are simply spent guessing at enemies’ affinities and hoping you can remember which matchups worked. The game does come with a manual… that only explains the most basic and obvious stuff, but not things I actually needed documentation on, like status effects.
Battles also tend to be real crapshoots. The developer for some reason thought it was a good idea to use the aforementioned metric ton of elements to further exacerbate squishy wizards: casters are massively weak to all weapon elements while fighters are the same for all magical elements. Combine this with the fact that many bosses have skills that hit multiple times, and it’s very easy to get knocked out from near-full health no matter what you do. The game is generous with providing healing items, but not so much with revival items, so lots of battles can still be desperate scrambles.
Things also don’t seem to be balanced very well. Past about the midpoint there is basically no point to using magic attacks, as not only does the game have the standard problem of magic not scaling as well as physical, the higher-level weapons give you truckloads of elemental skills anyway. To compound this, there’s a status effect inflicted by late-game skills that cuts health by 25%… and it stacks, so you can kill anything in four hits. This works on bosses. I don’t know if this is a bug or what, but it enabled me to beat all the final bosses 10 levels below the recommended. The game is tricky at the beginning when you have limited options, but by the end you have so many overpowered skills you can just coast through everything. Unfortunately, this has the effect of making things feel really dull and repetitive.
And this is an odd thing, but the music looped really badly. It was always really obvious and jarring, particularly exacerbated by the fact that the tracks usually weren’t very long.
Overall, I’m not sure if I’d recommend this. Try it if you’re a fan of all the franchises on display, I suppose, but there weren’t enough Buffy elements for that alone to carry it for me.
…And I have to say I’m starting to get really frustrated with the default jRPG system of enemy targeting being completely random. The tide of battle can change dramatically based solely on whether damage is spread out or focused. The Reconstruction may have been an overcorrection in the other direction but dang if I don’t miss having aggro control.