It's hard not to approach Trinity Universe with anything but a sense of tentative sadness. It's nice to see so many companies working together, let alone that the developers in question make some of the most identifiable RPG's on the market right now. But ultimately I find myself disappointed that all three of these companies (known for their sprite-based character design) have decided that a pooling of resources must also feature some sort of dramatic change. In this case, the change is a shift from their classic 2D style to a more 'up to date' 3D look. The disappointment doesn't end there.
This isn't to say that a company should never change, or that developers shouldn't always be looking for new ways to make games fun, but little about this title strikes out as exciting to me. In fact, Trinity Universe feels like the same kind of fanservice we've seen before. Characters from other series? Check. Cutesy fighting effects mid combat? Check. It's almost like Nippon Ichi and Gust drew a line and said 'we'll make these characters, and you can make those characters'. In fact, they did.
Players get to choose between two different story paths, Goddess or Demon Lord, which will feature cameos from Gust and Nippon Ichi characters respectively. In addition each story path seems to be more heavily influenced by the respective developers, which is a neat touch for anyone who prefers one company (or set of characters) over the other. Whether or not it'll be the same sort of relationship-based mingling over and over is yet to be seen. But it's a safe bet that, considering the cast of the game is mostly female, there will be some form of development on that front.
It's unclear what Idea Factory is contributing aside from programmers, perhaps they're just happy to be along for the ride. This isn't to say that there aren't any new characters either, as both sides of the fence will most likely be fleshed out with a brand new core cast. But it's hard not to get the feeling that these new characters are just filling in the typical clichÃ© roles demanded by the JRPG category. Otherwise, why bother announcing the appearance of Etna or Flonne? Why not just keep it a secret, something for the fans to discover? Trinity Universe is a game that seems to throw everything out on the table at once, which only really works to it's advantage if you like those companies to begin with. Otherwise, the effect is pretty alienating.
Gameplay is another facet of the game that draws some concern, as while the combat system looks to be unique in its own right it also appears to be extremely archaic. Both Gust and Nippon Ichi have some very dynamic and unique spins on the RPG genre. Unfortunately, Trinity Universe feels devoid of even that, sinking back to an extremely traditional format of combat, despite all the advances these companies made in Cross Edge. Perhaps since this is their first foray into 3D game design they didn't want to make anything overly complex, or maybe they thought such advancement might confuse their fanbase.
The games biggest disappointment boils down to how Trinity Universe could be so much more. Maybe it's too early to judge, maybe there's some divine mechanic hidden deep beneath the layers of J-Pop marketing, but I really doubt it. The game looks like it was completely designed for a very niche group of people, and considering what the final product looks like I have to wonder if even those people will be interested enough to give Trinity Universe a shot.