Developer Compile Heart has had an interesting record in terms of game releases, especially in their games brought over to western territories. They've released games with numerous issues such as the Mugen Souls entries, but on the other hand there's games like Trillion: God of Destruction that really took me by surprise as the game initially seemed like it was cut from the same cloth as some of their lower-quality releases. With their latest game, MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death, how does it fall on that scale?
The general plot to MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is that the game's world has stopped spinning and a group of five female "Machina Mages" have came to the city of Southern Cross to find the secret to making the world spin again. Of course, since this is a game, this involves heading into four towers, beating the bosses that lay within and performing a cleansing ritual in the holy hot springs that are at the top of the tower.
The characters themselves are pretty much your stereotypical JRPG archetypes, alongside the main villains and some side villains who try to interfere with you along the way. If you've played some of Compile Heart's other non-Trillion entries, you probably have a good idea of how this all plays out trope-wise.
And bringing things back to that "cleansing ritual" mentioned earlier, this ties into the fan service "” or ironically not as much as you might initially think based on the promotional graphics. The character models are the typical approach you might expect from a Japanese Vita anime-inspired dungeon RPG, and most of the female leads have larger-than-usual breasts with outfits that are somewhat revealing.
The ironic part is that while many games of the genre that have this graphical approach would revel in this, the hot springs scenes ironically are incredibly tame considering what Compile Heart has done in the past in similar scenes. I'm not saying that I want more lewdness, but considering the narrative doesn't do anything interesting like Trillion: God of Destruction did, it feels more like a tease here than anything else.
One area where Compile Heart has worked on is in the gameplay mechanics. The developer has been criticized routinely for making their games unnecessarily complex, whereas MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death goes for much more simpler and traditional mechanics, especially in areas like stats where games like Mugen Souls blew the complexity sky high.
MeiQ uses an elemental system, although its elements are in the forms of fire, earth, water, wood and metal. So there's a slight deviation from the types you'd normally expect, but after a few battles it becomes second nature. It's still far less than most other games of the genre, though, so it shouldn't be an issue for most people, if any.
Dungeons in MeiQ are your typical first-person perspective, although their layouts are fixed instead of randomly generated when you enter them. This comes into play when you need to return to prior dungeons occasionally at times to remove obstacles such as roadblocks. The dungeons themselves look nice, but they don't have any real graphical "hook" to them to distinguish them from the many other Vita anime-inspired dungeon RPGs out there.
The primary unique twist to MeiQ is the "Guardian" mechanic. As stated earlier you control five heroines, but in battle only three can actually participate. But under normal circumstances, they don't fight directly and instead use a Guardian in their place. These Guardians are what you use to attack and defend with, but you have to switch back to the heroines to use items or magic which can be done without penalty in battle via a simple button press. If a Guardian falls in battle the heroine takes their place, but if all of them fall you get a game over. Each of these Guardians can be customized with items you obtain or buy, and there's a need to make sure the attributes of the Guardian match up with the innate attributes of the heroine.
In terms of voiceovers, you get both English and Japanese voice options here. Idea Factory International did a really good job here trying to match up the two options in terms of actors as best as possible, so there isn't a real downside to picking the dub over the original voices."¨
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is a decent, but not memorable Japanese anime-inspired dungeon RPG. It checks all the right boxes and is much more approachable than Compile Heart's previous attempts, but some might say it loses something in that process. If you need your genre fix this is worth picking up, but it's a toss-up if you're on the fence.
|The English dub matches up quite nicely against the original Japanese voiceovers.|
|The gameplay mechanics as much more simplified than previous games from the developer, which is welcome in certain aspects.|
|It's fun to tweak and customize your Guardians and best match them up with the heroines.|
|There's a fair bit of fan service going on with the character designs and aspects like the hot springs, but there's no real payoff like you'd expect.|
|The characters follow the usual tropes you'd expect and don't venture outside of them, unlike some of the developer's other games.|
|Some might dislike the need to backtrack occasionally to previous dungeons.|