Review

Mind Zero Review

  • Game release: May 27, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • VITA

Persona non grata.

There's a notorious production company called The Asylum. It's not involved with gaming (at least, not yet), but you might know the company as the folks behind such films as Transmorphers, The Day the Earth Stopped, Atlantic Rim, and Android Cop. Its modus operandi is making half-baked films--mockbusters--that clearly want to ride on the themes and popularity of much more visible properties, while trying to remain different enough that they aren't completely wholesale rip-offs of a source.

Why do I mention this? Because Mind Zero feels like The Asylum's version of the Persona series. The similarity of the setting, story concepts, and overall design is undeniable. And like the inept mockbuster trying desperately to re-create the spectacle of its bigger inspiration, Mind Zero fails at anything beyond being occasionally mediocre.

Leo's standards are remarkably low.

The premise behind Mind Zero sounds familiar: in modern-day Saitama, Japan, mysterious happenings are afoot, with random people going on violent rampages due to a force called MIND. While the police are investigating these freak occurrences, a group of high school kids stumble into a portal to a strange alternate world where they are given weapons and told the secrets of MINDs: they are parallel beings from another world. Some MINDs are leaking out into the world we know and are preying on people with negative emotions, and it's up to a scrappy team of kids (plus a grizzled supernatural detective) to investigate and stop the MINDs from opening doors from their world to ours, all while keeping their special powers a secret from the police.

Sound a bit familiar? It might, because it's basically the plot of all of the various Persona games stitched together like some sort of Frankenstein's monster. And much like said creature, Mind Zero's plot trudges along with the speed of molasses for a good chunk of the game. Even in the most cinematic-heavy Japanese role-playing games, there are usually things developing in the story when you're not dungeon-crawling. Mind Zero takes its sweet time just getting past the basic "MINDs are bad; let's find and fight them" conceit into something more substantial.

But while other RPGs might emphasize interactions between characters to help make up for a weak main plot, Mind Zero gives you a cast of teenagers whose personalities fall into one of two categories: incredibly irritating all the time or about as well defined and interesting as a brick. The lead character, Kei, is so aloof and angsty that he may as well have been a mass-produced unit purchased straight from JRPG Hero Stereotype Industries Inc. It wasn't long after my introduction to him that I was wishing I could have a silent lead this time.

Mind Zero's plot trudges along with the speed of molasses for a good chunk of the game.

Other characters have one-note traits and are easily summed up in single sentences: "He won't shut up ever about buying dumb crap," "She's kind of stupid in a way that's supposed to be endearing but isn't," "She has no discernible personality to speak of, but she fights stuff, so she's OK," and so on. The game's most interesting characters end up being Ogata, the grizzled detective and sole adult on your team, and the antagonists that emerge later on. The sheer dullness or unlikability of everyone makes the game's attempts to present short vignettes of interaction between characters (akin to Persona's social-link sequences) laughable.

The combat and exploration are better than the story, though that's not really saying much. Dungeons are presented as first-person-view mazes, and a map fills out as you explore, making things much easier for you--especially since the dungeons become quite expansive, quite fast. What they never really become, however, is attractive. The visuals for these settings are bland and uninspired (the fact that setting assets are recycled by the third major dungeon is seriously off-putting), and the layout of the mazes is sprawling and confusing, with only a few uninteresting gimmicks to break up the monotony.

Combat, however, has a few interesting elements. Up to three characters can participate in combat, and they have three separate meters each: life points, mind points, and technical points. Life points are pretty easy to grasp: lose them all, and the character is out of commission. Mind points determine the health of a character's MIND; these points recover over time unless the MIND is on-field. Finally, technical points are used to activate skills of MINDs. They also recover over the course of combat.

Combat is initially a high point, but becomes a real slog.

These gauges are all very important to keep track of, because they all affect the most crucial element of combat in Mind Zero: the usage of the MINDs, which are summoned with the R trigger. Characters have differing sets of commands depending on whether or not their MINDs are active on the field: defense, item, and escape commands can only be used sans a MIND, while skills are only available with MINDs summoned. MINDs alter other elements as well. Normally, whenever characters are attacked by enemies, they lose LP. However, if their MINDs are active when characters are hit, they lose MP instead of LP, thus rendering MINDs as something of a protective shield. If all MP is lost to attacks, however, characters' MINDs are broken, and the characters are stunned and unable to summon their MINDs again for a few turns. This adds an element of risk to simply putting one's MIND out as a meatshield against enemies.

Active MINDs improve standard attack power slightly and give access to skills, which consume TP and sometimes LP when used. The number of skills that can be equipped is determined by a character's level, and skill-granting cards can be equipped, enhanced, and shuffled about from character to character outside of combat. Assembling a solid skill set is crucial to success, though the skills' interchangeability robs characters of individual combat importance, so you'll tend to focus on leveling up a few characters, which may come back to bite you at certain story points. Finally, there's the burst command, which can be used with MINDs turned on or off. Burst allows for a command to be executed instantaneously at a significant TP cost--it's an expensive godsend when emergency healing, absolute escape, or immediate fatal damage on a foe is needed.

That pretty much says it all.

All of these aspects to fighting seem as if they should be great, and there are boss battles where the combat elements get a chance to shine. The problem comes from the sheer tedium of the regular enemy encounters, and the constant difficulty spikes that accompany them. There's really no such thing as a quick battle in Mind Zero: enemies not only soak up and deal a lot of damage (even on the lowest difficulty), but they also have elemental and anti-MIND affiliations that you must pay attention to.

It's one thing for random RPG battles to require you to at least pay attention to not suffer an embarrassing death, but the amount of command shuffling, MIND toggling, and bursting just to kill some cannon-fodder is downright annoying, especially when you just want to explore and get somewhere. Making it all worse is the massive difficulty spike that arrives with each new dungeon; you'll be finishing many fights by the skin of your teeth until you can eke out a couple of extra levels for your crew each time there's a new location introduced. After just a few hours in, you grow to loathe the random encounters (and the irritating music that accompanies them), but at least you'll be thankful for the R button fast-forward feature to make them slightly less of a pain.

There are a few high points beyond good combat ideas: the artwork for the MINDs and characters is nice, and the localization gives conversations a natural flow, but the snoozefest of a story and monotonous encounters make playing Mind Zero feel like work. To top it all off, the finale is atrocious, failing to deliver any answers to the questions the story poses (and, in fact, creating new ones), all while suggesting a follow-up that may or may not ever happen. After the utterly laborious process of completing the game, the unsatisfying finale is a slap in the face. But hey, at least you get a post-game dungeon to slog through!

The Vita isn't hurting for JRPGs, but even if you've already played and finished Demon Gaze, Ys: Memories of Celceta, and Persona 4 Golden, it's best to skip Mind Zero. Like The Asylum's film oeuvre, Mind Zero is capable, at times, of at least holding your attention, but it's rarely entertaining, and when you're done, you'll be wondering why you didn't invest your time in a superior alternative instead.

The Good
Character and MIND artwork looks nice
Some interesting combat ideas
The Bad
Fighting is often an exercise in tedium
Poor dungeon design, visually and structurally
Characters are either bland or annoying
Rage-inducing ending
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi didn't know much about Mind Zero going in. The lack of an in-game clock makes it hard for her to judge just how much time she spent playing it, but she's still pretty bitter about wasting a few dozen hours on Mind Zero when Mario Kart 8 is sitting right over there.

Discussion

33 comments
gunslingersnafu
gunslingersnafu

Admittedly, I am new to the JRPG Dungeon Crawlers and have a few hours in on both Persona and Mind Zero, I think the score is a bit harsh. It isn't as polished as P4G but that doesn't make it a terrible game.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

Etrian Odyssey first person exploration and combat + Persona-esque features + It's a horrid game = Mind Zero

mkdms14
mkdms14

Soo is it really that bad?

finalstar2007
finalstar2007

I regret buying this game, its just really bad i mean it was fun in the first half of the game then it started to become really annoying and it drags so bad not to mention the exact people who voiced P4 are voicing this game but worse.

the music are another part which made me dislike the game i mean the same exact music plays on for every single battle i just stopped playing this game plus its extremely hard and leveling up takes ages.

regret paying $27 for this -_-

sdinh225
sdinh225

Heh, this is the kind of score I expected for this game. I already bought it and while I barely played 20mins of it so far since I'm horrid at juggling things, I can agree that a lot of it is more or less Persona wannabe in some form right off the bat. Well with how P4G started anyway, I'm nearly 50hours in that game and still barely into August 2011 >_> mebe I'll enjoy the grind in Mind Zero. 

dipdish
dipdish

Straight out comparing it to Persona. It's not a review, but a comparison then. 

phoenixto
phoenixto

oh dang got this on special for $27 well i guess i should suspect a new release on special so fast, ill give it a try when im mot playing destiny of spirits, maybe it wont be do bad but last time i bought a game that had a 4 on gamespot was mobile suit gundam, ya i played tp missions it was terrible!

vault2049
vault2049

Personally, I'm no fan of 1st-person dungeon crawlers. Got to admit though, I enjoyed Demon Gaze a lot more than I expected. This one... yeah, not so much. It felt extremely familiar in many aspects but I was never able to pinpoint the source of the feeling because of how vague it was. The game didn't have it's own feel to it, so I didn't bother anymore.

Silverline62
Silverline62

Persona Q is the only dungeon crawler anyone needs this year.

Jasurim
Jasurim

Ah...well that's a shame.  I had my eye on this game, but I guess I'll give this one a miss, I was hoping for something more.

dani3po
dani3po

I came here looking for the angry fans of JRPG saying:  "the journalist who wrote the analysis doesn´t understand the game / genre" and that's what I want, don´t let me down!!!

sakaixx
sakaixx

Another persona rip off, I will pick this up as I'm a jrpg fan but damn can't they be more original -.-


Darkmoone1
Darkmoone1

The only good thing that came of this game was this review and how it gave me the awareness of all these mockbusters I can watch and laugh at. :D

RyanSaotome
RyanSaotome

I can't help but wonder if the whole "JRPGs are dying" thing is simply because Western gamer tastes have changed while JRPGs are still aimed at teens due to Japans gaming demographics.

pcty
pcty

This kind of generic JRPG is exactly what is the genre.

Arkhalipso
Arkhalipso

Great review. It also looks like Devil Survivor in a way, which is also from the Shin Megami Tensei series. They must love atlus games.

dw9872
dw9872

@dipdish Reviews can include comparisons. Also, there's a good chunk of the review that doesn't mention Persona at all.

dw9872
dw9872

@dani3po Dipdish (user further up) kind of has you covered.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@RyanSaotome 
It's not dying - it's just stagnating.

There would no incentive to innovate if the target audience remains unsophisticated and easy to satisfy.

vault2049
vault2049

Hurry up and get Ni no Kuni today. Do it fast, sale won't last long. Then come here again and tell me how generic it is.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Gelugon_baat @RyanSaotome Stagnation isn't bad in and of itself, the problem is these games aren't even executed properly.


I would play a new Chrono Trigger over and over if they kept making them at the same quality, but I won't play a FF13 more than once.

tom_cat_01
tom_cat_01

@Gelugon_baat @RyanSaotome I guess it's a double-edged sword, because often when JRPGs do try to innovate, like the FFXII and FFXIII, fans throw their toys out the pram and cry "waaah, waaaah, I want traditional turn-based games back. I want the same, the same, THE SAME FOREVER"

jecomans
jecomans

@vault2049 Ni No Kuni isn't generic, but it isn't very good either. Once the charm of the voice acting and aesthetic wear off (after about 3 hours, I'd say), it is a mediocre RPG. An odd miss by the usually very dependable Level-5.

pcty
pcty

@vault2049 There was mistake in post just put "killing" after what is and you'll understand.

jemoedr
jemoedr

@tom_cat_01 @Gelugon_baat @RyanSaotome Innovation isn't always good. Final Fantasy XII was just booring and annoying. XIII's combat looked nice but was terrible, you more or less loose control, and all the time you build up to go to grand pulse. Then you're finally there, and it is just 2 weeks straight of grinding to kill the endboss... BOOOOOOORING!


Old Final Fantasy games had a decent curve to build up your level with equal story/grinding. Not having that, and the lack of control over battles ruined XIII.

Orga777
Orga777

@jemoedr @tom_cat_01 @Gelugon_baat @RyanSaotome

Final Fantasy XII is actually a pretty solid game. Good characters and story. The game play WAS different, and not always the best (MMO style can be slow and boring) but it was never bad enough to make me stop playing. I can also tell you this much. No other FF game that I have played is as open world or expansive as that one. I am hoping for an HD re-release for that game like what X got. Hope it gets it.


As for XIII.... That game is just bad. bad story, bad characters, and mediocre gameplay. Graphics were really nice, and Lightning was okay (till the really crappy third game...) but other than that, there is not much worth talking about in that game. XD

chibistevo32
chibistevo32

@jemoedr @tom_cat_01 @Gelugon_baat @RyanSaotome


FFXII was the best one in years. Generations even.


That's the problem as already stated, the majority of the genre audience (simplistic FF fans that think the world stopped moving since VII was released) don't want change. They want the same old ATB turn based fights with a slight change in the gimmicks involved. I thought perhaps this state of mind had changed after the backlash of XIII, but nope, with a couple of add-ons to the series, the masses adhered to mediocrity again.


Hell, they don't even want that. Half of the morons want a FF VII remake with shiny new graphics and a way to save Aeris.

Mind Zero More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 7 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Zerodiv
    Published by:
    Aksys Games, Acquire
    Genres:
    First-Person, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Tobacco