As I have reiterated throughout this review, Demon Gaze is a tough nut to crack. Not only is it important to level up, it's crucial to build an effective party in a solid formation and keep a close eye on battle. It's tempting to make use of the button that repeats your command sequence every turn, but I've learned that, even in regular battles, doing that is a quick way to get a character killed - and resurrection, like everything else, gets exponentially pricier. Remembering exactly what each character can do, and keeping tabs on the ever-shifting health bars of allies, means a successful player must always be on his or her toes.
Even walking along corridors can be dangerous, unless they equip Chronos, as some squares are covered in poisoned water or deadly flame, dealing damage with each step. This is, indeed, a game that does not want to coddle you in the least.
It can sometimes feel like a bit of slog, if I'm being quite honest. It takes such a long time to earn money, level characters, and generally feel capable of tackling challenges, that it runs the risk of discouraging progress. Even now that I have a closer handle on how the game works, there are still moments where I might as well close the game down and restart, as I realize I've walked into an unwinnable situation. However, this is the draw for many seasoned genre fans. These games have their roots in Dungeons & Dragons, where you either "have" a situation, or you don't. If you don't, you're going to have to stay away until you do, however long that might take. I will admit that, despite putting hours into the game, I've a ton more still to get through, but my love for the game has not gone anywhere. Yes, this is a grind, and you're either up for it or you're not!
Of course, if it really gets too much, you can alter the difficulty by visiting the basement and asking. If you really, really need to.
What stops Demon Gaze being too much of a chore is that it is, of course, a ton of fun. Despite its oppressive nature, it's a fantastically structured game, drip-feeding moments of empowering progress before slamming the next brick wall in your face. While each fresh challenge can feel impregnable, enough dedication will make the tipping point inevitable, and it's immensely satisfying to reach a stage where you know you can conquer the latest thorn in your side. There is always too juicy a carrot dangling ahead of the player to ignore.
An easy-to-read map system, not to mention an extensive contextual in-game manual - which can be brought up on any screen to access relevant information - means players at least won't be stuck wondering how the system works. This game might be tough, but it sure isn't for a lack of information.
Tying this all together is a plot that borders on the bemusing. The main thrust of the story is, itself, fairly simplistic - there are demons, and you have to deal with them while making rent. However, the extraneous plot threads, not to mention the demented characters and often bizarre sense of humor, can leave one's head in dire need of scratching. In threatening to curse another character, an elven shopkeeper proclaims, "I'll double the size of his asshole." Nudity and underwear are central themes, and needless to say, Demon Gaze is far from shy about making big breasts and skimpy lingerie a focal point of any given scene. At its worst, the humor is often banal and childish. However, it's audacious enough to make it work - for the most part - while the genuinely weird stuff is charming in its senselessness.
Visually, everything's done with mostly static images and only the vaguest sense of occasional animation. The anime designs are fantastic though, with monsters especially boasting unique and fascinating appearances. Worthy of special attention is the soundtrack, since there is a wonderful selection of music on offer. Even as I type this, the harmonies of the battle theme ring in my head.
Bottom Line: Demon Gaze is tough as nails, sometimes dishearteningly so, but its overall charm and excellent sense of polish make it impossible to stay away from for long. A truly excellent example of challenging dungeon crawling.
Recommendation: I've found that, if one enjoys first-person dungeon crawlers, it's hard to hate many of them. Even so, this is easily one of the more addictive ones I've enjoyed for a while, and it's perfect on Vita.