If you're on the market for a rather unique Japanese RPG stuffed with reasonably interesting ideas, then The Caligula Effect 2 is certainly worth a look. You play as a high school student who comes to the sudden realisation that the world around them isn't real. In a Matrix-esque twist, it turns out that you're part of a simulation of sorts — an illusory realm where people are free from the worries and traumas that haunt their real lives. However, being able to see through the facade makes you a target — a miscalculation that must be corrected by the simulation and those who enforce its existence.
Right off the bat, it's an intriguing premise, and perhaps surprisingly, the plot moves at a pretty brisk pace. Characters are introduced fairly quickly as the story progresses, and the dialogue's actually quite snappy — which can be a rarity for modern JRPGs. It's not long before you're voted the leader of the Go Home Club — a group of like-minded students who are pushing for a return to reality.
The characters themselves have some fun quirks, and you get to know them bit by bit as the game unravels. By battling alongside your newfound allies, you bolster your bond level, which unlocks additional dialogue scenes. The Caligula Effect 2 is a largely straightforward affair, as you go from dungeon to dungeon, fighting back against the simulation and its allies, but it's the characters and their interactions with one another that bring a richness to proceedings.
Meanwhile, combat is a slightly strange beast. In battle, every turn based action takes place on a timeline. More powerful actions generally take longer to execute, and so you're forced to consider whole sequences of events before confirming your next move. There's a twist, though, in that you can actually watch the future unfold before committing to it. A foresight mechanic lets you view the next 30 seconds or so of combat, allowing you to alter your approach.
Add attack-cancelling techniques, air combos, status effects, and power-boosting super moves to the mix, and you're in for some enjoyable tactical tinkering. That said, constantly scouting things out through the aforementioned foresight mechanic can be tedious, especially during tougher battles when you're acting with extra caution.
The Caligula Effect 2 has loads of cool ideas, but it's undeniably rough around the edges. The visuals and character models are basic, animations can be awkward, and the environmental design comes off as uninspired. At least the user interface looks lovely.