Trinity Universe is one of the hardest games to define, as it seems to be the amalgamation of several different series with questionable results. Depending upon your knowledge of beloved series like Atelier, Disgaea and Valkyrie, you may be left scratching your head in confusion or laughing till you cry. Do you love Japanese RPGs that place an emphasis on grinding over story? Do you love quirky characters with nonsensical dialogue that goes nowhere yet makes you laugh? Do you love dungeon crawlers with plenty of loot to upgrade your characters to the point of being overpowered? How you answer these questions will ultimately tell you where you may fall with this title.
Trinity Universe takes place in the city of Empyria, a lone safe harbor within the Netheruniverse where lost things float about in a vortex. Floating objects such as bonsai trees and shoes come and go past Empyria without issue but occasionally a dungeon will enter the gravity pull of the city, threatening to destroy the town. Here you take the role of one of two saviors taking two different yet converging paths to save the city: Demon Dog Kanata takes the easier difficulty path, using the dungeons as a reason to escape your fate while chowing down on everything you come across, and Valkyrie Rizelia wants to right wrongs and force the Demon Dog Kanata to face his ultimate destiny. Merely a façade for hijinks, the plot doesn’t really explain anything until you complete both paths opening up a third path and hidden character to explore around with.
While both initial paths are supposed to be different in difficulty and story, they intertwine enough that you get almost the same experience with both. The biggest difference between each path is when you get access to extras associated with your party members, whether it be the Monster Coliseum or the various shops, you may need to wait longer to access them. In the end the game always ends up with your hero going on a dungeon crawl.
To stop the random dungeons from destroying Empyria, you need to enter them and destroy a gravity core that is guarded by a boss. Here the game devolves significantly as the light hearted nature of the game quickly becomes rote grinding. Each dungeon has its own personality, but unfortunately the designs seemed lackluster and repetitive with occasional horrible camera issues. Likewise the exploration and combat seemed to be an afterthought compared to the witty dialogue.
Random encounters and boss battles use a turn-based Action Point (AP) system where you could use a set amount of AP per turn to use strong, weak or magic attacks, each mapped to a face button. Add to that a static camera behind the heroes and limited animations and grinding, and you have a truly boring experience of mostly spamming square or triangle over and over. For the first couple of hours you have this to look forward to until the game opens additional mechanics that allow you to synthesize items and forge better weapons based off of loot drops.
It pays off if you can make it past this phase, because the item creation system is truly in-depth and allows you to create some unstoppable weapons. Depending upon your feel, this could either be a bad or good thing, because the grinding becomes easier, but you devolve into more button spamming to progress. At this point, only in the boss battles do you need to exercise any caution with strategy to make it out alive.
Visually the game is hit or miss; during the 2D cutscenes the character animations are manga heavy with bright colors and vibrant with emotions and humor, while the dungeons almost look like something you could have found on the PlayStation 2. The cutscenes use an interesting movement to create a breathing image that moves as the characters talk to each other, hair gently sways and dog ears flap ever so lightly. Voice acting is top-notch with the actors emoting just as much ridiculousness as the dialogue demands, but the score is often repetitive and drab, especially in the dungeons.
Trinity Universe is a mixed bag that seems to cater to a specific crowd. If you are in-the-know about JRPGs, you will be pleasantly surprised by how everything mixes together. If you aren’t, there is a strong possibility you won’t make it past the first couple of hours to experience what the game truly has to offer.
Pros: Quirky memorable characters, plenty to do past the first couple of hours
Cons: Lackluster combat and grinding, with a couple of boring hours in the beginning