The Vita sure has its fair share of first-person dungeon crawlers. With so many titles to choose from, are MeiQ's enormous dungeons big and juicy enough for genre fans to wrap their eager hands around?
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death tells the tale of a Machina Mage named Estra. She (along with a few allies) must journey to the Planet Key in order to make the world start spinning again. The cast of characters may be stereotypical but they're full of bubbly charm. Hearing their cheerful voices as they say cute one-liners will put a smile on anyone's face. Even when you stand still, you'll hear random party members say little jokes and such. This light-heartedness makes the world of MeiQ fun to be a part of. On the other hand, the character artwork is very awkward. Sure, it's unique, but each character comes across as goofy with their eyes too close together on their odd-shaped heads. On top of that, what makes them downright embarrassing is the fact that most characters have astronomically enormous breasts that are barely covered. It's not attractive or realistic in any sense; it's just obscene. You definitely don't want to play this in public.
Considering MeiQ is a dungeon-crawler, let's discuss the dungeons. I'm glad to say that they're massive and a great deal of fun to explore. As you traverse them and fill out the maps, you'll discover loads of treasures and secrets. This makes backtracking quite enjoyable as a result. A negative side-effect of this is that knowing where to go next can sometimes be a bit tricky. You don't just complete tower after tower because you sometimes have to travel to an earlier location to fight a boss or collect a certain item. Figuring out exactly what to do often requires you to read all of the story segments and make notes because these points aren't recorded or accessible in-game, so pay attention! That being said, sometimes working out what to do simply (and frustratingly) relies on trial and error.
MeiQ's battle system is easy to understand as it's mostly your typical JRPG setup where you select menu items. But, there's a twist! Besides your regular party of Machina Mages, you also have a party of Guardians with each of them assigned to a member. Both Guardians and Machina Mages can attack and take damage. Trying to balance the optimal attacks for each battle while ensuring every single human and machine is in good health requires some strategy. This may sound great, but the problem is that the battles are far too easy as most can be won after one or two attacks. Also, you level up constantly which results in your party being frequently overpowered. There are two difficulty settings but the more challenging one just boosts enemies' stats a bit. The lack of difficulty eventually makes every battle extremely tedious and boring. If it offered more of a challenge then exploration would be much more satisfying.
One thing I enjoy about MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is the hub area which is known as Southern Cross. Here, you can rest at the Star Wind Inn to recover and save, shop at the General Store, challenge and report quests at the Machina Guild, and create and enhance Guardian parts at the Machina Factory. There's the odd side-story segment to watch, too. It's a cool place to hang out for sure.
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death does a lot of things right but it also sets the genre back in many ways that take away from the overall experience. In the end, if you're a fan of the genre then there are much better choices out there (like Stranger of Sword City).
- + Bubbly characters make the world fun
- + Dungeons are massive and rewarding to explore with loads of secrets
- + Guardian system is pretty cool
- - Character art is weird and embarrassing
- - Knowing where to go or what to do next is often confusing
- - Battles are way too easy and boring