Mind Zero Review: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Mind Zero is one of those games that came out of nowhere for me. I learned about it only a week prior to its release. Even then, the official PSN description filled me with a sense of familiarity, because it read like a downright clone of Atlus' Persona games. Still, I love Persona games, so I thought this was a no-brainer.
After all, I'm not too harsh on clones. In fact, I often love Gameloft's takes on popular console games and repurposing their gameplay to fit into the Mobile ecosystem. However, Mind Zero is less a clone and more of a poor man's Persona.
The game revolves around monsters called MINDs that prey on human's negative emotions. Of course, it's up to a group of high schoolers to utilize MINDs of their own and save humanity from impending doom. The whole thing is cut and pasted directly from Persona. The key difference is that Persona games have interesting characters with their own motivations, whereas Mind Zero's protagonists have no personality whatsoever.
As a stark opposite to the bland story and characters, the combat is Mind Zero's best attribute. Again, functioning like the series it strives to be, players can attack monsters on their own, having unique special attacks, or can also summon their MINDs. Each character can equip various cards that affect the attacks and skills of their MINDs. These can also be upgraded throughout the game, giving players the freedom to tryout various builds, though fights do tend to get tough pretty fast, so focusing on the right cards for the necessary moments becomes absolutely crucial.
MINDs also act as a protective barrier of sorts. When summoned, characters won't lose their life points, but mind points instead, the in-battle currency that determines a MINDs ability to use various skills. Often times I found myself trying to balance having my MIND out to soak up a bit of damage, only so my character wouldn't suffer the hits.
If there was one slightly negative aspect of battles, it's that they function in a first person point of view, only showing the summoned MINDs when using an attack. I really wanted to survey the whole battlefield and see my units the entire time. That said, players coming from games like Shin Megami Tensei shouldn't mind this.
The game also throws a massive amount of random encounters your way. It's one thing if those random encounters would be a quick affair, but often, they can take just as long as a boss fight. This game doesn't joke around.
Dungeon crawling is done in first-person, much like the Etrian games or the more recent Demon Gaze, with random battles, and events scattered around. They also function in a similar way to those games as well. You start out with a blank map, and fill it out as you walk through it. Also, much like Demon Gaze, Mind Zero is hard, especially the boss fights.
As much as I enjoyed dungeon crawling and even the difficult monster encounters, Mind Zero proved just how important story can be. It's easy to see why Persona 4 Golden is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, RPG on the Vita. While Mind Zero tries to emulate Atlus' success, simply throwing together a bunch of mechanics from various popular titles doesn't make it just as good. My best recommendation would be to wait until Mind Zero is on sale, as it's a great bargain bin JRPG. A poor man's Persona indeed.