By Chris Melchin / June 7th, 2016
As a dungeon crawler, Mind Zero should live on its gameplay and combat system. Characters have three separate bars to keep track of – HP, which is regular health; TP, which is consumed when using skills; and MP, which represents the health of the character’s MIND. Characters can summon their MIND (read: their Persona) when selecting their action, and while their MIND is summoned it fights for the character. Damage sustained in this state is dealt to MP rather than HP, and the character gains the ability to cast spells and a boost to stats. The tradeoff is that, every turn the MIND is summoned, the character’s MP ticks down steadily, and when it reaches 0 the MIND is automatically dismissed and cannot be summoned until the MP recovers. Characters can choose to “charge”, which increases the rate of MP recovery, while the MIND is not summoned and doubles how quickly the character recovers spent TP, to 2 TP per turn rather than 1. If MP is brought to 0 by an enemy attack, the character is stunned for a turn and the MP takes an extra turn to start recovering. MP recovers fully after every fight.
It all sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. There is no reason not to have each character’s MIND summoned whenever they have MP, since it boosts damage and prevents them from taking lasting damage. In fact, attacking normally with the MIND is more than enough to easily beat most random encounters, with careful strategizing really only necessary in late-game boss fights. Otherwise, there’s no problem that can’t be solved by grinding and mindlessly attacking with the MIND. In general, grinding is something that you’ll be doing a lot of if you play Mind Zero, especially on higher difficulties. I started playing on medium, before switching down to beginner a few chapters in to minimize the time spent grinding. Combat, while starting out intriguing, quickly loses its appeal and becomes busywork, only really gaining any interest in the later boss fights.
The game has dual audio, which is useful if you don’t like the English voice acting. As I outlined, aside from Erin Fitzgerald as Sana, the voice acting is generally solid. The music is also generally unmemorable, with the only particularly outstanding theme being the music that plays during the last few boss fights.
On its own, Mind Zero fails to rise above the level of mediocrity. However, the worst part is not in the game itself; it’s in how Aksys ported the game to PC for release on Steam. I know it’s somewhat tacky and in poor taste to call any aspect of game development “lazy”, but I believe no other word better describes the quality of this port.
The first thing you’ll notice upon opening the game is that it opens in a tiny window, running at the PS Vita’s native resolution of 960 x 544. There is no way to change this. There is an option in the settings menu to switch to full-screen, but it still runs at that resolution, with no graphical upscaling of any kind for HD monitors. Not only that, but you can only switch between full-screen and windowed modes by quitting to desktop and restarting. However, there is no in-game option to quit to menu, so to switch back from full-screen requires the player to alt-F4 out of the game after making the change in settings after noticing the horribly blurry graphics in full-screen mode. The game is also locked at 30 frames per second. While this is not a major issue for a game of this nature, it shows the slapdash nature of this port that something meant to run on the PS Vita is not uncapped to perform as well as it could on a more powerful platform. In fact, aside from choosing between full-screen and windowed modes, there are no other graphical options available to the player, not that they are necessary for performance.
On PC, Mind Zero is very clearly designed to be played with a controller. All of the in-game button prompts are for an Xbox 360 controller, and the in-game keybinding settings are clearly designed for this purpose even if you are using a keyboard. However, after having used a third-party Xbox 360 controller, a DualShock 4, and even a first-party Microsoft-made Xbox One controller, none of them worked for Mind Zero. It’s possible a first-party Xbox 360 controller may have worked, or maybe a Steam Controller, but the fact remains that I was forced to play this game allegedly with controller support with the keyboard, because none of my controllers worked properly. I was forced to download a separate gamepad keymapper to bind controller presses to buttons on the keyboard, which made things easier, but that is not something that I should have needed to do in order to comfortably play the game. Also, occasionally things done with the touchscreen in the Vita version are done with the mouse in this version, which is inconvenient, but ultimately there’s no other way that these parts could be done on PC. Unless, of course, Aksys wanted to program in some other way, but that would be a fair amount of effort, far more than they seem to have put into any other aspect of this port. I also encountered a single bug a few times, where a dungeon would fail to render, forcing me to restart the game. An inconvenience, but a fairly major one given the long loading times.
Aksys Games’ PC port of Mind Zero is, more than anything, an insult to PC gamers. This game was greenlit, meaning that it’s because of the fans that it was able to be released on Steam at all. To then be given this lazy attempt at a port shows a lack of respect from Aksys. No word on the port has come out of them, not a single update on either the Greenlight page or on the main store page, ever since it went up on Greenlight, and the screenshots are all the same ones seen in material for the PS Vita release. Not even the official website has been updated to announce the Steam release. Aksys is a console developer, and should clearly stay that way.
Mind Zero seems to never have been anything remarkable, but the shoddy nature of this port puts it from mediocre to below average, and something I would recommend to no one. At $19.99, it’s the same price on Steam as the (presumably) superior PS Vita version. Mind Zero on Steam takes a mediocre game, and turns it into a lazily assembled insult to PC gamers. As much as I respect the game for clearly trying to be good, with the decent voice acting and a somewhat interesting premise, it ultimately fails with its flat characters, unengaging story, and boring gameplay, all compounded by the inadequate porting job.
Review copy provided by publisher
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