Review: MIND≒0 is a Mind≒Screw

If I had to summarize Mind Zero in one statement, I would say that it truly represents a low budget title. Before I hear the resounding “Duh, Allisa, just like all those other low budget titles you enjoyed,” let me first delve into what constitutes this game a bit.

Mind Zero stars Kei Takanashi, a high school student (unsurprisingly). One day his friend Shizuku Kamina spots a young schoolboy with a terrible attitude and gives Kei an ominous premonition: that boy will die. Kei takes off and runs into classmate Sana fighting off a deranged and violent man.

Kei is soon sucked in some strange black portal and ends up in a strange shop run by a woman called the Undertaker. She instructs him to choose a weapon carefully which, unbeknownst to him, creates a contract with a MIND. A MIND is a sort of mirror image of a person and there are as many MINDs in existence as humans. They exist in another world and use violence as their main form of interaction — they also eat humans. However, the worlds normally don’t crossover, except when they possess or kidnap people.

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Kei, Sana Chikage, Leo Asahina and a growing number of allies now must aid private investigator Ogata Yoichi in finding out more about their new abilities — like how they could form contracts with these entities in the first place — and the violent MINDs that manage to escape, all while avoiding the government and police trying to get to the bottom of this mystery themselves.

Sounds interesting in theory but in practice, the plot is actually rather lackluster. While finding out more about the weird happenings of the MIND attacks whets my curiosity appetite, the story doesn’t exactly ooze intrigue and suspense, since this kind of plot isn’t exactly ground-breaking. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only reason I stayed emotional invested in the story at all is due to the unexpectedly interesting cast.

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The character designs looked like classic (or cliche) personality archetypes and I went in fully expecting to find just that. Imagine my surprise to find, instead, fleshed out people who are incredibly fun to watch and, better yet, aren’t (usually) raging stereotypes.

For instance, Sana is a physically active person who throws herself into any sport she can. And while Sana is a go-getter and loud, she’s also unsure of herself and sensitive of how people view her. Kei looked like the poster child for emo but he’s simply blunt and no-nonsense. What makes him interesting is that he’s openly sensitive to others needs and very kind.

Then there’s Leo, who seems like the everydude sidekick for the protagonist. However, he’s perceptive, genuinely happy in everything he does and is very open-minded. Here’s an example:

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That dialogue may look like your typical “durr hurr you’re gay” dudebro joke, but the key here is how the line is said. In both Japanese and English (yes you can switch between the two) he’s sincerely surprised by this very wrong conclusion. I feel like if Kei hadn’t nipped this in the bud right away, Leo’s next scheme would have involved being the world’s greatest wingman.

I could go on and on with these characters, but the point remains that I enjoyed the non-dungeon crawling segments the most, which is not a good thing. Let’s awkwardly segway into that portion now.

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Visually, dungeon-crawling and actual fights are like watching a VHS tape. The sound effects are bad (and Zero has ugly sound effects all-round but it especially shows in battle), the battle music is terrible and the overall sound quality is poor. The turn-based battle system itself isn’t bad per se, just lacking in anything remotely compelling.

When a battle starts, you can either have the party member choose from one of the following commands:

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And if you summon their MIND, the commands change to this:

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Summoning MINDs in battle has the added effect of protecting that character from harm. Instead of their LP (Life Points) decreasing with each blow taken, their MP (Mind Points) decrease. Of course MP isn’t limitless and if a character runs out, they will enter a state called MIND Break — they can’t summon their MIND for four turns and must wait until the next turn to act.

Figuring out when to dismiss your MIND and Charge (party member takes less damage and regains more MP each turn) and when to resummon is the key to victory. According to the tutorial at least. The problem is that dismissing your MIND, even while guarding, is pretty dangerous since now that party member is vulnerable to direct attacks.

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The best course of action, especially against those pesky MIND resistant foes, is to build up TP (Tech Points) and use Burst Mode. This allows for extra attacks, which can be normal or MIND, in the same turn with the bonus of not losing that turn.

There’s also an elemental system somewhere but it’s pretty barebones and barely worth mentioning. MP is fully restored after every battle, which means there’s no need to bother conserving or managing MP. Pretty boring if you ask me, especially for a dungeon crawler.

Another criticism I have concerns skills. The interface for assigning skill cards to party members is counter-intuitive, and the tutorial explains the feature poorly. Also, there’s the little issue of being able to use only one skill for each character. You gain more skill slots by acquiring SP (Skill Points), which is something never explained in-game. The amount of SP needed to gain a new slot also seems to be a hidden value for some reason.

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I already mentioned before that the artwork is beautiful but it bears mentioning again, since the art is one of the few things that belies the game’s actual production value. However, the 3D models are another story. As you can see, they hold little resemblance to the 2D art. As you can also see, the 3D models are hideous. Music outside of battle is pretty decent, which leaves me wondering why more effort was put into this music and not the normal battle music players would be listening to repeatedly throughout the game.

It may seem like I’m trying to tell you that the only two redeeming qualities in Mind Zero are the characters and the art — and that’s exactly what I’m saying. Unfortunately, even those two points aren’t enough because plenty other games have great characters and lovely artwork, as well as an interesting plot, good music, fun and engaging battle systems, etc.

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Low budget is absolutely not synonymous with a middling or terrible game, just as throwing tons of money doesn’t magically make it polished or good. Small money titles like Shin Megami Tensei IV, Persona 3 and 4, Fire Emblem Awakening, the Atelier series and even Conception II and Child of Light show that knowing your limits and focusing on creating a unique experience is how to make a small title stand out.

The problem is, Mind Zero doesn’t do any of that; there’s no sense of a unique identity or boundless creativity and charm to make this game stand out from a multitude of other similar titles. By this I mean: what part of Mind Zero is something done in a way that sets it apart? That takes what was put into it and creates a brand new entity? That is greater than the sum of its parts? Nothing, and therein lies the problem.

Join the Discussion

  • oGMo

    It’s a shame to hear when the characterization is pretty good but unmatched by story and, worse, gameplay. Especially when the gameplay is an ortho dungeon crawler, because these are one of my favorite genre and can be so good.

    Fortunately, there’s still Demon Gaze, which is great, and the same price!

    • Allisa James

      I love dungeon crawlers too so it was disappointing that battles and exploration were the most boring parts of the game. The characterization was great but that’s about it.

      Like you said, at least there are other games to play (like Demon Gaze!).

  • Sai

    After rating Drakengard 3 with 4.0, I can’t trust any of these reviews.

    • Well IGN also rated 4, and other sites rated it low so I dont really think it deserve higher. Havent played it though….

      • Sai

        Nice way to prove you didn’t even play the game.

        • Yeah, your point? I mean, I dont know how you could lose credibility over a site just because they didnt rate a game as high as you expected it to be. The guys rate how they feel the game is and the experience they got playing it, I have played games rated 3 and enjoy the hell out of them, and I dont bash against the site for rate it so low. If you enjoy it, fine but dont come over here and state “I cant trust any of these reviews” just because you dislike one single review, maybe more. If you arent interested in their reviews anymore, dont come here and/or comment. Simple and easy.

    • Agustin Freyre

      Drakengard 3 is awfull. Its a well deserved 4. It has nothing to do with the game being japanese.

      • Somebodyissilent

        Who said it did?

        • Agustin Freyre

          A lot of people bitch about how Drakengard 3 got bad reviews just for being too japanese to western tastes. I even recall reading such comments here.

          • Somebodyissilent

            The game has tech issues sure but other than that it has the same low brow humor as some highly rated American movies.

          • Agustin Freyre

            Plus crappy controls, generic gameplay, repetitive elements, boring level design, ugliest graphics in recent memory, framerate issues, exaggerated sex humor, cliché characters, sound problems, etc etc etc. Cmon man, don try to defend it, its just bad.

          • Somebodyissilent

            I like the game. Have you even played?
            The game is far better than people give it credit for.

          • Agustin Freyre

            Glad you liked it (wich has nothing to do with the game being good or bad. I’ve liked bad games before)
            Yeah, I played it, and quited on chapter 2 cause it was unbearable to me.

          • Somebodyissilent

            Well not everything is about you. People enjoyed the game and feel the score should be higher. Those people are the fans and target market for the game.

          • Agustin Freyre

            Jesus you are stubborn. Im glad you liked when most people dont. Now f*** off now

          • Somebodyissilent

            Gee, no wonder you did not like it you are stuck up. Didn’t even beat the game and yet here you are bashing it, sad.

          • Agustin Freyre

            I dont need to play 20 hours to see the bad controls, stupid characters, repetitive gameplay, etc. Do you?

          • Somebodyissilent

            The game gets better. You would know this if you played in full. Some games have slow starts. But please troll on.

    • Allisa James

      Well we’ve reviewed plenty other niche games in the past and fairly scored them. But honestly reviews are still just guidelines.

      If you want to play Mind Zero then by all means go and buy it. A 5 doesn’t mean it’s the worst game ever, it just means that it’s very average and I wouldn’t personally recommend it above other smaller titles rated higher.

    • Rob

      either way drakengard 3 sits at 61 at metacritic. not like 4.0 is that unexpected.

    • Muerte Roja

      80% of the games I play are Japanese. Drakengard 3 gets a 3/10 from me.

  • Woah, I was expecting it to be higher but your review pointed out all the concerns I had for this game…such a shame.

    • Allisa James

      Thanks and I was pretty disappointed myself, since I covered the game so much and was genuinely looking forward to the gameplay.

      • I suppose so. Oh well, I will have more free time without this one, I have other games to play meanwhile something good comes up . Thanks for your time/review!

        • Allisa James

          You’re very welcome and glad you enjoyed it! 😀

          • As a side point, have you guys tried to make video reviews? I certainly enjoy watching/hearing them =3

          • Allisa James

            Not at the moment but it’s always something we might consider for later on, since they can be pretty great.

          • Well at least its considered. Thanks for replying!

  • Carlo

    You can trust this one, not a bad game but it’ll only appeal to a select few. after a bit it gets monotonous and boring. i deleted the game to free some space but might go back to it someday. it had potential thats for sure

    • Allisa James

      Thanks, and yeah that’s pretty much my issue with Mind Zero. Even fun characters aren’t enough to keep me playing unfortunately.

      • Carlo

        Yeah, game really reminded me of persona but even if you don’t compare it at all its a real let down. After the 3rd dungeon or so I just auto / increase battle speed to level up grind even on non mind weak enemies i kept them on. A little bit after its gone from my library, I was actually waiting for a review here before I got it but in the end got impatient 😀 Not regretting getting it just need a LOT of energy to pull myself back into it.

        • Allisa James

          Ah sorry about that. I didn’t get the review copy until the game’s release so that slowed me down a bit.

          Glad you liked the game anyway though.

  • rj

    Game is great not sure what the reviewer was expecting all game-play and story is basically explained in the trailers. So Yeah go play your call of duty and why even bring up SMT and Persona those had years to actually grow into loved franchises. I didn’t like conception II much so ha.

    • Allisa James

      lol Love the trolling here. Try a little harder next time though 😉

      • rj

        I will lol, but seriously I like the game. I honestly don’t like the persona games (hate when people compare everything to them) but loved the hell out of SMT 4 and Fire Emblem for 3ds,

        • Allisa James

          Well that’s cool then. There are plenty of games I like that weren’t so beloved by reviewers. And a 5 isn’t bad, it just means average.

          And I only compared Persona like once–it was a way to point out that other companies that made similar genre games knew how to use their budgets to great effect, such as SMT IV and Fire Emblem Awakening. I just wish the devs understood their limits better is all.

  • Jesse

    “You gain more skill slots by acquiring SP (Skill Points)”
    Are you sure? In my game it seems they gain another slot at certain levels. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention there. ^^;

  • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

    Just curious…how long was the campaign? I love a good story and characters, even though the battling, at least by your description, has a lot to be desired.

    Also, I must agree…the 3D models do not live up to the beautifully drawn 2-D art.

  • Shadow Rebirth

    damn, i sit on IGN for far too long(endless fanboy wars) that i never thought a genuine discussion between commenter and reviewer exist :v. on the main point, is it really that bad? i’ve been keeping my eyes on this game since it is similar to Persona 3 & 4 gameplay, i think :p.

  • Logan McBride

    This reviewer obviously didn’t play much of this game. Skill points are actually used later at shop to increase the levels of the skills you use in battle. Skill slots are gained by leveling up, not by gainin skill points. Skill points aren’t explained in the begining because there is no need for it at that time. Sure it would help to know about them early on, but you don’t NEED to as there is nothing you can do with them at that point anyways. Also there is clear indication when a skill slot is gained. Upon level up the last thing on the display of attribute increases is one named “Skill”. This only appears at the levels where a skill slot is gain such as levels 5, 10, and 16. Atleast play the game enough to do an actual review on it instead of handing out false information. This review is the prime example of why you should just play a game for yourself to see if it’s fun to YOU not someone else, because that’s what gaming is about.

  • Ryumoau

    i’m glad i didn’t waste $40 on this right away. i might consider trying it when either the retail disk hits $20 or its on sale for $15 on psn.