"At its heart, Trillion: God of Destruction is a Princess Maker-style sim game with strong visual novel elements."
A common piece of advice the more experienced often give is "know what you're getting into." That is sage advice when thinking about Trillion: God of Destruction. The newest game by Idea Factory and Compile Heart, Trillion is the first game in a new universe called Makai Ichiban Kan (which loosely translates to "The Best House in Hell.") From looking at trailers and other marketing, it's easy to think that this game is an SRPG-lite akin to Rhapsody, but the truth is that the game is primarily a visual novel driven by Princess Maker-style sim elements and a touch of RPG battling. I've enjoyed Princess Maker and its ilk in the past and posit that Idea Factory's best game was the visual novel Hakuoki, so upon discovering Trillion's true colors, I felt more serendipitous delight than duped disappointment.
The story feels like something out of the Disgaea universe, where the reign of the underworld's supreme overlord Zeabolos is threatened by the appearance of a foe that hasn't been seen or heard from in millennia. This threat is known as "God of Destruction" and later on referred to as "Trillion" because it is made up of a trillion curses and he has a trillion HP. Zeabolos' brother Astaroth volunteers to meet the beast head on, but is unceremoniously killed in the process, leading Zeabolos to avenge his beloved brother. Unfortunately, Zeabolos dies… but he is brought back to life by a mysterious woman named Faust, who offers him a way to defeat Trillion in exchange for his soul.
Since Zeabolos' body is completely broken, he calls upon his capable, if quirky, vassals to do the heavy lifting. These seven female vassals are minor overlords each fashioned after the seven deadly sins. Though most are eager to go fight, they can only be groomed one at a time to face God of Destruction, because the beast surrounds itself with a deadly miasma that only Zeabolos can withstand. Unfortunately, given his demise, only a shred of his soul remains and this shred was fashioned into a special ring that only one vassal may wear. If the first vassal doesn't defeat God of Destruction, she can sacrifice herself into one of several Death Skills (e.g. do massive damage, seal off one of God of Destruction's body parts), which will hopefully allow the next vassal to finish the job. After a battle with God of Destruction, he falls into a lengthy slumber wherein the next vassal undergoes training to bring him down.
The game has several outcomes, depending on which vassal deals the final blow to God of Destruction. There is also a bad ending where nobody defeats God of Destruction and loose plot threads are left hanging. Once the game is completed, a New Game Plus opens up, carrying over all items, stat boosting experience points, and weapon levels. Unfortunately, any damage done to God of Destruction in the prior playthrough is nullified. I wish that carried over so that playing for the story and getting all the different endings would be easier. My first playthrough lasted around 16-18 hours, but future playthroughs are much shorter, given the ability to fast forward the lengthy cutscenes.
The bulk of the game is akin to Princess Maker, in which the player would, through a fairly extensive menu interface, raise a daughter. Every interaction and decision made in raising the girl and planning out her days would determine one of many possible futures she would end up with. These include which school classes you enroll her in, which jobs/community activities you allow her to do, how you respond to her questions, etc. Princess Maker is not a game for everyone, but I enjoyed it a lot, so I went into Trillion with that mindset. It's a good thing too, since much of Trillion is spent navigating menus and grooming your chosen vassal for the ultimate battle, Princess Maker-style.
Once the vassal chosen to wear Zeabolos' ring is chosen, a healthy portion of the game is spent interacting with her in several ways, such as training her for combat; building her stats; giving her presents; having conversations with her; traipsing through miniscule and near-pointless dungeons; and more. The conversations were my favorite part. Social interaction with each vassal in Trillion was very enjoyable and the more I interacted with them, the more they developed as characters. They went beyond their seemingly shallow little archetypes and became fleshed-out characters I genuinely cared about. I never expected such heartstring-tugging character development from a game like this, and I loved every second of it. For example, when I learned the reason why Mammon, the overlord of greed, was so hell-bent on procuring treasure, I felt horrible when her day of reckoning came and I had to send her out like a lamb to the slaughter. I spent my first playthrough grooming each vassal, so I got to know all of them quite well.
Sending the lambs to the slaughter was an inhumane experience because the battle system was awful and I found myself fighting it more than the enemies. Battles take place on a SRPG style grid and as you move one square, the enemies move simultaneously, making this action-SRPG hybrid feel like the brain damaged child of Ys and Shining Force. These disparate elements do not marry well at all and I felt like the game was playing a "heads I win, tails you lose" coin flip with me every time I entered combat and I dreaded it every time. This kinda action-ish SRPG battle system was a poorly thought-out and poorly executed idea and I think the game would have benefited from having either straight action-based battles (with strafing) or simple turn-based battles. Better yet, this game could have eliminated battles altogether. Yes, without battles, Trillion could have been a lovely Princess Maker style sim with strong visual novel elements. If the sim elements are chocolate and the visual novel elements are peanut butter, you don't need anything else. The RPG elements are like adding Brussels sprouts to this chocolate and peanut butter mix.
Control is exceedingly awkward in Trillion, particularly when trying to move (especially diagonally), target foes, utilize skills, and other RPG combat basics. The camera was difficult to position, and even with its many panning options, I could never get it where I wanted it. Outside of battles, the sim aspects of the game contain a lot of menu flipping and that interface became second nature to me very quickly. Given that several Idea Factory games I've played in the past often had jumbled and obfuscatory menus, this was quite welcome. Sure, there is some needless stat-building with obscure meanings that aren't properly explained, but that's a standard grievance with this company's games.
Tenpei Sato's music consists of decent bread-and-butter JRPG tunes that fit their intended scenes. The more intense battle themes stand out the most, but lack organic instrumentation and don't have melodies that you'll be humming as you pass the day. The game offers a choice between both English and Japanese voice options and both are equally excellent. My only gripe with the English voice acting is that the recording quality is inconsistent, leading to some voices sounding louder and clearer than others. Other than that, if there had been no option for Japanese voices, I would have been quite happy with the English voices and wouldn't have lamented their absence.
Given that this game is more of a visual novel-style game than an RPG, the graphics are not the flashiest. The polygon graphics for battles are serviceable, and the backdrops used for cutscene settings are limited and often recycled. The color palette is vibrant, though, and those visuals are easy on the eyes. The star of the graphics lies in the creative and lively character art. All the characters are chock full of personality and their designs reflect that. Yes, most of the female characters are very fanservicey, but that's par for the course in this company's games.
The long and short of this review is that the visual novel aspects are fantastic, but the RPG aspects are clumsily designed and executed. Despite its egregious flaws, I enjoyed my time with Trillion: God of Destruction, because it unexpectedly turned out to be the kind of game I like. That's why I think it's important that anyone considering this game know full well what they're getting into. If you're expecting an RPG with plenty of deep, strategy-licious combat, this game is not it. At its heart, Trillion: God of Destruction is a Princess Maker-style sim game with strong visual novel elements. Story and characters are where this game truly shines and if it didn't have the awful combat system and unnecessary RPG trappings, it could have been a great niche game. Idea Factory has already proven its strong visual novel capabilities with Hakuoki and I would like to see them pursue that genre more, especially in the new Makai Ichiban Kan universe.