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For the love of Regret: The Caligula Effect 2

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)


Persona should be one of the best video game series going, by all rights. Teenage societal anxieties filter through a melange of Jungian psychobabble and modern-occult flourishings to a concoction that's rarely attempted elsewhere in its specifics or as arrestingly in the execution. Maybe some of it lives up to the premise--personally I hold the first game dear--but the mass breakthroughs experienced by the series in the last 15 years or so have been synonymous to me with its flaunting of disingenuous moralizing, ethical bankruptcy, constant punching down and taking the path of least resistance to the most profits, in propping up and perpetuating the systems its ostensibly rebellious underdog messaging serves to critique. Persona as an institution is a house of cards, but with the popularity it's achieved, there also come ripples in its wake in the form of works inspired by its influential model. I've come to consider this an extant sub-genre or niche of sorts, informed primarily by my own antipathy toward its roots--a genre of "Better Personas", to be as prosaic as possible. I found Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth to be one and valued it for not betraying its principles, and am always looking for works in similar spirit for the affection I feel toward the tenets these games at their best can embody.

The Caligula Effect was in no position to make waves upon its release in 2016. Released for a practically dead platform long past its sell date, by a studio mostly known (if at all) for work-for-hire development muscle and headed by a novice director and project lead, it had all the warning signs of a nonstarter consigned to fated obscurity. Regardless, the game came out, justified its own updated rerelease for more relevant platforms a few years down the line, and even landed an anime adaptation--clearly something about it had struck just the right pleasure nerves. Maybe the hook of initial interest was in part due to the pedigree of some of the prominent creatives involved: early Persona writer Tadashi Satomi and vintage Megami Tensei composer Tsukasa Masuko both lent their talents to the project, something director and series driving voice Takuya Yamanaka had to have been pleased with, as directly as he's laid out those influences and as evident as they obviously are in his work. Whether the momentum was there or not--in the niche spaces a game like this operates in, by standards of budget and audience--it wasn't enough for me to push my luck with an unproven commodity that I'd heard dubious things about, so I let the game pass from mind and memory. The existence of the sequel--a sequel, in the first place, had me take stock and reconsider that stance: so few afford this series attention or vocal coverage, yet it keeps turning up persistently against all odds, seemingly undeterred. This time, I took the plunge to stave off the roused pangs of curiosity.


The Caligula Effect 2 does not presume you had the opportunity or interest to play the first game. It's an ethos it comes by not only in the slipped-in exposition to contextualize the necessary components of those past events, but in its straightforward nature as a follow-up: it could by most metrics be considered a fresh restart on the concept, benefiting from the lessons internalized through the first game's development, all applied toward realizing a stronger, more cohesive simpatico take, familiar and improved. It's what people often idealize as the endpoint of serialized media to strive for, in a linear quest toward some perfected, refined state derived from the pitch, and while CE2 does not exist without its complications, it's one of the best arguments for the attitude of just trying again if you don't nail it the first go. The metatextual synergy feels more than a little deliberated, as the virtual reality of Redo the game is set in takes up the purpose and function of the first game's equivalent program Mobius--now repurposed for a similar end result for the populace entrapped within, forced to dwell in their simulacrum into unconscious perpetuity. At the head of Redo looms the deified virtual idol Regret, she who can alleviate the suffering of humans and allow them to realize their most private wishes and desires as their idealized selves, in the idyllic false existence offering salvation to one and all who enter her domain.

Despite the initial, and frankly, ongoing cool or mixed reaction the series is privy to, it is this foundational premise that likely fuels its continuing existence and captivation in the audiences that connect to it. An imagined escape hatch out from the grasp of everyday sorrows and regrets is a conceit so universal it needs no application to any individual demographic, and so potently charged and seductive in the Faustian bargain it proposes that its presence alone can feed the thematicism of speculative fiction like this through its inherent magnitude alone. A cultural standard and attitude permeates the treatment as well, at least insofar as an outside observer not actually partaking in said culture perceives it through second-hand accounts and media representation: high school and the years spent there are the subject of unending romanticization in Japanese media works for a multitude of reasons but the most consistent is the melancholy resignation that it's the stage of life that in worst circumstances represents the last vestiges of personal freedom and autonomy before being subsumed by regimented, hierarchial and highly corporate working society. It's not everyone's reality, but its perceived eventuality structures daily life in expectation of its inevitable fulfillment, and so we have masses of creative works dedicated to externalizing those fleeting thoughts of longed-for days of relative self-determination, by disillusioned and shellshocked creators whom reality has left fending for themselves and for whom sheer escapism feels more palatable. CE2 exists in this framework of a perpetual idealized youth, and at first glance may appear to be serving more wish-fulfillment by proxy, but it could not be more empathetically critical of such attitudes, treating the entire situation as a violation of the rights of each person caught up in it, and dismantling the notion that anyone's regrets are undone through enforced denial. At the same time, it's kind to the people who would yearn for such an escape and does not mock them for choosing or wishing for it, as it recognizes the inherent vulnerability in those actions, regardless of the surface motivations for them.


The scarred souls that comprise the bulk of the tale come in the oppositional factions of the misfit Go-Home Club banding around the virtuadoll χ, seeking to oust the pretender to her "mother" μ's erstwhile virtual idol throne, in the enigmatic Regret and the equally as mysterious Musicians who serve under her and provide her with material and thus ensured popularity and influence in this world she governs. The preferentiality of this constructed artifice to exploring high school social semiotics over Persona's more literalized take becomes stark with every proposed concept associated with it: you may visually gather and attract a group of classmates, juniors and seniors to fill the ranks over the game's duration, but it's only ever sheer surface, as the age ranges, socioeconomic circumstances, and intrinsic values of the people you come to know can feasibly be anything at all without stretching the plausibility of the setting for those concerned with that aspect of it. It's not left to mere theory either, or up to the ancillary bit players to carry the weight of representation, as the primary cast tracks as exceptional within RPG standards in who they're allowed to be, from which walks of life, and how seasoned; most are adults and speak with the lived experience of such. The conceit handily allows for writing of a superficially teenage cast who speak and act with maturity and perspective that otherwise would not be expected of them, while also avoiding their characterization as tiny adults, as adult writing trying to capture children's voices can unconsciously veer toward; the respective immaturities and foibles of their personalities are also contextualized more palatably in this way as informed by trauma and lashing out at it in response or overcompensating over the hurts and hardships endured through life. It's a context that lends all involved a degree of empathetic rapport toward others, as they're not simply guessing at others's circumstances; they're drawing from experience. That is the dynamic that comes to define the interplay between the Go-Home Club and the Musicians, adversaries and foes who clash, but always communicate and strive to comprehend and inadvertently relate despite frequent mutual loathing. They cannot cast one another as disposable enemies, so neither does the game in response; past their boss battles, the Musicians continue to exist in the narrative, remaining ongoing fixtures in its developing dynamics. You may fight them again, or their relative roles compared to the first meeting may shift entirely. CE2's story does not exist without blurring the lines between friends and enemies, but it remains steadfast in its commitment to treating all of them with care and dignity, whatever role they may play.

It's important that the game maintains an attitude of respecting its cast when the precedent for exploitation is just thataway. The modern Persona protagonist by the very nature of the game mechanics they inhabit takes on the form of a sort of unrelenting, insincere social appeaser, ready to placate and say the things they anticipate will result in the most favourable response in the other conversational party. Together with the gamified social interactions of affection bars filling up and the existence and insistence on defining heterosexual relationship via romantic endgoals leaves less of an impression of socialization and kinship than a pick-up artistry simulation where you put points into being nice until you're rewarded with implied sex. CE2 rejects this paradigm not through abandoning the framework wholesale but in changing the steps to an otherwise familiar rhythm: romance is off the table and one's responses aren't numerically graded to measure affection. When the stories break from incidental flavour, it's done through a two-stage prompt that dramatically takes up the entire screen, staring you in the face and asking if you want to dive deeper. It's not signaling toward refusal ever being the option to take, simply underlining that you're about to broach a sensitive topic and asking you to choose your words especially carefully from there on out. The development of the narratives beyond these points emphasize the specific needs of the other party and understanding their perspective on what's being said--and then consistently and clearly expressing that the difficult things, the initially hard subjects are the ones worth saying and what are necessary to vocalize, even at risk of rejection and refusal. If one approaches these scenes with easy amelioration in mind, with an unwillingness to rock the boat to maintain a comfortable status quo, that's the betrayal of the relationship and the end of its development as judged by the game. Attempts to "fix" the person the quick way are the way to reinforced repression and denial, while the admission of one's ignorance and still sticking around for the long haul are viewed positively by contrast. The complexities and individual psychological nuances are never undone by the resolutions of these storylines as they are more interested in the authenticity of the bonds between people than the exploitation of them toward an ulterior motive.


The way to develop those bonds manifests through the battle system, then. Comparative study of genre peers may be helpful in painting somewhat of an evocative picture of how CE2 behaves on the combat side of itself, even if it'll never capture the totality of the experience: one may establish multiple baselines for its many interlocking parts, such as Grandia or Final Fantasy X-2-esque freneticism and enemy action interruptions; the 3D battlefield positioning of a Valkyrie Profile 2; the predictive foresight of oncoming moments of combat via Xenoblade; or the stagger system of FFXIII and beyond. The truth of it is that no single bullet point of key features suffices to capture everything that occurs in any given encounter the game presents, as all those aspects aren't occasional factors but completely integral tactics and concepts to internalize to get anywhere fast. It's a turn-based system, but all actions resolve in shared real-time where timing is everything to the most minute frame; that is why exact control of delaying each attack (and the ability to see on a timeline when each individual hit occurs in a skill) is given to the player, and the ability to watch a preview reel of how the next fifteen-ish seconds will likely play out with the currently highlighted command. Through this incredibly particular level of control over one's actions the opposition must respond in kind and they very well do: battles generally range from enemy parties of just one to maybe five opponents at maximum, but let that not mislead you as everything hits hard and fulfill a specific archetypical threat on the battlefield through their actions. For this reason, several character skills are treated as counters to melee, ranged or guard maneuvers (a reciprocal relationship between you and the enemy, as your own actions can be mitigated just the same) which upon effective use instantly launch the opponent in the air, leading to another centerpiece of the system.

All enemies in CE2 are humanoid or at the very least person-sized, both to enable the manipulation of space on the field, and to facilitate its focus on juggling enemies to disable and inflict great damage on them. It's the game's systems at their most elaborate, in finding the opportunities to launch enemies, whether through proactive skills, opportunistic counters, or defensive guards that repel--the task upon sending an enemy skybound is to chain together actions that will keep them there as long as possible, or bring them down before the natural arc of the flight to continue the offense there; specialized skills for both actions exist. The timing of actions becomes necessary to know and hugely entertaining to experiment with, as there exists a precise physicality to how combat plays out in the game: attacks may connect or whiff through the expected stat-derived calculations happening under the hood, but the visually discernible representation of combat isn't just the fanciful representation of abstract numerical interactions that it can be in other games. In here, hitboxes matter, whether an attack has a horizontal, vertical or some other unexpected arc, and how all participants move in the indistinct inbetweens; an attack that takes the user skyward will simultaneously function as evasion as your eyes tell it, whether or not its skill description states the function. There is so much to learn and be dazzled by--as each of the game's characters is a totally unique combat entity, with dedicated skills no one else can perform--that merely the spectacle of it all would carry the experience, but thanks to the hardiness of the opposition the game frequently pushes one to find strategies that work for you instead of mandating an approach, never underlining anything as the ideal option--rotation of each person through the active roster is in this instance motivated and justified by the eagerness to find out how they behave and synergize in specific pairings and groups or on their own, and is done to such an enthralling degree that there was never a need or pressure to stick only to the people who fell within favourites as judged by characterization. The game includes powerful opponents--optional, to the side--in each environment that are always 20 to 30 levels above your expected range, and thanks to each nuance of the battle system that exists, these battles are not only feasible upon every first sighting but some of the most fun in realizing the potential of any game's systems in a totally coherent, enjoyable for its own sake way.


Narrative and combat are often the most immediate duality by which RPGs are judged, whether in unison or independently. As important to a game's identity and success at its aims can be its aesthetic, and through the subject matter it's concerned with, CE2 audiovisual output is inseparable to its character. The most direct line to it is the character design, done by artist Oguchi who also reprises their role from the first game. Compared to the designwork there, it falls within the space of everything else CE2 is: alike to before, but improved. The first game used an universal white and grey colour scheme and motif to its cast; all characters incorporated the monochromatic palette and were defined by it. The sequel maintains the commitment to a theme, but inverses it in sheer black being the recurring highlight through the ranks of the Go-Home Club's members. As students conforming to an extent to a uniform standard, there's a potential risk of individual appearance being consumed by an indistinct dress code, but the fashion here walks the line confidently between personalization, functionality, group identity and stylishness. Everyone's personal style speaks ably of their preferences and priorities without falling into foregone archetypes, and the same can be said for their choices of armament in battle and the subtly distorting supernatural accoutrement each manifest on their bodies during conflict--they are always serving a layered purpose of function, flair and symbolic storytelling through visuality without banging one across the head with it; the signs are merely there for those who choose to interpret them. The Musicians do not have a common theme, as they do not have group unity; their discordant, highly individualized appearances are as much part of their affected personas as their work as literal performers, and as prone to clashing when existing in shared space. No matter which side of the aisle a character falls, you can also count on them being depicted expertly in facial expressions and general physicality; the slightly odd anatomical exaggerations of the first game are gone in favour of a more restrained, sullen mood, full of tired eyelids, piercing scowls and a visuality that pushes the characters as being read older rather than younger, in contrast to the PS2-era Persona bobbleheads, for instance.

Music plays just as large a role in defining the game as it's observed by the senses. If the purely instrumental, less prominent and featured tracks are Masuko's work, then that's the material that goes in one ear and out the other. Fortunately, what one listens to for most of the game are the personalized theme songs of the Musicians, each composed and produced by a different real-world Vocaloid artist, as I understand it. It's a move that sells the premise of each Musician having their personal musical style, individual fanbases in-universe, as well as serving as the anthems through which their presence is felt in the world and their characterization supported by the lyrical content. This use of music as a diegetic feature that is blasted through the environments familiarizes one with the eventual opponent before they're even seen, building up to that confrontation and adding texture to that process throughout, as no song with this kind of prominence exists in an unchanging, singular state. You will hear the instrumentation of it during exploration, the full version seguing in with its vocals as battle begins, and a special boss remix accompanies each composer of the respective track. After overcoming a Musician, χ can add their composition to her repertoire, which comprises of a cover version with her vocal performance reinterpreting the song, to be used and activated as a power-up state during battles, expending a relevant meter. Without a shed of irony, CE2 can claim that music is the weapon in how it treats it within its fiction, expressed through thoughtful mechanical and atmospheric integration throughout.


If one were to glean annoyances and blemishes in everything CE2 goes for, the list would include relatively infrequent but substantial aspects that stand out as carelessly conceived. The most overarching example would be its entire treatment of sidequests, performed for a veritable legion of interchangeable pedestrian character models, even if they're individualized with their own profiles and in the shockingly expansive relationship chart included for tracking them. The problem with them isn't even so much the sheer overabundance and uneventfulness of them in the doing, but the writing quality and tone that's involved. This is a game with literal, unambiguous, non-allegorical and sensitively handled queer representation in a place of narrative prominence, and its attitudes toward people in general in their various diversities ranks near the peak of the genre, but in these stories of nobodies that spirit is somehow totally missing, replaced with a kind of aw-shucks comedy bent which is invariably rooted in painfully heterosexual sketch stylings. They make light of topics they shouldn't, like teacher-student "affairs" and reflexively default to scenarios where girls and guys get paired off as a matter of social course. They're not essential to playing the game, but their associated rewards are useful, and they feel entirely out of step with what all the rest of it is putting down. The silver lining is unlocking each character's flipside profile upon completing their task, which are somber little snapshots of small human tragedies that support the setting's stated purpose in creating a tableau of all the lost souls caught up in it and what regrets inform their idealized selves in the illusion.

Other aspects that left me uncomfortable include byproducts of the visual designs that I did not always read as actively malicious but nonetheless were frequent enough that they should've been caught in the making. As much as I like the character designs in the game, it's a fact that every single woman in it wears a skirt or a dress, and most of them exist in combat scenarios where their actions are very wild and agile. So even as you cannot pinpoint any instance of the game deliberately staging an upskirt of a particular character, it's the unavoidable and commonplace result of merely observing the game's character models going through their motions; Kiriko is the worst for it as merely her neutral run cycle is capable of exposing her, so there's no way this wasn't noticed at any point during development and testing. If it had been accounted for and predicted with a modest void under the hem, there would've been little to object to, but in every instance the character models include specifically crafted underwear. I can't explain the oversight, as otherwise CE2 is one of the least leering and sexually exploitative games that I've played, in a genre that often lives down to the lowest expectations. Another misfire in this vein is the way the Digi- and Puppethead enemies are visually depicted; both derive from the NPC population that are corrupted by the environmental music. It's part of this transformation that their exposed skin turns a dark shade of brown, and I cannot even say how many times I've seen this visual shorthand used in this exact context and how badly it reads every time it's done. A baffling aspect of it is that enemies appearing in cutscenes retain their original skin pigmentation upon possession, showcasing an example of avoiding the very issue within the same game.

The final batch of sour gripes was personally the most hurtful to witness, as it exists within the otherwise excellent writing standard of the main narrative and its characters, and also for what it concerns. The game features two paraplegic characters in it, with one shown to use a wheelchair in their routine, and the other's condition spoken of as paralyzed from the waist down but not directly shown. They are both major presences, and their disability is integrally tied up with their arcs and storylines, and whatever the game was trying for with them I could not parse or agree with the rhetoric involved. For both, their disability is treated as a fate worse than death, the same as not living at all, universally pitied, and callously talked about as "putting out of their misery" and in some circumstances justifying their potential euthanasia. All of it falls completely at odds with how the game treats basically any other subject, and while some of the repellent views are expressed by characters who are too deeply emotionally involved in and unhealthily invested in the topic for terrible reasons, not all of it can be contextualized as purposefully invoked ableism in service of characterization as it's not consistently applied that way and no bit of it is ever challenged within the text. It's the one space and instance in which the game's writing completely fails its stated intent, with no one on staff seemingly able to point out the issues.


The aforementioned criticisms are important for me to outline as none of my favourite games or media exist in a state of consistent excellence. They ebb and flow unpredictably, serving high highs and some very low lows, and in that friction I can usually find greater meaning than in solid mediocrity or even uninterestingly good overachievement. What drew me to CE2 increasingly much as I spent time on it was feeling its total confidence in itself and its thematic resonance and integration that repaired the damage inflicted by every flub it committed along the way. It's in the early SMT-esque treatment of environments, where they're largely mundane spaces overtaken by an invasive presence, where you're simultaneously navigating a sea of humanity where any one of them could succumb to the sonic warfare pumping through their eardrums, or they could just as well be one of the people you've already met and promised to help, and here they are wandering through the same environment you are, with you able to fulfill the request if able, just on the spot. It's in the chat app that provides group chat exchanges and personal inquiries with your allies, where the game's absolutely stellar localization shines its brightest in the distinct typing style each individual employs and how they interact with language in the context of a chat program versus personal interaction. It's in every equippable "item" being personality traits, neuroses and other psychic residue left over from the people trapped within Redo, and how the six-slot limit exists to prevent the user's personality from being overwritten by their use; a similarly narratively relevant rationalization is afforded to the NPCs that stand on the margins of the environments, serving as functional extras but disappearing if approached--they're programmed-in scene-fillers fulfilling just that purpose in pacifying the actual populace and reinforcing Redo's illusion as realer than it is. It's looking up in the sky from most places in the world and seeing a literal crack in it, from the opening where χ blasts through it to make her way into the bootleg virtual reality that's so besmirching her mother's name. It's definitely in the environmental and even menu interface aesthetic of the game, full of too white, sterile shapes and tones, as if to signal the designed artificiality and false serenity of the world. All of these things exist for the purpose of selling Redo as an authentic, fake reality, with its internal rules that wrap around to contextualize game mechanics, in turn informing the aesthetic makeup of it, allowing each design aspect of the game to exist toward a unified, thematically cohesive end.

But maybe more than any of that I might love it for the restraint and privacy it allows for its characters. In contrast with, never irrelevantly, Persona, the game does not see fit to present people's personal traumas and insecurities as a dog and pony show of reveling in the scandalous, uncovered secrets, whether they're allies or enemies of the perpetrators. When as the protagonist through your actions you earn the trust and confidence of people sharing what truly matters to them, it's a personal connection that has no obligation to reflect on the group dynamic. Social Links operated like this, but they were weirdly superfluous reiteration of already sensationalized personal revelations and conflicts presented in the primary narrative, and their mutual exclusivity never cohered. In here, the personal matters are often never divulged to the group at large; they inform the characters but most remain unwilling to discuss them freely, and from the start stress that no one has the justification to drag things that personal out in the open without consent, no matter the reasons. As a result, the characters are drawn together for a common cause, sympathize and like each other, but are also acutely aware of the personal space everyone is entitled to. It's the best encapsulation I think of the myriad contrasts that exist within the game compared to its inspirations, and how much more authentically it's able to navigate its thematic fibre, and what ultimately guides it soaring to the finish line despite the stumbles along the way. I have said some bad things about it, because no worthwhile celebration exists without, but what has driven me to say anything at all are the litany of good and great things that define it. To me, The Caligula Effect 2 is a masterpiece, the best game I've played this year, and one of the games I've most enjoyed in any context. Warts and all, it did all of that by actually feeling like it was for, about, and by societal punching bags--the disaffected and lost RPG generation with insight to their own circumstances, empathy for others and hope in the face of everlasting regret.



~~~

I liked this game just a little bit! I can't promise others will take to it as much, but for me it operated on just a completely different level of media investment than anything has for a good while. I played on Switch, where performance is spotty, but I didn't really care. It's only been released on PS4 additionally, which I think limits the audience it may have and I think should. Maybe it'll turn up on PC eventually like the first game did.
 
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q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
(they/them)
Yes! One of my recent faves, too. Having played the first game, which had a few high highs but some extremely low lows, I'm pleased by how much of an improvement the sequel is, not just mechanically but in empathy and inclusiveness. And from interviews I've read with Takuya Yamanaka he seems genuinely committed to improving with the times.

I appreciate your insight into the privacy of the narrative - it did seem unusual to have so many personal epiphanies and revelations not broadcast to the entire group, but it makes sense and fits the game's themes. Some people are more willing to share, others less so, and some personal stories are more important to the group's agenda than others. But they still all benefit from having someone they trust who they can confide in, and in fact it's a common thread for the antagonists that none of them really had that.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
And from interviews I've read with Takuya Yamanaka he seems genuinely committed to improving with the times.

Yes, I'll link this interview with him which you shared in another thread because whether or not you read it having experienced his work or not, it's a very good read and illustrative of the thinking process and tone he goes for. Oftentimes when creators are given a platform for discussing their work (or other topics), I feel all the more disillusioned by the end of it through the views they go on to espouse, but this has only served to highlight the good and exceptional qualities of Yamanaka's creative voice.

Thinking on the drastic increase in clarity and meaning of the writing in the game as compared to the original (from what I've heard, anyway), I think it's an ongoing shift in the series's process and in who gets to shape it, at least as far as one can glean from development credits. The first game is just credited to Satomi for its writing, which as mentioned is a potential "hook" because he's associated with the formative works of a since-popular series, and which do have individual merit of their own as stories... but which are also very much products of their time and cultural attitudes in other ways, while also featuring some glimpses into Satomi's personal obsessions like the circumstances around most likely the creepiest self-insert character in the history of the medium. It's a pedigree that I cannot see synchronizing frinctionless with the values of a younger generation of creators, with the thematic content Caligula posits and builds its identity around.

By the revision in Overdose, Yamanaka is not only producing and directing but credited for scenario, so his contributions on the narrative end in the specifics likely increased after having established the baseline for the game and series. This continues to CE2's credits, where Yamanaka is credited in the many-hats producer/director/planner/screenwriter role, while Satomi is now listed under "storyline cooperation." From the outside in conjecturing this dynamic, it seems like a much better arrangement of creative responsibilities in allowing Yamanaka (and other writers; the scripters notably include several women, judging by names) to dictate the narrative's content, tone and sensibilities while retaining Satomi to contribute ideas (and there's a bunch of that in CE2; I namedropped P1 briefly because a number of the thematics resonate with the story from that game) but in a reduced capacity of influence and the ability to veto the concepts that don't gel. The results are evident to discern in any case, and this is just how I've come to reason why and how they might have come to pass in making the game as good as it turned out.

That's really the takeaway I prefer with Caligula as a whole because while it may be marketed (when it rarely is) as "the game from former Megami Tensei devs!" those are rarely what's actually the most interesting about it, and just serve as that initial spark of curiosity to draw people in to be exposed to a creative expression they did not even see coming. In that light, it's really heartening that new voices and perspectives are making the series the best it can be. You can contrast it with with the upcoming Monark, another FuRyu project (developed by Lancarse instead of Historia) which shares at least a vaguely similar surface premise and aesthetic touchstones with Caligula, and is also attempting to draw people in with the presence of Megami Tensei oldheads on the staff--Masuko composing again, and a host of the series's oldest writers being on board... including Kazunari Suzuki in the director spot, who's a noted war crimes denier, misogynist and generally suspect conspiracy theorist. Monark does not excite or intrigue me in what has been shown about it so far--no female protagonist, for starters (note: CE2's implementation of this is specifically phrased "you present as" instead of a binary gender option because it actually cares)--and that it does not despite the superficial similarities between it, Caligula and their shared sources leads me to believe that the generational balance of power within their creative spheres and their individual priorities has a lot to do with that.
 
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Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I've come to consider this an extant sub-genre or niche of sorts, informed primarily by my own antipathy toward its roots--a genre of "Better Personas", to be as prosaic as possible.​
Henceforth they shall be called Persogulas.
 

muteKi

As charming as a grinch
You're not the first person I've seen to extol the virtues of this game but you're certainly far more thorough in your analysis and it does indeed sound like something I actually want to play.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I'm glad if that enthusiasm ends up contagious, because from my perspective and attempts to poke my nose around, hardly anyone is talking about the game anywhere--when you're this into something, you tend to try and find that discourse anywhere possible. Discussion like this is decentralized and scattered to obscure forums (like this!) and social media dead-ends more than ever before, anyway, but even within that context it's really difficult to get an idea whether its still fairly recent release was picked up on by very many at all. I'm sure I don't follow the "right" places for it but it often feels that folks like q 3 have done more to effectively promote the game than its actual publisher has.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I have never heared of this game, or it's predecessor, but I'd love to play it now. No Steam release, though. Oh well, maybe someday.
 

Poster

Just some poster
most are adults and speak with the lived experience of such
I remember happening to read about this a couple of weeks ago, and thinking it sounded interesting for this reason, but I don't own any of the platforms it is currently on. But I will keep an eye on it.
 
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