There are plenty of roguelike games on Nintendo Switch, but Loop8: Summer of Gods takes an interesting twist to the formula: a classic turn-based Japanese RPG that has roguelike elements. More specifically, the game is similar to something like Persona. However, Loop8 implements neither Persona’s excellent school-life pacing nor the fun “just one more run” feeling of games like Hades or Neon White. What results is a long-winded and repetitive adventure that makes you want to put the controller down and walk away.
Loop8 starts off with an incredibly enticing premise. The main character, Nini, crashes into 1983 Ashihara after his space station gets destroyed by demons called Kegai. He also has an ability called Demon Sight that allows him to reset the timeline every time he fails to stop the Kegai from destroying Ashihara. Nini continuously repeats the month of August until he can put an end to the Kegai once and for all.
It’s a really interesting story, right? It’s reminiscent of other sci-fi plots like 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and Gnosia. However, there’s not much story exposition past the first few cutscenes, and instead, bits and pieces of the background lore are told through character interactions. Some of the characters are interesting, such as Machina, who, as a robot, has a bit of existential dread, and Nanchi, an otaku who dreams about being reincarnated in another world in order to find a girlfriend.
As such, the main story itself lacks any driving force and doesn’t really keep you invested. The inorganic pacing at which Nini develops relationships with other characters doesn’t really help either. The gameplay loop is similar to Persona’s. Nini can go to school, increase his stats like strength and intelligence, and then hang out with his classmates afterwards. The game also has a time management element. However, instead of most events taking up a section of morning, afternoon, or night, the game runs on a clock with a real-time correlation—every second you play equals one minute, so every 24 hours on the in-game clock lasts for 24 minutes.
As you might expect given its visual novel elements, most of the time you’re going to have to click through mountains of text, picking the same exact dialogue for characters, and watching the relationship meter go up. It’s not nearly as satisfying a gameplay loop as found in its contemporaries like Persona and Marvel’s Midnight Suns. After getting the relationship meter for a character to a high enough level, then Nini can invite them out to do certain activities like work out or study. However, by that time, it's tough to care about whatever cutscene or character development occurs.
As for the aforementioned roguelike elements in Loop8, that term should be applied very loosely. The game is only a roguelike in the sense that when Nini and his party gets wiped out, the timeline automatically resets and he goes all the way back to the beginning of August. This isn’t the type of roguelike that you can knock out a run in about 30-60 minutes. Each loop takes about 8-10 hours simply because of all the conversations you have to repeat again with the characters because their stats reset after every loop.
While each loop makes the relationship stats increase faster, it still didn’t really feel like enough and we weren’t looking forward to having to do another cycle just to watch the same exact cutscenes and read the same dialogue over again. In many roguelikes (or roguelites), there's some sort of retained progress even when you die, no matter how small. Here, there’s really no sense of that—it feels stagnant. For the record, it took us three loops and 30 hours total to beat all the bosses without dying and reach the ending.
Nini can take two other companions to fight with him. When Kegai appears, he can go into the Underworld, which is basically a 1:1 mirror version of Ashihara. Those hoping for something like dungeon crawling will be disappointed. Purely turn-based Japanese RPGs feel like they're becoming a rarity nowadays with so many shifting to a real-time system, so Loop8’s battle system is appreciated.
However, the approach is also frustrating because it takes the Persona 3 FES approach and you can only directly control Nini whereas his teammates are AI controlled. There were so many instances where the boss had a tiny sliver of health left and we only needed one of my teammates to attack it in order to win, only for them to decide to buff Nini instead and then the boss wiped us out the very next turn. When that happened, we would groan and load up the previous save file instead of dreadfully going through another 8-10 hour loop.
At the very least, Loop8’s presentation is absolutely amazing. The backdrops in Ashihara’s environments are stunning and the character animations are very crisp. The battles and attack animations are incredibly cinematic as well. Camera angles are dynamic as each character activates their special attacks like when Nini’s Skyburst when he jumps into the air and cuts an enemy down with a blue scythe energy blade. The game runs surprisingly well on Switch, despite some slightly long loading times between going to different locations and some slowdown during boss battles.
Additionally, the soundtrack is excellent. The soft but upbeat piano that plays in the background while running around Ashihara is pleasant to listen to and the battle music is dramatic and epic. Both the English and Japanese voice acting is superb too, with lines being delivered with believable emotion.
While Loop8’s story has the potential to be incredibly interesting, it never really lands and fails to leave an emotional impact towards the end. It's all presented beautifully and has a unique mix of gameplay styles and ideas, but their repetitive and frustrating nature makes the whole experience a chore. It’s like toiling away at your summer job and going through the motions until it’s time to leave.