First revealed back in February, 404 GAME RE:SET (officially pronounced Error Game Reset) is described by the majority of its promotional material as a “Shooting-like RPG” title pairing the bullet-hell/shoot-em-up combat system with RPGesque skills and class systems.
But the mobile game’s eye-catcher was the name associated with it. As if Yoko Taro being name-dropped alongside Sega wasn’t enough, the trailer depicting the game developer giant as an ominous globe-encompassing megacorp, punctuating its grand reveal with the words “Kill Sega” and “The World Will Change” certainly sets some expectations and excitement.
While it is not exactly the company’s first-ever attempt at anthropomorphizing its intellectual properties (remember Sega Hard Girls?), 404 GAME RE:SET attempts to set itself apart from its contemporaries by turning its legacy video game titles into pretty girls and self-referential humor peppered in by courtesy of Yoko Taro of Drakengard and Nier fame.
▍Welcome to the Bizzare Digital World of 404 GAME RE:SET
404 GAME RE:SET is set in a rather peculiar universe where Sega as a company has become the predominant corporate figure in almost all facets of the world. As a university graduate, the player is on their way to taking an interview for an unspecified occupation under their wing. Just as you arrive at the foot of the office overlooking the Shibuya crossing, the protagonist is struck by a sports car zooming past the iconic location.
Mortally wounded, the player is mysteriously plunged into the cyber realm through their phone, where the cover art girl Ribbon and a shrouded figure referring to themselves only as “X” explain the workings of a plan set in motion. To re-write history, literally.
In this world, through mysterious means, Sega discovered a way to create anthropomorphized video games called “Casts” that reside in cyberspace. These individuals have achieved almost god-like dominion over certain aspects of the world. Ribbon further explains how the company has been able to brainwash these Casts into rewriting aspects of history for their gains, and even explains that the car crash that took your corporeal body was the machinations of a Cast gone amok called Out Run.
…And thus the story of 404 GAME RE:SET begins as the protagonist sets off to infiltrate the company from within; as part of a resistance that aims to undo the future that Sega has created for themselves.
▍Hectic Bullet-Hell Mixed with Card Mechanics
As previously mentioned, 404 GAME RE:SET is a “Shooting-like RPG” with similar mechanics commonly seen in other mobile games that loosely use the term RPG as a descriptor. While the “Shooting-like” aspect takes in the elements of a bullet-hell shmup, it ultimately requires players to build teams and formations that emphasize counterplay.
Players form a party of five characters of varying abilities, with a definitive leader unit that heads to battle as the first attacker. Should the leader fall in battle, the unit behind would come forward.
As if to reinforce the notion that it’s not trying to be a Shmup as much as it looks like one, 404 GAME RE:SET has characters fire auto-targeting shots that require no aiming on the player’s part and the enemies shoot out bullet patterns that are unavoidable at times. This alteration to the format means that team building plays a key role, as assigned classes (tanks, DPS, healer, and support) and bringing a balanced team becomes necessary to take on higher difficulty stages.
In a rather strange decision, players have no control over the order in which characters are set, as the game auto-corrects the characters with the highest HP stat to the lowest, making the Tank classes set in the front almost always.
From a purely visual perspective, this means that you’ll be looking at the Tank class unit for most of your time playing 404 GAME RE:SET, with occasional snippets of the other team members only showing up when performing their bomb-equivalent abilities. This also means that if your favorite happens to be a healer or a supporter, they will rarely be on screen.
▍Auto-Pilot Makes Things Easier or Not?
During battles, party members outside of the leader are represented as little color-coded cubes that follow around the character akin to options in other traditional shoot-em-ups. While the design choice is most definitely a compromise due to how cluttered the screen can get, distinctions as to which cube represents what party member can sometimes be difficult to discern under heavy fire.
The game offers a camera option to remedy this by shifting the camera to a more traditional top-down view, which can help gauge your character’s location. While it makes it easier to read the trajectory of incoming bullets, the top-down camera also has problems of its own, as enemy life bars get cut off relatively often, making switching between the two camera modes necessary in higher difficulties.
For players inexperienced with shmups and players who simply want an easy way to crank stages out, 404 GAME RE:SET has an auto-pilot feature that will assume direct control and fight on the player’s behalf. While the feature serves its purpose of being able to beat more uneventful stages, the function has trouble with boss encounters and certain perfect win conditions that require no units to die.
The mild difficulty spike like these led to situations where I saw myself repeating certain stages where I would use the auto feature for certain segments of a level only to take back control on the boss encounters as the autopilot makes very little effort dodging relatively easy-to-evade bullet patterns, instead banging its head right in front of the enemy at gun-point on some occasions.
▍Beautiful Yet Baffling Design Choices
Alongside the game crediting Yoko Taro for his directory role, 404 GAME RE:SET also features fully rendered, beautifully illustrated character artworks by Yuugen (ゆーげん) who has recently also been the lead designer for Key’s mobile RPG title, Heaven Burns Red. Yuugen’s art is also impressively realized in 3D form, as every playable character in the game can be seen in their accurate proportions in-game.
There’s also a camera control option that allows you to control the positioning of the camera to appreciate the Cast’s looks from all angles. While appreciated, the fact that this is the only place to take a good look at the impressive details of the 3D models is odd, as during gameplay they take a much less prevalent role due to the aforementioned reasons.
The liberal use of 3D models and (very) laborious use of the glitch effect during gameplay also means that 404 GAME RE:SET is a relatively demanding mobile title to run on some mobile devices. Using an Xperia 5 ii in testing, saw the phone heat up and the framerate taking a hit after 5 or so minutes of playing through stages punctuated by bosses. This all being said, it is rather strange that the game offers absolutely no way to change graphics and performance settings whatsoever.
▍Lack of Voice-Acting is a Waste of the Star-Studded Cast
404 GAME RE:SET prelaunch also boasted a wide array of star-studded voice casts for its characters. However, their voice performances in-game are surprisingly limited, with them only providing voices to their characters in gameplay segments, as the novelesque story parts play out in silence. The lack of voice acting sticks out like a sore thumb especially when the game opts to use its admittedly beautiful 3D models as puppets to emote for each dialogue segment. While the game features some cutscenes sprinkled in at the beginning of some chapters, none of them outside of one featured any spoken dialogue.
▍Character Progression and Convuluted Upgrades
Similar to character leveling in titles such as Blue Archive and Honkai Impact 3rd, your Casts level cap is tied to your player level in 404 GAME RE:SET. Powering up units in the game constitutes a couple of different things.
Just like with the Casts, you’ll be juggling your resources on upgrading their EXP, skill levels, equipment, star levels, and trust levels. Having multiple resources for an RPG mobile title can be one thing but the number of different materials that must be consolidated to “completely” gear up a character to peak performance feels like a sick parody of mobile game monotonous “grinds” being thrown into the gameplay loop by Yoko Taro himself.
While I won’t bore you with the complete details, what is certain is that 404 GAME RE:SET expects players to be in for the long ride, as characters have tons of aspects that can be upgraded to thin out the advantage against stronger enemies.
Another discerning aspect of 404 GAME RE:SET is the fact that each character comes in two iterations. Anode and Cathode. These two forms represent the positive normal state and the negative corrupted form of the Cast. It also means that each character has an alternative version that makes them a whole new beast altogether.
While the characters are presented in two versions with different designs, they cannot be used in the same team. This can be problematic when taking on the game’s harder difficulty missions as it requires the use of multiple teams or deliberately locks you out of certain unit classes or elements.
Knicknacks of varying values can be pulled at the gacha alongside characters in the separate Figure gacha banner. Other than serving as cute little novelty decorations for your dormitory desk found on the home screen, these figurines also act as another layer to the character’s upgrade system.
Most comparable to weapons, Figures serve as additional stat sticks for your characters as they innately possess stats and numbers that add to the Cast they are equipped to. Moreover, different Figures have passive skills that get added to the Cast’s stats when equipped. This becomes even more complicated as Figures only grant their passive skills when they are equipped with a character of their corresponding element.
Just like their character counterparts, a Figure’s EXP, skill level, and star level can all be upgraded, further adding to the laborious amounts of material farming required to set up a team of 5 characters.
▍A Gacha Economy That Leaves More to Be Desired
Gacha in 404 GAME RE:SET splits into two different banners. The Cast gacha and the Figure gacha. The Cast gacha is simple as that and doles out the various girls in both Cathode and Anode forms ranging from 1~3 Star in rarity.
To get the coveted highest rarity 3-Star Casts and Figures, you’ll be contending with a 2% chance at a jackpot, with 2-Star units coming in at 19% and 1-Star unit at a 79% drop rate.
Appropros of the gacha guidelines set in Japan since 2016, the game has a pseudo-pity system in place, though seemingly does it reluctantly. Upon 200(!) pulls, the game will offer players a gacha ticket that will guarantee a ★3 unit, though does not allow you to select the character you desired.
For Free-to-Play users, rerolling for your desired character at the beginning is recommended because the gacha currency economy in 404 GAME RE:SET can arguably be described as stingy. Clearing one stage only nets you five gems out of the 150 needed for a single pull. This means 404 GAME RE: SET expects F2P accounts to be able to rack up enough Gems to do a 10-pull after beating approximately 300 quests.
The tutorial missions giving out five pull tickets as rewards instead of a normal 10-pull also seems unnecessarily frugal, especially for newcomers that would appreciate every bit of chance at the beginning to start off with a powerful character.
On another note, the game locks out features such as the Auto Skip function (which allows players to select their desired material, and the game will auto-select and skip missions to collect the selected materials) and adds two additional daily attempts at the EXP dungeons under a Premium Pass. These features being pay-walled feel like underhanded ways for the developers to add benefits to paying JPY$1,000 a month.
▍Just as its name, 404 GAME RE:SET has a Glitch in the System
When initially revealed in February with a foreboding title drop trailer, game director Yoko Taro in a Show Case video says something curious that possibly tells of the strange, almost conflicting ideas presented in 404 GAME RE:SET.
In the video, Taro mentions how, as a 54-year-old man, he sometimes questioned during production “How on earth a game like this can make money”. He also adds that the process was one where he felt as though he was wading through a thicket of fog when writing the script as he was asked by Sega.
While these words are certainly not entirely evocative of the technical/design shortcomings of 404 GAME RE:SET, the chief director of the game not being entirely sure about the concept tinges the game with a hue of confusion as to what the game ultimately wants to be.
404 GAME RE:SET goes so far in its dedication to esotericism and referential tidbits to a feverish degree, pulling out nostalgic anecdotes and trivia in its writing where players can see the love for these legacy titles. Full-blown features dedicated to chronicling game history give the game a unique touch.
The game is able to provide some sensible chuckles here and there with its referential humor. But the fact is that anthropomorphized characters of big old titles are not enough to pull in new users without some proper investment by bringing in modern gameplay. The fact that the majority of characters only show up in battles when using their skills further muddies their pull value.
The gameplay of 404 GAME RE:SET also carries a sense of confusion; Its auto-battle system makes very little effort to dodge incoming attacks as if it requires players to build around the assumption that hits will be taken. The auto-battle feature seems like a bandaid solution to an overarching problem in the game being uneventful outside of boss fights, with the game’s RPG mechanics and shmup elements both feeling half-baked in execution.
404 GAME RE:SET is expecting new characters from other game titles in the future with Capcom and SNK girls joining the roster. For SEGA IPs, some iconic series’ such as Sonic and Shining Force not being present at launch feel as if the company is withholding them to put up as limited gacha characters in the future.
All in all, 404 GAME RE:SET feels unbalanced and leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a shame seeing how the writing, character interactions, and visuals all come together extremely pleasantly in the story presentation, while the actual game feels like a confused mess of mechanics that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a bullet-hell shmup or a Pricone-style RPG.
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404 GAME RE:SET Review – Confusing Shmup RPG Mix - QooApp Review
As Yoko Taro and Sega's latest brainchild, 404 GAME RE:SET has done a good job anthropomorphizing its signature IP into beautiful young girls, unfortunately, the mix of shoot-em-up combat and RPGesque character growth system falls short.
Operating System: iOS, Android