I’ve always had a soft spot for unhinged characters, complex combat systems, and wild plots. Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society offers all three in spades, and it proved to be everything I could hope for from the second entry in Nippon Ichi Software’s dungeon-crawling series.
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Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is a dungeon-crawler that throws you in the deep end with its combat system while luring you into a false sense of security with both its plot and cast. The plot centers on Eureka, a Wandering Spirit called Fantie, and the witch Madam Marta. A noble employer has tasked this ragtag group with delving into a demon-crafted labyrinth to uncover curios.
But the Labyrinth can’t be braved by ordinary humans. Monsters, miasma, and cursed mud fill the halls. That’s where Fantie comes in. As a Wandering Spirit without a body, Fantie is able to travel through the maze, collecting the treasures Eureka and Madam Marta need. And yet the story only really begins once you’ve collected all the curios and plumbed the depths of the maze – a feat that will take you well over two dozen hours to complete. After that, you still have another fifty hours of gameplay left.
“[T]he story only really begins once you’ve collected all the curios and plumbed the depths of the labyrinth – a feat that will take you well over two dozen hours to complete.”
The story unravels slowly in those early hours, presenting at first as something formulaic and predictable. But as the plot progresses, mystery and secrets are interwoven into cutscenes, some of which can last up to half an hour. It’s this slow trickle of world building that makes the transition between part one and part two seamless. But it wouldn’t be nearly so graceful if it wasn’t for the characters.
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Sunshine, Daisies, and Parental Issues
Like its plot, the Labyrinth of Galleria’s characters seems as two dimensional as its art when you first meet them. Eureka is eternally sunny and optimistic. Madam Marta is your standard old witch. The noble of the manor is stuffy and pretentious. These characters unravel and blossom far slower than the plot, making each new thing you learn about them feel precious.
Your puppet soldiers, on the other hand, are immediately endearing, as you can customize both their voice and appearance.
“These characters unravel and blossom far slower than the plot, making each new thing you learn about them feel precious.”
But no matter the character, they’re all beautifully drawn. The entire game is a delight for those who adore quirky and unique character art. However, those who’ve never played a dungeon-crawler may find that the barrier to entry is too high to even get to know those characters or the story.
Die, Grind, Optimize
The core concept of the Labyrinth of Galleria’s gameplay is simple. You explore a grid-based dungeon with your team of puppet soldiers, fighting monsters and uncovering treasure that you bring back up to the surface. It’s a gameplay loop you’ll either love or hate, and I found myself firmly in the former.
Each floor is full of puzzles, traps, pitfalls, and hidden nooks. You can easily spend hours working your way up and down the floors, breaking each wall as you hunt. But you’ll be constantly surrounded by monsters, which range from incredibly buff caterpillars to a mound of golden poo, with the enemy designs being easily one of the most charming parts of the game.
“It’s a gameplay loop you’ll either love or hate, and I found myself firmly in the former.”
Your primary defenses against these enemies are your puppet soldiers. These soldiers are a call back to the Labyrinth of Refrain, and many of the classes will be familiar to veteran players. And yet, even making your puppet soldiers can be challenging. Each puppet has its own unique class, but they can also have own personalities and stances, both of which reflect their stat growth, a randomly rolled luck stat, skills, souls you can transfer, and on and on.
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It’s possible to craft a team that’s capable of abusing skills and unique formations to do insane damage that trivializes even end game enemies. But getting to that point is difficult, requiring a significant amount of trial and error and time spent tinkering in your menus. For those with a certain temperament, the Labyrinth of Galleria can be a min-max paradise. If you’re like me, who’s drawn in more by the art, story, and characters, you can still learn the game gradually while brute forcing your way through the floors on puppet levels and meat alone. It’s a strategy that works until end game bosses, at which point you’ll have to really buckle down and go to puppet class to figure out the strategies that work.
Chop Wood, Carry Water. The Joy of Repetition
Labyrinth of Galleria will appeal to the type of person who likes their stories to take them on a wild ride while giving them beautifully drawn boss art or people who know how to use spreadsheets and enjoy tinkering with stats and abilities.
If you fall in either of those camps, the Labyrinth of Galleria hits just the right balance of puzzles, challenging enemies, and secrets to uncover to keep you engaged in the maze. It’s gameplay that should feel repetitive, and yet the satisfaction of completely clearing a floor kept me going through hundreds of them. And yet so much of the soul rests in its story and its characters, and is well worth the time and effort it takes to see them journey all the way through.
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Even if the Labyrinth of Galleria is your first dungeon crawler, it’s worth enduring the dozens of tutorials to get into. Many of the mechanics can seem complex at first blush but become easier to understand as you delve deeper into the game.
- Well-developed dungeon with the right mix of puzzles, challenging encounters, and treasure
- So many hours of content filled to the brim with bosses and cut scenes
- A story you can’t guess the ending of but still feels satisfying
- Mastering the combat system (or even understanding it) takes time and patience
- The characters and plot only start to really develop twenty hours in
- Please give the Shinomashira pants
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.