Thursday, 04 October 2018 14:30

REVIEW: Labyrinth Of Refrain: Coven Of Dusk (Nintendo Switch)

Written by RiotArms
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(19 votes)

All those JRPG lovers out there HOLLAR! Does Riot have a game for you OR WHAT! Labyrinth of refrain is a mixture of great JPRG story, voice acting, cute characters and unique game play that makes players want to visit Japan, eat ramen and ninja run like Naruto.

Made by what I can only call Champions of JPRGS; Nippon Ichi Software can be thanked for releasing amazing heavyweight titles such as Phantom Brave in 2004 and the critically acclaimed series Disgaea which (unless you have been living under a rock) is renowned for those of so cute Prinnys d00din’ everywhere, so rest assured when Labyrinth of Refrain was published, fans everywhere were excited to get their mitts on this title. But why oh why do I rate this game so highly? Let’s take a look.


So, what is it? Well gun to my head I would describe it as a dungeon crawler with anime exaggeration mixed with all its JRPG yumminess. I would like to stress that behind its cute nature lies adult themes, swearing, fan service and a mature way of unfolding the story which really caught me off guard yet tickled my excitement to want to play more.

Upon starting the game, you are introduced to Dronya, the minxy witch with sass to boot, who is on her way to the town of Refrain (I’m sure it sounds cooler in Japanese). With the adorable cherub like ward named Luca by her side; her mission is to rid the town of its monsters within this maze below the city. To enter the maze, you must descend the well which glows a menacing green, which I assume means EVIL! The kicker is the maze is to contain a toxic aura called miasma which means certain DEATH to all humans that enter. For those nerds like me, miasma is a foul unpleasant odour that was initially blamed for spreading disease and dysentery in ye old London before they realised that rats were to blame, but I digress.


So how you ask will our heroine (?) achieve this task? MAGIC! Yes, a magic book called the Tractatus de Monstrum which sounds cool but when chucked in a google translate doesn’t really mean anything. As Dronya throws “Tractie”; adorably named by Luca, down the well to clear these monsters, we discover that it contains puppets with different traits. This is where the RPG elements come in. Each puppet you can customise with class, looks, feels, evolvement and play style which I found confusing but in-depth when you get a grip on in.

Moving through the mission you get drawn into the story, realising that you are actually playing the Tractatus de Monstrum’s soul; a fact that even shocked the witch, carrying out her mission and reporting back to her, a story that will unfold during the gameplay.

You mean other characters in the game and grow to know them and their intents; some nice, some nefarious however the story telling is quite rich and entertaining.

That’s the premise lets take a look at the gameplay.


I’m the puppet master yo!

We got the premise down pat, lets get stuck into how it played. So, this game is in-depth, allowing you to customise the standard RPG elements such as levelling, character creation and equipment, however it then allows another level of customisation such as looks, voices and evolvement paths that give you the player a bit more control over the character and making you more involved in its play.

Creating the perfect team is no easy feat at all; with many combinations and stats to keep in mind and how they stack up. Throw in character type which increases and decreases stats (brave ups constitution but decreases luck etc) and proficiencies to keep in mind, you kind of get the idea of the level of detail that character creation has. AND YOU HAVENT EVEN STARTED THE DUNGEON YET!

So, once you create your sexy puppets (I say sexy as there is no competition to RPG character creation then how the Japanese do it) you dive into the labyrinth for some monster fighting. When you enter the dungeon, you have a slight I guess play by play tutorial that informs you how the game is played and what to expect. Be aware that this is a port, so the instructions aren’t crash how but the player should be able to grasp the concept: proceed through the dungeon, encounter enemies as per the top bar that goes red if an enemy is near (you can’t see them) and collect mana.


The controls in the dungeon are pretty straight forward. You use the directional arrows to step 1 block in any one of 8 directions and you interact with doors, obstacles to crash through them or walk into shimmering green goo which is mana. This game rewards exploring and tenacity. Explore every part of the dungeon, find ‘secret’ mana patches by running into walls and descend the level without being wiped out.

Lets just talk about why the hell are we down here. YES, we are here to kill monsters but WHY are we really here? Well ill tell you; to grind levels, find riches and kill b#+ches (to put it lightly). For you gamers out there that hate grinding I’m sorry to tell you this game may bore you after a while, however my grinding homies out there this game is for you. You can progress through the story by achieving what the witch Dronya wants (I kill for her) or you can replay the same dungeon over and over until you are happy with your loadout to conquer harder levels.

The best thing about this game is you can proceed to make the dungeon either easier or harder by purchasing the necessary difficulty paid by mana. I believe this is an amazing addition to the game where it forces the player to play in order to get them to make the game easier, harder, get cosmetic additions or added abilities.

Trouncing through the dungeon, the completionist in me explores every nook and cranny available, slaying foes left right and centre, getting those phat loots and upping my damage. It was too late to realise 2 critical things that I should know as a seasoned RPG player: my health doesn’t regen, and my DP doesn’t (like mana/energy). I quickly rummage through my items to heal and it hits me. This game as mentioned before rewards exploration and completion however don’t let it get the better of you. After packing up and de-assing the dungeon after collecting the necessary wares I proceed back to the entrance where my score is tallied. The player is rewarded by surviving and mana collection but penalised if defeated in the dungeon by means of item loss, currency loss and limb loss... WHAT LIMB LOSS?! Yes, your puppets can lose limbs, causing their combat effectiveness to be lowered.

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I’m hooked, and I want more! By why?

2 hours and I felt like I just scratched the surface; the playability of this game is insane but lets really get into the bits and bobs.

The Music sound track was well orchestrated with boutique like saloon style music that makes you feel like you are in a marionette show at an old town inn. It does get overbearing sometimes but give that BGM Sound level bar a tweak down and she’s fixed. There are plenty of SFX sounds from characters and monsters alike that each encounter feels like a new one. Voice acting is top notch, but I expected nothing less from a JRPG title even if it is a port.

Graphics were beautifully portrayed on the switch screen when story mode was shown; displaying the typical characters on the screen doing those emotions when the character speaks. When in the dungeon navigation felt like you were playing mine craft however I breathed a sigh of relief when the combat scenes came on, displaying that crispy and clean JRPG character portrayal with all the effects that you would expect.

Gameplay, lets take a sec here and break it down. There is A LOT to learn and I fear that the learning curve may be too steep for people however in saying that if you are a true JRPG lover then you will make the effort to learn this system. The game is grindy however that is the appeal; to gitgud and slay. It is a statistician’s dream to make the ultimate team, to equip characters to the dungeon levels and improve on that. All I will say is this game is forgiving to those who just want to play and those like me that want to one hit kill everything they come across.


Riots remarks

I love JRPGS, my first being the final fantasy series then taking a step back and playing Secret of Mana and so forth. What strikes me about them is the level of complexity and fun that they create and the attachment you have to the characters that you customise. Get the game if you like building a dream team. As mentioned 2 hours in and I haven’t cracked it yet and you can be assured that I will be playing this more and more... Until the next JRPG!


* JRPG elements are always awesome
* Game concept: Dungeon crawling RPG YUS!
* Playability
* Customisation


* Hard to learn
* Grindy
* Music overbearing but easily righted

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: PS Vita, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
  • Genre: Strategy, Role-Playing