This Belle’s Hell would probably be about my big game backlog haha
Type: Single Player
Genre: Action Shooter
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release date: April 13, 2021
Poison Control opens on you waking up to a strange environment and it doesn’t take long for some strange monster to creep up on you and attack. Well, more like suck up your flesh and leave only a skeleton behind where you’re horrifyingly still conscious. At least it doesn’t seem like you feel pain aside from that quick stab. After the ordeal, you’re then faced with not the monster that just attacked you, but a cute girl who you’ll be teamed up with for the rest of the game. You soon learn that you’re in Hell for girls (or Belles to make it catchy), the now cute girl doesn’t remember her past either and wants to be called Poisonette, and the monsters you’ll be facing (and what Poisonette just was) are called Kleshas. And these Kleshas are born from a girl’s strongest desire and often roam to steal a body. Your body was more or less stolen, but it seems that Poisonette won’t be able to get rid of you as you two now share the same body, or Soul Mates.
So with you wanting to get out of Hell and Poisonette wanting your body all to herself, the only way you two might be able to do it is by working together to collect five golden stickers which will open the gates of Heaven and grant one wish to the lucky Soul Mates that collected all five first. Yep, that’s right, there have been and are other Soul Mates out there and you’ll be meeting some of them along your journey. So, how do you get these stickers? Well, you’ll be making your way through the Circles of Hell where you’ll dive into various Belle’s Hells to purify them. Each Belle’s Hell purified will get you and Poisonette closer to Heaven as well as the various mysteries you’ll be faced with.
From here on out, you’ll be thrown into Hell’s world map where you’ll be able to dive right into the next Belle’s Hell as well as travel between Circles once you gain access to them. These Belle’s Hells are basically small dungeons and you’ll be able to get a quick description on why these Belles have their own Hell down here. Before you arrive at the Hell, you’ll also receive a broadcast from Higan Radio, where the bubbly Midori and the apathetic Kikiri will read fan mail from the Belle that gives you more background of the Belle and hinting, or saying, what issues the Belle is experiencing. Midori and Kikiri actually bounce off each other very well and I loved the banter that they got into, as well as you learning more about them with each Higan Radio broadcast. They also come back once you purify the Hell to discuss it and maybe mention how the Belle is doing now (assuming that they were still alive when the Hell popped up).
When you’re in the Hells, you’ll encounter Thoughtforms which can either be the Belle herself or others that got pulled in that gives you more insight on what’s going on with this Belle and why she has this Hell. These stories for these Belle’s don’t go much in depth, as you have a bunch more other dungeons to go through, but they do get surprisingly dark. The first one you’ll go into has a Belle that doesn’t want her parents knowing she’s getting bullied so she “erases” the evidence. Except she doesn’t use an actual erasure like it seems, but fire and she even hints at setting herself on fire moments before her Hell is purified. You also have a little girl who lost her dog and she thinks that if she fills up Heaven with too many spirits her dog will come back. And while she starts with killing bugs, she soon escalates to thinking about killing her mom towards the tail end of her dungeon. Don’t worry, there are lighthearted Hells here as well. Sometimes you’re even too late, either because the Belle is already dead or they already went through with their plan before you got done purifying them.
I know this type of comparison is hated, but Poison Control is kind of like Persona if the Mementos had you go through a quick dungeon to get to the targets and you’re given more on their background and inner thoughts.
Once you go into the Belle’s Hells this is where you’ll be in the dungeon crawling half of Poison Control. Aside from some, these Hells are pretty straightforward and you’ll be running across the different sections running across Kleshas and Poison Mires on the ground. There are two different aspects that you’ll have to keep in mind to successfully complete each Hell. The first is the shooter aspect where one of your arms have turned into a handcannon that you can use to shoot down the various different kinds of Kleshas you’ll be encountering. There are various guns, or Toxicants, you can have that vary in the type of shot it is and the stats it has like the range it has, how fast it fires, how powerful it is, and how fast or slow it recharges. As you’re aiming, you’ll be able to move around to get out of the way of attacks or projectiles as well as dodge. You also have a SoulShock move that slowly charges and lets you do a blast to hit Kleshas surrounding you, but it takes a good couple seconds for it to actually wind up which will have you open to attacks.
Though, you can’t reload your Toxicants whenever, so you either have to empty it out (which may be beneficial if you only have like three bullets left) and wait for it to recharge, find a drop that reloads some ammo in all guns once picked up, or deal with it. You can have more than one, and you have a bonus slot for Deliriant guns which don’t recharge and can be either selected before going into a Hell or as a pickup (in which each Hell has a different Deliriant pickup).
You also go down in two, maybe three if you’re lucky, hits which isn’t much of a bother early on, but becomes frustrating as you get further in and have more powerful versions of Kleshas showing up in groups (especially they keep respawning too). And considering Hells don’t have checkpoints you’ll have to redo the whole thing over again. Which is a huge pain if you were at the tail end of the Hell or at a boss that has a difficult or long passage to it. There are ways to get more defense, but I didn’t notice any difference until when I already finished the game and was at level 72 with my stats maxed and one of the highest defense Antidotes maxed and equipped.
The other side is with Poisonette, where she’ll take your body so she can purify Poison Mires (which you actually can’t walk over without getting hurt). However, she leaves you as a helpless skeleton and she only has a small amount of time before control before she is pulled back. This lets you do a simple path forward or do an enclosed circle that will purify all the poison inside it. This not only will get that poison out of the way, but can hurt any Kleshas standing in it, will slightly heal you, and can give you money. Though, you have to be careful in not getting hit as either Poisonette as the Kleshas will aggro to her or to your skeleton as this will cancel it out. You can use this to aggro enemies away from you, but it takes so long for you to get back control to you body that they’ll almost be back on you. It also seems a bit inconsistent with whether you’ll take damage in this state when Poisonette gets hit or not. Not to mention that the Kleshas do get smart and will often run off the section you’re purifying so they won’t get hurt.
Every so often, you’ll also get Heart-to-Hearts with Poisonette where you get some cute interactions with her. This gives you a chance to bond with Poisonette and you get some dialog options that can raise stats (and thus raise things like HP or purge duration) or gain Poisonette’s trust. Some part of me wished you didn’t see what each option would raise, but another part of me is glad that it does show you at the same time.
To mix things up a bit, each Hell will have different ways of completing them. Sometimes you just need to clean up a certain percentage of Poison Mires as the only thing you have to do is get rid of that toxicity. But other times it may require you to defeating certain enemies, completing a special task that fits with that Belle’s toxic desire, or finding something.
There is a collectible in form of Poison Gems which you pretty much should aim to find all three in the Hells that have them. These can be found by cleansing poison mires that are in corners or shooting all boxes, or defeating all enemies in a certain area (which this can also spawn regular chests). Collecting all three Poison Gems will unlock a new form of equipment that you can use and features that Belle where you can see their artwork without the pink and black outline. This can give you more Toxicants to pick from as well as Antidotes (which focuses on defense and increases another stat) and Catalysts (which enhances another stat or ability). You can then upgrade these with money that you get from the Hells to make them more effective (or have a bigger clip size for Toxicants). Just make sure to remember to check out your loadout every once in a while.
I did find it disappointing that the Hells weren’t tailored to the Belles more considering that the majority of them look the same otherwise. While the repeated elements do work well for the most part, and there are tailored aspects for some of the Belles like enemies taking on a slightly different look, decorations, and images on the floor (which is sometimes easy to look over), it does suffer from a lot of them looking the same. And sometimes, I felt like leaning more towards certain Belle’s desire would have benefited them a bit more like the Belle obsessed with a (totally not Prinny) Mascot and the one that loves sweets (which goes with the cute, but creepy, doll room with some sweets thrown in rather than it focusing solely on food). Though, I understand why they opted for the risk of the Hells blending together after a while, with some being unique, than having all of them be unique as you’re only in a dungeon for at least 30 minutes (or less if you’re skipping everything that isn’t required).
I also found it a bit weird that the visual novel scenes were overlooking a big poison ocean when you’re not in a dungeon or listening to Higan Radio. I do wonder if these were supposed to have artwork or maybe have the 3D models present doing their thing as the way the dialog boxes were handled suggested and there are a couple scenes that do switch to 3D models, but time just ran out. This didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game, but it is weird.
Poison Control has two endings you can get, the Normal ending and the Yomi Sake Bottle ending, which I thought both was a good way to end the game. Though, I do suggest trying to get both of them, especially if you got the Yomi Sake Bottle ending first (which I actually do suggest doing). There is an expensive item in the Don Taro, the Yomi Sake Bottle, which will open you to getting this ending and I suggest getting it before Hell 25. This will require you to grind out money if you’ve been upgrading your poison equipment, but money is easy to get, especially once you get a Catalyst that increases the amount of money you’ll receive from purging and defeating enemies. You’ll get an additional option regarding the bottle for certain points of the game and if you do it, you’ll get a new, powerful Toxicant and have a post-game Hell with another boss to defeat (which is a bit disappointingly familiar). The new powerful Toxicant can then be used to make the last (main game) boss fight easier to get the Normal ending. Only getting the Yomi Sake Bottle ending will leave the question on who Poisonette was when she was alive up in the air, while it does get answered in the Normal ending. And on that, I do really like how this was revealed as you’re clueless, but by the end you’ll probably have a hunch.
After you finish up getting both endings, there isn’t much else to do other than if you want to revisit some Hells again or you want to get all of the achievements that you missed (or couldn’t get).
On terms of performance, it’s good for the most part as I ran into the game freezing for a split second every so often, but it never really affected gameplay. Well… until Hell 22 where the game lagged so much that it was affecting gameplay to where I did die due to it and I was barely able to get past the necessary fights. Considering that Hell 21 is probably just as big as Hell 22, I have no idea why it lagged so much other than because it was raining and maybe more poison mires. Though, some of the next Hells did have the same lagging problem where I didn’t get hit or die because I didn’t dodge or didn’t see the attack, but because it was lagging or lagged when I was pressing the button to dodge. I even had a situation where the game lagged me backwards into a projectile. Other than this, I did also notice the game weirdly changing color which I suspect it does when it’s having some performance problems. I’m not sure how the Switch version is holding up, but I suspect it’ll have the same problems there as well.
I also ran into a couple glitches. Sometimes the tracking to the bomb Toxicants just bugs out, which I noticed happening in the last Naga boss fight and one of the later boss fights where you’re going up against someone that looks like your twin (which the bomb projectile just can’t handle where to go and hover, which I suspect may be due to that boss registering as you). I also had the third Naga boss glitch to where two of the bodies detached and started to float around, which one actually went off into the sunset. This was actually pretty funny, but it did require me to restart. This also happened to the last Naga boss, though they didn’t float out of the boss area and stayed together. The only reason I can think of that causes this is staggering the middle Naga body first. Oh and also there’s another boss where you fight, slight spoiler, another Poisonette and instead of attacking, she just ran towards me (which I’m not complaining about since she is a hard boss).
It also should be mentioned that this does not have autosave. You can only save it when you’re on the World Map so make sure you have enough time to complete a Hell (40 minutes to give yourself some leeway) especially if it happens to be one that’s giving you trouble and remember to save before going into the next Hell. Don’t want that progress being lost (and hopefully you make this mistake early on).
I really did like the story Poison Control presented, as well as the quick ones regarding the Belles and how dark they could get (despite you not staying with them as long as you would hope) and the other characters like the Higan Radio hosts and the other Soul Mates that you slowly learn more about as you go along. It also may not come as a surprise that I love the art style, with the menus taking a page out of Persona 5’s, and how cute the characters are. The characters not only are animated to follow along the Japanese voice acting (which is weirdly low compared to the loud music), but also, I can’t believe I’m saying this, brought jiggle physics in to their portraits as they talk. I also did enjoy the dungeon crawling aspect where you switch between shooting up enemies and cleaning up poison; aside from the odd moments that it annoyed me with how few hits you’ll die at no matter what and having to restart from the beginning.
Though, with the performance dropping later on, things becoming same-y and tedious, and some glitches here and there, Poison Control is a pretty average game that I would suggest getting on a discount. This isn’t perfect, but it is worth playing through if you like the story premise and the shooter dungeon crawling.