Review: Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (PS4)

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

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CHARGE COMBO… er, hey? Does that come with fries, or just a large punch? I got jokes, man. Not good ones, but I got jokes…

ZZPS4“Gleefully Apocalyptic” or “Cheerfully Downbeat” may seem like damnable praise for a game, but Spike Chunsoft has made that a winning strategy in a number of its more popular titles such as the “Deathly Amusing” Danganronpa series or those “Wonderfully Grim” Zero Escape games. Veteran developer Lancarse’s Zanki Zero: Last Beginning ($59.99) is in some ways similar, but not 100% quite like those other games, though. It’s a “Non-stop Survival RPG” with a demanding set of gameplay requirements some new to this sort of thing may find a bit tricky to grasp, but it ends up pretty satisfying once you settle in and grow accustomed to what it requires from you. In English, you’ll dig this for what works well more than those who might not “get” it at all. Go try that lengthy PS4 demo out and make your move, I say.

You play as a team of eight survivors of a world-ending event who initially seem to think they’re in a bizarre reality show, but soon find out they’re clones with a 13-day lifespan forced to repeat the cycle of birth to death as they puzzle out the hows and whys of their existence. Their guides? A pair of cartoon show hosts living in a separate reality who pop up on an unplugged vintage televisions to give them missions that will expand or end their lives (or both) as they’re completed. Yes, you get 10XP if you realize there’s some nefariousness going on behind the scenes (or, under the skin, if you prefer). And yes, I thought David Lynch would make a fine directorial choice if there’s ever a live-action version of this one, but as usual… I digress.

 

 

As you can see from that trailer above, you can expect death to come calling frequently (a lot less so if you play on the new to the English version Easy mode). That said, dying here isn’t all bad, as what can kill you will in most cases will make your party members stronger as new resistances and even a bit of lifespan extending can be acquired based on how and when you buy the farm. Buy early, buy often, but try not to buy it too much as your lives are limited. There’s also that parasitic Clione the clones have to deal with – use their powers wisely, or pay the price with a somewhat spectacular death.

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Zanki Zero, You’re My (New) Hero

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Keep an eyeball peeled for this one, folks.

While it’s not officially out until April 9th, I’ve been playing a review version of Spike Chunsoft’s new first-person “Non-stop Survival RPG” Zanki Zero: Last Beginning for a few days now and it’s pretty amazing on a few fronts. I’ll save most of that “How amazing is it?” stuff for my review, but I’ll gleefully urge you to go download the demo if you’re a PS4-owning JRPG fan who wants something a wee bit… different yet but quite familiar in its mature tone to Spike Chunsoft’s other quirky titles.

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One of the first people you’ll meet in the game. Expect total strangeness from this point onward.

That trailer below doesn’t even begin to convey the sheer wackiness and brilliance on display, but it sure makes for an interesting watch:

Oh, before you get all “Aw, man… I want to play this on my PC!”… the game will indeed, get a PC version on the same day as the PS4 game ships. Excellent.

Alrighty, then. My work here is done for now, but I’ll be back with a review next week. Expect strangeness.

-GW

Hell to Pay 3: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Launch Trailer

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Shadows may Die Twice, but I’ll die quite a lot more playing this and be totally happy with that.

Confession: I’m notably terrible at FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls games and Bloodborne, but I keep playing them all because of my overall love for the developer’s work and generally very solid lineup since the King’s Field days and the fact that they make some really damn fine games that have been varied, fun to play and challenging. I fully expect to be even more terrible at their new game, Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice, set for a PC, PS4 and Xbox One release on March 22, 2019.

This trailer is, to put it mildly, absolutely magnificent:

Granted, it’s a given that Activision and From have a guaranteed evergreen hit here that’s a gorgeous reminder the dev cut its teeth on some superb single player experiences way back in the 32-bit era. But this game also makes me wish someone would nudge the developer to get to work on Otogi and Otogi 2 remakes or remasters, as those were two very well-made original Xbox titles that deserve a new life on current-gen hardware or hardware yet to come. We shall see, of course, but hey – if we’re also getting Metal Wolf Chaos XD this year from Devolver Digital, anything is somewhat possible in the future.Micro

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Hey, pal… got a light?

-GW

Hell to Pay 2: Diablo Makes a Comeback

Excellent. After years of requests for a legitimate re-release, Blizzard and gog.com have teamed up to get the classic PC game Diablo out exclusively on the popular DRM-free digital platform for a measly $10. That tenner it costs gets you the original 1996 version as well as a separate build updated to run on Windows 7, 8, and 10 that includes “a host of bug fixes and high-resolution support via aspect ratio-correct upscaling”. While Mac and Linux versions are currently not available, I’d imagine someone clever will figure out a way to get those up and running for those fans who may want them. At this point, you won’t get that much-requested Hellfire expansion in this deal and I’d gather that will never be a thing to buy as that content wasn’t created by Blizzard

Blizzard and gog.com will also be getting both Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Warcraft 2 out as digital-only re-releases at some point in the near future. As for the still superb Diablo II? Well, there’s no news on an updated version at this time, but both can currently be purchased through Blizzard’s Battlenet online store. Personally, I’m hoping for this one to get the same treatment along with the Lord of Destruction expansion, as it’s pure hell trying to get them to run from the original discs without some mucking around with a bunch of config options. The last few times I played DII, I used the amazing Sven’s Glide Wrapper to make the game look better (as well as add a clock to the game screen so I could keep track of time, as DII is a total time-sink).

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There’s going to be a hot time in the old town tonight…

I still recall way back in 1996 when I walked into an Electronics Boutique to hunt down a few Sega Saturn games and saw a playable demo of Diablo with no one at the kiosk, stepping up to try the game and being floored by the dark tone and gloomy soundtrack. The game felt like a meaner, more complex version of Gauntlet that required a more methodical style of play and yep, I was hooked in. Even the less stellar PlayStation port was a thrill to play multiple times (and yes, I still have that here in the library). While Diablo II never got a console port, it sure would be very nice to see one appear for consoles in the not too distant future just so a bunch of us who want to check that off our wish lists can be giddy for a spell (even if there won’t be mods to mess with).

-GW

Earth Defense Force 5: Out Now, So Don’t Bug Me!

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It’s boom time for those pesky giant bugs and angry-ass aliens, finally!

 

 

Well, there goes the neighborhood as well as any free time I was thinking of dreaming about. Playing an Earth Defense Force game is a total commitment process if you’re a longtime fan. I actually didn’t import the Japanese version because I wanted to go in totally cold (other than watching a few gameplay videos to see how it ran and if some of the trademark wonkiness was still there), so I’d say after all this time, I’m ready to be overwhelmed by this latest alien invasion from developer Sandlot.

While this one’s a PS4 exclusive, I’d gather a PC version is in the works as Sandlot did a PC port of the last EDF game. Granted, the online mode was rife with cheaters and some players teaming up with them ended up with corrupted save files thanks to hacked weapons and other stuff that made for a less than stellar experience. Hopefully, PC fans will get this at some point, but me? I’ll be perfectly happy posting YouTube videos or doing a bit of rare live streaming just to show off my skills (or lack of them, as I’m betting myself a dollar I’ll be REALLY rusty at least for a quarter of Normal mode.

Back in a bit – I need to get a few other things posted today, so it’ll be sooner than later.

-GW

Review: Home Sweet Home (PS4)

home sweet home(Soothing TV announcer voice, circa 1978):Constipated? 9 out of 10 doctors* recommend Home Sweet Home ($29.99) for fast relief. Easy to apply vie handy and discrete PSN download or in a GameStop exclusive retail version, this not at all soothing horror adventure game works within minutes so you can get back to doing the things you love. Remember – for fast relief, Just say Home Sweet Home…

Yes, that’s right. Provided you’re not a too-jaded horror game player who’s seen it all, this one will scare the living crap out of you. Well, given that poop isn’t supposed to be alive when it’s making a hasty retreat, that may be a good thing.  Here’s a funny for you: back about two years ago, I played the demo for this on PC and wrote about it, but kind of forgot all that because, hey, life happens. However, as soon as the game installed and I hit that start button, a sense of déjà vu followed by creeping dread washed over me. Eep. Yeah, this was not going to go well for my heart, folks.

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Oooh, choices!  Do I go left, do I go right, or do I go hide under a blanket after I turn the game off because I’m too freaked out to continue? *Sigh* ONWARD, as I have a review to write!

 

Anyway, to me, this game is SCARY, plus tax. How scary? Well, If Kriss Kross will make you Jump, you’re guaranteed to jump at least five times as much here if you’re easily frightened. You’re unarmed, many rooms are tight, detritus filled death traps where doors open to brick walls or other surprises of the surreal nature and worst of all, you’re often searching for clues to puzzles as the game’s box cutter wielding scary lady and a few other creeps do their level best to make you wet yourself. There’s nothing like being all stealthy and avoiding instant death for a few tense minutes, slipping between rooms and gathering clues to progress, only to finally unlock a door and jump out of your seat when something… nasty pops into view. And there’s a hell of a lot of nasty in this game.

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Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE: 4K, 3 Ways, On the Way in November

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If I’m not mistakes, we got a load of these posters in the NYC subways as well when the film was initially released in the US. I’d kill for a few to sell off now. Uh, figure of speech, that.

 

Yum. If you’re an old coot like me (or old enough to remember), this pair of TV ads for Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpiece, ZOMBIE. Hey, even though I was 15 at the time, they both kind of sunk into the memory like a… well, like a zombie munching on some fresh brains. I didn’t actually see the film until a few years later thanks to a friend who had it and a bunch of other horror flicks on a VHS tape he’d put together and, yeah, it was worth the wait.

Between the jump scares and general relentlessness when things got going, Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister) getting it in the eye like Moe Greene, but slower and with a rather pointy piece of wood (ouch), a zombie versus shark scene (no pirates, sorry… but that’s a real shark!), and the classic line delivery early on: “Hey, watch out for the sail!” that kind of starts off this gore-fest in the most comic of manners before things get grim. Yes, there are slow stretches, but the film delivers all the goods when it counts from the icky to the just plain weird (conquistador zombies, ftw!).

 

 

Anyway, the fine folks at Blue Underground and MVD Entertainment Group are releasing not one, not two, but THREE 4K cover variants of the film, newly remastered in 4K and set to crawl your way on November 27, 2018. Actually, there are a whopping SIX variants total when you add in the older 2K BR and DVD versions on the BU site listed here, here, and… wait a sec… HERE. Collect ’em all!

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Review: Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr

Warhammer 40K IMNeocore Games’ mighty, meaty Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr ($59.99) should have come with an advisory that if you like the game, you’re going to have to be completely committed to long-hauling it from the get-go. It’s a demanding and addictive time chomping experience that kicks off with an about 45-minute set of tutorial missions that ease you into the swing of things before it rips away most of its training wheels and lets you carve your own route through its astounding wealth of randomly generated missions. There’s a nicely spread out story here that has your Inquisitor of choice attempting to solve the mystery surrounding an ancient warship packed full of heretics, mutants, xenos and Daemons of the Chaos Gods. Detective work isn’t your sole task, thankfully.  You’ll definitely get to do quite a load of daemon dispatching as you uncover assorted clues during your journey.

While you can indeed compare what’s here to Diablo III on a few fronts, the game feels like more of a throwback to Crusader: No Remorse, Origin Systems’ excellent PC (and later, console) classic from 1995. Partially destructible objects, alarms that summon packs of enemies and a few more familiar elements from that game appear here, but the game also has more than enough loot dropping, skills, upgrades and rewards to keep even the most jaded players quite busy. As with a few other games in my rather large backlog, I’ve held off doing a full review because the game really needed to be patched up so I could give a it a solid recommendation. The latest patch (1.0.5) now makes this one a greater (yet still flawed) game rather than a somewhat decent one that needed a lot more polish.

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Get ready to do a whole lot of this, plus a nice bit of detective work. it’s like CSI with demons and a hell of a lot more weapons.

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Fist of the North Star: Paradise Lost Launch Trailer: Sega, On a Roll With Everything

 

Fist_of_the_North_Star_Lost_Paradise_coverI don’t know about you, but I think Sega has been having a few really awesome years packed with mostly high-quality releases, HD upgrades (Bayonetta and Vanquish on PC are superb must-buys) and yep, even Sonic the Hedgehog blazing and bouncing back to his former 90’s glory. The latest big deal game, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise,  is from the studio that makes the stellar Yakuza series and uses that game’s versatile engine to great effect.

I finally got around to playing the demo and yes, am currently downloading the full game as we speak. I’m still plowing through the enormously entertaining and borderline brilliant Valkyria Chronicles 4 (I should have a review up by Friday or Saturday) and I still haven’t gotten to the Sega Ages stuff on the Switch yet.  Yeah, that will get sorted soon enough, but today, I’m going to be making some people dance for a bit (well, not quite like this, though):

 

 

 

Back in a bit.

-GW

Capsule Review: The Conjuring House (PC)

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Uh, mommy? Holy hell, The Conjuring House sure is scary when it needs to be (which is often). Developer RYM Games has a an almost killer game here that despite a few technical flaws (which are currently being addressed via patches that will hopefully improve the overall experience) is one near-total freakout of a game. Things get off to a scary start and the tension builds as the game follows the tried and true “Old Dark House filled with dreadful evil”  formula with some pretty hefty psychological horror and jump scares. Unlike some more popular horror titles, you’re unarmed and have to try and avoid or run from enemies whenever possible, the game has intentionally distant save points and yes, this leads to a few too many deaths whether or not you’re careless. On the other hand, when when things click, you’re playing half under whatever you were sitting on when you started with one eye opened because the other has shut itself closed.

Nevertheless, in its current form, some elements of the game aren’t quite as solid as they should be. Changing the default video settings immediately makes the game too dark to see and that default setting uses a post-processing effect that seems to add too much blur to the movement. Some well-done but lengthy cutscenes do a great job of storytelling, but can’t be skipped at all, so if you die  before one, you’ll need to watch the whole thing all over again. Add in those long treks and/or backtracking between those save points plus a single save slot and you get a recipe for frustration as well as fear of playing for some of the wrong reasons.

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Your brain will look and feel like this decrepit room right from the moment you gain control of your hapless non-hero.

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