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

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain – 13 Days ‘Til The Worldwide Airdrop

This latest trailer for EDFIR is pretty goofball stuff, but definitely enjoy it for what it is. Of course, you can check out a more “serious” trailer and a nice set of screenshots on the PlayStation Store page (and pre-order the Standard or Ultimate digital edition of game if you like). Everything is shaping up to be the most epic entry in the long-running series to date and yes, that worldwide release insures EDF fans everywhere can play together or alone and not feel left out of the action.

Oh, for the record, I’m finally finishing up my Earth Defense Force 5 review (yeah, it took a while thanks to the ridiculous amount of content in the game, but that’s show biz, folks!) and should have it up over the weekend. Pop back in and see if it’s a total blast of a game more folks need to jump on (spoiler: it most certainly is).

-GW

Hell to Pay 1: Warhammer: Chaosbane Update

It’s Beta time for those of you who pre-ordered Warhammer: Chaosbane on PC and console, so those of you who’ve plunked down that deposit can dive right into the thick of things and let all hell break loose. That beta time only lasts until the 13th of March. so get busy betting busy on that, folks.

Set for launch on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 4th, 2019 for the Standard Edition and on May 31st, 2019 for the Digital Deluxe and Magnus Editions, the game looks to fuse Diablo-like action/RPG with the classic Warhammer setting and if that trailer is any indication, Bigben and developer EKO wll have a huge hit on their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how this stacks up against the still mighty Diablo III on consoles, but it’s safe to say that genre fans will be well served if all the pieces fall into place.

-GW

Capsule Reviews: You Need That Cute and Busy Stuff These Days

Foo. In addition to hating being ill, I’m kind of really hating on the general level of discourse we’re often forced into on random occasions when one is not even thinking of doing any feather-ruffling and someone you barely nod at gets their feathers quite ruffled. Boo. Anyway, some games are actually quite perfect at boinging away the nonsense thanks to crafty devs who just want to share what they’ve created with anyone and everyone who wants to have a good old time and maybe end a day with a smile. Submitted for your approval are the following indies, all at a nice enough price point to recommend to even the cheapest of cheapskates:

 

 

ihugu boxIHUGU (Nintendo Switch, $3.99): The first time I turned on Kool2Play’s simple and offbeat game, I was greeted with a quote from Ronald Reagan about peace that made me nearly spit out the sip of water I’d just taken. The second time I fired up the game, it was a quote from Jimi Hendrix that was in the same peaceful vein. While more or less a basic memory match game, the concept works well enough thanks to a wacky factor that more than makes up for its repetitive nature. Hug as many different folks as you can in assorted levels set around the globe and try for high scores by not hugging the same person twice. A few brief mini-games of the non-violent sort are dropped in every so often and are the same simplistic fun, but complexity and depth aren’t supposed to be strong points here.

 

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It ain’t rocket science, folks: huggin’, not thuggin’ is the way to do it.

 

Then again, the idea of a simple hug making someone’s day is almost a luxurious thought these days, a pipe dream of sorts if you think about it in this climate. But some of you may be very surprised to know that in real life this action (when done in a non-creepy and pure manner) is actually a great way to greet friends new or old. The game’s positivity and bright, cheerful visuals make it something to dip into if your day has been chick full of gloomy types angst-ing at your ankles with their low attitudes. Besides, you can custom create a bizarre looking character that only a mother would love who gets to spread a bit of joy as it zips from stage to stage spreading the love. What’s to hate about that? Also, the new 2-player mode is pretty neat for what it is even though the game never sets its sights above novelty status.

Score: C+ (75%)

Review code provided by the publisher

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Warhammer: Chaosbane Gallery

Now, this looks pretty entertaining and yes, it’s really good to see this legendary series tip its weathered cap to the speedier gameplay found in the Diablo series. Don’t get me wrong, though. I so love the tactical approach to both the Warhammer board games and PC/console games as well as most of the pure action games that have popped up in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Warhammer: Chaosbane feeds that need for my isometric games loving side and if the gameplay videos are any indication, it’ll also be a game that spends some quality time in my play list and perhaps even rise to the top if all it promises works as planned.

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My brain says “SOLD!”, so this one’s added to the bucket list. Thank you, brain. Also, thank you EKO Studios and Bigben for making this a reality as the first ARPG in the franchise.

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Beamdog and Skybound To Bring D&D Classics to Consoles This Year

This somewhat astounding news popped up a few days back, but I’ve been a bit busy and just got around to picking my jaw up from the floor after it bounced under the bed. I really need to vacuum more under there, yuck. Say, did you know that Baldur’s Gate was in the works for the original PlayStation? Well, go peek at this for proof and get ready for a nicer thrill coming your way soon.

A little press release action is below the jump, but here’s a peek at the PC version trailer to one of those upcoming D&D classics for your perusal:

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Capsule Reviews: Rooms of Gloom and Doom and Such

Hey, I’m still here plinking away at a few health issues, but here’s something to read while I’m in recovery mode.

There’s a certain type of gamer I call “Trophy Hunters” who seem to rely solely on video and/or text walkthroughs of certain games in order to snag easy rewards in the form of digital Trophies or Achievements. Yes, this style of play kind of saps the fun factor out of games by breaking them down to into easy to digest “how to” posts. But there’s an odd benefit to this in the net effect of selling quite a few budget to fully priced indie to AAA titles that might normally not even get a sideways glance.

That said, when played as they “should” be, there are a number of these inexpensive titles that are really worth the effort it takes to complete them using one’s brainpower and maybe a pen and notepad for some of the trickier puzzles. Anyway, without further adieu, Here are a few indies that kept my old grey matter cooking that are worth a look:

 

 

PRIX_13Planet RIX-13 (PC/PS4/Vita/Switch): Indie developer 9 Eyes Game Studio (with a big assist from Sometimes You for the console ports) takes it back to the good old adventure game days with this simple-looking and somewhat straightforward sci-fi yarn about a space pilot who crashes on an alien planet and needs to find a way off… or else. Without a walkthrough, the game can be a bit of a mind-bender when you come up against situations where your character is killed and your brain is not wanting those deaths to transpire. The amusing thing here is dying in all the possible ways allowed by the game is a big part of netting those Trophies, so get used to expiring in a few ways as your adventure progresses.

While the game isn’t lengthy at all, it’s replayable if you decide you want to see every choice via playing in a linear manner. As noted, a few of the trickier puzzles may stump those who tend to think to literally or who don’t quite grasp that this isn’t a conventional narrative when it comes to how certain sections play out. For the record, I did cheat on one puzzle because it involved going in and out of a certain doorway in a certain order and yes, I ended up face-palming myself when I looked up the solution and discovered that a number of players had also gotten waylaid by that one spot. Hmmm… I guess there’s something to this trophy hound stuff after all?

Score: B (80%)

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Earth Defense Force Iron Rain Update: Getting Antsy (With Purpose)

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And you thought your last picnic got out of hand when the ants started trundling towards that basket…

D3 Publisher in Japan has been running a series of informative live play videos of the upcoming Earth Defense Force Iron Rain on its YouTube channel, and while all the dialog is in Japanese, once the gameplay kicks in after some lengthy chatter, all four episodes are quite fun to watch. While there seem to be no plans to do a western version of these videos, I’d be first in line to volunteer for a series here provided I get to wear an ant mask or some sort of other disguise. That or, I’d at least want to do an interview with some of the dev team at YUKE’s behind the game and/or some of the folks at Sandlot just to give readers an idea of what goes into making the EDF games so insanely fun when all is said and done.

 

 

Given that this is the first game in the series to get a simultaneous worldwide release and it’s a PS4 exclusive, there’s a lot (ant) riding on it being a smash out of the gate or at least becoming a game with long (spider) legs as well as an “evergreen” game that sells well on a regular basis. The best thing about every game in the series is fans of all skill levels truly get their money’s worth if they want to see everything thanks to the tremendous amount of weapons and gear for each character. “Bang for the buck” really holds true for this series and that’s a great thing to see as a hallmark for this somewhat niche franchise that really deserves a larger player base.

Remember:

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-GW

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain Trailer 3 – April Showers, Ant-Ride Powers

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Well, I knew way back when it was announced that Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (set for a worldwide April 11, 2019 release as a PS4 exclusive) was going to be a big departure from the Sandlot-developed games, but that new Ant riding class? Nice… and kind of really weird at the same time. Anyway, veteran developer YUKE’S is on the case with some gorgeous Unreal 4-powered visuals, character customization for a player’s chosen class and a few other features geared to a wider audience that may want all the series hard-core bug, beast and ‘bot battles with a more serious story. In other words, it looks as if the campy dialog is possibly getting put to the side for this new game. Even if this isn’t completely the case, this interview over on the official PlayStation blog with series producer Nobuyuki Okajima makes for an interesting read.

 

 

Oddly enough, while the Sandlot-developed games are well known known for their intense action and incessantly, intentionally inane dialog (delivered via some oddball voice acting), the games are all fiercely difficult as the missions throw hundreds of enemies at you and ask you to take care of the swarms as you see fit. There’s also a deadly serious undertone to the games as the Earth always seems to be at the end of its rope and your character(s) are the sole means of stopping the aliens from exterminating what’s left of humanity. Seriously, if it weren’t for the dopey commentary in the last few EDF games, you’d have a really dire story line where millions are annihilated around the world every few years and you and what’s left of the EDF are the world’s last best hope every single time.

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