Archive for Last Beginning

Zanki Zero or A Unique Japanese Survival Experience

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on April 29, 2019 by Rabidgames

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is one hell of a weird game: Part graphic novel, part first-person survival JRPG, and a big part of “what the hell?” throughout. It is entirely different but comes close to the strange atmosphere of the great weird cousin Nier: Automata, but while that is true, it is also misleading.

Where to start explaining Zanki Zero (let’s cut the Last Beginning part, shall we)? Well, first, the less you get know about the story without having played the game the better. Let’s say you, a cloned character wake up at an island and you’re grouped with 7 other mid-20s – all wacky characters following your usual JRPG fashion – who are told by two demented TV show hosts, a horny dumb boy and a talking sheep wary of its ass, that they’re the only survivors of some kind of apocalypse. Well, technically, they’re rather clones than really alive, and now their job is to explore drifting islands and complete the arcade machine that clones them so they can “rebuild humanity” … Still there?

 

 

A core mechanic is also a rather peculiar one: if you die in Zanki Zero, you get to clone another clone of the dead character via an arcade machine – if you scored enough points. You get points by defeating enemies, at first mere goats and pigs, if you play on normal or below at least. And here’s the thing – you’ll actually want to die a whole damn lot (well, at least one character always MUST survive to carry the metal belly buttons of your team back to the arcade machine) because afterwards you can clone your characters with so-called Shigabane, which makes the character stronger. Yes, Zanki Zero actually asks you to kill off your characters to make them stronger many times! And even better, you need to kill them off in different ways to get more bonuses!

The story is told via anime-style graphic novel screens and TV show segments. You gradually uncover the dark pasts of the 8 protagonists of Zanki Zero, and 7 of the stories revolve around the 7 mortal sins. But trust Rabidgames: again -the less you know the better, because there are lots of great twists in the story that make you wonder what the fuck is going on in this demented world?

The gameplay centres around first-person hacking and slashing (a bit later on you also get ranged weapons) where you best attack, fall back and wait for your next turn, looting everything you can find to craft more and sturdier stuff, and some light puzzles to solve. It starts easy but becomes more challenging, and Zanki Zero does the old trick of telling you that you’ll get more loot the higher the difficulty. It’s best to experiment with the difficulty until you find your balance, and that may or may not include changing it depending on what’s happening on-screen.

You also get skill points to develop your characters in a confusingly convoluted skill menu. They range from better HP or defence to access to higher-level crafting. The survival aspect involves HP, stamina, stress and bladder. Yes, bladder! Eat or drink too much in Zanki Zero, and you’ll piss yourself, resulting in a maximum stress level and terrible stats as a result of it (look at that for realism!). But don’t worry, you often find empty bottles you can pee into. No one is judging. Right? Right?

Zanki Zero has a big problem though – you can only save at designated save points. If you’re in the middle of a dungeon but you have to be somewhere in 5 minutes, well, tough luck. You can teleport to your base but then you’ll have to start the dungeon all over again. And usually, save points are only to be found every 30 to 45 minutes or so, and auto-saves occur rather randomly. This can be quite frustrating. The cutscenes can also reach Metal Gear Solid length – a long conversation followed by a TV show segment followed by 5 minutes of talking isn’t too rare an occurrence in Zanki Zero.

If you are looking for a game that is entirely different from the stuff you usually play, Zanki Zero is your game! It’s incredibly weird and becomes quite challenging after a while (except on 1* difficulty, of course), but it reliably drags you in to just play for “one more cutscene” or “one more dungeon floor” … In its own way, it is quite similar to Nier: Automata; it creates a unique atomosphere by mixing up gameplay systems and genres as well as cranking the strangeness up to 11, and both games hide some philosophy behind the weirdness

Zanki Zero may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like oddness and a fair share of scantily clad females and a butt load of double entendres, it may very well your favourite fix for quite a while – there is also a New Game+ mode where you can get even more rewards.

 

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY if you have no patience for long and ever-present cutscenes or weird isn’t your thing. DOWNLOAD THE DEMO if you are unsure whether the game might too fucking weird for you. This game surely ain’t for everybody.

DO BUY if you like a twisted story full of mind fucks and a somewhat different survival experience. Zanki Zero offers a fresh breath of unique ideas you won’t find in many games.