Archive for nier

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.

 

Advertisements

Nier: Automata or Do Robots Dream of Beauty and Tragedy?

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , on March 1, 2017 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, a game comes across as more than a “mere” game. Life is Strange comes to mind there, of course. And sometimes, a game plays with its own medium and then transcends it by tearing apart conventions and asking simple questions such as “what is life?”, both on the game level as well as on the meta level. Mind you, that question is simple, the answer isn’t. Not here. Nier: Automata is a game that has you “complete” the game twice before further advancing the story, and yet it is rarely boring as you explore new nuances. But let’s start from the beginning …

If you’ve played the demo, you know what to expect from Nier: Automata. At least when it comes to the gameplay part, and at least a bit of that. The story part gets really weird just a few minutes in, and that’s just the start of a fucking crazy (at times literal) roller-coaster experience! It starts epic, becomes more epic, and then everything comes crashing down on you and everyone in the game. Hard. Brutally hard.

But first things first – the first Nier, released years ago, was the post-apocalyptic story of a father/brother trying to find a cure for his sick daughter/sister (the relationship depended on the version, but that’s a whole different story). You got help by a speaking book (Gimoire Weiss) and fought another speaking book (Grimoire Noir). And that was before things went completely bonkers, culminating in an ending where you only found redemption by deleting your save file.

So it won’t really come as a surprise that the premise of Nier: Automata is as lunatic – after aliens invaded earth and humanity retreated to the moon, you are part of an android force that returns to earth to destroy robots made by aforementioned aliens. And again, that’s before things go really crazy in a mix of hope, betrayal, hatred and insanity. Of course, there are a few twists along the road, some of them changing your entire perception of the game. And at the very end, you literally shoot the credits!

You’ll find no crucial spoilers here for all the crazy shit happening (you need to experience the game yourself), but just one thing: the more you go towards the end, the sadder and bleaker Nier: Automata becomes. And we’re not talking regular gaming sad, where talking Aerith dying and the end of Red Dead Redemption sad here. Brutally sad. And Chuck Norris kick in the nuts brutal.

Gameplay-wise, Nier: Automata is also as strange as its predecessor – the style and core mechanics of a JRPG, a bit of an action.adventure, side-scrolling, top-down action and twin-shooter parts are all part of the experience, and more. But thanks to Platinum Games, the mechanics are now damn pretty solid and fighting is very precise and fluent, and once you get the hang of all the aspects, fighting a dozen of robots or a giant boss seems like a stroll in the park. It’s worth mentioning you control different androids throughout your journeys, and they also have different strengths and weaknesses.

But there’s one very important aspect to Nier: Automata that is briefly touched during the prologue – your chips. Throughout your journey, you’ll find more and more chips, and fusing (upgrading) and equipping them can make a major difference. You can also upgrade your melee weapons and your Pods (pretty much your guns and/or missiles).

After finishing the game, you can revisit each and every sequence via Chapter Select, which is almost necessary to get all the endings – and Nier: Automata has 26 endings in total; 5 major ones and 21 minor ones. There’s also a debug mode to play around with. It should take exploring players around 40 to 50 hours to finish Nier: Automata, and if you want to do everything, you can easily add another 20 hours to it.

There’s also some rather pricey arena-style DLC where you can test your skills. While each arena requires a different approach, there are mostly cosmetic rewards to get in each, except for items that lower your level … well, perhaps of interest for people who want to finish the game on level 1, who knows …

While story and gameplay go very well together most of the times, the Nier: Automata is not without its flaws: Not only is there lots of backtracking (it takes a while until you can fast-travel, and fast-traveling also only takes you that far), but you replay at least half of them game again. From a slightly different perspective, yes, but it’s still a lot of seeing the exact same things once more (story-wise, it’s fine, mind you).

Another problem is hacking: In Nier: Automata, hacking is a mini-game that goes from very easy at times to devilishly hard. And there are times when you have to solve 6 fucking tough hacking fucking puzzles in a row without even the option to conveniently save in-between! Ugh! Sure, it is not a deal breaker (rather a controller breaker), but mini-games that are in the way of fun are one thing – making them mandatory is just sadistic.

Anyway, these minor but at times annoying nitpickings aside, the main problem with describing Nier: Automata is that you can’t really talk about much, because any spoiler would take away the fun. But one thing is certain – not many games will deliver, or have delivered, such a philosophical story about what life actually is. As you might have guessed, AIs, pre-determination vs free will and self-consciousness are a central theme of Nier: Automata. It is a rewarding experience that needs to be experienced for yourself, as it goes from frantic action to insanely weird cutscenes, from deep sadness to incredible scenarios – and at the end of it all, it still all makes sense.

Rabidgames smiles: It is great to see Nier: Automata is selling well, as the game certainly deserves it. Once in a while, you get a game that asks questions and answers them in sometimes unexpected ways. Nier: Automata is such a gem. Buy it, and treasure it!

 

 

The Insane March Gaming Crunch of 2017

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2017 by Rabidgames

Usually, we see tons of games released from October to December. But this year, Match seems to be the new November, with quite a few promising titles lined up on the grid. Let’s have a look at a few of them:

March will start with the PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn where set in the future, fighting robot animals and mechanic dinosaurs to survive is humanity’s task. Scope and depth are hard to judge for now, but the future past (or past future?) is surely an interesting setting as you can see for yourself.

One week later, Ghost Recon: Wildlands will hit the stores. As Rabidgames has pointed out, Wildlands will be a day 1 purchase because of the beta impressions, so no need to go into detail about the symbiosis of Phantom Pain, Mercenaries, Just Cause and Narcos. Chances are there will also be an open beta shortly before launch!

A few days later, Nier: Automata will arrive. The demo you should totally play promised quite a few interesting things, and the mix of RPG, 2D and 3D brawling and shooting coupled with typical Japanese storytelling surely is intriguing. If for whatever reason (like maybe you don’t have a PS4) you can’t play the demo, that’s what it looks like:

You’re still hungry for games? Well, how about some RPG action, or more precisely, Mass Effect Andromeda? Now we don’t know much about exploring our neighbour galaxy yet apart from our squad, the bad guys and a vague story, and it could well be that Andromeda is more shine than substance, but hey, who can say to have no interest in another Mass Effect? Although the interests of some people are rather weird

For completeness’ sake, Dark Souls 3’s add-on The Ringed City should also be mentioned here. After all, there might be a few of you masochistic souls out there who want to die many times once more.

If you’re in for some delicious swearing, better have South Park: The Fractured But Whole on your radar! If you pre-order, you can also get the hilarious successor The Stick of Truth. But be careful, some retailers give it to you in the box so you get it only by release, not as a download code as soon as you pre-order!

Technically not Match any more, but on 4 April, Persona 5 will ask you to revisit school, but as usual, there will be quite a few extracurricular activities of the RPG realm type. If there’s some time or money left …

Rabidgames wonders: Not only are these plenty of games, no, they all are time-consuming games as well! It’s probably one of the biggest first world problem injustices; either you’re a student and have plenty of time but hardly the money to buy the games you want to play, or you have the cash to buy them but never enough time to play them.