Every once in a while, I like to dip my toes into unfamiliar waters with my gaming. I think we are all guilty of sticking to our comfort zones and not venturing out. I will be 100% honest and say that I tend to steer clear of most games that have an anime vibe to it. It’s not that I don’t like anime (I have a handful of series that I’ve enjoyed over the years!) it’s just that I feel like there is a very generic feel with anime and games that look like them. That being said, I was asked about reviewing Zanki Zero: Last Beginning by Spike Chunsoft and I was hesitant at first, but I gave in, and I am so glad I did.
I hated the game at first! It seemed like there were a LOT of different components to the game that I just didn’t want to waste my time learning. You get a good brunt of the information on HOW to play the game pretty quick and it is a lot to take in. However, I knew I needed to continue. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, but let’s just say that I get to the end of the prologue and my jaw hit the floor, *click* just like that, Zanki Zero had me in the palm of its hands.
The story of Zanki Zero is absolutely breathtaking. The game opens with 8 individuals waking up on an island with no clue as to how they got there. They notice that they all have these metallic looking X’s where their bellybuttons should be. You can understand as to why there would be confusion as to why they are there. The island is strange as it has a bunch of run-down looking buildings, but that is the only sign of life our heroes have. It’s at this point, as well as throughout the game, an old CRT TV comes to life and it shows this old-timey cartoon of a young boy named Sho and a lamb named Mirai and they explain to the crew what is happening. The presentation of the video is always very cute, but when you stop and think about it, it’s also VERY dark! Spike Chunsoft certainly didn’t want this to be a game about sunshine and rainbows.
The game is split up into multiple chapters. Each chapter will find you playing through the perspective of one of the 8 characters. You will discover quickly that each member of your crew has a dark and sordid past. The chapters are basically their story and redemption in an odd sort of way. As I had mentioned, I didn’t like the game at first, but as I started to grasp what the game was and the story that was unfolding, I was hooked.
Zanki Zero is very strange in its gameplay as it is a combination of a LOT of different types of games. Though it finds a way of making it work in a Piccaso painting like way. Throughout the game, you will explore ruins, for various reasons, in a first-person dungeon crawler. As you explore, you can fight various enemies in real time. There are survival elements to the game as well! You will need to watch over your health as you would in any RPG, but also your stress meter, and your bladder…yeah, you read that correctly! Like any normal person, you need to make sure you get your characters to a bathroom periodically! That is where the base building part of the game comes into play.
Your island is in pretty rough shape when you first arrive at it, however with a bit of elbow grease and resources, you can build your island up to be pretty homely in no time! You will find many different resources as you traverse through the various dungeons in the game. The hard part will be making sure you have the resources you need to survive your adventures in the dungeon all while leaving space to pick up the scrap laying around and not overburdening your team.
One aspect that I applaud Spike Chunsoft for is the difficulty system they have implemented into the game. They really have considered gamers of all types in the making of the game. You can go from a Souls Like difficulty option where you will need to watch every one of your meters like a buzzard eyeing its next meal, death is a certainty! If you are someone that does not care for that type of challenge and want just the story, you can drop the difficulty to the first level where the game is a walking simulator. No issues with watching your meters, no enemies whatsoever except bosses, but they die in one hit. This is for the folks that don’t fancy any kind of challenge. My personal recommendation is to go the 3rd setting unless you get held up in a spot where you die a lot.
Speaking of dying a lot! That is another aspect of the game that I found to be absolutely fascinating! On your island, there is an old time looking arcade machine that has all sorts of great abilities that will unlock as you play the game, but there is one feature that is there from the beginning, the ability to bring your team back to life. The Extend Machine is something you will visit often throughout the game for multiple reasons.
I did not like Zanki Zero at first, but it is impossible to not feel for this cast as Spike Chunsoft doesn’t hold any punches back. You will feel for these characters, each one as important as the last. The many different aspects of the game will keep you busy for a while. While this may have an anime like visual novel feel to it, I can say I am ok with that now!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*