It seems like early spring lethargy has become a tradition for me. Despite the days getting longer and winter slowly but surely starting to yield, I just don’t seem to get any gaming done. While the pile of sizable games requiring dozens of hours of commitment just keeps on growing, I’d much rather enjoy something more lightweight and fleeting for a change. Thankfully my backlog had something for that itch, too, namely Bandai Namco’s multimedia project from 2014, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day. It’s a peculiar little anime/game hybrid that consists of four short films, about 15 minutes each, and a game. They have been produced by heavyweights such as Katsuhiro Otomo and Goichi Suda, so my expectations were high from the get-go.
The anime half of the release is visually stunning, although really quite random in content. Possessions is a story of a skilled artisan spending a night in a possessed hut while Combustible tells a tragic love story in Edo period Japan. The violent and gory Gambo focuses on a fight between a bear and a demon, whereas A Farewell to Weapons follows a squad battling robotic tanks in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Although these shorties sport impeccable style and animation, they’re mostly just vague concepts; loose, momentary glimpses into various worlds. Even if A Farewell to Weapons, at least, serves a tasty morsel of gallows humor about mankind’s self-destructive tendencies, it feels like these films are not so much about poignant stories than about promoting Japanese animation and what it can be capable of.
As for the game half, Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day isn’t any more full-bodied but at least it opens up all the floodgates of sheer anarchy. Its titular heroine is a 17-year-old high school girl slash assassin, who decides to avenge the death of her mother by killing his father. Ranko’s journey of vengeance is a rapid 2D platformer in which she slices various oncoming monsters with a katana while being chased by spirits that are kept at bay by shooting. The game also features hoverbikes, a dragon the size of a high-rise, one awfully feisty Pomeranian, Mexican professional wrestling, and several utterly bonkers cutscenes realized in pretty much every style imaginable. And all of this compressed into a package that lasts just a little over one hour!
The strength of Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day lies in its comprehensive and unrestrained frolicking. As a game, however, it’s a bit unwieldy. There’s never any breathing room as the aim is to get Ranko up to speed, Sonic style, and then keep the momentum going. Both attacking and bumping into obstacles slow Ranko down, so the game is essentially a stressful reaction test that requires an almost zen-like flow. There aren’t even any checkpoints, so if you die in a 2-3 minute stage, you’re ruthlessly returned back to its beginning. Disposed enemies explode into graphical, onomatopoetic fireworks, so most of the time the screen is full of pure, incomprehensible clutter. The short length of the game is compensated by dozens of presents hidden in its stages, unlocking concept art and additional costumes for Ranko. Of course, there’s also a bunch of trophies that reward exceptionally skillful and speedy gaming. All of that probably means there would be a couple more hours of entertainment to be salvaged. To my liking, though, Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is just a wee bit too hectic and frustrating.
Overall, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is a one evening snack, which justifies its existence mostly as a shrewd curiosity. It’s like a small platter of assorted sushi, demonstrating Japanese entertainment culture in a delightfully compact and versatile way, but in the end that’s pretty much all there is.