Category Archives: Playthrough

To Be Continued…

Haku’s self preservation skills failing yet again

I guess I should have known that the very second I claim Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception not to be a harem adventure, Haku’s troupe is complemented by a couple of unabashed harem beauties. Thankfully Haku is such a genuine gentleman (no, he really is!) that the adventure still managed to continue in a fairly chaste manner. After almost 30 hours of lull, the story finally caught wind in its sails. That long sought gust was a little too rowdy, though, as the next 12 hours featured not just more characters but also a couple of sizable border wars and plenty of political scheming. As far as pacing goes, Utawarerumono is all over the place. It first spends a ludicrous amount of time just lollygagging before putting the pedal to the metal with loads of epic moments conveyed in rudimentary 3D scenes that require plenty of forgiving imagination to work out.

In a way, the game is still hard to put into words as even after those 42 hours, I’ve only experienced the first half of the adventure. After kicking into high gear, the game more or less just ends, leaving behind a number of (partly painfully asinine) cliffhangers for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth to follow up on come September. I should be a little annoyed with this twosome as it really feels like just trimming excess fat would’ve made it possible to tell the whole story in a single, more refined manner. Still, can’t say for sure until experiencing the other half, so I guess I have to give Mask of Deception a hall pass for now. Maybe its follow-up will focus on the cavalcade of characters that now felt way too numerous and largely underutilized.

To end on a slightly brighter note, I still admit that I’m intrigued by the fates of Haku and Kuon. Also, the frequency of the strategic battles towards the end almost felt normal at times. Big thumbs up for the final battle in particular, in which damage both given and taken was just plain brutal. While this might be my last endeavor into Japanese RPG stories cheekily split into multiple games, I guess my wallet still wishes to have an audience with Mask of Truth.

Aria of No Soul

Whee! I’m done! Now let’s quickly get out of here!

If this wasn’t much of a week then Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Anniversary at least follows suit. Even if it was still a cautiously entertaining adventure just last weekend, its latter half stumbled on so many clichés that it would have needed to be a self-conscious parody rather than a solemn action-adventure to work. It’s a real shame, too, considering that tech-wise Rise of the Tomb Raider is still nigh on impeccable. Both the overall imagery of the game as well as the detail of its heroine’s animation are absolutely spot on. When Lara admires the exceptionally gorgeous views, or quickly dries her ponytail after a quick swim, those are the moments when the player probably feels most in sync with the character. Movement is fluent, bullets fly true, and the environment is discreetly graceful at pointing out ledges that can be grabbed, vertical surfaces that allow an additional step, or cliffsides that can be leaped onto with a couple of climbing axes.

Even if the staff of Crystal Dynamics seem to be on the level from a technical perspective, the other aspects making up a game are a bit woeful. Two religious extremities – one strong but evil, the other weak but good – vying over an ancient secret really is a piss-poor motif to begin with, but it’s ten times worse approached seriously. Sure, Indiana Jones fights Nazis and Nathan Drake has his own treasure hunts, but at least those two know how to laugh at themselves. Lara does not laugh. Even if Rise of the Tomb Raider no longer treats its heroine in such a repulsive and sadistic manner than its predecessor (Tomb Raider of 2013), there’s still not even an iota of British charm present, as much as a treasure trove that would be. No one ever smiles, except maybe by accident, and when awfully stereotypical characters constantly end up in awfully stereotypical situations while spouting lines like “You do what you must”, or when Lara is sitting at a campfire, having a personal crisis of how awful it is for the good in this world to witness death and violence… It’s just plain cringe-worthy.

As for gameplay, it has similar problems. Whenever Lara can choose a stealthy approach, picking off her adversaries one by one from the shadows, the game shines at its brightest. To counter these occasions, however, there are tons of moments when you’re swarmed by alarmed bad guys and left with no option but to survive. At times, an endless rain of nades would put even Call of Duty in shame, and when all else fails there’s always the tired old cliché of slow but heavily armored baddies to fall back to. Rise of the Tomb Raider never finds a good balance between these two extremes. It’s either an enjoyable stealth encounter or a shockingly loud and chaotic skirmish but rarely ever anything in between. Towards the end, all gauges are turned up to eleven and everything is so flashy it no longer even matters anymore. Just a ridiculous barrage of unnecessarily dramatic explosions and close calls that are there only for their own sake (incidentally something that hampered the previous game, too).

I beat the game in 20 hours, including one of its story-driven DLCs, which was pretty much more of the same but with a hugely original twist of added chaos via psychedelic hallucinations. Oh FFS, game designers, get your act together already. If this is AAA, I’m happy to stick to the sidelines.

Auspicious second-stringers

Speaking of which, even if this time of year doesn’t sport that many new releases, a couple still caught my attention. Little Nightmares is, apparently, some sort of a dark puzzle-platformer that probably would’ve flown right past my radar without plenty of positive hearsay. As for Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, it’s something I’ve briefly covered already, and really a game I’m really looking forward to. Now if only I could get that one remarkably time-consuming and, at times, aggravating DS puzzle game done and dusted… If anything, I’m thankful of not having to cover these as work.

Fledgling

Oh, the ever-so-lovable public opinion…

The past week has been a dull display of nothing at all but at least I now have a little four day mini-vacation to enjoy. It could’ve started better, though. I finally waded my way through The Silver Case, and even if it’s probably not appropriate to question the genius of Goichi Suda, his early works sure were remarkably awkward. The game promises to be a stylishly dark, dreamlike serial killer mystery but by the halfway point, everything more or less crumbles into dust. What began as a gripping story slowly and painfully transforms itself into a disappointingly pompous metaphysical hodgepodge that ends up making very little sense even for those paying attention to it. The characters and their interaction, once the most stellar part of the game, are nonchalantly tossed into the maw of chaotic storytelling, and the last few hours are pure abstract.

As well as the bloated story, the rhythm of the game is all over the place. Each location, with its day and time, is always introduced with a little CG animation that lasts about 10-15 seconds. At first this feels like a neat little nuance but since you end up traveling between various locations for hundreds of times, such scenes soon become incredibly aggravating. They’re unskippable, of course. Deliberate, almost impish prolonging of the adventure is evident everywhere else as well. You’re sent running back and forth in staircases, forced to investigate several areas identical with each other, spend time on the world’s tardiest escalators, etc. The game took me about 13 hours to play through but I dare say that with a more honest design, it would’ve been possible to trim up to five hours without negatively affecting the overall experience. Quite the opposite, in fact.

All this is a real shame, as The Silver Case also knows how to be truly excellent. After clearing a chapter as a player, you can then experience the same events from the viewpoint of the journalist Tokio Morishima. Two protagonists, both interested in the same murderer, means that their paths cross multiple times, and their individual story halves complement and deepen each other nicely. I was also smitten by the game’s way of dealing with the internet and its impact on mankind. For a 1999 release, some of its observations are now, 18 years later, delightfully current and pertinent. Also, as I’ve said before, the characters and their dialogue are awesome for a while. Thankfully the ambient, cool instrumental music keeps its charm throughout the game.

Even if I’m inclined to say that The Silver Case is just plain bad on whole, it wouldn’t be the full truth. It’s cumbersome and crude, sure, but it’s also irresistibly uncompromising in a manner that almost feels arrogant. Personally, I’ve come to prefer Suda’s later works, such as Lollipop Chainsaw and the really most dashing Shadows of the Damned, both of which strike a much better balance between his playful anarchy and being games with actual gameplay. Even as a visual novel, The Silver Case feels lacking, but perhaps mostly because the genre has already given birth to so many other perfectly impeccable scions. Maybe this one would’ve been more impressive back in 1999 but as a re-release, it’s mostly just an interesting curio by an interesting designer.

Möst Wöndërfül

First some speed and then a leap into the unknown

The beginning of this Saturday has been quite jovial. I chose to play Type:Rider, which is a French 2D art platformer that was included in this month’s PlayStation Plus pile. It touts itself as a typographical video game, and it stars a happy little umlaut (or perhaps it’s a colon?) that rolls and jumps its way through mankind’s character, font, and printing history ranging from ancient cave paintings to modern day digitization. Along the journey, there are plenty of famous typeface letters to collect, including asterisks that open up really rather interesting little articles about the pioneers and innovations of the printing industry. It’s fun and educational; not bad!

The minimalist, stylishly designed stages are full of woodcuts, lithographs, posters, and typefaces. Traversing them is all about honoring the laws of physics, except when they make you curse physics altogether. The player’s two rolling dots are capable of jumping and rotating in the air but it’s quite tricky to keep them in perfect control. Inertia is your best friend but when it either runs out or there’s too much of it, you usually take a wildly spinning plunge into oblivion. Thankfully there are loads of checkpoints, and the game isn’t that challenging to begin with. Every now and then, there are also lightweight puzzle rooms where you have to free a third dot and then push it to a pedestal that enables you to proceed.

All the collectible letters can be found with relative ease, and even if you go after all of them, the game shouldn’t take longer than about two and a half hours to complete. One hour more, and I even managed to unlock all of its trophies. Those who want more can still improve their automatically tracked completion times or head to a separate speed run track that provides considerably more challenge for competitive gamers. Also, each stage has been split into four sections, each of which can be warped into via the in-game menu. In this game, reliving its best moments or practicing its slightly more challenging parts is remarkably quick and easy.

Even as a little snack, Type:Rider made me smile a lot. It’s original and stylish in a way that many French game developers seem to handle so eerily well. Sure, it’s also short and easy but then again, it never outstays its welcome, and it’s actually quite relaxing to play a game that isn’t constantly trying to make its player lose their cool. What a delightfully entertaining morning this has been!

Two Note Wonder

So adorable in stills, so brutal in motion

After an additional five hours or so, I’ve completed all songs of Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure on Normal. 59 of them with a full combo, 11 others in a less-stellar fashion. There might still be a few more hidden songs but I think I’ll let them remain hidden. The song selection was, once again, a delightful mixture of all sorts of stuff, even if nothing was exceptionally memorable. As for game songs, the Kirby and Ace Attorney medleys were nice, and some of the Namco original tracks were just as silly as they were awesome. The jpop and anime picks, however, came off surprisingly generic. Then again, we all have our own taste in music, so the game still deserves praise for its diversity.

On whole, Dokodon! Mystery Adventure is probably just as comfy and familiar to hardcore fans of the series as it remains slightly more unconventional for the rest of us. The video above sums it up quite nicely. If you truly want to excel in Taiko games, you need A) a flat surface, B) willingness to embrace the touch screen , C) two styluses, and D) the soul of a drummer. If you prefer the casual, traditional way of holding the console in your hands and using your thumbs and index fingers to hit the notes, it’s a perfectly viable style on Easy and Normal but not so much on the two harder difficulties. The series is simply designed to be experienced in a way that is eventually way too fast for finger reflexes alone.

That’s actually both the main strength and weakness of the whole series. Taiko games require a unique playstyle. Eventually mastering it is probably highly rewarding but unless you dream of becoming a drummer, or are willing to dedicate your life to master a single series, it’s not even remotely as exciting. Each to their own, of course, but I still prefer an everyday eight button Hatsune Miku experience to pure two note divinity, even if the latter is bloody impressive when showcased by a skilled professional. As such, this is a game that can easily provide hundreds of hours of entertainment but it’s also a game that can be experienced in a jiffy, still appreciating its songs, replaying at least some of them just because they’re fun, and finding nothing genuinely wrong with the gameplay, either. For the sake of diversity, though, I’ll now take my 17 hours and, having once again satisfied my hunger for rhythm, rush towards new experiences.

Hooray for physical!

The game flood of early 2017 is starting to recede but while I was busy with one, two others still managed to sneak their way in. Of those, The Silver Case is a remake of a PS1 adventure from 1999. The reason for its comeback is undoubtedly its delightfully strange writer and designer, Goichi Suda. The Silver Case was his debut into the gaming industry, so it’s rather interesting to see just how eccentric it is. If I had to wager, I’d say extremely. The other game, Stardew Valley, is more or less about a single person as well. Eric Barone developed this Harvest Moon -esque agriculture RPG all by himself, and it has received nothing but praise from multiple sources. Since it was finally deemed worthy of a physical release, too, I’m definitely excited to give it a go.

Feisty Fish

Three arms and a bowl. I’M INVINCIBLE!! Until next stage.

This lazy Sunday has been all about extravagant nothing. My only accomplishment has been grabbing the last few trophies of a two-year-old indie 2D shooter Shütshimi: Seriously Swole. It’s yet another fake retro style release that was given free to PlayStation Plus subscribers a little over a year ago. Back then, its humorous angle was much appreciated but since the game always felt awfully challenging, it ended up being something I played on and off in little bursts over a long period of time. Apparently each session still taught me something, as I finally managed to complete the damn thing. To be precise, I actually finished it last week, triumphed over its boss rush mode last Friday, and spent today cleaning off its remaining few trophies.

Shütshimi’s take on shoot’em ups is amusing and brisk. You play as a totally pissed-off gold fish that defends its home waters against all sorts of maritime nasties, be they laser-shooting sharks or even underwater bears. Each stage only lasts about ten seconds, and between them you get to quickly choose between three random bonuses. Some of them are genuinely useful (say, a protective fish bowl, extra arms for additional damage, or a bouncy castle where everyone plays nice), others mostly cosmetic (a huge pile of hats), and the rest downright nasty (inverted controls, twice the size, or plenty more enemies to kill). You only get a few seconds to choose between these verbosely described bonuses, so it’s either a matter of blind luck or getting good enough to spot the ones that are practical or, in the worst case scenario, at least remotely less annoying.

At first, Shütshimi seems easy and relaxed. Every five enemy waves, a brutal boss appears. You shoot them for as much as the time allows, and if that’s not enough, it’s another five waves to survive to continue from where you left off. Even if no stage lasts longer than those ten seconds, it’s often long enough for the enemy hordes to flatten your stalwart gold-scaled hero and, since the game plays like a dream, you always have no one but yourself to blame. It probably doesn’t take longer than an evening or two to deal with the three main bosses of the game, but when you are then challenged to beat their advanced forms… I haven’t kept track of time spent with this one but as mentioned, it’s a game that has been steadily bugging me for a year or so.

While the indie scene is hopelessly crammed with these pixel-art forays, Shütshimi was a pleasant little surprise. It’s a simple, challenging game that I ended up coming back to over and over again, just like back in my youth when some games were equally brutal and yet somehow inexplicably compelling. I guess that’s the best recommendation I can give.

A Girl and Her Golem

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Since the heavy hitters of gaming often require so much time and commitment, I think I’ll conserve most of them until summer vacation. Until then, there are delightfully compact experiences to enjoy on everyday weekends such as this one. This Saturday, for example, was all about jolly good time spent with A Rose in the Twilight. Then again, jolly might not exactly be the best adjective here, considering the game is a gloomy story of a cursed little girl, Rose, who wakes up in a dungeon of a decrepit castle with a white, thorny rose growing from her back. There’s not a living soul in sight and everything looks dreary, so it’s definitely due time to get out. Soon enough, Rose finds out she’s immortal and that her rose is capable of absorbing both color and time from objects nearby. Sadly, most of the color around is nothing but blood, giving Rose a glimpse into the final moments of the deceased as well as her own, forgotten past. What could be considered slight consolation, she at least bumps into a mysterious golem that just might help her find her away outside.

If you wanted the briefest of summaries of A Rose in the Twilight, it would be Japanese Limbo. A fragile little girl paves her physics-based way through forlorn surroundings, brutally dying dozens and dozens of times on the way. Even if the player was skilled enough, by the time new areas of the castle need to be opened, Rose has no choice but to bravely enter an execution chamber to give up one more of her infinite lives to offer blood to the brambles guarding the door to the next area. It’s all extremely harsh, although still skewed more towards desolate sadness than pure sadism.

Thankfully, there’s the golem. The two main characters are swiftly switched between by the press of a button, and unless both are present at the exit gate of any given area, it’s no-go. Not only does the golem have no trouble pushing through thorns that are fatal to Rose, it can also grab, carry, and throw stuff, Rose included. She, on the other hand, excels on absorbing color and momentum from objects and then transferring it somewhere else. The game mechanics are a breeze to pick up, and they serve a lovely round of puzzle-induced platforming. The two often get separated but the eventual reunion is always a jubilant occasion.

A Rose in the Twilight is stylish in a minimalistic fashion. Aside from a bunch of diary entries and a few tutorial messages, there’s hardly anything to read. The golem is mute, of course, but so is Rose. The story is all about hunting down and watching unspoken theatrical cutscenes, and the music is all instrumental, artfully conveying a feel of solitude. The best part is the presence of an actual story. The game can be a bit challenging at times, and by the first time the credits roll it might feel like enough is enough. Choose to push on, though, and it’s so much more worth it.

That’s not to say the game wouldn’t be an occasional, massive arsehole, though. All platformers relying on physics are more or less unpredictable, and by the time you restart a checkpoint for the tenth time to get to the next one while multitasking between two different characters with two different skill sets under an annoying time limit, it’s not necessarily fun. Even if everything else goes peachy, Rose’s (ac)cursed rose is probably in full bloom when it shouldn’t and the other way around. My personal nine-hour journey now feels worth every minute but during it, things weren’t always quite as elated.

The game has some speedrun trophies that can just as well shove it, but the overall experience was decidedly a good one. A Rose in the Twilight might not set the gaming world on fire but as a grim, yet fundamentally beautiful fairytale, it leaves behind an aftertaste most exquisite!

Just Business

About to get medieval on your ass, you racist little prick!

Not only did this Easter vacation give me a chance to rest my still awfully temperamental hip, it was just enough to complete Mafia III. As a delightful surprise, the story missions towards the end actually involved a bit of handwriting. While they still weren’t anything more than massive firefights, at least they took place in spectacular settings. Since getting to Marcano also required to go through most of his relatives as well, Clay’s vengeful odyssey began to pack some serious assertiveness. When the CIA just spurs you along while a priest watches in horror what the once upright young man is turning into, it’s something you start thinking as a player, too. At least you still get your say in the final decisions, and as I try to keep things as spoiler-free as possible, let’s just say the eventual meeting between Sal Marcano and Lincoln Clay is a small, yet beautiful and memorable piece of storytelling in games.

Before Marcano, I paid a quick visit to the Faster, Baby! DLC, which opens up an entirely new district on the map. Sinclair Parish is a pathetic backwater suburb where the official authorities are essentially nazis and asshole residents proudly don their white bedsheet capes. Together with a hard-boiled afro chick, Roxy, Clay gets to wreak biblical havoc on the local, utterly racist excuse of a sheriff. The best word to describe this DLC is speed. The area is flat and unobstructed, designed around excessive speeds and massive police chases, which is what the add-on is all about with the absurdity meter cranked up to eleven. Using Roxy’s bad-ass pickup, you end up trashing half the neighborhood and jumping through billboards in cinematic fashion that pays homage to every car chase movie ever. It’s a nice, rambunctious break from the main game but then again, it hardly takes more than a couple of hours to experience, including plenty of cutscenes. It also gives you a chance to grow and cultivate cannabis to sell but the darn seedlings took so long to sprout that I ended up passing my chance for the joys of horticulture. Still, there’s supposed to be two more story-focused add-ons released later this year, so perhaps I’ll get back to this come summertime.

As a concluding statement, Mafia III isn’t particularly noteworthy but also not nearly as hopeless as its review scores might imply. It falls short on storytelling, which is strong in the beginning and in the end, but the beef in the middle is just repetitious, meaningless fluff. Still, during my playthrough of 41 hours, I pretty much never felt unsatisfied or annoyed, and the time just flew by. The game might not provide a captivating story but as a 60’s sandbox, it was certainly worth one very merry Easter!

Return to Modern Day Everyday

Don’t ask…

After homecoming and a bit of physiotherapy, my life is falling back into its normal pattern. I even managed to finish my plate of early spring games by finally beating Yakuza 0 from almost a couple of months back, although only by skipping a notable amount of side content. Even after more than 65 hours, my completion percentage was a paltry 60.69%. No can do; all Yakuza games are such huge strawberry cakes that even if they are the most enjoyable thing for quite some time, enough is eventually enough. Still, the main story was brilliant as usual. Towards the memorable, bittersweet conclusion the game really amped up its drama, manly tears were shed, and the families vying for ever more power in the clan got caught up in a storm of treacherous scheming and mutual backstabbing. It wasn’t even a matter of distinctly good and bad guys duking it out more than it was about different shades of gray. Impressive!

I actually planned to complete the game more than a couple of weeks ago. The final confrontations, however, got so punishing even on the easiest difficulty that I respectfully backed down and first finished both Kiryu’s real estate management and Majima’s hostess club side stories. Completing them rewarded both characters with so much income and other goodies that by the time I headed back to the final fray, even the strongest of adversaries were total pushovers. Granted, I also could’ve learned all the intricacies of the surprisingly deep battle system in the very beginning but in this series, it’s deceptively easy to rely on just mindless button mashing and a couple of simple combos that eventually get the job done. Still, it’s only nice that you can enjoy the game as casually or seriously as you prefer.

As for side content, there’s definitely more than enough. Achieving absolutely everything the game has to offer would require two playthroughs and most likely more than double the hours invested. As for myself, I had a great time with all the hilarious social stuff but voluntarily skipped most fighting activities and more than a dozen bar, gambling, and board games that have already been featured throughout the series. Even if comprehensive tutorials are there to teach you even the likes of shogi and mahjong, it’s very much a matter of each to their own. Many of the minigames and other miscellaneous stuff are perhaps a little too plain and repetitious but at least there’s plenty to choose from.

On whole, Yakuza 0 is, at least for now, hands down the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had this year. Those of us who have been along the ride since the very first game might already find it a little too familiar at times but the developers always pack so much emotion and warmth to these games that come summer and Yakuza Kiwami, I’ll most likely find myself back in Kamurocho once more.

A lovely haul any other week than this :/

I’m actually quite pleased to have the aforementioned juggernaut out of the way. While I’ve been not-gaming, yet more PS4 releases managed to sneak in. Nier: Automata, praised by both critics and gamers alike, really is most intriguing. Before jumping into it, though, I think its PS3 predecessor, Nier, warrants a replay. Even if I’ve come to understand that Automata is pretty much a sequel in name only, this genre-defying action-JRPG series is so unique that it’ll probably be even better by enjoying both games in succession. Besides, it has been closer to seven years since I last played Nier, so it’s definitely due for another go-round.

In the meantime, by now Square Enix must have made some sort of world record by following up on Kingdom Hearts II with about a gazillion other Kingdom Hearts games that seem connected only by the fact that none of them is Kingdom Hearts III. I’ve only played through the first two games of the main series but now that PS4 got yet another not-KH3, namely Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, I think that by the time I’ve completed its compilation of six different games, it might be time for the actual third part to be released. Around 2021 or something.

Considering the games I currently have, I’m actually most tempted to dwell into Mafia III, even if it didn’t garner much acclaim back when it was released. However, considering the games I DON’T have, there’s that certain recent Atlus mega-release that in my case seems to enjoy yet another merry weekend in transit (that’s what you get for being a petty cheapskate and importing from across the world). Damn it! Thankfully I was going to be busy this weekend, anyway, so it’s not the end of the world. Still, if that undoubtedly highly mysterious game isn’t by my doorstep come the four-day Easter holiday next week, my cursing will also be heard in the neighboring municipalities. You have been warned.

Daishi’s Longest Month

How about a game of Spot Ranko?

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.