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Understanding the value of small things

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VIDEO GAME REVIEW
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
Sony PlayStation 4/Nintendo Switch

To argue that Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories has an interesting backstory would be an understatement. Originally supposed to be offered for the Sony PlayStation 3, it found itself stuck in development hell after the 2011 earthquake in Tōhoku, Japan. Similarities between the natural calamity and its premise all but secured its place in the dustbin of history as abandonware — until, that is, popular demand brought it back to the public eye. The renewed interest spurred chief producer Kazuma Kujo to acquire rights to the title under Granzella, his new company based in Ishikawa. Working with former Irem staff, he finally managed to steer the project to fruition a full nine years after its initial release date.

In Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, players are caught in the center of a massive earthquake, and must do everything in their power to escape from the city as soon as they can. It sets an extremely simple objective, but the manner in which the objective can be met is anything but: in-game interactions are aplenty, and quests are a requisite to progression. A fair number give off a very Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-type feel, tossing the ball in the players’ court and giving them choice after choice in advancing towards the given quests’ desired outcomes. Success in such quests, and the choices made therein, ultimately determine the fate of the players and the characters they meet en route.

Structurally, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories sounds all well and good. That said, the quests themselves can get rather bland. They feel generic on occasion, as if Granzella needed padding to fill out the game’s length. Meanwhile, the unique ones are held back by their incongruous tone. Not that they’re terribly written; rather, their structure and predisposition for dry humor clash heavily with the game’s serious bent at the outset. Parenthetically, it isn’t helped by relatively subpar graphics that show its age, with stiff animations and drab backgrounds weighing it down.

For all its seeming frailties, however, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories winds up being extremely hard to put down. Similar to, say, Shenmue, Sega’s flawed opus, it can be hard to play in the face of its insistence on minute choices. At the same time, it remains strangely compelling in how its designs blend together. Players may find themselves struggling with strict mechanics and far-from-intuitive controls, and still they’ll wind up appreciating the strength of its convictions. Its audio-visual presentation won’t win prizes, especially when negotiated on a PlayStation 4 Pro, but it proves to be a guilty pleasure in any case.

No doubt, the appeal of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories lies in its capacity to distinguish itself from its predecessors. While part of the Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series, it eschews the bombast and over-the-top inclinations of its siblings. In fact, it goes in the opposite direction. It dares to be different by highlighting the devil in the details. As with the aforementioned Shenmue, it stubbornly insists on being personal; small decisions have lasting consequences. Thus, players are compelled to appreciate its nuances and see the symphony it tries to create from a seemingly unrelated cacophony of events.

By the usual metrics, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories北京赛车pk10投注 is far from perfect. It’s artistically a generation behind and technically wanting, with frame drops particularly evident on an undocked Nintendo Switch. In the final analysis, however, it possesses something most other programming marvels lack: a beating heart. It calls to the senses in a way few titles do, especially in this day and age of industrial proficiency. In other words, it’s being itself — getting players to stop and smell the roses and, in the process, to understand the value of small things in seeing the bigness of life.

THE GOOD:

• Interesting game design, with seemingly mundane player choices determining story arcs

• Compels player to see the trees instead of the forest

• Nostalgic look and feel

THE BAD:

• Dry humor takes some getting used to

• Mediocre graphics that show their age

• Fairly simple story and quest progression

RATING: 8/10

POSTSCRIPT: Capcom has been on a roll of late, with such notables as Monster Hunter World and Devil May Cry 5 proving to be critical and commercial hits. And with last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake likewise making waves, not a few quarters have justifiably looked to Resident Evil 3’s release with heightened expectations. While technically a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the direction the Osaka-based publisher, along with creative partners K2, Redworks, and M-Two, took through its three years in development all but made it a new game. Most notably, crucial elements from its source material were removed, and designs of the characters and settings reimagined, to promote its pronounced bias for action.

In Resident Evil 3, players take control of Jill Valentine, one of the few members of the STARS team who survived the Spencer mansion incident in the Arklay Mountains. Its premise is the same as the original: She’s stalked by a killing machine designed to hunt her down and silence her, and she must use her wits, her training, and what weapons she has at her disposal to stay alive in Raccoon City. In practice, it plays similarly as well: She has access to the same arsenal, and she’s able to traverse the same locations. And for all the attention it pays to action in combat, it thankfully retains the oppressive atmosphere fans of the survival horror franchise have come to consider as standard.

Indeed, zombies still stalk the streets, and the series’ more dangerous creatures — from the skittering Drain Deimos to the notorious Hunters — lie just out of sight. Resident Evil 3 likewise retains the dodge-roll function, Nemesis’ constant interference in Jill’s plans, and even the Carlos segments. At first glance, Capcom has seemingly both made a faithful remake and updated facets for the contemporary crowd. Which does make the whole experience worthwhile. It’s visually stunning, thematically engaging, and technically impressive. And, by all accounts, it ticks off the requisite boxes of a game veterans of, and newcomers to, the genre will enjoy.

That said, players who remember the original may have some qualms about the changes Resident Evil 3 makes. For example, the Carlos portions are much longer in nature and duration. Meanwhile, others in the original — among them the graveyard and the clock tower segments — have been reduced or cut out entirely; in their places are old locations that have been expanded. Another notable change: The Gravedigger boss in the graveyard portion has been excised, and a completely new boss, with a unique set of gimmicks, has been put in its place.

The changes aside, Resident Evil 3 has a few glaring problems, most specifically in regard to its length and replay value. The first run figures to take upwards of seven hours to complete, but successive play-throughs will be shorter. While not a problem in and of itself, it becomes cause for concern given the absence of “The Mercenaries — Operation: Mad Jackal,” the much-lauded mini-game in the original. True, it tries to fill the gap by having two extra difficulty settings in Nightmare and Inferno. Then again, they succeed in little more than ramping up the challenge; they do little in encouraging players to finish the game more than a few times. Which, all things considered, may leave those who enjoy extra modes and extra content wanting for more.

Still, Resident Evil 3 is worth playing through. It may not be as good a remake as Resident Evil 2, but it nonetheless pulls its weight as a worthy update to a highly regarded title.

THE GOOD:

• A grounded and interesting take on Jill Valentine

• Graphically impressive while still playing smoothly

• Able to consistently provide tension and dread even as it ramps up the stakes

北京赛车pk10投注• Additional difficulty settings (with two of four initially locked until completion)

THE BAD:

• Missing “The Mercenaries — Operation: Mad Jackal” mode

北京赛车pk10投注• Changes sequences from the original, making it feel more like a reimagining than a remake

RATING: 9/10

THE LAST WORD: Wunderling makes no pretensions and openly admits its sources of inspiration, Super Mario Bros. in particular. Nonetheless, it earns significant style points for turning the platforming genre inside out. Instead of crafting a story that has the principal character don hero colors, it shifts the spotlight to a low-level minion in the Vegetable Kingdom entrusted by the sorceress Kohirabi, the main enemy boss, to guard prisoner Princess Pea against the rescue efforts of the Carrot Man. For this purpose, the underling (or, rather, wunderling) is given the special ability to jump, albeit with one problem: there can be no stopping or changing direction, thus requiring advance planning for progression.

As modest as the goals may be, Wunderling works, and how. If anything, it thrives precisely because of its desire to keep controls at a minimum. Players start with the use of only one button, and its level designs are structured accordingly. Soon enough, the unlocking of more moves will require more buttons on rotation. Still, at no time will it necessitate the use of more than one hand. In this regard, the 16-bit pixel art style and accompanying music by Oscar Sidoff Rydelius (also known as Ratvader) of Anthill fame complement its simplicity.

Stages are linear in nature, although completionists will want to explore seemingly unimportant side paths for hidden treasures. Be forewarned, though: Wunderling needs to keep grabbing golden flowers along the way in order to stay alive. Over a hundred levels are on offer all told, but there is no danger of ennui setting in given the game’s escalating difficulty. Death is unavoidable, but the presence of checkpoints and the relatively small size of the levels prevents frustration from setting in.

On the whole, Wunderling is tailor-made for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a great title on the go, a well-thought-out production boasting of an original story (by Alex Faciane, co-creator of the Let’s Play show Super Beard Bros.北京赛车pk10投注) long on humor and gameplay with the capacity to be appreciated in bits and pieces. At $14.99, it’s a decided steal, a gem of an indie guaranteed to engross.

THE GOOD:

• Original story

• Progressively challenging but fair

• No learning curve

北京赛车pk10投注• 16-bit audio-visual feast

THE BAD:

• May be an acquired taste

• Keys required to unlock gates can be missed, thus requiring restarts

• Backgrounds can be basic

RATING: 8/10









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