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Bakuen Kakusei: Neverland Senki Zero
  opened by paleface at 01:36:34 10/10/04  
  last modified by paleface at 01:44:51 10/10/04  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=JPN]
I keep thinking that Idea Factory (or "!f" as their new logo would have it) is an old Sega studio because their name kind of sounds like that, but I have to remember now that they are actually not very good at making games--at least, the team that made this game wasn't.
The concept is good: a pyrotechnic girl with a huge scythe runs around burning and filleting zombies--how can you go wrong there? Well, let's see.
You can make the camera really crappy, for instance so that when it collides with a wall, it just stops, frozen. You could also make it so that it is looking down on the player character at a steep angle and cannot zoom out, so they can never see much of their surroundings at any one time. You can also make it so that it sometimes rotates on its own, but not usually, so you always have to correct it manually because it never does the right thing, at least not twice in a row.
Then, you can make the game have constant load hitches as the player explores the levels, so that the game always feels jerky and unpredictable.
To make that even more effective, you can have all the animations suck. For instance, make the [],[],[] combo move jerk the player halfway across the room after the second swing. And make it so that the character doesn't rotate smoothly when turning, but just jerks around. Fortunately, the NPCs got even less animation attention than the player characters, so those poor bastards can barely walk.
Which is probably good because they are very very stupid. Most of them are zombies, of course, so that's sorta in character. They like to get stuck trying to move around obstacles, and you can always avoid getting hit by simply moving to the side a little before running at them.
Although they're zombies, I've seen zombies that look cool, and these most decidedly do not. Without exception so far the badguys have looked really bad, by which I mean they have not-so-great modelling and texturing.
Level design keeps pace with that, sporting dreary cavelike location after dreary cavelike location. There are a few spots that are brighter and a little more lively, like the corrupted cathedral, but these are brief bright spots in an otherwise extremely drab world. The Renderware engine has rarely looked crappier.
The sequences are equally drab: kill group of zombies. Door opens. Go through door, kill group of zombies. Door opens. Repeat as necessary until level ends. Once in a while you get a boss fight level but the bosses aren't really much bigger than anyone else, look worse, and are even more stupid. Since your huge magical firebomb attack gets recharged between stages, you can pretty much hit them with that, then maybe a few [],[],[] chain combos, and down they go.
You learn a few more combos as you work through the game, and these aren't too shabby (actually they're rather the highlights of the game, since nothing else is), but the AI is so stupid that they aren't really necessary and in fact just get in the way of knocking the AI down and then whaling on them until they're dead. Each triple-hit combo knocks them down anew, then you just do another while they're on the ground, repeat until they dissolve into a blackish fog and maybe drop an item for you.
There are a lot of items and since the game isn't that hard, they aren't really very useful except that you can sell them between levels to get cash to upgrade your items (money into scythe = more damage, and so forth). Some items you can throw for damage but again, this isn't necessary at all. Once in a while you may want to use a healing item, but that's about it. Oh wait, when you get poisoned in green water, drink a green potion. Whew!
Oh! I can't forget to mention the sound: it stinks. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that the in-game music consists of a short, dull, repeating drumbeat. Over and over. On every single level. Yes. Dance! Footsteps sound like a clock ticking or something, and all other sounds are indistinct crunches, flame sounds and zombie grunts. It is like a festival for your ears, only not! The one highlight is the theme song as the game boots up, a typically horrible Japanese hard rock composition called "Low Life" by "Dogschool," as carefully noted in MTV-style caption and a highlighted blue label on the back of the box. Rock.
So that's about it. The manual would seem to indicate that there are two more playable characters, but I'm not sure when they come along. The concept was great, and that's why I bought it, but now I feel a little embarrassed about having paid full price for this thing. And yet I've also played it for much longer than was strictly necessary so far. It's sort of addicting in an odd way, you just mash the attack button and things jerk you around and then you're on to the next level and ooh, I can level up my scythe if I sell some potions. But all the while I know in my head that it is a sucky game and I should take the disc out and snap it in two.

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