So I gave Zanki Zero a shot… and I had a blast with it.
Zanki Zero is a JRPG blobber, but it’s actually more of a survival game with crafting. It’s also of a visual novel whodunnit (like Zero Escape and Danganronpa). And a dating sim, sort of. Because Japan. Yeah, It’s a bit of everything, but it works.
Anyway, so it’s a very story-heavy anime blobber where real-time combat is mostly about survival planning.
What got me interested was mostly the screenshots :
That’s why I love Japanese developers. Much in the same way Ace Combat brings a bit of romance to the skies (and not just military babble), Zanki Zero demonstrates that a first person dungeon crawler doesn’t have to be about, well, a dungeon. A brick one, made up of the same six different tiles. Or a cave. A damp one.
What kind of blob would pass up a nice summer resort like this once in a while?
The cloning aspect is very original. Instead of having a whole roster, your 8 story characters have very short lifespans and get cloned after every death. Every different kind of death brings a new stat bonus.
It nicely circumvents the whole “turned to ash” nonsense of Wizardy games. Because who in their right mind would let their level 55 Bishop disappear completely? You just save and reload.
Zanki Zero smartly solves the issue by making death both inevitable and something you actually look for.
“Rinko is getting on in days. I should get her dissolved in acid. It’s for her own good.”
I think it’s very weird that the game rewards failure more than it does success. It’s like a reverse shmup. It really changes your way to look at things compared to most games.
You create new clones through a retro pixel art arcade machine… which should be too clever for its own good, but the sound and visual effects and the music are just too adorable. More clones!
Like all JRPGs, the game loves to hear itself talk, but the story is quite good. The tone has a difficult time balancing “summer vacation” with “grim post-apocalyptic sci-fi”, but those are pretty hard concepts to marry. They did a good job, considering.
The whole cloning and fast-aging concept has a very weird effect on the plot, since every story scene can happen either with a bunch of children, adults, seniors, or a mix of all the above.
I admit that I like the idea of blobbers on paper, but in practice playing most of them is like chewing cardboard. It’s dry and tasteless, but it lasts a long time! Zanki Zero hits a sweet spot: its dungeon layouts and puzzles are not particularly difficult, but it’s not a pushover either. There is no floor filled with 50 different teleport tiles that look exactly the same in this game. Seriously, cut that shit out.
Not pictured in the screenshots above: the constant sound of Cicadas chirping. It’s symbolism, I think, because Cicadas don’t sing for very long and clones are very short-lived. And summer goes by quickly. Get it?
Anyway, in that sense, I think Zanki Zero is a perfect late summer game.