Zanki Zero: Last Beginning Demo Review
“Explore the ruins, dungeons, and islands in this post-apocalyptic world through the POV of eight protagonists as they fight for survival and search for meaning in their never-ending cycles of life and death.”
Developed by Spike Chunsoft and Lancarse, the story follows Haruto Higurashi who, after reflecting on taking a life before ending his own, wakes up on the mysterious Garage Island where he is quickly befriended by Sachika Hirasaka, a bubbly amputee with minimalistic metal prosthetics and a can-do attitude.
Despite the Island looking deserted, decrepit and like a basic bummer of a place Sachika makes mention of others that are “doing survival stuff”, listing names like Ryo, Mamoru, Zen, Minamo, Rinko and Yuma.
After a few small tutorials we find ourselves at THE Garage of Garage Island, where things begin to get completely bat shit insane, starting with flashbacks, a hard to believe explanation of how you got there, an unpowered television airing the off broadcast from something called Extend TV, and the replacement of your belly button with a metallic X.
The story you are told by the group of survivors is a wee bit out there. With no other option but to follow the instructions issued on the head-scratcher TV show, you get to work exploring the island before helping the group.
What follows is a fairly boring series of events where we delve into more detail regarding your inventory, skill list, and other various systems that the game uses.
The dialogue keeps on flowing and at times is a bit long-winded, but that is often the case with text-heavy games. It does offer more insight into the behavior and personalities of the survivors on Garage Island, and they sure as hell are an odd mix. A Police Officer, a Body Building Doctor, the heir to a Billionaire’s tycoon, an Adult Entertainment Editor just to name a few.
The controls are dreadful and take you out of the experience almost immediately if the text is driven, anime style isn’t your thing, you won’t be familiar with this kind of clunky control and it might be harder to persuade you to keep playing.
Moving around is performed by switching directions with the D-pad and strafing with L1 and L2 while being able to look around with the right stick. What makes this more confusing is the pointer, which you use to click on objects to investigate and interact with.
It kind of makes the act of exploring feel like an animated version of Google Maps.
It’s strange, the storyline is just interesting enough to help see past the over the top gestures and reactions of the group, which ultimately adds to the anime format.
Some of these occurrences are a little cringe-worthy, but this could be a byproduct of language translation, with the Japanese original flowing better than the English version.
Then there is the combat system, which is just poo. At least in the demo, but it’s doubtful that it improves much in the full game.
What makes it worse is a combination of basic one click, or click-and-hold actions while hovering the pointer over your target.
When traveling with a party of four, the combat seems to change in only the slightest way, by adding some extra damage dealt, or different weapons and items being readily available to use.
Not to mention animals and creatures encountered in this version, which don’t put up much of a fight, making them super easy to kill. There are discussions about the importance of keeping all survivors hydrated, fed, and relieved, in fact, your first mission involves finding materials to build a toilet.
So it’s all shaping up to be a nice puzzle-solver/mystery-survival mash-up set in an anime universe. Sounds fair, but what’s this? Oh, it’s just a giant freaking eyeball with pointy tentacles impaling members of your group, yourself included. Oh well, a short cut scene later we are back in the world, in a younger clone of ourselves, ready to unravel more of this crazy mind-trip.