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Zanki Zero: Last Beginning

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Developer: Spike Chunsoft/Lancarse

Publisher: Spike Chunsoft

Platform: PS4 and PC

Release Date: April 9, 2019

ESRB: M for Mature


After the many memorable twists and turns of the iconic Danganronpa series one would guess that the next project by many of its former key staff would strike at a similar gaming vein. And yet, that sort of assumption could not have been further off the mark. Spike Chunsoft's newest title, Zanki Zero: Last Beginning, explores and experiments with much more uncharted territory by combining first-person dungeon crawling gameplay, survival systems, as well as even the perpetual death and rebirth of its lead cast. To say it is a departure from their previous visual novel work would honestly be putting it lightly.




As cliche as this turn of phrase likely winds up being it is still more than tempting to say there is not really anything quite like Zanki Zero as a game. Or, at the very least, it is the most unique first person dungeon crawler in recent memory in a world where it is all too easy compare nearly all developed in Japan to the highly-acclaimed Etrian Odyssey, for better or for worse.


The most immediate way Zanki Zero establishes its distinct take on the subgenre is through its inherent story-premise. Despite its initial Danganronpa-esque setup in which several adults find themselves with trapped on an abandoned island (with clear gaps in the memory in how they got there), the title quickly veers into much stranger territory. After the prologue sequence the lead cast not only learn that they can be revived after even the goriest of deaths via an arcade-like "extend machine" to a childish state once more, but also that they are all clones that age an accelerated rate to the point where they will die of old age in roughly two weeks time.


As one would likely guess, this odd pretense is creatively implemented into nearly every facet of the game. The passing of days


(an X-shaped key on every character's belly button)









(ala Danganronpa 2), and shortly after that that (most) of the primary cast age at an accelerated rate


As stated before, in which. Battles are real-time and more similar to what you'd see in the likes of something like Legend of Grimrock where combat is more about wisely navigating the terrain in real time and. And even if you don't, well, that's ok too. Actually, dying tends to often be more beneificial in the long term in the world of Zanki Zero.





And frankly, it is incredibly refreshing not only from the developer's willingness to try out something outside of their comfort zone but to also stand out from nearly all potential temporary releases. 








and while you thankfully don't have to worry about 



But after some rather mixed opinions about how Danganronpa V3 was handled as a finale (that made me retroactively like the series less) I was pretty over seeing anything.


Despite seemingly being the developer's first foray into the dungeon role-playing game mold. And I was often hard-pressed to find certain ingredients.


Voice changes and character models vary based on age.















+ Genuinely unique take on the DRPG mold that is a welcome contrast from the developer's previous work

+ Varied level motifs and puzzles prevent it from getting tedious like many in the subgenre

+ Aging mechanic helps present both cutscenes as well as the dungeon crawling in an intriguing light

+  Quirky overall personality and characters that have twisted backstories





- Those expecting it to be particularly similar to Danganronpa, or only care about the main storytelling, are likely to be disappointed

- Frequent inventory management or attempting to get different "Shigabane" can get tedious on higher difficulties

- Really juvenile writing at times that is especially annoying when the two mascot characters are on-screen (which is too often)

- Some underutilized gameplay systems like the base building or Cilione abilities




Overall Score: ?.? (out of 10)

Below Average


Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection is much better at presenting its list of disappointments as a rhythm game experience than it is at rewarding the passionate Persona fans that would attempt to enjoy it  


Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.

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