If you’re looking for a game that is quite a bit different from everything else out there then you might want to check out Zanki Zero: Last Beginning. This is publisher Spike Chunsoft’s newest title and it was made by the same creators who brought us the awesome Danganronpa games. Zanki Zero isn’t exactly like those games but it does feature a very interesting story nonetheless. However, it also stumbles a bit in trying to mix a ton of different systems together.
Zanki Zero is kind of a mix between a first-person dungeon crawler, a survival game, and a visual novel. The story starts with a man trying to kill himself by jumping off a building. Only instead of dying he wakes up on a mysterious island alongside a number of other people. Here they meet Sho and Mirai who are two cartoon characters playing on a TV. The eight people come to find out that they are all that is left of humanity but also that they are actually clones of their real selves. Because they are clones they only have a total of thirteen days to live but so long as each of them finds something called an X-key they will be able to clone to a new body when they die. The story is dark and will constantly boggle your mind with what happens next. Throughout each chapter in the game you’ll play as a different character and learn more about each of them through past events in their life. This game earns its M rating because a lot of these characters have gone through some pretty messed up situations in their lives.
In order to help your team best survive you’ll need to build facilities to fit their needs. They’ll need food and water to survive and they’ll need a bathroom to relieve themselves in, no I’m not kidding about that. Not having them go to the bathroom can lead to them wetting themselves which in turn will raise stress levels and reduce their effectiveness in combat. When I got to the dungeon crawling while playing I found it OK but not particularly fun. When you encounter enemies here you’ll face off in real-time battles. Your party members have the option to either perform combo attacks by holding the attack option or opt for a single strike by just pressing it. Enemy attack patterns are pretty easy to predict which is why I didn’t find the combat very interesting. It just feels like you are going through the motions so that you can get what you need done and get back to the story which is the most interesting thing about this game. For those who want to experience the story in this game primarily there is an option in the difficulty to remove all enemies in the game except those that are important to the story. Give this a try if that is how you’d prefer to experience this game.
When you’re not fighting enemies in the dungeons you’ll likely be working out some of the puzzles instead. Some of these are quite easy to figure out while some others will require quite a bit of thought. Some have you finding a key while others are a play on words. They were a nice diversion from the rest of the game and never really aggravated me while exploring. Another thing to be on the lookout for while in the dungeons is the meters that each party member has. You have to make sure they stay fed, go to the bathroom, and remain as stress free as possible otherwise they might not make it through their 13 day lifespan. As you explore you’ll also find plenty of items that you’ll need in order to keep your facilities at your base running and to upgrade them. Some items you’ll need are easy to find while others are a lot more difficult. I always tried to get as much stuff as possible to take back with me so that I would remained stocked up on whatever I might need.
The presentation in the game is kind of what you would expect from a visual novel like game. All of the anime looking characters feature colors that pop and the menus are well designed. The visuals in the dungeons are decent but also kind of bland but the game does feature some pretty good enemy designs. Voice acting for the characters was really good which further added to the quality of the story. The game has 38 trophies on PlayStation 4 and it’s a pretty challenging list. Not only do you have to finish the game but you’ll have to do things like fully upgrade all of your facilities, make every food, max out the bond level of every character and much more.
I’ve played quite a few visual novels but Zanki Zero: Last Beginning stands out from them due to how it blends a few genres together. While the combat portions of the game leave a lot to be desired I enjoyed the survival elements quite a bit. That mixed with the dark and disturbing narrative left me with some fond memories of this game.
*Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is out now on PlayStation 4 and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.