A super hero, super baby, and Darkdeath Evilman, sounds like a cast of silly characters brought to you courtesy of Nippon Ichi Software (NIS). Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman takes dungeon exploring and blends it with the deep gameplay fans have come to love from the Disgaea series. Like Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and Cladun: This is an RPG!, ZHP disregards the norm and brings a blend of addictive gameplay and off the wall comedy that makes the game one of the more desirable handheld titles this year.
The episodic story opens up with the Unlosing Ranger on his way to save Japan and a super baby, who will bring hope to the world, from the monstrous Darkdeath Evilman. Disaster strikes when the Unlosing Ranger is struck down by a car. That's right, a "Power Ranger-esque" character gets taken down by a high speed car - so much for having a power morpher. In his final words, the Unlosing Ranger bequeaths his morphing belt to the true hero of the story; a bland, normal, voiceless boy. Like most teenage boys, he has little chance against any final boss. In order to achieve absolute victory and save the super baby, the new Unlosing Ranger must first train in Bizarro Earth. While many gamers may say ZHP's story is ridiculous, they will not be disappointed. The story is packed with humor, which is heightened by witty, over exaggerated voice acting, which many gamers will appreciate.
ZHP's graphics are clearly similar to Phantom Brave or a Disgaea game. The character animations and artstyle are charmingly cute despite being simplistic that many NIS fans will appreciate. Anyone who liked Disgaea 2 Portable's graphics will be happy with ZHP. Players take control of the Unlosing Ranger, who is depicted in sprite form. Other non-playable characters are also in sprite form, but players can customize how they want their hero to look like. Once players equip different items, those items will be visible as long as it's equipped. Players can also change the hero's color scheme, if they don't like the standard red and yellow. At times, I had my hero equipped with a zombie helmet, tank tracks, and a set of lances. The wacky equipment just stacks on top of the sense of humor the game already portrays.
Oh No! They killed the Unlosing Ranger!
The game clearly makes fun of shows like Power Rangers and characters often break the fourth wall and express the woes of being in a video game. A lot of the humor is based around the fact that the main character is trying to level up to beat the last boss. This is emphasized between episodes, when players have to fight Darkdeath Evilman with graphics that progressively get more advance. When player first confront the villain, 8-bit graphics take over, then 16-bit and so on. In a sense there really is only one "main" battle. While the general humor is broad enough for most gamers to get them, many of the jokes are too obscure for western audiences; NIS fans, however, will probably get most of the jokes.
In addition to being able to customize the Unlosing Ranger, players can also customize Bizzaro Earth itself. Players begin with a few basic buildings, such as the blacksmith and "your house." These buildings grant benefits both in and out of dungeons. For example, the player's home includes the wife, played by fan-favorite Prinny. She will ask for money for living expenses. Giving her cash will lead to increased storage space, which can be useful if players need to store more items that may be lost during battle. Players can also summon the Prinny once per dungeon in order receive a homemade lunch. As with many NIS games, the more one progresses, the more facilities that will become available. One such service is the insurance building, which lets players pay a premium to insure dungeon dives and retainment of items in the case of death. Players only have a set amount of buildings. They will have to decide which buildings are most useful, but there is an option of switching between facilities as well.
ZHP offers rogue-like gameplay, which involves characters venturing in randomly generated dungeons. Players can visit these dungeons as much as they want and they will have to in order to level up their character. Every time they enter a particular dungeon, there will be a different layout. While on Bizarro Earth, players will need to fight through these randomly generated dungeons and solve problems that will affect people's views on the Unlosing Ranger back on Earth. If players were to die within a dungeon, their level will revert back to one, but the stats will remain and can continue to increase. ZHP makes dying a integral part of the leveling process. This is good for gamers who have a tendency to die a lot in games.
While dungeon crawling, players will need to focus on their health meter (HP) and an energy meter (EN). Unlike other NIS games, moving around requires energy and once energy runs out, HP will slowly decrease and the Unlosing Ranger will end up dying of starvation. Players have access to a variety of weapons in the game. They can pick up axes, swords, and other weapons while battling enemies. They can equip up to two weapons at a time. They can also pick up a variety of accessories, such as gloves and even tank tracks. While there is an abundance of items, players are limited on how much they can carry at one time. They must choose which items are important during combat. I recommend having a decent number of food and health items since starvation and enemies are both big threats.
I'm surprised too
Like in many games, there are always boss battles at the end of dungeons. Each boss within ZHP has a trick that players must figure out to win most efficiently. For example, players will encounter a boss where they must take down a series of trees in order to reach that boss. Depending on the tree they take down, a horde of henchmen may appear. Another boss hides inside a giant submarine, and the only way to damage him is to figure out where he's going to attack. Most levels have a ton of supplies and bosses have pretty simple patterns, which most players can figure out. It's a matter of keeping up one's health and hunger to outlast the boss. Bosses are stronger then standard demons, but gamers can utilize an array of special attacks. Special attacks are determined by what items players have equipped. Like in all NIS games, special attacks are fun to watch and have over-the-top animation. ZHP's boss battles are fun and memorable; they were definitely the highlight of the game.
I fight with the power of love!
ZHP is a lot of fun. It can be a mindless dungeon crawler, where players will fight through the same levels over and over in order to level up and obtain items. This type of gameplay is what fans have come to expect from most NIS games. It's pleasant to look at and sports a great soundtrack to boot. The humor is hit-or-miss, but cycles through enough genres so that everybody can find something to enjoy. Repetition is a given in games like ZHP because players will have to go back into previous dungeonsand level up in order to beat future dungeons. The formula for ZHP is seen in many other RPGs. Even with the abundance of unique equipment and ways to customize the experience, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game is nothing new to RPG gamers. Most of the time, players will be killing enemies and finding stairs for the next level. The customization gives hardcore players a lot to keep them occupied, but the main story is straightforward and fun enough for most casual gamers. RPG or NIS fans should give this game a shot. It may have similar gameplay that is seen in other NIS games, but with the game's humor, it will keep players coming back for more.