Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SHORT PEACE (PSN/PS3)

Back in 2013 Grasshopper Manufacture, and Crispys! amongst other co-contributors took on an ambitious anime inspired project combining two highly popular forms of entertainment. One being that of anime, and the other being that of video games. In one part of the project there was a short length anime cartoon compilation that was something along the lines of "Robot Carnival", and "Heavy Metal". This five part anime collaboration titled "SHORT PEACE" pushed the limits of it's mature rating, and oozed with creativity while tying in a game separately from the actual anime collection. The game that accompanied the release of the film which was titled "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day" also contained several anime sequences of it's own created by various well known anime artists along with heavily influenced Japanese gameplay directed by Suda 51 himself. In it's entirety "SHORT PEACE", which is now offered up in this all inclusive edition comes complete as an imaginative journey with pure Japanese influence not usually seen here in the states. As such you will find that despite the $39.99 digital only offerings it is a true gem in all regards. You'll find that Suda 51's "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day" comes to brilliant life with his personal touch, and delivers a solid yet frantic experience that will have you exclaiming "WTF!?" in the most positive way imaginable. Even the "Short Peace" anime will have you at full attention as you see the imagination of Japanese directors unfold on your television screen. The fact that the anime, and the game finally come in one complete package definitely makes the purchase more worth it than it ever was before.

In the "SHORT PEACE" anime collection you will  bare witness to five awe-inspiring anime shorts that are each created by a different artist with a different vision, and different art style. The collection itself includes five visually driven tales including a short anime intro, "Possessions", "Combustible", "Gambo", and "An End To All Weapons". As far as the start of the film goes it begins humbly with an "Alice In Wonderland" inspired intro in which a girl plays hide-and-seek with an offscreen playmate. As the little girl squats down, and holds her hands over her eyes the world around her morphs, and changes into an alien landscape filled with strange abstract objects. Upon opening her eyes the girl catches a glimpse of a white rabbit, and follows it deep into an alien spacecraft only to be transported to a shape-shifting dimension filled with robotics, and a glowing orb that eventually makes it up her skirt into her you know what. Once this happens the girl is lifted into the air as she giggles, and transforms rapidly into various anime inspired characters before the at home audience. Thus leading the viewer into the four main anime tales that are to follow.

Following the whimsical, and playful intro anime sequence "SHORT PEACE" gets right down to business with a 3D hybrid short titled "Possessions". The screen shows an eerily lit rain forest with some onscreen dialogue regarding a myth about objects gaining a soul after 100 years. After this intro dialogue the focus turns to a traveling Japanese repairman who is carrying the tools of his trade upon his shoulder. Seeing as it is raining, and storming the man finds himself in desperate need of shelter. Upon seeing an enclosed shrine atop a hill he makes himself at home inside pleading with the spirits that reside therein that he might rest there until the storm subsides. As he slumbers the man which is crafted in a 3D anime style is drawn into a spirit world inhabited by ghosts of the past that are tied forever to the objects that were left behind in the shrine. Through each encounter the man uses his repair tools to repair the ghastly objects before him, and appeases the spirits of unrest by doing so. It isn't until he faces a dragon made up of decaying, and rotting materials that he is able to escape the shrine's spirit world. His prayers during the encounter bless the ominous spirit, and upon leaving the shrine the weary traveling repairman finds that he has been rewarded rather generously with the things which he had repaired.

In the second anime short titled, "Combustible" the anime director/creator weaves a timeless love story of two childhood friends who make a promise to stay together into adulthood only to be separated by circumstance, and tradition. The girl of the film, known only as Wakana is born into servitude, and a preordained marriage that she wants no part of. She longs anxiously for her friend who eventually leaves the village to pursue a career as an Edo firefighter to rescue her, but grows ever so hopeless in the days that pass in the wake of his leaving. In a failed attempt to get her friend's attention via an accidentally set yet deliberately loosed fire Wakana is ultimately consumed along with him in the flames that eventually engulf the entire district. It's a powerful anime short filled with intense feeling, and expression that I'm sure a lot of us can relate to.

The third anime short within the "SHORT PEACE" collection titled, "Gambo" is easily the most 'Mature" out of the collection's offerings. The director, and creator of this particular anime short spares no gore, and pushes the limits of the small amount of sexual content shown. The graphic tale opens up with a downed samurai pleading for a white bear to finish him off. The bear turns, and walks away only to have the lone samurai pursue him to a nearby village. It is in this village of lost hope that things began to turn out for the worst. Having trapped an oni, and secured it within their village walls the villagers of this village await the return of their leader to do away with the beast. Unfortunately as they are tending to it the demon breaks free killing most of them, and ends up taking all of the daughters for breeding purposes. When the samurai finally arrives on the scene he meets, and follows the last surviving daughter who happens to be a younger girl. He tracks her into the forest, and learns the true nature of the white bear. Having no god, or deity to turn to in the dark times the girl which the samurai followed pleads with the friendly bear to kill the oni, and the bear surprisingly understands her request. It heads out into the forest seeking out the oni's lair, and eventually confronts it in a bloody all out battle. With the help of the samurai, and the prayers of the girl the bear overcomes the beast, and saves the day only to leave the world without a savior once again.

Lastly we are treated to a post-apocalyptic anime short titled, "An End to All Weapons". In this short the director/creator has us following a band of men in military garb riding along in a military transport vehicle. The world around them is barren, and the only cities in sight are laid to waist in a half standing pile of rubble. The men of the organized team ride along the dirt encrusted earth as they joke around about their current mission objectives which basically entail the gathering/looting of weapons. Upon arriving in a half buried city that is not unlike the New York of present day America the men ready themselves for an automated threat. It seems that during the war that leveled the cities of the world there were automated defense machines built to take out any threat. Unfortunately for this band of looters they end up facing such a mechanical foe only to be wiped out through their own actions. In the end a lone naked man of the once formidable crew stands off against the last machine only to pick up a warhead, and end his, and the man-made weapon's lives once, and for all. Hence the title, "An End to All Weapons".

Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day

Like the other anime shorts in the "SHORT PEACE" anime collection "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day" starts off with it's own unique anime film, and adds to the cinematic lore with each additional episodic chapter. In the first five minute feature cutscene we learn of a 17 year old girl named Ranko, her two quirky friends, and her mission to kill off her mysterious father. It seems that young Ranko is the the daughter of the world's richest month long parking storage owner, and that her father has killed her mother. Having access to the rail cars, and storage unit space Ranko makes herself at home within the elevator inspired confines of the units' construct. It is here she hones her skills as a violinist, and a lethal assassin. In the actual game, after the intro plays out, you will be tasked with guiding young Ranko through area after area in a high speed cat, and mouse chase meant to get her to her intended targets, or away from said foes. At her disposal Ranko has a sword, and a violin sniper rifle with limited, but refillable ammo. Her running speed, and acrobatic abilities also serve a purpose in her goal to get from point "A" to point "B".

In the way of chapter, and level design you will find that there are run through levels in which Ranko must escape a pursuing enemy on foot with her weapons in hand. There are levels in which it's more of a tower ascending experience, levels in which Ranko must face off against boss characters in the most unusual ways, a level that is designed like a shmup (shoot'em up), and even a level in which one of her friend's brothers must ride his space age bike while trying to avoid being mauled by a large demon. There are plenty of WTF!? moments thrown into the gameplay along with equally unusual anime cutscenes in which Ranko's day just seems to get stranger, and stranger.

In the run through levels, with the weapons in hand you will be trying your hardest to outrun target after target in order to reach your ultimate assassination goal. The gameplay is timed, and fast paced with a 2D platforming design laid out for the gamer. Using the 'Left Thumbstick' for movement you will keep Ranko running forward, sliding, and jumping over obstacles in order to escape the looming threats that reach out for her from behind. Such enemy encounters begin first with swapped dialogue via a cutscene, and throw Ranko head first into the obstacle filled course afterwards leaving you to dispatch any enemies who should cross your path, or the main threat the lurks behind should it get too close. As you make your way through each chapter, and level/stage the rules of gameplay will evolve, and will be explained on the spot through onscreen text. Sometimes you'll have to run from your enemy/s, and other times you will have to fight them in a boss type manner. There is definitely a wide variety of gameplay styles in this Suda 51 experience, and many will have you scratching your head in disbelief.

The sword which uses the "SQUARE" button as it's trigger in the run through parts of the game will kill off standard enemies sending their parts flying out in front of Ranko taking out any other enemies before it should the debris meet up with said enemies. This of course leads to the combo chains that can be achieved when you kill of multiple enemies without taking a hit. Supposing you rack up enough of a combo, or do it in a stylish fashion Ranko will sometimes gain a shield, and will sometimes shoot out damage dealing lasers from all angles. In regards to fending of that ever lurking enemy that is constantly trailing Ranko waiting for her to slow down you will find that her modified violin can be used to blast it away for a brief moment. This requires a pressing of the "L1", or "R1" buttons in accordance to which side of the screen the enemy you are targeting resides in. The sniper violin which is rechargeable through standard enemy kills can be used against standard enemies, and the pursuing boss enemy as well so long as your meter has at least one full bar.

Aside from the attack options Ranko also has the ability to wall jump (Think Metroidvania Games), drift through the air, jump, and slide. In each case aside from the slide (DOWN - Left Thumbstick) the "X" button is what you'll be pressing, repeatedly pressing, or holding depending upon the type of function you are aiming to use. With the attacks, and evasive maneuvers in hand it will be up to you to get Ranko from start to finish without dying at the outstretched hands of her enemies, or other baddies that might be targeting her. Should you die you will have to start over from the beginning of the chapter, and make your way to the goal once again.

Keep in mind that while you are trying to achieve your best time, and best kill count in each given chapter along with the main goal that each chapter also contains hidden extras in the form of present shaped boxes filled with bonus art, cinematics, music, and other goodies. For achieving certain in-game goals you'll also earn new costumes for Ranko as well as PSN trophies worth bragging about. Once you have completed a chapter your stats will be noted in full via the "Statistics" sub-menu which is located in the "Extras" menu. If you are looking to perfect your playthroughs the previously played through chapter/s can be accessed again to either improve upon your scoring, or your completion of said chapter/s through the chapter select menu. Just know that there is some skill involved, and that quick reflexes are the difference between life, and death in the world of "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day".

Verdict ...

Seeing as this is a signature Suda 51 creation you should expect no less than the most off-the-wall Japanese inspired gameplay imaginable. There's plenty in the way of wacky art designs to gawk, and stare at as you blaze through at a fast pace in Ranko Tsukigime's high heels. As Ranko, the game's main protagonist you will be blessed with one of the most intense, and often times nerve racking 2D side-scrolling metroidvania experiences you have ever encounterd. The obstacle courses you have to guide Ranko through are no mere child's play, and will have you starting over from the beginning more often than not. Once you have learned the layout, and objective of each chapter though you should find yourself fit enough for the task/s at hand regardless of their trying nature. Along with the impressive yet oddly orchestrated gaming experience comes an equally odd, and mature anime "SHORT PEACE" collection.It's in this anime that you'll come to know some interesting characters with unusual stories. Some tales are more timid, and heartwarming while others are questionably morbid in a mature way.

In the way of graphics the anime collection within "SHORT PEACE" is a mash-up of various traditional anime art styles. No one anime feature is close to being the same as the others. It should also be noted that the soundtracks added to each thematic experience accents the artists' visions in more ways than one. You'll find traditional Japanese instrumentals, some pop idol songs, and even some more modern-day anime tunes as well as a mixture of the three. Even "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day", the game portion of the collection has a nice music soundtrack as well as an extra in which you can listen to unlocked in-game music. As far as the visuals in "Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day" go you will find that it has a simple yet SUDA 51 inspired design that really does the game, and accompanying anime justice. The screen often time flashes with odd Japanese icons, and is often times filled with characters, and creatures of the most unusual sort. In this respect it is not disappointing at all.

As far as the actual gameplay goes it is oddly mixed, but smooth in a quick paced sort of way. Chapters don't take long to complete assuming you have fast reflexes. The real challenge, as it were lies with learning the objectives, and the best paths to take in order to avoid the looming threat that grows closer to Ranko as she slows down in the run through stages. For the most part each of the levels/stages keep the core mechanics in mind only changing them a few times to make things more interesting in a Suda 51 sense of the meaning. The shmup style dragon boss battle, and the 8-Bit luchador unmasking ring are but a couple of examples of such Suda 51 touches. Should you survive the wacky misadventure alongside Ranko you will be gifted with some of the most unusual cinematic scenarios ever seen in the history of gaming. Even the ending during the rolling credits will surprise you ... in a more pleasant sort of way.

Overall this new 'SHORT PEACE" omnibus collection is a much better buy than it's predecessor. If memory serves me well it was on the PSN before this at the same price as now, but without the anime included. While I think the $39.99 price tag is still slightly steep since the game, and anime are kind of short lived it is still enough of a gem to warrant a purchase at the current price. It's not often you see a game, and anime collection of this nature, especially one with a game crafted by Suda 51. I personally had fun watching, and playing both parts of this collective package. If you have $39.99 to spare do not miss out. Just know that this game is not really good for people with a history of seizures due to it's fast paced flashy nature, and that there is some seriously mature content in it. I do not recommend this falling into the hands of anyone under the age of 18, period.

No comments:

Post a Comment

A wise man leaves wise words in his wake, but a foolish man leaves foolish words. Please be wise with what you say in the comments below, and bless this blog with comments worth keeping. If you should choose the foolish path though know that it will only serve to let the world know how foolish you really are.