468x60 Ads

Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman is the newest title from Nippon Ichi Software. The basic premise of this game is that a fortune teller predicted a Super Baby would be born who would one day save the world and make everyone happy. However, once the baby was born, the Demon General Darkdeath Evilman kidnaps her. The hero Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger rushes off to save her...but gets hit by a car and dies. You play a random person who happened to witness the accident and the Unlosing Ranger gave you his morphing belt before he died, allowing you to become the new Unlosing Ranger. You set off to go defeat Darkdeath Evilman but totally get your butt kicked so hard the World Hero Society teleports you to a place called Bizarro Earth to train. The objective of the game is to become strong enough to save Super Baby.

Are you still with me? I hope so. Like most Nippon Ichi titles, the game’s plot is surrounded in absurdity and this time it’s focused on making fun of superheroes, especially tokusatsu heroes like Super Sentai and Masked Rider, known in the USA as Power Rangers and Kamen Rider.

Many of Nippon Ichi's previous titles have been strategy rpgs, but this is a rogue-like game with its own special take on the genre. The Unlosing Ranger is called "Unlosing" because whenever he dies he revives at level 1, stronger than he was before. In a nutshell, all the levels you acquired before death add a stat bonus that is carried over to your level 1 character, much like reincarnation in the Disgaea games. However you will lose items that your character had on them, so you must choose your deaths tactically!

Also like in Disgaea games, there is tactical use of throwing monsters but now you can also throw items at enemies, and the items have various effects such as inflicting sleep and poison.
The Unlosing Ranger can equip a wide variety of items found in the randomly generated dungeon floors. A lot of the items cause a dramatic visual change in the hero as well as giving him special abilities.

The game also has a subsystem called Shadowgram, which is a kind of license board where you slot items to add perm stat bonuses to your character. Different items will give different bonuses and their proper use is key to becoming strong enough to beat the final boss. The higher your total level is, the more Shadowgram slots you unlock.

There are also a number other subsystems in the game but to discuss them in minute detail would make this way too long. To sum it up, this game, like others from NIS, is very complicated. However, unlike some past titles you don't need to purchase a thick strategy guide to understand the game; the game has built in tutorials for all of the subsystems and the character gradually learns about these subsystems as they become available. Therefore, I personally think the systems are better explained here than in any previous NIS title.

Like most NIS titles, expect to run the same dungeon levels again and again to build your character up. There is a lot of grinding in this game. However the random nature of the dungeon layouts and item spawns help keep things interesting. It's always fun to randomly run into a treasure room, a dungeon store or come across a rare item that gives your character absurd abilities!

The designers seem to be taking a page from Frontierville. They have supporting characters pop up to tell you how good it is to get items or other little info about the game, reinforcing the behavior as positive. I really like this feature; the things the characters say change up enough to prevent them from becoming too annoying.

Something worth mentioning is that there are unlockable dungeons based on popular manga from Monthly Comic Dengeki Daio. Clearing these dungeons will allow you to change your character to look like characters from these titles.

I feel confident in saying, this is a great game. Will it appeal to everyone? No, this is definitely for people who enjoy roguelikes such as Azure Dreams and the Mystery Dungeon series. If you like those types of games, Unlosing Ranger will provide you with hours of grindy, wacky humor-filled enjoyment.

There are a lot of game reviewers who have talked about the Castlevania series before but I think the best reviews are done by people who actually played the games when they first came out. Since I happen to be one of those people, hopefully this review will be as informative as ones done by others but focusing more on what I like to call The Great Castlevania Shift of 1997.

With the exception of Castlevania II, all games in the franchise fell into the same mold; 2d platformer action adventure games where you walked from one side of the screen to the other. The hardest thing about these games was the controls; the games were notorious not for shitty controls, but for limited controls. The gameplay was all about timing and it punished you severely if you were off by even a millisecond. And while some might say they are Nintendo-Hard, Castlevania games were difficult on purpose, not because the game had quality control issues with the controls.

It was a different age where a lot of games today have controls that allow the player a lot of breathing room for mistakes. If you really pay attention to a lot of action adventure games made recently, the collision detection for character attacks extend beyond the boundaries of the attack's art and enemy attacks may even have collision detection inside the artwork, so it can look like your character was actually hit by an attack but the game doesn't register damage.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. SOTN marked a turning point in the Castlevania series because for the first time the controls were extremely forgiving. Alucard is graceful with every movement he makes, he can spam attacks, and he can jump much higher than any prior Castlevania protagonist could dream of. SOTN is also an action rpg, so you can kill weak enemies over and over again to level up and increase Alucard's stats, so if you have difficulties you can powerlevel your way through them.

As much as I love the game, the honest truth is that SOTN is a very different creature than previous Castlevania games and this upset many die-hard fans of the franchise.

This is not to say the game doesn't have its challenge; Alucard starts out insanely weak and until you get access to powerful items, if you don't pay attention you can easily die. You can also enter a code to make Alucard weaker than normal, which I can only assume is there to let fans of the old school gameplay still have something to punish themselves on.

It seems old news now but Alucard was the first Castlevania hero to become an unstoppable god. Some of you may think Soma was powerful in his games but check this shit out. Behold the power of Alucard's Shield of Unblockable Death! Everything dies in seconds with this thing, even Dracula can't do shit against it. It's freakin ridiculous!  Seriously, after you get the Shield Rod and Alucard Shield there is no reason to use any other weapon, ever, and even before that one need only the Shield Rod and Iron Shield to dominate.

Even at the start of the game, Alucard has access to a whole bunch of spells that make the game easy. The only difficult thing is trying to get them to actually work; to use spells you need to enter a fighting game style button sequence-- and some of them are pretty long. I don't recall it being too difficult to do them with a Playstation controller but I'm having a hard time getting the sequences right using the PSP.

Castlevania: SOTN is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Basically, Richter Belmont has gone missing and Dracula's Castle has risen in his absence, so Alucard, the son of Dracula from Castlevania 3, awakens from his self-imposed slumber to see what the hell is going on.

I won't ruin them for you if you haven't played the game, but I'll let you know the game has four possible endings, and after you beat the game you have the option to play through it again as Richter Belmont and, depending on the version you have, Maria Renard.

In my opinion, SOTN has one of the best storylines in the franchise because it didn't contradict any other game made before it. If anything, it united them together. It also explained Dracula's motivation for hating humans as well as giving a reason for why Dracula's castle looked different in each game. The same can't be said for other titles, as many of the other games make you ask more questions than they answer.

Castlevania: SOTN is my favorite game in the franchise and when I try to think about why that is, I find it a little hard. The plot is better than prior Castlevania games, but it's not exceptional. The gameplay is fun, but overall the game is too easy once you understand how to use overpowered items like the Shield Rod, so it's not that the game is challenging. I think what endears me to the game is the presentation; this is one of the prettiest 2D games on the Playstation and the game soundtrack is one of the best of any Castlevania. The sound design is also really good, too. And I suppose the game environments do have enough variety to keep things mixed up. Still, this isn't a game that can entertain me for more than a weekend.

If you've never played SOTN but you enjoy some of the more recent Castlevania titles, I'd encourage you to try SOTN for yourself. The game was a major turning point for the franchise and I think it stands the test of time better than some of the other titles.