Agetec made a gamble when they brought Disaster Report to the states (also known as Zettai Zetsumi Toshi in Japan). It’s a very unique game. I’m impressed on how it turned out. It’s not, however, without its shortcomings.
The graphics themselves aren’t too bad. Character models look ok, and the game makes nice use of the blurring effect to eliminate some anti-aliasing problems, but there are still quite a few problems with jagged lines. The engine the game uses allows the player to see far off into the skyline of the game, allowing you to see bits of buildings far off in the cityscape. Sadly, this effect tends to cause lots of slowdown. You can be walking through a city intersection, and your character will start slowing to a snail’s pace, but still be running. Sometimes, it’s even in the most random of places. You’ll be inside a building, not too much around you, and the game will slow to a crawl. This is the most staggering flaw of the game, and it shouldn’t be tolerated. The game looks alright, it’s just unrefined.
One of the coolest things I noticed though was the fact that, as you progressed through the game, your clothing would become more and more torn. First, you start off normal. After a while, you get a couple holes in your jeans, and your shirt’s a bit wet. Then, parts of the bottom of the jeans rip and you lose a sleeve.
Voice-overs are terrible, as usual, and have absolutely no emotion. I think that they localized the game too much. They should have kept the main character looking the same (somehow blond hair means American, but black doesn’t), they shouldn’t have Americanized the names of streets and such, and they should have kept the original voice actors. This is supposed to be a weird Japanese game. The people most likely to buy this are the purveyors of crazy Japanese games.
Sound effects are well done, but music is all but nonexistent. The sound effects stay pretty interesting throughout the game, but usually you’ll hear the same “building is falling sound” many times throughout. What’s cool, though, is how they change it up. Sometimes, the building’s going nuts, others, there’s a crack… ::walk, walk:: and another… It really adds to the feeling of disparity that you get. Music though, only appears at very specific points in the game. While it adds effect, it’s still pretty boring to hear the “clack clack” of shoes on pavement most of the time.
Control is fairly decent. X is confirm, circle is cancel/run, square opens the menu, triangle goes into first person mode, R1 assumes a bracing position (because when you touch the ground, you are impervious to all tremors… one aspect that seems a bit “video-gamey”), L1 shouts, and L2 center’s the camera. For the most part, the camera isn’t a problem, but there are times when it’ll actually impede several jumps, and you know it wasn’t your fault that you died.
This game was hard to rate. I really, truly wanted to love this game. And for the most part, I did. There were a few times, however, when the game really upset me.
Here’s some background. The game takes place on Capital City, a completely man-made island. A large earthquake ripped through the city and you, a newspaper reporter on the first day of the job named Keith Helm, has to escape from this island being ravaged by aftershocks. Along the way, you’ll have to help other survivors escape from the city, make your own way out, and discover a bit about a government conspiracy as well. I stated previously that there were no bad guys… well, I was wrong. You do have to try and sneak your way past some armed guards who, when they spot you, will shoot you (one has a bazooka… It isn’t fun to take a bazooka to the face). But other than a few brief moments, it’s mainly you versus the elements.
The game’s main presentation is situational puzzles. Most puzzles I’ve encountered deal with trying to escape the various destruction of the town, but finding a pathway around the debris. And while interesting and fun, it still seems a bit artificial (like buildings falling at just the right angle to block that small entrance you just walked through, or there being a small, but perfect, path out of the enclosed room), but that’s the price to pay for making a video game work. Other puzzles include finding parts for a raft (which you get to paint… more on weird stuff like this later), or helping a girl find her dog, but for the most part, the puzzles stay with the theme of “find path, move along, get to next destruction, find path, etc.” I’m not saying this isn’t fun, as iRem (who, as I found out, made the R-type series… weird…) has found enough variations to keep this formula interesting. Many events are scripted, however. Once you reach certain points in the areas, everything will start to crumble and you have to get out of there fast. This adds to the artificiality of the game and leads me to believe that Keith Helm is a walking deathtrap, and everyone should avoid him as much as possible.
Ok, now, I think the Japanese have a strange obsession with collecting things. In this game, you can collect different compasses to use (I had a spaceship one for a while… there’s 35 total I believe…), you can find different hats and glasses to wear (the sunglasses actually tint your view in first person mode, very cool) and other random stuff like shin guards (yes, from baseball). Most of the stuff doesn’t do anything, but things like the gloves actually help (gloves help decrease stamina usage when hanging from a ledge).
A few weird things. First the backpack system is a bit odd. You first receive an emergency backpack, capable of holding a 3×3 area. Later, you’ll find more backpacks, until eventually you’ll come across something like a camping backpack, which could probably hold a family of five and their two cats. It’s an interesting system, to be sure, but sometimes you won’t be able to fit something in just because you can’t rearrange everything. You can also build things out of stuff you have. You can make juice (water and juice packet), a torch, a lamp helmet, or other things by combining some items together. And again, some items are useless, but some will help.
One thing I didn’t like was the water system. While an interesting concept (you have Quench Points, and when they run out, you can’t run, and your health drains), it’s too easy to refill them. Water fountains are everywhere, and even when there are points where there aren’t water fountains, you can still hold 3-5 servings of water in one bottle, depending on the size. Each serving completely refills the bar. And at each water fountain, you can save your game. This partially alleviates the difficulty of the game, but so does the fact that you can continue pretty close to where you died when you choose the continue option. While saving frequently and continuing affects your ranking, it doesn’t matter all that much.
I beat the game within four and a half hours. And while the game does have seven endings, there’s only one major split in the game, and that only affects which girl you end up with at the end. Plus, you can try to get all of the compasses and extra items, but once you beat the game, there really isn’t much of a draw to come back.