Utawarerumono: ZAN (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric Ace 07.11.2019

Review for Utawarerumono: ZAN on PlayStation 4

Even those knowing Japanese might find it hard to say 'Utawarerumono: ZAN,' that being said, the series departs from its normally visual novel roots. Originally an Eroge visual novel, more recent entries have edited out these parts while leaving most of the story. The most recent being Mask of Deception, which was a heavy visual novel, with a simplistic strategy battle system. This one goes widely different, however, using a Dynasty Warriors-style system.

The Utawarerumono series is a surprisingly long-lived one, first appearing in 2002 as an Eroge visual novel with very little player interaction. Fast forward over the years, the eroge has largely been dropped, but ecchi elements remain, as the universe expands to include anime, manga and even more games. Most recently Mask of Deception was the first major foray into western markets, presenting a very heavy visual novel with some light tactical action.

Utawarerumono: ZAN is a re-telling of Mask of Deception, but with a focus on gameplay instead of story. Entire arcs and chapters are either cut out, or shortened to mere cut-scenes - anyone not familiar with the story will likely have no clue what is going on. Considering even for its very large lore it stemmed from and that this does little to interface it, this still ends up being fun. Most of it will be spend as a third-person brawler/action-RPG-style combat very similar to Dynasty Warrior games. Leading a group of four different characters through a variety of missions, it gets to the heart of the matter fairly quickly, and does not deviate much from the formula. Players will fight their way through small levels, beating down sometimes hundreds of enemies, all in good music and graphical representation.

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: ZAN on PlayStation 4

Combat, which is where you will be spending most of you time, is actually really good. Each character has a serviceable normal attack chain, which can then be modified with harder hits, and special attacks. During a battle there is a bar that builds up named 'zeal' that allows the player to unload the biggest special moves. Even normal attacks in combat felt fine and these extras are gratefully not needed to bring the game together. Missions are almost always revolving around fighting and killing, but there is enough variety that it'd be nice to see these in other titles.

In addition to the normal 'kill them all,' there are various tasks like finding resources in the level, or running from an unstoppable boss. The running level was so novel it was fun even if it was not particularly that well executed. Between missions there is some serious stats and equipment someone can dive into. There are various 'scrolls' (which essentially function like equipment), options to boost character stats, and overall formation elements that change bonuses. One idea that was cool was a stat called spirit that its sole purpose was to increase the group's bonus, giving an interesting option beyond just pumping attack for most characters.

The characters are all pretty interesting even if they are rarely touched on. As stated, it's obvious that the story was largely an afterthought. Still, the combat is good enough. The visuals are great for their anime aesthetics, and the music and graphics are all on point. It is not the type of game that is going to win a 'game of the year,' but for a mindless anime brawler it hits all the right notes.

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: ZAN on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Anyone looking for an anime brawler will find this one to be a very good one. It is not to be played for its highly-compressed retelling of a former story, nor its short length; but for mindless action and fighting it delivers fairly well. The combat is fun with enough to it to stay fairly interesting for the ten or so hours it takes to beat, just be warned there isn't some great adventure to partake in here.

Developer

Aquaplus

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Action

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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