54 Minutes With Suda51
A few years ago, I picked up a one-shot manga called A Farewell to Weapons, by Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira and Roujin Z fame, that was translated into English by Epic Comics back when Marvel used to do really weird side projects.
It was a quirky (if bleak) story about a bunch of guys scrounging in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo who run into a still-functional war robot who didn’t get the memo that the war was over, and finding out that it had been animated was half the draw of importing the EU release of the Short Peace compilation disc.
The other half was, and I apologize for the implied slight directed at the other animation segments which I am simply glossing over, Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, a short but intensely bizarre game from Grasshopper Studios / written by Suda51, whose works I have praised here from time to time.
“Short” doesn’t quite cover it, to be honest. It took me 54 minutes to complete its ten stages, most of which consist of running from left to right while platforming and fighting off enemies. A couple of the stages break the pattern – one has you platforming UP a narrow tower, fighting a pair of bosses while a massive gear chews up platforms below you, another is a 2D shooter sort of affair, and the final stage is a sort of retro, uh, it’s hard to describe but very retro, a sort of mix of Karate Champ and hopping from platform to platform, all in glorious 8-bit style graphics.
I died a lot on the tower boss fight – it took me a good ten+ tries and the first couple of those were just adapting to the change in perspective.
The platforming bits are interesting in a way that reminds me of the 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games – there are multiple paths through the levels, and skill and timing will allow you to keep to the very highest paths with the best rewards, while missing a jump will just drop you to a lower path to continue your run to the right. There’s a strong emphasis on keeping up momentum, because you are constantly being pursued by evil spirits who will kill you in a touch.
Well, that’s the first few levels anyway. Later in the game, when you’re being chased across the slopes of Mount Fuji by a screen-filling Pomeranian with an avowed taste for human flesh, you may find yourself, as I did, periodically needing to remind yourself to close your mouth, as it may be gaping open in a look of utter confusion.
To give a taste of the story, you play Ranko, a Perfectly Ordinary 17-year-old Japanese Schoolgirl who lives in a collection of shipping containers in an automated carpark and who, quite naturally, has to set off to avenge her mother’s death by killing her father, owner of the largest chain of automated carparks in the world and part-time luchadore. Along the way, she joins forces with a Kamen Rider knockoff and discovers that both of her best friends have mysterious secrets of the Dark and Deep variety.
Also she has a karaoke date that she simply must make, even if it means the end of the world.
To be honest, you could probably watch the cutscenes on Youtube and get 90% of the experience, but the bits of game that come between the noninteractive bits are fun, if (as mentioned above) occasionally frustrating. They’re also not above poking fun at the fact that you’ve been watching a movie for a while now and it’s about time to actually use the controller again.
…that said, it’s not something I’d pay the $39.95 that Sony laughably wants for the package on PSN. My copy was, as mentioned, the EU release, and it came delivered from amazon.co.uk for about $20 US, which seems fair. Wait for this one to go on sale, but don’t pass it up when it does.