All right Bandai Namco, you have finally beat me. After playing so many of your anime-based games, I feel like I've come to know what to expect from the experience. But this time around you've created a product so unorthodox that I honestly don't know how to review it. Part collection of short anime films and part game, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day has left me totally dumbfounded.
This curious PlayStation 3 exclusive is split up into two completely different downloads -- Short Peace and Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day. One is a selection of four animated films from Japan, each helmed by a different director and running around 15 - 20 minutes. The other is a side-scrolling action game starring a seventeen year old girl with an eye patch and a violin-themed sniper rifle. None of this is connected.
As a collection of short films, Short Peace is hit or miss. The four selections come from well-known anime pioneers, including Hajime Katoki (Gundam) and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). It also features Shuhei Morita's Academy Award-nominated Possessions, which is perhaps the most visually stunning film in the mix.
The stories range wildly in both topics and time periods. A Farewell to Weapons is a futuristic action film featuring a group of well-armored soldiers fighting a group of robotic tanks that are straight out of Metal Gear Solid, while Combustible is set in ancient Japan and mixes romance with firefighting. My favorite of the four was Gambo, the gorgeous tale of a white bear who beats the crap out of a demon. It's a crowd-pleaser.
Including the credits, Short Peace lasts just over an hour. Unfortunately, the game portion isn't much longer. With ten levels and only a few cinemas to watch, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day won't take players more than 90 minutes to complete. Chances are good that most experienced players will speed right through the game in a fraction of that time.
As I mentioned before, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is the story of a seventeen year old school girl with an eye patch and a secret mission. You see, she's on a journey to kill her own father. To do this, Ranko must race through ten short stages trying to outrun a wave of spirits chasing her. Picture a mix of Sonic the Hedgehog of and Valis. It plays like an endless runner that isn't endless.
For the most part, the first six stages play out exactly the same way. Ranko runs from left to right slashing at enemies to power up a special meter that allows her to push back the wave of spirits with an energy blast. She has one basic attack, a jump button and the ability to slide under objects. I found the slide mechanic hard to use and the jumping is a little loose. What's more, most of these stages are easy to the point of being boring. They offer no challenge and only last a couple minutes.
After a fairly uneventful start, I was surprised by how quickly things picked up in the second half. Suddenly, the different cinemas started to build to something and the levels changed in a number of interesting ways. There are a few unique boss fights, as well as a chance to ride the Akira-inspired motorcycle. It all leads to an absolutely crazy one-on-one battle that uses 8-bit pixel sprites to represent a wrestling match. And we haven't even gotten into the three-eyed girl from the future and the angry Shih Tzu. This game will leave you scratching your head.
Part of what makes this game interesting is that each cinema tackles a different style of Japanese animation. The game starts out all cutesy, with laughing Japanese school girls. Before long the story is being told through a manga motion comic, a surreal pop-culture acid trip, a stunning painted aesthetic and even an Akira parody. It's a narrative that is actively aware of what it is and goes out of its way to poke fun at both the games and the animes they are based on.
Once the bizarre story kicked into high gear, I was instantly won over by the game's charm. Sure, the gameplay is shallow and the boss fights are beyond frustrating, but I couldn't wait to see where all this was leading. Unfortunately, the whole thing ends with a giant cliffhanger that makes the entire experience feel anticlimactic. Even with a genuinely fun live-action credit sequence, I just couldn't get over how let down I was by the way everything plays out.
Speaking of disappointing, this package retails for $39.99. At best, players will get no more than three hours out of the game and film collection. Granted, anime fans may keep the Short Peace around to show friends and re-watch from time to time, but even then it's hard to justify the steep price point. Even as somebody who loved the game's storytelling, I doubt I would ever go back and replay Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day.
The whole thing leaves me baffled. If the standalone game was $10, I would likely recommend the title on the crazy storytelling alone. But $40 is too much for these two incredibly short experiences. This is one of those situations when the wrong price point sank a moderately entertaining action game.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.