Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning tells of an apocalyptic world where eight clones revive in the aftermath of its destruction. These clones are imperfect, their life cycle restricted to a mere 13 days before they are killed and reborn. To stop this cycle of death and reincarnation, they must overcome their past and seek a path amidst the ruins of a destroyed future.
After the Steins;Gate Elite presentation, the representatives of Spike Chunsoft gave Honey’s Anime a chance to know more about their new IP and what it entailed. In this article, I’ll provide my thoughts on the details I learned and my own opinions.
A New Writer Takes the Spotlight
Takayuki Sugawara formerly worked as a game designer for the Danganronpa series, the trial sequences where players would listen to characters testimonies and point out contradictions with “truth bullets” were specifically designed by Sugawara. Now, Sugawara has taken on a new role. For Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning, he is now the Creative Director and Scenario Writer.
The implications of this, to say the least, are interesting. Having a former game designer take control of the writing could influence a difficult aspect of story-based games: how gameplay can synergize with story.
In some games, there can be a disconnect between gameplay functions and how the story is presented--things you can do in the game might not make sense in the context of the story. Some simple examples would be enemies dropping money, characters dying in battle, but not in the story, characters losing in cutscenes despite your overleveling, etcetera.
However, by allowing a game designer to write the story--by having two elements of a game under one vision--gameplay and story can synergize with each other, creating a more immersive experience.
A Little Nuance: the Gameplay of a Nonstop Survival RPG
And with that preface, we can now talk about gameplay. Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning is currently marketed as a nonstop survival RPG. If you’re confused by what this means, allow me to clarify. While the gameplay has elements of a dungeon crawler, movement and actions are not exactly similar. Whereas in a normal dungeon crawler you move/act, then the enemies follow up, Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning does not have any turn-based combat.
If you stand still, an enemy can swing at you continuously. When you attack, your respective party members will have a cooldown, forcing you to your next character. Movement is critical in the game, and in order to not be trapped by enemies or, well, traps, you have to incorporate an awareness of your surroundings and well-timed dodges. To further aid your battles, characters can also collect parasites called “Cliones,” creatures that can give its host unique powers. However, with each use, your lifespan is reduced.
The “nonstop” part of its marketing seems apt. As I observed more of the game, the survival RPG part became more clear. Similar to its story, players will have to scavenge locations for items. Defeated enemies can drop food, allowing you to satiate your hunger. Basic necessities like sleeping and using the bathroom are also part of the core gameplay.
Understanding how death works is critical to both the story and gameplay. Just as characters die every 13th day, characters will undergo an accelerated age progression. Starting as a child, then adult, middle-age, and finally senior--all of these ages will have different strategic benefits that vary between Attack, Defense, Charge Attack damage, and their item capacity. Death is not the end, as dying to an enemy can gift you a Shigabane, or a skill that gives you a resistance depending on how you died. The synergy between Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning’s gameplay and story is pretty evident.
Reminiscent Character Designs
Ayako Nakao, formerly the UI designer of the Danganronpa series, has switched roles for Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning. Now taking the role of character designer, her designs give a sense of her roots. Similar to how Danganronpa characters have their titles, the 8 characters of Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning have titles that reflect the 7 deadly sins and the cryptic “original sin.”
A purposeful decision was made when designing these characters. To obscure their past, their designs are less revealing of their sins--although perhaps one character’s design seems rather on the nose. While I’m uncertain, I believe by adhering to a recognizable formula, Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning hopes to appeal to both a new audience and the existing Danganronpa audience. By being rather open with its staff members, Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning’s wants to reassure its fans that the game is in good hands.
Seeing former Danganronpa staff try their hand at a new IP has piqued my curiosity. Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning has a pretty big focus on its gameplay, and with Sugawara behind the writing, I’m curious to see how he handles a new role for Spike Chunsoft’s new title. If you’re interested, Zanki-Zero: Last Beginning will be coming to the Playstation 4 and Steam on March 19, 2019.