A lot has changed since the last title, but for the better!
System: PlayStation 4
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: September 10, 2019 [NA] / September 13, 2019 [EU]
Pricing:$59.99 / $79.99 [Emperor’s Edition via NIS Store]
Genre: Action, Brawler, RPG
Players: 1-4 [Local/Online Multiplayer]
Official Website: https://nisamerica.com/games/utawarerumono-zan
Utawarerumono: ZAN - A Legend Retold | PS4
Who it Caters to
The Utawarerumono series has done fairly well in its home country of Japan, with many of its fans showing support for the latest title Utawarerumono ZAN. The game takes place in the more historical era of Japan and makes great use of historical references such as overall location design, down to the music. Fans in the west will most likely find enjoyment in the series due to its action-oriented gameplay paired with its spectacular, and often hilarious dialogue that sums up the series as a whole. We had the pleasure to sit down and play through this game on the Japanese version, which released last year, but having the opportunity to play through it again entirely in English was an opportunity we couldn’t avoid. Anyone who enjoys a delightful and lighthearted narrative, along with a very Musou-style battle system that’s similar to that of Dynasty Warriors, Utawarerumono ZAN is certainly the choice for you!
What to Expect
Utawarerumono ZAN comes assorted with a fancy selection of modes that players can jump straight into and enjoy the exciting experience. The story mode is, of course, the most prominent of all the modes since it gives players a closer look at the character development and introduces you to a lot of the gameplay mechanics that the series is known for. You’ll have the chance to discover and explore brand new locations, beautifully designed with the classic Japanese aesthetic in mind, along with all of the popular Utawarerumono characters that make the series shine. In total, there are over 12 playable characters, each with their own distinct playstyle and traits, that are sure to create a joyous experience. If you want to show off your skills and play with other players you can do so online, where up to 4 players can participate in large battles to overcome multitudes of unrelenting enemies who stand in your way. Also as a first in the series, Utawarerumono ZAN incorporates fully-animated cutscenes which only adds to the beauty the game provides.
Utawarerumono ZAN is completely polished from the ground up, using new 3D models from its past iterations, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen and Utawarerumono: Futari no Hakuoro. All of the character designs look a lot more distinguished and their overall animations look more fluid, adding more realism to the experience. The new models now closely resemble the overall art style that Tsutomu Washimi had worked lovingly on, which only help to bring the game to life in a much bigger way. As mentioned before, the level designs have also received a lot of polish along with the background designs that you find in cutscenes between characters. It really gives off that very classic Japanese Edo Era feel and helps to create stronger immersion for the player throughout the game. Since every character behaves differently in battle, visually it creates an incredible dynamic as you get to see various attacks and special effects, that while contrasting with each other in many ways, also creates a complementary visual flare.
On the musical level, Utawarerumono ZAN shines brilliantly as it incorporates classical Japanese and Chinese instruments with modern sounds to create a very unique harmony, that’s a wonder to listen to even on its own. Throughout various cutscenes, you’ll encounter a variety of different musical scores that range from a slow and relaxing tempo to a comedic and childish tone, then shoots up to a more fast-paced tempo. This mixture of sounds helps to create a more well rounded audible flow that really compliments the gameplay overall. During battles, you’re greeted with more high tempo techno-infused tracks that help to create excitement and really immerse you in all of the frantic action. Anyone who has dabbled with Dynasty Warriors will find themselves at home since the two titles do feel quite similar in this regard.
Utawarerumono ZAN comes with its quintessential story mode which tells the story of Haku, and his adventures through a world filled with turmoil. He meets great friends along the way as well as many enemies that oppose him, but it’s now up to your comrades to bring peace back to society. So right from the get-go, you’re thrown into the action as the story unravels right in front of you, and all of the gameplay mechanics are explained in great detail. Much like you’d expect from any Musou-style title, Utawarerumono ZAN incorporates a lot of very simple gameplay elements that players can understand and utilize right away. One example is the combo system which is all about pressing buttons in succession, and if you mix the buttons up you’ll be able to create flashy combos with the character. Some stronger attacks can be performed by holding down the specific button and then combining it with other buttons for extended combo potential. While not as extensive as other titles, the game still grants players the ability to deliver powerful blows to the enemy with as little effort as possible.
The whole idea is to create an experience that anyone can enjoy and Utawarerumono ZAN does that splendidly. You’re introduced to a variety of features such as a simple skill enhancer that allows players to upgrade their characters over time, along with a feature based around Sigils, that help to buff your team in battle. An example is the Fire Sigil which helps to increase the attack power of your entire unit and throughout the course of the game, you’ll be able to unlock and discover more powerful abilities that will assist you in the more challenging bouts. Another great feature that we loved a lot is the ability to swap between characters in real-time during your missions. Most games will have you focus primarily on one character and have them carry you throughout the mission but in Utawarerumono ZAN, every character that you deploy can be used on the fly. This helps to create a strong tactical dynamic within the game since you’re able to determine the sort of fighting style that would prove effective against a horde of enemies, or a formidable boss.
You’re able to customize your character in terms of their attack style during Riot, which is another feature that allows you to rack up damage easily without much thought. Just one press of a button and you can call out one of your members to assist you during the battle, and they unleash an incredibly powerful attack that can be of great service during boss battles. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of gameplay and so we highly encourage you to dive deeper to discover more pertaining to things like intercepting attacks, counterplay, and more!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Utawarerumono ZAN instills a certain feeling of excitement that you’ll likely only find within this series, and so if you’re brand new to it we highly recommend diving in. With plenty to explore via the story mode and tons of replay value with its online multiplayer features, Utawarerumono ZAN is a title that will surely keep you busy for a while. It’s not incredibly long like other action RPGs but its fast-paced and chaotic gameplay will surely keep you laughing and pumped up for quite some time. With brand new voice-overs also included, the game itself feels totally fresh and invigorating, which is great since much of the series has always been tailored around much slower pacing due to its strategic formula. As you continue to play through the game you’ll unlock other modes like Freeplay and edit mode, with the latter focusing more on your units and leveling them up to your liking. Nothing much else outside of this that truly speaks volumes but overall the game does a fantastic job of transitioning from a slow-paced title to a much more thrilling experience and we love that.
New voice-overs for the game help to bring characters to life in a big way.
New music as well helps to align the game more to its action-oriented gameplay, which is a plus.
Character designs look fantastic, alongside the revamped stage designs.
Some fans who are coming into the game from older titles may be surprised by the more action-oriented Musou gameplay.
Once you finish the story mode and play online for a bit, the hype starts to wane over time. We wish there was more to keep you hooked for much much longer.
Honey's Final Verdict:
We hope you found this review to be insightful and that it provided you with the information needed to ensure the right purchase decision. Utawarerumono fans will definitely find the new gameplay approach to a bit weird at first but once you dive into it all, it’s really a solid title through and through. The story itself is full of emotion and you’ll start to develop connections with characters over time which is always a treat. If you’re new to the series then expect nothing but pure fun and enjoyment as the action style will have you mashing buttons, and kicking serious butt for hours! Follow us for more game reviews and hit us up on social media for more game-related content!
Until next time!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!