11-01-2010 10:59 AM #1
After playing through this game I felt it actually deserved a full review, as ZHP is a title that most people would tend to overlook completely.
ZHP takes the zany style of NIS's SRPGs and puts them into a rogue like gameplay. You control a single character progressing through randomly generated dungeons full of traps, monsters, and a wide variety of loot. There are only three ways out of a dungeon: beat it, teleport out when you reach the caravan on the floor you told it to meet you on before you started the dungeon, or die.
If you choose to continue after reaching the caravan you're down to two choices. There are no items to let you leave that I've discovered and there are no additional checkpoints. If you die, you lose all your money, items, and go back to level 1. Of course you go back to level 1 if you leave as well, but you do get to keep the loot. To make matters harder, you have to constantly eat to keep from starving, and your gear degrades and eventually breaks very rapidly.
On the plus side, every level you earned in the dungeon, even if you died, slowly adds to your base stats and the additional stats you get upon leveling. So dungeons do get easier over time, but it is a very slow progression, rather than the insane growth you get in Disgaea where you're soon hitting for millions of damage.
Humor - Despite being a portable title, the writers didn't get lazy in the humor department. This is right up there with their best work. Certainly better than Trinity Universe and even better than some of their original titles like Disgaea 2. It's the same style of humor as the rest of their work, so if you didn't find Disgaea funny, you probably won't like this. It had me quite literally laughing out loud on several occasions though.
Customization - Every piece of gear in the game effects your character sprite and there is a huge variety of wacky outfits you can come up with. Centaur legs, drills for hands, four arms, a fox tail, a prinny head, and much, much more. In addition, you'll eventually get access to costumes of characters from this and other Nippon Ichi games that will change your character sprite to look like that character. You can then dress that character up in all the gear and outfits you can find.
Gameplay - I still prefer the SRPG gameplay of Disgaea, but the rogue like combat style was surprisingly fun. It can also be quite challenging. I certainly died more than I ever did in Disgaea. Like Disgaea, it can be a bit grindy at least moving into the bonus content. I didn't need to grind much for the main story. However, what grinding I did have to do was enjoyable in and of itself.
Story - This has never been the strongest point of NIS, but most of their games have at least a moderately interesting story and a few memorable characters to go with the humor. You never really end up caring about ZHP's story. Part of that may be that this is their second attempt at a silent protagonist after Soul Nomad. But to make an RPG work with a silent protagonist you need a strong cast of supporting characters. ZHP does have many decent characters, but not a single one that really stands out.
In addition to that, the story can get a bit preachy at times, something I never like. Sure it never takes itself too seriously on the subject, but I almost feel a bit insulted at times, like when they start going on about how bad bullying is and how it can lead to a cycle of the bullied bullying other people. Really as far as the narrative goes, you have little beyond the humor to go on. Thankfully, this is some of their best work in that regard.
Too Forgiving - This is the most forgiving rogue like game I've ever played. This might sound strange coming from someone who generally doesn't like overly frustrating games, but I think they could have made death a bit more punishing. Sure loosing all your money and items sounds really bad, but dungeons are so full of loot you can easily replace it.
And the few things you can actually buy quickly become dirt cheap compared to the amount of cash your taking in. About the only things you can spend decent sums of money on are expanding your storage space for items back at your base (I already have far more than I need in that regard) and buying insurance policies so you can randomly keep some of your items when you die.
There's also no real rare standout items that make you really excited to find them. Sure it's annoying when you lose your last of an item with a nice special ability, but it's never more than a minor inconvenience. They could help the game a lot by making some really standout items that are quite rare so it'd be a major loss to lose them. Make you fear death a bit. Also, come up with some better uses for the money so losing that is more troublesome as well.
This game is definitely my favorite handheld game (that isn't a port.) NIS said they were hoping to make this a company flagship line to go with Disgaea, and I think they have a real chance of success. I'd love to see where this goes with a bit more refinement to the system. Still, as it is it has some noticeable flaws. However, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in rogue style games that doesn't hate NIS's sense of humor.
It may not blow your mind, but it's a bargain at $40 and a much better time sink when you're on the go than Angry Birds. Just be warned that it's not a pick up and play game that you can sink 5 minutes at a time into.
Final Score - 8/10
Last edited by BStroms; 11-01-2010 at 11:22 AM.