By Steve Baltimore / December 11th, 2019
|Release Date||September 10th, 2019|
|Genre||Musou, Visual Novel|
Utawarerumono: Zan is an action spin-off game for the long running Visual Novel franchise. I was wondering how this franchise would make the leap from SRPG / Visual novel to an action-based Musou style game. Then I noticed the game was developed by Tamsoft, who are best known for their work on the Senran Kagura series, so I knew then I was in for a treat. Let’s see if this title met my expectations.
Normally I would give you an overview of the story and maybe a few comments on how I felt about it. The structure of this game makes it very hard to do that. It’s basically a retelling of the events in Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. I think some of these story scenes at the end of the game had much more impact seeing them in 3D, but if you are not familiar with the events from that game, you will be completely lost here. This means anyone looking to jump into the franchise should not start here, for sure. I enjoyed the story mode personally, since I’m a fan of franchise and have been for years. It just jumps around so much that giving a good summary would completely spoil Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception’s story. I strongly feel folks should check that game out before venturing into this Musou adventure.
Graphically Utawarerumono: Zan looks fantastic. The character models are greatly detailed. Environments range from snow covered mountains to battling aboard ships on the sea. Each one looks as great as the last. I’ve always loved the overall art style of this series and the team here did a wonderful job bringing it to life in a more action-based title. I noticed no frame dips of any kind during my gameplay, even when the screen was covered with baddies to slay.
The music here is ripped straight from other titles in the series, which means it is wonderful. The opening and closing themes are very fitting, and the ending theme especially drives home some hard feels. I loved all of the battle themes found here as well. Battle themes such as “Forward March” and “Gods of War” can be swapped out at the start of each battle. These are unlocked by completing certain tasks through the various game modes. The voice acting in the game is done in Japanese only. The cast from the previous games return to reprise their roles, and they do a wonderful job bringing the characters to life.
At first combat in Utawarerumono: Zan will seem like your typical Musou hack ‘n slash game, but there is more here than meets the eye. Each character has a series of special and normal attacks that can be chained together to make combos. Holding down either the normal or special attack button will allow you to perform some additional attacks or charge up moves for a better effect. Chain attacks will consume some Zeal when they are executed. Think of Zeal basically like a Musou gauge in other games of this type, but these moves will not clear the whole screen of enemies. They will, however, do massive damage to your foes and if you hit the circle button in time with a ring that appears on the screen while this move is being performed, you can unleash its hidden power and activate a True Chain. This increases the move’s power and will recover some of your Zeal.
Scrolls will give your characters a variety of stat buffs and effects. There are two different types of scrolls, normal and special. Normal Scrolls are ranked from 1 star all the way up to 10. You can upgrade these by spending the Sen you have acquired in the upgrade shop. Which scrolls get upgraded seems to be completely random and you can also obtain some outfits for your characters to sport from this shop as well. Special scrolls do not have a rank and do not level up, but they give your characters some crazy buffs right from the start. Characters start with maybe one or two slots to equip scrolls, but more will unlock as you upgrade their skills.
There are a few different game modes to choose from: Story, Battle Recollections, Free Missions and Battle Arena. Stages on each of these will contain a mission with up to three different objectives. You will see gold and silver rings on the ground. The gold rings are main objectives while the silver ones are sub objectives. If you press and hold square while in these rings the missions will begin. Most of them are just slay X number of enemies or escort someone from point A to point B. The map will usually lead you to the next main mission, but you will have to search around to find all of the sub missions. Completing sub missions will net you more BP to spend upgrading your characters, scrolls or Sen you can spend to upgrade equipment.
To complete the story mode on normal difficulty you won’t need to worry about upgrading too much. The last few battles are a little rough, but overall the game is pretty easy. If you want to unlock all the content the game offers in the way of some extra modes, costumes and other goodies, you will need to dive in and complete as many objectives in the other modes as possible. I felt this was a pretty good setup here. Since the story can be completed in around 6 to 8 hours, adding all these additional unlockables gives the game some extra value. It also lets you spend more time making your favorite characters more badass.
Utawarerumono: Zan is not a bad game, but it is a game made for fans of the series exclusively. If folks go into this with no knowledge of Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception’s story they will be completely lost. The combat is solid and tons of fun. I really enjoyed unlocking all the different modes and watching all my favorite characters grow stronger along the way. The story mode is well done, but it does skip around a bit too much, and some will find its length a bit on the short side. However, I do think fans will find plenty of content here to justify the around $50 price point. In the end this game is the very definition of a fan service game, and I think that’s perfectly fine.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
MusouNIS AmericaPS4 exclusiveutawarerumono zan