Nippon Ichi Software is known for three things: offbeat stories that break the fourth wall and all barriers of reason, deep and customizable systems, and games that practically never end. Usually, though, they stay within the turn-based strategy RPG space. With Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman, the team has ventured out into the roguelike space, and it feels right at home with the rest of their library.
The story, which once again is quite crazy, goes like this: there’s a Super Baby. The Super Baby will save the world…somehow. So Darkdeath Evilman, who unsurprisingly is not a nice guy, is trying to kill the Super Baby. The Unlosing Ranger, who doesn’t, well, lose, is on his way to fight him when he gets hit by a car. You, a bystander at the accident, decide to become the new Unlosing Ranger, go fight Darkdeath Evilman, and lose pretty quickly. Now dead, you go to Bizarro Earth to go train, beat baddies and beat him.
But no, for a while, every time you try to go back, you get beaten down pretty badly.
If you haven’t played a roguelike, here’s how the gameplay works: every step taken is a turn of sorts, and you have various items and weapons to use. You traverse floors of randomly-generated dungeons in an attempt to find the exit. In true NIS style, you also have ranged grid attacks that you can pull off. The problem with all this? It uses up your energy. It uses up the durability of your weapons and armor. You’ll need to replace them, and replace them often.
That’s okay, though, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For that matter, what does kill you also makes you stronger. The grinding in this game is incredibly intense and time-consuming, but it’s what fans of the company live for. Eventually you’re able to go back and take him down, but there are dozens of hours (at least) before that.
If you’re excited when hours of gameplay are a bullet point on the box, you’ll love Z.H.P. It’s not the most focused game, and the story, while good for a laugh, loses its charm after hours upon hours, but there’s a lot here.