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Suda 51's Latest Project Stumbles From the Start

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The weakest link.

If you follow the animation scene in Japan, you've probably heard of Short Peace. In brief, it's an anthology of works from four renowned animators that focus on Japanese society, both past and future. The Short Peace collective is led by legendary artist Katsuhiro Otomo, best known for his 1988 film masterpiece Akira. Short Peace calls to mind Neo Tokyo (1987) and Memories (1995), two other anthologies with works by Otomo that are regarded as veritable snapshots of Japan's animation prowess relative to their time. The films within Short Peace appear to fit that bill perfectly, especially Shuhei Morita's contribution, Possessions, which is up for an Oscar in the animated short category.

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Despite the spiritual similarities to Neo Tokyo and Memories, Short Peace expands the mold by including a game component: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day. The fifth and final piece of the Peace puzzle comes from No More Heroes creator Suda 51 and Crispy's, the studio behind the offbeat, postapocalyptic wildlife survival simulator Tokyo Jungle. Ranko is a side-scrolling action game that's supported by animated cutscenes that impressively walk the line between 2D and 3D CG. However, though they're technically impressive, the scenes that I saw were devoid of sophisticated direction, leaning heavily on cringe-worthy panty shots and unbelievable characters from the start.

Just seconds into the first cutscene, a character trips and falls, and both she and the camera pause in place for an unreasonable amount of time, exposing and focusing on her unmentionables. I can look past the usual fan service that sprouts up in a lot of Japanese animation, but this cutscene in particular was too blatant and unnecessarily long to be ignored. It's not creative; it's not cute or sexy; it's also not the only occurrence. The takeaway from these scenes is as follows: the character in question has a butt, which is covered by underwear, and she's clumsy and plagued by dulled reaction times. Good to know, I guess. Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is a game that speaks loud and says very little. Put overemphasized, vapid, childish imagery next to an Oscar-nominated work of art, and tell me that Ranko isn't holding back its Short Peace associates.

Of course, I came to play the game, not to watch unrealistic and poorly written characters flail about, so I pressed onward, hoping to have the bad taste washed out of my mouth. If only it were that simple.

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Once you're in control of speedy Ranko, you're encouraged to sprint as fast as possible to avoid an imposing demon trailing behind you. Ranko is quick on her feet, but she has to contend with environmental hazards and enemies mid-sprint, attacking, jumping, and sliding at the right moment to avoid losing momentum. Fail to keep up the pace, and you risk death at the hands of your pursuers, although a quick shot from a pistol that recharges as you kill enemies can save you in a pinch.

On paper, I can get behind the concept of Ranko's mechanics, but the execution is where it falls to pieces. When you're sprinting at full speed, you occasionally trip over enemies that unfairly blend into the background. I often came to a halt, and only then did I see the enemy that caused me to stop in place. After repeatedly starting and stopping in these situations, I tried to contend with my disadvantages as best as I could by slowing down, but that took away one of the only enjoyable aspects of Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day: speed.

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When you're moving at a decent clip, successfully jumping off the tip-top of ramps onto hard-to-reach platforms, sliding under obstacles, and turning enemy robots into colorful explosions of patterned streamers, the game hits its stride, for sure. However, such tightly orchestrated moments were few and far between during the four stages that I played, and once you get the ability to slowly hover toward the ground from the top of a leap, you can bypass huge swaths of track with ease. When the game gives me an ability, I use it, but hovering felt like cheating in the most boring way possible. I gave up trying to enjoy Ranko once I realized I was, for the most part, just holding down a single button during most of the gameplay sections. There's little substance to be found in the first half of the game, and certainly nothing new or exciting to latch onto.

Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is a game that speaks loud and says very little.

I was told that there's more to Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day, including a motorcycle sequence that's similar to bike scenes from early Mega Man X games, and a side-scrolling shooter section, but unless the developers saved the best for last, I'm not sure a vehicle or two will be able to save the rest of the game if you have to trudge through mediocrity to get there. After experiencing half of what Ranko Tsukigime has to offer, I feel the whole experience would have been better if it weren't a game at all.

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    Peter Brown

    Peter is a Senior Editor at GameSpot who's passionate about gaming hardware and game preservation.
    Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day

    Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day

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