PSP: Z.H.P: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman
Published by NIS America
Developed by Nippon Ichi Soft
Rated T for Teens
The Good: Over the top and funny story, Great Customization Options That Are Seemingly Endless, Amazing Soundtrack, Tons of Extras
The Bad: The Comedy is not for everyone, Grinding can get tedious, Minor Graphical Issues
Have you ever played an RPG and always wondered why the last boss never just came and killed the protagonist right at the start? What would happen if that occurred? The villain would succeed, right? That is not the case in ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman. When the world and its savior Super Baby are being threatened by Demon General Darkdeath Evilman, only you, the newly appointed Unlosing Ranger can hope to defeat him. Wait, newly appointed? That is right, you were just an ordinary bystander who became the Unlosing Ranger after witnessing the previous one’s untimely demise. With his dying words, he asks you to fight the last boss in his place. Not having a choice in the matter, off you go to save the world. While millions are watching to see what their fates will be following the conclusion of this battle, the Unlosing Ranger appears before Darkdeath Evilman and tries his hardest to fight him. Unsurprisingly, you, as the weakest main hero in existence, get defeated leaving Super Baby alone to just defend against the last boss’s attacks. You then find yourself in a place much like Earth, except this one will be your training grounds. Welcome to the world known as Bizarro Earth! This is where the World Hero Society trains its heroes to be their best. After being introduced to your instructor, Etranger, your real adventure begins. It will take the weakest main character to the strongest to have you finally save the world as the Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger!
Did you get all that? Right from the start, you can tell the game does not take itself all that seriously and is more comedic when it comes to the plot, much like other games made by NIS. The entire story is over the top and often breaks the fourth wall at attempts at humor. An example of this is when some of the characters complain that the battle screen looks poor and that if they had a higher budget, it would look better. These moments occur often and I found myself always looking forward to what was going to come next. The game being full of anime and gaming cliches, it makes you feel like you are playing your very own Saturday morning cartoon. It provides for a fantastic, funny experience that it nails brilliantly. It knows it is not going to win any awards for stellar storytelling, but instead it takes you along an enjoyable ride that is sure to provide some chuckles.
While you may be accompanied by Etranger and Pirohiko, ghost of the previous Unlosing Ranger, you fight through the dungeons alone. It is a turn-based dungeon crawler. Each action you take, your enemies also get an action. Be aware that each action you take also depletes your energy and should you not eat, you will starve to death. Enemies will leave you alone unless you wander into their field of vision which is a good indicator that you should prepare yourself. Rest assured, you are more than adequately prepared to defeat your foes in the dungeons. There is almost an innumerable amount of equipment each with their own skills and abilities to be found in this game, whether from laying around the dungeon itself, stealing, or it being a random drop from a foe. From guns to spears to Prinny hats, it is likely in the game in some form. This provides a great opportunity to really customize what your character will look like and tailor him to your own tastes. It is very much like you are creating your own hero. However, your weapons and accessories do not last forever. They degrade over time until they completely break in which case you will have to repair it or simply pick up a new weapon while in a dungeon. Also, be aware that should you die, you lose your equipment and items. However, you do keep the experience your acquired at the stat bonuses that come with it.
In ZHP, there is your total level and your current level. Your total level is an accumulation of all of your levels while your current level is the one you achieve in a dungeon. For example, you can be only level 15 in a dungeon, but your total level can be 300. It may not seem like it matters, but you have all the stat bonuses from leveling up to 300 as opposed to your total level only being level 15. So essentially, you can be level 1, but with incredibly high stats.
In addition to your abilities and your level in the dungeon, you can also improve your weapons and even mod your character back at your base. This is done through utilizing your different facilities. Some of them can even be called upon in a dungeon. Running low on food and you cannot seem to find any? No problem. Call upon your wife, yes, your wife, and she will come to you quickly and make a lunch for you. Tired of losing your equipment each time you die? There is a facility to save some of your equipment depending on how much you invest. Trudging through a dungeon wishing you could escape it? You guessed it, there is a caravan facility that does just that. Many other facilities exist; so much like your equipment, it is all according to your personal tastes.
The game can be challenging and make no mistake, this game requires grinding, but I never found it be too much that you cannot enjoy it. It is fast and quick; so even while it may get repetitive, it was nothing too extreme. All the dungeons are randomly generated so while things may be similar, they are never quite the same. I found that this really kept things fresh while you are dungeon crawling because there is always that unexpected element present. It was nice never knowing what I would face on the different floors and prevent it from becoming too monotonous.
Combat does its best to mix things up with the amount of weapons and skills that you can utilize. It was always fun just to see what a new weapon would look like as well as its abilities. I also appreciated the fact that dying was not the end of the world. While losing your equipment when you die and always going back to level 1, whether you died or not, may seem harsh, I never felt that the game was unfair.
I must confess, I typically dislike games that require you to grind for days on end, but I found myself having trouble putting this game down. With over 15 extra dungeons to go through, you will find yourself rather busy. There is just so much to do and so many different ways to customize your hero and base that you can spend hours just getting it the way you want it. I would always discover one new weapon that I really liked and would work on making it the best it could be only to find something else. I really appreciated the amount of customization that there was in this game. It is a blast eradicating your foes with the huge arsenal at your disposal and it is amazing all that they packed into this game. It was a marvelous experience from start to finish.
From the different dungeons to your home base, everything is vibrant and colorful. All of the main characters and enemies are sprite based and look like they were taken right from Disgaea, but that is not such a bad thing. The characters look great and they are very lively and well animated. I really appreciated the detail that went into this game. No weapon looks exactly the same as another. It is a great feeling going to equip something new and knowing that it is not just going to be a different color of a weapon you had already. I applaud the amount of effort that it took animating all of these weapons and other accessories onto so many different sprites. Even in battle, the skills are very flashy, colorful, and are just a joy to watch. You may find yourself using them just to see them in action again.
Another aspect of the graphics that I enjoyed was when you go up against Darkdeath Evilman. When you first fight him, the graphics are akin to the 8-bit Dragon Warrior graphics, but as you progress in the game, the graphics slowly get better and better. It was like a walk through gaming history and I felt it was really a nice touch. However, it is not completely perfect. The sprites, while they look good, there are instances where the game zooms up on them and they look blurry and very pixelated. Other graphical issues such as characters being able to go into the scenery and perspective issues exist. This means that even if I have something equipped in my right hand, if I look in a certain direction, it is obviously in my left hand. There is also an outline on the sprites on some of the backgrounds. While these are not major issues, they are still very noticeable.
Even if the rest of the game was trash, there is one factor that would save it from being sent to the dump, the soundtrack. It is easily one of the best that I have heard on the PSP. From your typical hero theme music to the boss music to the lyrical songs, it is all superb. Many of these tunes will get stuck in your head for days and you will find yourself eagerly wanting to listen to them again. In addition to the excellent soundtrack, you are presented with great voice acting and a lot of it. Looking back, I am surprised at the amount of it they were able to fit into it considering everything else in the game. The sound effects are all well done too. Each category of weapon sounds different and many of the skills give the satisfying sound of a major impact. In addition, all enemies have a different death cry as well. When it comes to sound, ZHP easily has one of the best.
ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman is a game that everyone should at least try once, if only for the ridiculousness of it all. It aims to be a grindfest RPG of epic proportions with endless combinations. It accomplishes its goal and then some. If grindfests are not your thing, at least give it a try, this may be the one that draws you in.