Realm of the Dead

 

While out having lunch with my brother and father, we popped into Asda for a bit of browsing. Unfortunately, not a lot was awfully intriguing, and the things that were interesting just got our usual "I'll see if I can borrow that/download that" because we're a bunch of cheapskate bastards. Besides, 15 for the Doom movie? Screw that, Amazon has it better, at the expense of having to wait a week for its arrival.

 

The PS2 game selection was pretty abysmal, but one game was examined by every one of us.

 

Realm of the Dead.

 

We'd just been talking about zombies earlier on, so crappy cover artwork aside, it looked very intriguing. But 10? Not only would that make it the most expensive PS2 game I'd bought so far, but would also be rather risky. What if it's shit? But at the same time, my interest was grasped by it, and I felt it would fade away if I went home without it, even though I could've got it cheaper online. Additionally, that would add a layer of suspense in waiting for it to arrive. What to do!?

 

I bought it. It took ten frigging minutes for the counter boy to get the disc and manual, and in the end he ended up getting two manuals stuck to the back of each other, but it was mine now.


Gameplay

The game, in a nutshell, is a beat-em-up. It calls itself an action game because the term "beat-em-up" is never used in public nowadays, but it's a beat-em-up for certain. You walk around, you hit enemies, pick up items, fight a boss, rinse and repeat. It's a beat-em-up!

 

You can tell the game is hardcore because THERE'S BLOOD.

Of course, it's unpopular for having simplicity in games these days, so there's a bit more to it. There are two main attack buttons, weak and strong, and as you progress through the game, you obtain more moves to use with combinations of the two buttons, although a majority of them are just too clunky to be used in frantic combat. To add further help are two special attacks; Special 1 is mainly used to stun enemies and give yourself a chance to escape, but it's really not that good as it does shit damage, by the time you can move again the enemies are getting up, and later on when the enemies are immune to being knocked down, it's a bit of a waste. Special 2 is a lot more useful, as it does incredible damage and knocks down whatever can be knocked down, but on the downside, it takes forever to refill, as you have to use a Death Lock to refill the gauge (fancy terms for sticking your weapon in a knocked down enemy).

 

Aside from attacking, you can also guard with a hold of the R1 button. While you need to hold this and hit the weak attack button to use the Death Lock, otherwise it's pretty pointless, as the only enemies that can be guarded against can be killed in seconds flat before they can even harm you, and around world 5, there's no enemy you can guard against. On the contrary, around about all enemies can guard against you by then, so things are pretty delightful!

 

After a stage is completed, you can visit a shopkeeper and upgrade your equipment to give you more power, increase your

This movie scene is actually pretty hilarious, as the wolves just materialise out of the ground and leap on the villager and devour him with the worst pacing and effects ever.

 maximum health, reduce risk of catching fire or poison, or speed up the health recovery process (which is never fast ever). However, halfway through the game upgrading becomes rather pointless due to the lack of real strategy, so you're best off just buying items, which consist of health potions, antidotes for status affects, and bombs of varying effects with terrible range.

 

While trekking through the six worlds, you'll come across notes and documents that are meant to be like those from Resident Evil by expanding on the plot, but end up coming across as non sequiturs. For example, late in the game you come across a "Forbidden Report" that shows a few doodles of a body with a disconnected arm and a couple of melting faces, and a doctor's report that uses the word "unidentified" four times in the two sentence letter and doesn't actually tell us a thing aside from the reason for zombification being unidentified. The comical matter is elevated further by the fact these are just found in random barrels and boxes, and not someplace one would likely find them. You know, like a drawer.

 

That's the nicest the visuals get, sadly.

The biggest problem of all for gameplay, however, is the addition of enemies that there is simply no strategy for beating. Around world 5, a new variation of wolves are introduced that can do dash attacks, hurt you when recoiling, and can attack immediately after you finish a combo, and due to the tendency for enemies to attack in groups, this gets annoying pretty damn quickly. The only easy way I found to kill them was to use my valuable Special 2, which would lower them down to just a few swipes away from death, but if there were any more in the stage, I'd need to resort to other, flaw-abusing means. And then there are the flea knights! They could fly out of bounds before swooping down with a heavy attack, can leap out of range with ease, and love to keep you in a corner until you die. And they can't be knocked down. Naturally, these two enemy kinds were in plentiful amounts backing up the penultimate boss, just to remove any chance of actually enjoying the game at any point.

 

Oh, and there's no 2-Player. Prepare for massive frustration!


Less important stuff

Upon starting the game, you're treated to an introduction that features absolutely no animation at all, outside of generic 3D effects and static images moving around. All but the defeated boss movie scenes are this way; those are just terrible 3D models on a black background collapsing into heaps; and from a review I read of the related anime, it even uses static images frequently. On one hand, it can be considered artistic, but on the other, it can just be seen as lazy assing. It's not like Idea Factory, the creators of the game, are known for being all that great, judging from Amazon.co.jp reviews.

 

This is one of the screenshots on the back of the box. Thought I'd say.

And yes, despite the lack of number or subtitle or anything, Realm of the Dead was originally titled Bakuen Kakusei: Neverland Senki Zero, and as the third word suggests, is from a series of games known as Neverland, which mostly consists of strategy games. I know nothing about them aside from the fact that they love using ugly prerendered graphics. The more you know!

 

Although the intro has a pretty rad J-rock song, the rest of the soundtrack is as generic as fantasy soundtracks can be, and is barely audible half of the time, both because of the constant battle sounds that rarely vary, but also simply because it's pretty bland and quiet. Accompanying it appropriately are graphics that aren't awful, but just don't stand out well at all. There's nothing really distinctive or amazing about them; they get the job done, but like a lot of 3D games, just aren't that distinctive. If it were a 2D game, I would at least be able to comment "wow, eight frames of animation for walking!" or something like that'd because I'm a super nerd.

 

BUY SOMETHIN' WILL YA!

For being a shallow beat-em-up, it's surprising Idea Factory even bothered to put in a complex plot, but they only went halfway on it. The story at the start, the nonsensical conversations ("I hear Mea has a twin sister."), the notes and the completely unrelated endings are all you get as a story. What I gathered from it is that the Count used parasites or a disease (it always varies) to recruit the dead as his army, and several people have gone missing, so the three main characters are set out to take care of the matter. Further confusing matters is the fact the box says the plot is to "rescue a noble Count", while the manual states he has been missing for some time and is the prime suspect for the zombies popping up. Due to the inconsistencies and the general lack of knowledge on what's going on, one wonders why they even bothered, outside of it simply being tradition for games to have plots.

 

One of the major problems I find is that the levels are in serious need of variety. The first world is in your typical burning village, and then it enters a sewer and a castle and a cave for the next ten levels and it really put a downer on what felt like progress, as it takes forever for the character to actually leave those boring, closed in spaces and onto a burning bridge for a whole one stage before returning to another castle.

 

And completing the game doesn't earn you anything. Not even a level select to revisit the levels that were actually good.


Final thoughts

The biggest problem of all for the game, however, isn't the unnecessary story, the cheap gameplay, or any of that nitpicking.

 

It's the fact that the game could've been good.

 

The character designs are surprisingly good, and even the enemies, whom you can never see too clearly thanks to the camera, are grotesque and imaginative, such as the female troll with a withered corpse strapped to her back who supplies magical attacks. The environments, although very dull in comparison and don't look that good, if executed nicely they could create an immersive environment, and if the gameplay were tweaked significantly, it could've been more enjoyable than my attitude of "I'm completing this just so I can bitch about every aspect" while playing it. Even if it were simplified to 1989 degrees where it would essentially become a retooled Final Fight, there'd be a chance I'd like it more because I would have less to nag about.

 

And a little multi-player never hurt anyone. Seriously.

 

In summary, it's not that good. You're enlightened now!

 


BONSU!!!

Here's some of the movies scenes that will probably get my YouTube account suspended. They kinda lack sound because my file converter sucks, but it's not like you're missing out on much; just some dreary Japanese narration and bland orchestra.

| Story | Hiro's ending | Greezer's ending | Lyra's ending |