GamingReview: ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman

Review: ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman

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To truly grasp what sort of game ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman is, look no further than the intro cinematic. It immediately jumps into several different comedic conversations regarding a grandiose epic battle, which, for some reason, involve a baby that will decide the fate of the world. Right out of the gate, I was ready to be taken on whatever whacky ride Nippon Ichi Software had planned. And by the end of the game, I was positively enamored with it.

ZHP is a tactical RPG that was first released in 2010 on the PSP. 12 years later, it has been ported to both Steam and the Nintendo Switch as part of the NIS classics volume 2.

Story

Synopsis

The story begins with a prophecy dictating that an unapparelled danger is destined to befall the earth should an unnamed baby die. The baby, who was born on the 6th day of the 6th month at 6AM, is also sighted as having godly powers which can prevent the apocalypse. The citizens of the world imaginatively dub her as Super Baby, and herald her as their saviour.

Unfortunately, the Super Baby is kidnapped by the villain known as Demon General Darkdeath Evilman. He plans to kill her and end the world before she can become of age to save it. However, a hero by the name of Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger aims to stop that by fighting General Darkdeath head on.

Sadly, our hero never makes it to the final confrontation. He is struck by a car on the way to the battle and left on the brink of death. He hands his Morph Belt to a passer-by who now has the impossible task of trying to defeat Darkdeath in his place. That poor soul turns out to be our main character and, unsurprisingly, they are swiftly defeated.

Shortly thereafter, our main character is sent on a training course at the Hero Training Facility. This is a space station ran by the World Hero Society who wants to help our character to become a fully-fledged hero. It then becomes our ultimate goal to become powerful enough to defeat General Darkdeath.

Parody

The great thing about ZHP is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s more than willing to poke fun at itself, as well as other titles that it is clearly inspired by. There are countless 4th wall breaking moments that give a nod to shows like Dragon Ball and games like Final Fantasy. As a fan of classic 90s era JRPGs, I found the parody elements to the story to be highly entertaining.

The narrative itself is purposefully barebones in order to enhance the comedic structure. However, if you aren’t familiar with what they are attempting to parody, then it may end up falling flat completely. Thankfully, the gameplay more than makes up for any shortcomings that can be had with the story.

Gameplay

Combat Sequences

In ZHP, you traverse through randomly generated dungeons. Each dungeon consists of a series of floors that are filled with different monsters to fight. The final floor contains a unique boss which you must defeat in order to complete the dungeon.

Combat takes place on a grid and operates on a rougelite turn-based system. There are a number of different actions your character can perform including attacking, moving, casting special abilities, throwing an item and grabbing an enemy. Doing any of these will causes your energy bar to deplete. Thus, it is important to strategize your moves ahead of time otherwise you risk dying.

Items are littered around the map which are useful for taking on the hordes of enemies. These include things like weapons, armour and consumables. Armour and weapons also come with some special features which provide things like stat boosts or new abilities. As carrying space is limited, you have to decide which items you want to keep for your current situation.

Though you don’t keep levels gained inside dungeons, your character does have a True Level which will persists. Your True Level records your base stats which determines how powerful you are at the start of each dungeon. In essence, the more dungeons you grind, the stronger your baseline will become.

Outside of dungeons you’ll spend time at the Hero Training Facility. There are various different buildings here that will help you on your journey. For instance, your home allows you to store any gear you found during your dungeon so you don’t lose it if you die. Whereas the Dark Clinic allows you to modify your body in order to improve your base stats modifier.

Gameplay Thoughts

The combat in ZHP is both engaging and extensive. The various items you have at your disposal, and vast range of enemies, ensure you won’t suffer from combat exhaustion. It’s worth keeping in mind though that you are expected to die a lot. If you feel like this may aggravate you, then it’s recommended that you skip this title entirely.

Sadly, there is a lot of content that has been cut from this port. The original PSP version had 13 additional dungeons based around popular animes of the time. These included Toradora, Spice and Wolf, and A Certain Magical Index to name just a few. As far as I can tell, these were cut due to expired licences. This is rather disappointing as I would have loved to haven given these a shot. Unfortunately though, it’s unlikely they’ll be added back anytime soon.

Art Style

The graphical aspect of ZHP can be broken up into two different categories. Firstly, we have the pixel aesthetic which is used to represent all of the characters and monsters in the game. The designs of these work in tandem with the zany story, as each character is branded with outlandish outfits. It’s truly astonishing and admirable the depth of variety in regards to the character artwork. The same principles are also applied to the monster designs which all look great in their own way.

Opposite of the characters are the environments which make use of standard 3D models. While there is a wide range of different styles and landscapes, they haven’t translated particularly well to a higher resolution screen. On my standard 1920×1080 monitor, they look really rough around the edges. This doesn’t appear to be a problem on the Switch though, so keep that in mind.

A similar issue can also be seen in the characters. When the camera zooms in on them, they appear blurry and out of focus. While this isn’t massively annoying, it can be a little distracting at times. These are issues that could have easily been tackled for the port, but for whatever reason, was simply overlooked.

Audio   

As you’d expect from a NIS soundtrack, the music is absolutely incredible. Masaharu Iwata and Manabu Namiki have composed excellent SNES inspired tracks which encapsulate the jovial nature of the game. The theme for the Unlosing Ranger is one of my personal favourites, and it’s been stuck in my head for days now.

One thing that I wasn’t expecting from ZHP was incredible voice acting. However, to my surprise, the entire cast performances capture the script perfectly. There were numerous times that they had me laughing out loud with the way they delivered the dialogue. It was only after I completed the game that I found out the cast was comprised of talent such as Kyle Hebert. I would have loved for the entire game to be voiced, but I understand that’s an unreasonable request for, what was, a PSP game.

Conclusion

ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman is one of the more enjoyable parody games I have played in recent years. The story is full of genuine comedic moments that left me smiling and laughing throughout my playthrough. While the port does suffer from some graphical issues and cut content, there is enough depth and replayability to keep even the most veteran of players engaged. In short, what Conkers Bad Fur Day was for pop culture, ZHP is for JRPGs and anime.

SUMMARY

+ Comedic story
+ Tactical gameplay
+ Replayability
- Graphical issues
- Cut content
(This was reviewed on Steam. It is also available on Nintendo Switch and PSP.)
Lee Fairweather
Lee Fairweather
A lifelong video game lover, turned games journalist and historian. You can find me playing on anything from a PC, all the way back to the MegaDrive.

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Review: ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman+ Comedic story <br \> + Tactical gameplay <br \> + Replayability <br \> - Graphical issues <br \> - Cut content <br \> (This was reviewed on Steam. It is also available on Nintendo Switch and PSP.)