Monday, March 16, 2015

Zombie Incident (3DS eShop) Review

SuperPhillip Central continues its look at digital delights with a new Nintendo 3DS eShop game. This title released early this month, Zombie Incident. It is a game with roots to the MSX, but it's not as old as you may think. See what I mean with my review.

Zombie Accident

It's amazing what a person can do with old hardware. No, I'm not talking about the Nintendo 3DS-- I am talking about the MSX, which you may know one of its popular titles under the name of "Metal Gear." Even to this day hobbyists who have chosen their trade as coders are building brand-new games with the limited capabilities of older hardware. One such example is Nenefranz, a Spanish developer who created Zombie Incident. Now, Nintendo 3DS owners get the chance to try out this game thanks to the porting duties of CoderChild. Is the end result one that successfully reaches for the stars?

In Zombie Incident, your goal as Nana, the player character, is to seek through 64 rooms of a citadel in search for eight special stars. Once these have been collected, the goal then is to return to the beginning area of the game. Of course, nothing can be simple when your game's name is Zombie Incident. No, infesting the corridors and rooms of the citadel are undead creatures, such as bats, birds, spiders, caterpillars, and yes, zombies.

Zombie Incident is a bit like a Metroid game just without gaining new abilities. You run and jump around the citadel's 64 rooms with limited power, but as you defeat enemies you earn experience that allows you to grow stronger. However, at the beginning of the game, most monsters will be invincible to Nana's attacks. Depending on a creature's color, it is determined whether Nana can take that foe out or not. As Nana acquires experience and gains levels, she can take out foes that were previously too strong for her offensive advances.

Under a crescent moon, who knows
what horrors await Nana?
Thankfully the map on the bottom screen is a massive help to the player. Just like the amount of rooms in the citadel, there are 64 quadrants on the map. Each is a different color, representing if Nana can clear the room or not. For instance, a red room indicates that there is at least one enemy in that room that Nana is too weak to defeat; whereas a green room shows that while the room hasn't been removed of enemies, it's quite possible to do so as the enemies inside are now vulnerable. Blue rooms have been expunged of enemies completely.

In Zombie Incident, there are eight rooms that have gated doors in them, and the primary objective is for Nana to defeat all of the enemies inside these rooms for the doors to open. Inside these doors are one of eight stars that are required to beat the game. These rooms also serve as save points, though there's the caveat that when you save, your exact health is saved, too. What this amounts to is that if you have low health when you reach one of these rooms, you can essentially screw yourself over on beating the game. Running around with one or two slivers of health is basically suicide in Zombie Incident. Not fair and not fun.

One of the eight stars that Nana must acquire.
Unfortunately, even the actual fun of Zombie Incident is short lived. The game has competent replay value, allowing for repeated attempts to score big points and land on a much welcomed online leaderboard, but the actual gameplay grows tedious quite quickly. Nana's only means of attack is to jump on enemies. Many times enemies require multiple jumps, some over a half-dozen. When attacked, enemies have invincibility frames that render them impossible to hit for a second or two. This means jumping on the noggin of a foe once, having to wait a second or two for them to be able to get hit again, jumping on the foe, waiting, jumping, waiting, etc. until the enemy is defeated. Not that much fun.

For flying foes, this is especially annoying because they will often move while invincible to a location in the room where the ceiling is too low, making trying to attack them a fool's errand. Worse yet, they'll stay in an area where you can only damage them if you take a hit yourself in the process. Seeing as many enemies can rejuvenate health, this can become mighty annoying.

Get away from me, you bag of bones!
Being an MSX game ported to the Nintendo 3DS, the citadel of Zombie Incident is split up between 64 individual screens rather than being one continuous scrolling area. This means that when you jump to a new screen, you're very likely to be hit by an enemy because you weren't psychic and didn't know where the enemy would be located.

The transition between rooms is instantaneous. There's no time to get your bearings, so in the case of jumping up from the top of one screen to the bottom of another can easily result in falling back to the screen below because you couldn't correctly guess where a platform was. It's a limitation of the MSX hardware perhaps, but that doesn't make it forgivable nonetheless.

You can knock Zombie Incident for a lot of
things, but don't talk bad about its presentation.
Zombie Incident looks and runs fantastically. The stereoscopic 3D is used to great effect, though Nana and enemy sprites don't pop out at you. Instead, only the walls, ceilings, floors and other platforms do. It doesn't ruin the 3D effect, but to save my eyesight, I had to keep the 3D slider down midway. The music of Zombie Incident is suitably catchy and delivers remarkable retro goodness, which is greatly appreciated.

Even with all of its problems and all of my gripes with the game, Zombie Incident can't be blasted totally. It's mighty impressive how one person coded and developed the MSX original and now being able to play it on the Nintendo 3DS.  The game is only $1.99, and it can be viewed as a small price to pay for the annoyances that come into play. Still, they add up, and leaping on enemies over and over again and backtracking through rooms repeatedly can grate on the average player. It just depends on whether you have more patience than I apparently did.

[SPC Says: C-] 

Review copy provided by CoderChild.

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