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SHORT PEACE: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day
Score: 79%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: Crispy's Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Shooter/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
SHORT PEACE: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day was designed as a 5 part omnibus representing various aspects of Japanese culture. In many ways, it succeeds in its mission. The first 4 parts are short anime films depicting an ancient version of Japan and a future version of Japan. Whatever cultural elements it misses with those films, the game Ranko TsukigimeĎs Longest Day comes in to scoop up the rest and pile them into a giant mess of Japanese pop-culture tropes and themes.

The styles of the anime and game vary quite a bit. "POSSESSIONS," for example, uses CGI models with animated skins to make a very realistic, but still very anime-like style. "COMBUSTIBLE" is particularly beautiful as well. It goes from animated water-color scrolls to a more realistic style later on. It really makes the ancient Japan you often see in story books come alive.

Again, while each anime tends to stick to its own individual style, the game goes wild with different exaggerations on pop-culture media and anime styles. Sometimes you get the cel-shaded Ranko appearing in cut scenes between levels. Sometimes you get classic animated scenes. And sometimes you get style changes several times during a scenes, often for humorous effect. Animators will just start putting the weirdest faces on everyone that in no way match the voice acting. It reminds me a bit of the Sailor Moon: Moon Animate Make Up! project where several artists reworked one classic Sailor Moon episode.

While everything tends to be a grab bag for style, there are still parts of the Longest Day game that tend to fall flat. For example, the sprites in the side-scroller parts of the game are extremely tiny and hard to make out. The backgrounds are also so repetitive that even though the game is short overall, it had me wondering when the scenery was going to change.

The music, like the art styles, tend to vary quite a bit, but is well done throughout this group of work. Still, if youíre a fan of Japanese games and anime, thereís nothing that will particularly stand out here. Thereís a bit of jazz here, a bit of rock there, and traditional Japanese acoustics as well. The voicework is solid as well, expressing all the varied emotion that goes into a work like this.


Gameplay:
SHORT PEACE: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day takes you through several gameplay styles including a sidescroller, a bullet-hell type shooter, and a platformer. The short story for this part of Short Peace is that Ranko is on a mission to kill her father in order to avenge her mother. On the way, she fights demons, her friend is turned into a fierce dragon with hearts in its scales, and a Pomeranian serves as the announcer for a fight between Ranko and her father. Check off the anime trope list for: lolita fashion, high school girl, high school girl assassin, bizarre weapon, Moe triggers, Cosplay, Sentai, Lucha Libre Wrestlers (what?), Three-eyed girls, and attempting to murder multiple family members in messed up ways. Ok, some of that might not be typical, but Longest Day is all about throwing everything at you.

So the whole "This is so bizarre, look how unexpected this is" thing may not work on everyone. I feel as though itís funny as an inside joke to fans of Japanese culture, but to me, if it doesnít make some kind of sense, it gets old quickly. And so while talking Pomeranians, Luche Libre wrestlers, and a panty-powered school girl might sound like it can go somewhere funny, sometimes it really just feels thrown together. Yes, for all the gifs this short game may have spawned, there really is little backstory to any of them. This is not to dismiss all the humorous parts of the game, because it does get really hilarious. Itís just that the disconnected nature of everything doesnít work for me when it spans the entire length of a game or anime. But hey, I do like Ranko's sniper rifle violin. That's just cool.

Longest Day is a very short game, and only part of this package designed to represent Japanese culture, so on to the anime. The first anime, "POSSESSIONS," depicts a traveling man in what is at least early 1900's garb. He stops to rest in a small shrine, but soon discovers that the old objects littering the shrine have taken on a spirit of their own. Somehow not fazed by the poltergeists surrounding him, he realizes the objects simply long to be useful again. He repairs old umbrellas and reuses discarded fabric, eventually calming the spirits and enabling him to leave. Itís sometimes a little frightening, but overall a nice lesson in respecting things and your environment.

"GAMBO" is the next anime, with a more disturbing tone to it. Itís "messed up" to say the least. The basic premise of this story is that a demon has been pillaging a village, abducting young girls until only one remained. That young girl goes into the forest and asks a white bear to slay the demon. The anime goes in and out between some pretty disgusting gore and the rest of the story, but it really feels like almost fetishized gore - almost a grindhouse film. Where you would expect a moral or a reason for the bear or the demonís actions, you get very little. Then itís back to the blood spraying, freaky demon pregnancy, and bone snapping. Not my cup of tea exactly, and mind you, I donít shy away from gore. It just feels like this is over the top for no real reason. Then again, there may be a lot that I'm missing, culturally, from this story as well. Was there something significant about a white bear and a demon in particular? It would have been nice if an explanation of the cultural context would have been offered.

Of the remaining two films which include "A Farewell to Weapons" and "COMBUSTIBLE," my favorite has to be "COMBUSTIBLE." It takes you back to 18th century Japan in the city of Edo and depicts the story of two children, Owaka and Matsukichi, who grow up as neighbors. I laugh a bit at descriptions of this being an "epic" or "spectacular" tale. True, it is a tale of love that can never be, and it is rather heart-wrenching in the end. Still, the turning point in the story is when Owaka merely walks away from a fire she accidentally starts. The fire that arises may be spectacular, but the main themes of the story are concepts you have to contemplate on your own; They arenít necessarily jumping out at you through the dialogue or the action. Speaking of fires, youíll also get a lesson on how they fought fires in those times without access to fire hydrants or protective equipment. It really is a great tale of Japanese ingenuity as well.

"A Farewell to Weapons" has a good premise in theory, and it looks really great, but again itís one of those anime where it just doesnít really come together as a whole. It follows a military-ops crew in what I assume is a far off future Japan. It seems the cities are unlivable, with the still deadly weapons of an old war roaming the derelict streets. The crewís mission seems to be to deactivate the weapons, but that mission is far from simple. As the crew suffers casualties and tech difficulties, it follows a kind of "wow that was cool" to "wow that turns my stomach for no reason" formula. In the end, itís a good adventure with lots of action, but also a few messages to think about. War is hell, especially when its weapons live on to continue the war. Hereís a story where a team of people will risk their lives fighting the ghost of a war that ended long ago - a pretty existential tale if you ask me.


Difficulty:
SHORT PEACE: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is not a particularly long game, but it can be very difficult in some sections. Many sections require fast reflexes, but they get easier if you memorize the routes after several attempts. The platformer sections, in particular, feel like theyíre taking you back to the old-school difficulty camp. Thereís little forgiveness for mistakes here. Luckily, the game is short enough that itís not absolutely devastating to have to start over. Annoying, yes, but not the end of the world.

Game Mechanics:
Though some sections are tedious, SHORT PEACE: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day controls just fine. You wonít be held back by the way the game operates once you get used to it. True, some sections seem a little unfair, but after a short learning curve, itís simple to jump, move, and shoot anything Ranko may come across.

SHORT PEACE is a little unusual in the sense that itís not just a game, itís a cultural exhibition. If you view it like that, itís easy to see the value in it. I may not have enjoyed some of the more disturbing parts of the collection, but I still feel like going back to re-watch and gain more understanding of each work. There really is a lot under the surface. As for the game portion, Longest Day, there might just be too much going on under the surface, but itís still a lot of fun.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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