Review – Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition (XBLA)

ESRB: T for Teen
Players: One-Two
Genre: First Person Shooter / Brawler
Publisher: ATLUS
Developer: ACE Team
Release Date: March, 2010


I don’t know what happened. Don’t ask me. I seriously don’t know where it all went wrong, to be honest with you. I just know that Atlus had captured my heart years ago with Disgaea and I truly believed they could do no wrong. They snatched up a corner of the market in adorable sprite-based tactical games and were also the ones who had taken Shin Megami Tensei and made it work. They were, at least to me, the go-to guys for Japanese-marketed chaos and I loved that about them. I should’ve seen it start going haywire around the time of Rule of Rose, the survival horror game that seriously left you with a feeling of “WTF” that took weeks to shake. Beautiful designed, eerie to a fault and obscure? It was the first in a lineage to take what we knew about Atlus and throw it upside down.
It’s with this in mind, that I took up Zeno Clash with some high hopes. Everything I’d looked at for the title swore that it was something new, something heavy and absolutely nothing like you ever saw before. That’s not true though, because I’ve seen plenty of games that started strong and with a fantastic concept just to trip over the starting line. That was what Zeno Clash did to me, it tripped over itself and could never fully recover it’s place in the race.
Taking place in the world known as “Zenozoik“, you essentially play a boy named Ghat who has some pretty crummy brothers and sisters. As if this wasn’t already kind of vague enough, you find that you’re all raised by something called “Father-Mother” and once it’s killed, it’s known that you were the one that did it by waking up after an explosion goes off. This is essentiall the beginning of an insanely confusing plot. I seriously didn’t understand a lot and once the female was introduced? I understood even less.
Let’s be honest here, this game wasn’t about story. If they tried to sell it as such, they were wrong. This game was all about the idea of a First-Person Brawler. Which, coupled with the art-direction which is superb, it could’ve had some feet on that surface alone. The thing of it is, once you get past the monotony of the brawler and you’re done being wow’d by the beauty in the level design — there is nothing left. The multiplayer options are weak at best, which a level-grinding co-op mode that seems pretty fruitless to even attempt. The controls manage to keep you at least somewhat grounded, but the actual fighting seems clunky and no amount of updated moves make it better. This game is a good beta concept for the idea of FPS/Brawlers, but it falls flat other than that.
To be fair, this isn’t all Atlus. This is first-time developer ACE Team‘s baby and Atlus just jumped on the revolutionary bandwagon way before the wheels were screwed on. My only true plead with Atlus and ACE Team is that they take this concept back to the chopping block and clean it up. Redo the story, clean up the fighting and give us a reason to want Ghat to push through this world.
Because, as of right now, I could care less who is clashing with any Zeno. Whatever the hell that is.
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