(sorry, but this was the closest thing to Safe for Work substitute for a cover that I could come up with)
Here we are now at part 3 of the Games for Adults Halloween 2011 reviews. Well, we’ve covered vampires so now we’re moving on to another major monster, the zombies. Wait don’t click that back button, this isn’t what you’re thinking…well, okay maybe a little of what you’re thinking but this doesn’t involve the undead kind of zombies (though I’m guessing that’s not very reassuring) but rather the living infected kind like the Las Plagas of Resident Evil 4 and 5 or the zombies of 28 Days Later. Released April 21, 2006 by Speed, Kansen ~Inyoku no Rensa~ would be the first in what is currently a series of four games (soon to be five come November) depicting a new type of zombie plague in modern Japan. Clocking in at about 10-30 hours of length, Kansen has certainly proven to be an interesting read and has me very curious about the rest of the series.
Pros: Interesting story, core cast is pretty well written and explored, diverse plot per route, good CG artwork.
Cons: Character portrait artwork isn’t all that great at times, glitchy sounds at some points, game system feels dated, can only save one heroine per route.
WTF?!: A zombie Eminem?!?!
In Kansen you play primarily from the point of view of Yasuyuki Katou, a silly but all around good natured student as he and his friends at the school’s Movie Research Club enjoy an all night movie event at the school during the summer. Unbeknownst to them a zombie plague has begun to spread within the city, and these zombies aren’t the kind hungry for brains…
What Kansen essentially tells is a story of a zombie rampage in which these zombies, rather than an infinite hunger for flesh and brains instead have an endless drive for sex and transmit their infection through intercourse (or even the briefest contact of bodily fluids). The story does a very good job in presenting this zombie outbreak as something to be taken seriously, making it both an effective story element and threat to Yasuyuki and company. The relaxed and peaceful start of the story does well at introducing the characters and doesn’t really feel overly long, and the scenes that show the spread of the virus in the city outside the school really do a good job in showing the danger start to gradually close in on the school where Yasuyuki and his friends are unaware of it and the suspense after it’s finally revealed to our heroes is also well done as they try to find a way to escape. One element that is used very well for this in the story is the isolation of the group in a building that’s both filled with and surrounded by these zombies (who by the way also possess varying degrees of intelligence depending on how long they’ve been infected) and their only connection to the uninfected world is a radio broadcasting information to any survivors. This is used to portray some pretty realistic reactions to the outbreak on part of the characters in which they don’t know for sure what’s wrong with the people in and outside the school and don’t learn until late in the story that the cause of all this is an infection. The lack knowledge makes for a very good way of putting the group at disadvantage when going up against the zombies since it has them even more vulnerable to infection as they don’t know to take steps to avoid it.
Also well done where story is concerned is how well romance is integrated into the plot. The romantic development between Yasuyki and either Yu or Hitomi is for the most part pretty well placed into the zombie plot as it never really clashes with the main story of the group trying to survive. The division between the two routes occurs fairly early in the game and makes it that each of these routes tells its own unique story with each heroine relating to Yasuyuki in a different way and in both cases the relationship developed is believable and really has you hoping for the pair to make it out alive and sane. Now while I do like both routes a lot, if I had to choose my favorite of the two it would be Yu’s route. I have a few reasons for why I like it the best, first it follows the classic zombie movie formula better with a group trying desperately to survive, second I found Yu to be a stronger heroine with believable emotional limits concerning the situation and Yasuyuki’s being a source of support for her during those moments I thought made for a good scene that established a believable relationship between the two, and finally the ending made a bit more of an impression on me than Hitomi’s (though I do wish a little more was shown than told).
Next, the rest of the cast is also well presented with them all being likable (some despite their flaws), making their characters and interactions with each other in the prologue all the more believable. As a result you end up liking these characters and feel bad when they do get infected, and like Spoony pointed out in his Final Destination 5 Vlog, that makes for good horror and even suspense, not to mention both routes at the end do a good job driving home the feeling of loss for at least Yasuyuki. Still, the game’s writer actually went the extra mile with this not just in providing routes where the goal is to escape, but after you complete Yu and Hitomi’s routes (get their good endings) you unlock another route called “Infection” in which Yasuyuki gets infected from the start. Now when I first heard about this route, I was sure I was going to hate it because I figured it would just be there to show ero scenes, and while it does show a good amount, the writer actually put together a decent enough story to it (though I do think the way in which Yasuyuki gets infected feels a bit tacked on). First the route has it that you can see things from the POV of other characters besides Yasuyuki which does offer interesting character info here and there, second it actually does a good job showing the character degeneration into a zombie along with how things look from a zombie’s (of this game series’) perspective like showing how they view and talk with other infected people. Also, in the case of the former, we also get a bit of dark comedy such as a scene in which Yasuyuki and Risa forget what 7 times 8 is which doubles as both a humorous scene and an indication of just how much the infection’s getting them to forget and it only seems like a minor inconvenience to them.
In the area of story, the only real flaw is that Yasuyuki can only save the heroine he romances in her respective route. I’m pretty sure the reason for that is because the creators wanted to follow the traditional “only two survivors” rule of horror films that this game’s story seems to almost be written in loving tribute to, which I don’t have that big a problem with. It’s just that it makes the story feel a bit limited in my opinion, making the game only passable in the story diversity department.
I’m sorry to say though that the main area where this game takes a hit in the flaws department is in the area of presentation. Now let me first get something out of the way, the CG artwork and the voice acting in this game are both excellent and a few tracks of the music are pretty good. The first flaw has to with the character portraits, if you take a good look you’ll see some of them look a tad unfinished like the artist still needed to put a couple touches here and there. The next couple flaws probably have something to do with each other in that first, the system the game uses just looks and feels dated, even considering the game came out in 2006, which makes for an odd contrast considering that aside from the aforementioned character portraits the game looks pretty good. Second, the music playing for this game gets glitchy at a number of points with the sound flickering and/or repeating. Fortunately this doesn’t happen with the voices though.
As for the ero scenes, they’re all pretty good being well drawn and acted. While there’s a large number of ero scenes in this game considering the story, the writers actually did a good job in writing them into the story so that they make sense and don’t feel gratuitous. Now considering the story most of the ero scenes in this game are rape scenes, but there are consensual romance scenes to be found between Yasuyuki and the heroine of the route you’re on and those do a good job in portraying the two having reached that point in their relationship despite the disaster going on around them.
*Character Profiles (click hyperlinks for images):
A successful and popular second year student, Katou has secretly harbored romantic held feelings for Yu, a close childhood friend who always seems out of reach. His reason for joining the club was simply because it would give him a chance to be around her during the afternoons. After months of indecisive waiting, Katou has finally convinced himself that the time has come to reveal his feelings.
The daughter of an influential politician and a famous drama actress, Yu is the quintessential sweetheart: beautiful, charming, kind and outgoing. Many students long to win her favor, but few have ever gathered the courage to approach the most sought individual in school. Those that have are politely told her heart is set on another, though she never reveals who that person is.
Hitomi is something of an overachiever and perfectionist, holding the prestigious offices of Student Council President and Chairman of the Second Year Classes. Most see her as too serious and micromanaging, but she reveals a different personality whenever around Katou: that of someone who listens intently to every word.
One of the school’s senior science instructors and an adviser to the Photo Club. The sultry Risa is a sex symbol amongst male students, although her no nonsense personality strikes fear into everyone.
A third year student, Tomomi is a close friend of Katou and Yuji. Despite her standing as a class senior, she has an incredibly meek personality and is the kind of person that an individual will forget about when she leaves the room. In contrast to her small frame, Tomomi has a surprising impressive bust size that few are aware of.
Yuji, a third year student, is one of Katou’s oldest and dearest friends. His flamboyant nature and rebellious outlook make him fairly popular with the student body, but a supervisory nightmare with teachers and faculty members. Tends to take action without considering the potential outcome.
Shinya is a second year student whom many regard as nothing more than a nerd and loser. As a friend he’s completely unreliable and selfish, but Katou tolerates his presence due to a sense of pity - no one else will. He lusts after his teacher, Risa Shindou, but has no illusions that he has zero chance of appealing to her.
The massive Satoshi is the school’s lead gym instructor. Many students enjoy making fun of his appearance and seeming lack of intellect, but never directly in his presence. There are rumors that he was responsible for a series of terrible incidents from years ago. Friends with Risa Shindou.
Kansen is a game that manages to take a concept with zombies that one would initially believe doomed to failure and make it work. With its cast of likable characters, the writer for this managed to create a game that has a feel very similar to the classic zombie movies, and I’m pretty sure it was written with that in mind. Sure the character portrait art could have used some work and the music system is glitchy, but they don’t ruin the playthrough experience. I do wish that there was more story diversity in the main two routes, but that’s only a minor problem since both routes are still really good. This game was likely made on a budget, and for the most part it succeeds over whatever limits it had.
Final Score: 7/10 Great
Recommendation: Buy it now.
*On a side note, the character profile info is from a friend’s character descriptions from a review site long dead. I did ask him permission to use them and he said I could.
As for the anime OVA, I found it to be just okay. Considering it’s only two episodes long and each episode is just a standalone adaptation of one of each heroine’s bad ends, it doesn’t have the same suspenseful atmosphere that the game had even if the animation and voice acting is pretty good. I recommend just playing the game, but it isn’t a bad adaption if you’re curious.