Monday, October 24, 2016

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Kansen - Clipping Chronicle

Kansen - Clipping Chronicle Review

                It appears like zombies themselves, even the Kansen series won’t be gone for very long no matter what may try to return them to the grave. Let’s continue in our Halloween 2016 review-athon with a return to Speed’s well known series with Kansen - Clipping Chronicle, initially released digitally December 18, 2015 (there was apparently a limited physical edition too) and given a later physical release May 27, 2016. After the infuriatingly franchise disrespectful abomination that was Kansen Ball Buster things can go is up, right?...The answer is “sort of” but as you’ll soon see, the series still has a ways to go before a true return to form.

Pros: Likable characters, mostly good voice acting, good artwork.
Cons: Slow story, endings don’t feel as conclusive as in previous games, Misuzu is unwinnable, certain plot elements feel useless, a neat reference to previous games ends up poorly used in the end, kind of a flub on one VA’s front.
WTF?!: Glad to see Kansen’s getting into the Halloween spirit.

                Set at the same time as the first, second and fourth games, Kansen Clipping Chronicle follows Akira Shibue and his circle of friends who are among a group of school fitness clubs attending a training camp. As time passes with potential romances blossoming, Akira can’t help but get an unsettling feeling as word of unusual happenings not too far from the camp start going around. Little does he or any of those around him realize the horrors that await them as these events slowly escalate to the inevitable outbreak…

                Okay, let’s get the main question out of the way: yes, Kansen Clipping Chronicle is a way better game than Ball Buster. I also wouldn’t even call it a bad game, but as I’m going to explain, it has problems. Still, let’s start with what this game does right as I feel it’s enough for it to at least half stand on.
                  If there is one thing that all the good Kansen games have in common, it’s having a likable cast of characters (click here for profiles). Even an almost good title like Kansen 2 at least focused on the likable characters and thankfully Clipping Chronicle has that. We’re given a good intro of Akira and his circle of friends, learn their quirks, some details of their lives back home, and it’s enough to get you at least fond of them so when the outbreak does occur you have some investment in their fates. While admittedly that sounds par for the course for this series considering that in the last game we had Kasumi the failure clown (because clowns are supposed to be funny…and/or scary) a cast of likable characters is an accomplishment.
                This unfortunately leads us into one of the problems CC has though: its story is slow. Now bear in mind I’m saying this as someone who’s played every game in the series, which all had slow starts so as to introduce their cast and setting. Heck Kansen 3’s pre-outbreak segment is probably longer but it never feels slow because in that case you’re getting to know the characters and setting all throughout. Clipping Chronicle’s problem is after you’ve gotten a good enough intro to everyone along with some nice interactions, it still takes a while for the zombies to show up. While to some extent this is a problem because the character scenes start to go stale, there’s a more noticeable reason…
                While I can’t prove anything I can make an educated guess that I probably wasn’t the only one who disliked Ball Buster since if you take a close look you can tell Clipping Chronicle likely had less of a budget than its predecessors. This could be a sign of less faith in the series, especially considering how long it took for us to see another Kansen game, or it could be because lately Speed has been releasing shorter titles and CC got the same budget as one of those, but either way the budget cut shows, especially in the writing. This means that with a limited amount of money for voice acting there’s going to be more scenes and lines for the unvoiced characters and as a result we get scenes that don’t feel as lively as ones where the voiced characters are present (or if they are their lines are short if they speak at all).
                Once again this leads into another problem as despite the writer’s best attempts to extend the story, Clipping Chronicle still feels short for a Kansen game. While the pre-zombie part of the story is too long, the zombie outbreak part is a little too short. With one exception (bad ends aside), the basic structure is after the outbreak Akira and the heroine he’s with run for the only visible shelter, get there and that’s it. There’s some struggle in between with the zombies they encounter but it’s minimal at best, feeling more like a checklist of tropes from the prvious games than scenes meant to have an emotional impact. The reason for this is there’s only a short amount of time to show how this affects the survivors before the credits roll, which again brings us to another issue: the endings themselves.

                Before we get into detail I should probably explain why I’m not doing a route ranking. This is because CC’s routes are more endings than routes. Your choices do determine which heroine Akira escapes with, but the in story circumstances that establish it are hand wavey at best, especially since the true route pretty much retcons both endings. If you were to ask me which heroine I prefer then my answer would be Rui because not only is she one of the funnier characters in the game, but she and Akira also have the best chemistry hands down.

                As for Riri…the reason she loses in comparison is for two reasons. The first is because while a likable character in the end, she still feels too much like you’re typical tsundere childhood friend heroine, and while I admit the game does try something to make her different from the mold it’s not enough to make her as interesting as Rui. This brings us into the second problem as what’s attempted to make Riri’s character different is a love triangle plot that doesn’t work because it doesn’t really go anywhere. It has the right place in the story when it comes to establishing how it figures into Akira and Riri’s back stories and actions as characters, but it’s not given nearly as much focus as it should in the overall story in order to give it the right payoff. This is especially confounded when the other part of the love triangle only shows up in brief flashbacks and a very short unlockable extra scene with no real effect on the plot.
                Anyway, back to the subject of the endings, while the true route is the best of them, having some actual tension and the characters taking a more proactive approach to their survival, it too shares this same problem the other two endings have: barely conclusive endings. All the other games in the series got to the end of the outbreak in their endings (the ones that weren’t bad ends) and at the very least established where the survivors were and what was in store for them in the aftermath: good and bad. In Clipping Chronicle, the endings leave the survivors’ fates somewhat uncertain and while that may sound like the writers were trying something new the presentation comes off as the endings feeling incomplete rather than ambiguous.

                Finally these last two problems are minor ones, but problems all the same. First, in continuing tradition from Kansen 5, we have another unwinnable heroine in a mainly comic relief character named Misuzu Nenohi. In the game there is a background written for her as a character, she and Akira do seem to at least like each other as friends and there is an option at the beginning of the game to say Akira is interested in her. Admittedly the choice is part of a scene where the characters are joking around, but still…

                The last problem concerns a certain reference put in for the previous games. I won’t spoil what it is because at the start it is a pretty nice reference (and no it’s not the one pictured above), but that’s only at the start. Basically at the end of the true route it goes from a reference you can chuckle at if you’ve played the previous games to feeling like the series is ripping itself off all of a sudden. It’s too bad as this might have turned into a good plot element and potentially something to lead into stories for future games in the series if something more had been done with it on the writing front as this does connect to a background plot element that’s featured throughout the series. Unfortunately the way the true route’s ending goes makes it clear that all the writers were interested in was trying to be clever about their references to previous games.

                In the area of presentation Kansen Clipping Chronicle does all right. The artwork is good, another staple of the series, though once again budget limitations rear their ugly head in how the game designers figured just a reverse image of the same CG counts as another CG. Even if they were trying to make the characters in that scene move it’s a laughable attempt at best. In the sound department, the music is fine even if it is all music from previous games. Thankfully, they don’t use any of Ball Buster’s unique tracks, so count that as a positive. On the voice acting front, the voice actresses all turn in good performances and we even have some familiar voices such as Ruri’s VA, Alice Sakurai, who some of you may recognize as the voice of Kyonyuu Fantasy series heroine Isis, and Himari who voiced Kanae in euphoria. Unfortunately for the latter, I think there may have been a line flub on her end as there is one scene where it sounds like she’s phoning in her lines. On the other hand it is for an overly long ero scene, and maybe the intent was to show tiredness on the character’s part. Speaking of which…
            As for the ero scenes, they’re pretty good. They’re drawn well enough at least and mostly well acted, but some of them suffer from being too long. About the only other complaint I have is for some reason Rui doesn’t have a “good” ero scene, which while from a writing perspective makes some sense in that it would be difficult to fit one into the main story, it could have been put in an epilogue like in the first game…if the creators had bothered to make epilogues for this game.

In Conclusion: 

            Kansen – Clipping Chronicle is an overall okay return for the series. We thankfully have a likable cast again and at least in the true route we have a struggle for survival for the characters that feels like a Kansen game. Sadly its lacking budget, inconclusive ending and shortness prevent me from declaring this a return to form for the series. Hopefully future games can improve from here, but for now we’ll have to settle for the latest game not being good, but at least not being horrible. It may be the equivalent of “loser candy” as Gravity Falls put it, but like said show demonstrated it is at least edible.

Final Score: 5/10 Average

Author Recommendation: For Fans Only!


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  2. In the end, we know nothing about the virus and how it started. It's a shame. The saga could have been developed in a muchbetter way but it didn't. For me the best game of the saga is Kansen 3, which only lacked a bit in the endings that I found to be quite good in Kansen 1 and 4. I haven't tried Ball Buster yet but it seems to be quite bad so I guess I'll skip it. I hope the saga gets more funds for a nice game in the future, without the flaws the last games have.