Thursday, October 10, 2013

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Kansen Ball Buster

Kansen Ball Buster Review

                For our next entry for this year’s Halloween reviews, we’ll be finishing up the Kansen series by looking at what is now the latest entry into the series, the fandisk: Kansen Ball Buster…and with that name alone expectations for this game probably just took a nosedive. I can understand with a name like that, but back when it was announced I decided to remain optimistic. There’s a lot you can do with a fandisk and considering the Kansen series (which I remind you I really like) is far from perfect, there’s a number of things a fandisk could offer like after stories or extra routes for unwinnable heroines (and yes, I’m still hoping someone at Speed will one day give us fans routes for Miki (Kansen 2) and Sato (Kansen 5).  Sadly those were not what the creators decided to do, but instead opted for a short original story (plus the Chronicle Teller). Now that could also work provided the story is good, and how did it turn out? Let’s just say a more fitting name would have been “Ball ‘Crusher’” instead…

Pros: Artwork is good, Shizuka’s route is actually good, we finally get an adult as our main character for a change and not a school student…

Cons:…unfortunately our MC for the most part sucks, the True End story is badly told, the ero scenes are handled poorly, the new music sucks, the Chronicle Teller…all of it.

                Kansen BB has two parts to it: “The Other’s Aspect” and “The Chronicle Teller”. The Other’s Aspect is an original story set at the same time as Kansen 3 and 5 and tells the story of Kazumi Senou and his going out to rescue his younger sister Tsugumi and their childhood friend Shizuka when the outbreak occurs. The Chronicle Teller is, I guess, an (attempted) abridged take on the previous five games. I’m guessing because that particular part of this game has its own problems which I am definitely going to address later in this review.

                Okay, I admit I showed mercy to Kansen 5 in regards to its flaws, but Ball Buster is not going to be so fortunate. Out of the entire series, this game is without a doubt the worst of them. So congratulations to Kansen 2 as it is now no longer at the bottom rank of this series, because even though it had lots of flaws I at least didn’t feel like my time was wasted upon clearing it like I did with Ball Buster. At least with Kansen 2 you could see there was genuine effort put into its creation, its writers were trying to make a good story to top that of the first one, but in this case while there are inklings of what could be a good story you can tell that Ball Buster ‘s story did not receive anywhere near that level of attention. In fact I’d dare suspect that The Other’s Aspect portion of this game was the rough draft of a story for what would have been a complete Kansen game rushed out the door by Speed to make a quick buck.

                One of the biggest stumbles in this part of BB’s story is its tonal difference from the other five games of the series. Rather than being a largely dark and serious story with light scenes occurring at certain points to give the players some relief (as well as add more to the game characters’ personalities), The Other’s Aspect seems to have been written in a comedic tone instead. Now I should point out I’m not faulting this game for trying something different (though the Infection routes of the first and fifth game are kind of dark comedies), nor am I saying zombies can’t be funny (one of my favorite zombie movies is Return of the Living Dead for crying out loud),I’m faulting it for trying something new and failing at it. The main aspect of this game’s story failing at being a comedy can be seen with our protagonist, Kazumi. While I give the writers credit for finally giving us a protagonist who’s an adult and not a school student, that positive change is completely negated by the fact that Kazumi is for the most part a complete and utter buffoon. Almost from the start he acts like a complete idiot, and since unlike all the other protagonists Kazumi doesn’t have a group of friends we’re pretty much left with just his antics to pass the time until the zombies show up…and even then it only reduces in frequency. The closest thing we get to a scene with him that’s actually funny is when he wakes up the day of the outbreak and goes about his normal routine, not noticing the zombies. It’s obviously trying to be like that scene in Shaun of the Dead but fails at being anywhere near as funny because the joke of Kazumi barely missing obvious signs of the outbreak’s occurrence doesn’t work as well as the movie scene it’s based on since we’re told rather than shown for the most part. Another problem with Kazumi is that he’s the only character being silly while everyone else acts more seriously whereas in other comical zombie stories most of the main characters get their silly moments, making the comic relief from our main character feel very much out of place. So as you can guess, you’re going to be annoyed at our main character almost the entire game and like the very infection that’s the focal point of this series his buffoonery spreads to other parts of the story and dooms them.

                Now don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to create a silly protagonist and still make him an effective character, in fact I get the feeling the writers were trying to create a loveable but reliable goofball of an adult protagonist like Bang Shishigami or Eikichi Onizuka, but here it just isn’t well implemented in the story. For one, Kazumi’s antics pretty much ruin the cameo appearances of the cast from Kansen 3 and 5 where all it is pretty much him ogling the heroines from both games during a scene from the prologue of said games. Aside from making you like our hero even less, this also makes him stick out like a sore thumb from the scenes you remember from the previous games and does nothing to convince you that the guy was actually there. Another problem brought about by Kazumi’s idiocy is it creates moments of sudden tonal change in some scenes that will leave you groaning in frustration rather than laughing. A good example would be how in the true route there’s a scene where Kazumi’s trying to sneak past some zombies to try and rescue his younger sister Tsugumi and what looks to be a suspenseful scene is suddenly made to be comical by having Kazumi start stumbling around narrowly avoiding being noticed by the zombies. A scene like this just gives you the feeling like the writers are just trying to force you to laugh and leaves you wanting the scene to be over with quickly in hopes (which are sadly in vain) that the scene that follows would be a better read.

                Aside from a badly written idiot protagonist, this part of BB’s story also suffers from having a pretty badly told and unsatisfying true route.  Some of these problems can be blamed on the game’s shortness such as very little to explain how or why things turn out differently in each route since it’s a little unclear how exactly your choices result in such different outcomes. Another problem that falls into this category is how the side characters, Naoko and Miki (different character than in Kansen 2) aren’t really given much to do though the few scenes of interaction with them do hint at the possibility of interesting characters.

 Of course it’s not just time that hurts the True Route, but also some genuine writing problems. The most prominent would be that the route lacks tension, and not all of it can be blamed on Kazumi’s goofiness. Since Kansen 3 it’s been a given that in the true routes all the main heroines at least are safe, but at least in those cases the routes were written so you felt the group was in some danger that they had to overcome and while the MC and main heroines were guaranteed to make it out okay the same couldn’t be guaranteed of the side characters. In BB’s case the zombies seem like less of a threat because they don’t really threaten the characters very much in this route.  Even the writer’s attempt to add in tension at the end isn’t very effective since it involves making a villain out of a very minor and forgettable character (who also lacks a character portrait), and it doesn’t help that this villain proves to be more of an annoyance than a threat. Finally the ending itself isn’t very good since it seems to be trying to be both triumphant and bittersweet at the same time without really succeeding at either. It fails at being triumphant because the story’s shortness hasn’t given us much time to know the main characters that well and through that feel satisfied in their survival and it fails at being bittersweet because when it comes to the unavoidable tragic outcomes of the outbreak it tells rather than shows.

                Now with that said you might be wondering if there’s anything good about “The Other’s Aspect” and I have to admit there is in Shizuka’s route. This route actually feels like a story that fits the Kansen series as it does a good job establishing Shizuka as a heroine (though admittedly not as good in developing the relationship between her and Kazumi) and there’s a really good story element involving just how much a person’s personality can endure after being infected. Also unlike in the true route there’s a real sense of danger for the characters as they make their way from a school surrounded by infected to a safepoint guarded defended by the JSDF. Best of all this is the only time Kazumi acts seriously and in that case he actually shows signs of being a good character. It’s too bad the rest of the game doesn’t have that same quality of writing (and to anyone who’s curious Tsugumi’s route is okay but forgettable).

                Moving on, it’s now time for The Chronicle Teller…and boy do I have a bone to pick with this part of Ball Buster. On the surface it doesn’t look so bad, the game’s website shows it as a look back at the entire series, showing a mix of important scenes from each game and several ero scenes. The thing is…it’s not. The Chronicle Teller is, for the most part, really just a long commercial for the series and a bad commercial at that. The whole thing is set up as a look at an official report covering the events of each game, but rather than an abridged look we instead get story and ero scenes jumbled together in no real order. For example, when it gets to Kansen 2’s segment they have a scene from the end of Alice’s route on the first of two pages, and it’s the second entry and all the other entries take place way before it. Then when you finish this jumble of scenes for one game you then get a brief sum up in which a narrating voice always ends with what’s essentially “Kansen __ ~______ _______~, please buy it” before you move on to the next game’s section. By itself this would only be bad because it would come off as a boring and pretty unnecessary part of the fandisk (I mean why would you buy a fan disk for this series if you’ve never played it?) that could have at least been cut to give “The Other’s Aspect” some much needed substance. Sadly this is not the worst offense The Chronicle Teller commits, that is reserved for the very short story segments that the previous game segments follow. 

It’s hard to believe that a series of short segments that put together amount to maybe fifteen minutes of reading time can accomplish that but somehow the people who put this game together managed it. In these segments we see a returning character in Aya Masaka, the main heroine of Kansen 4 as she’s now a part of the JSDF and presenting the report of the events of the previous games. The problem with this reappearance occurs at the end of The Chronicle Teller when the events of Kansen 4 get a focus. Basically the story surrounding that segment at the very least retcons Aya’s True End as it’s pretty much made clear she’s alone and at the very worst it could very well retcon the other two True Ends because there seem to be implications (I admit/hope there’s a possibility I read it wrong) that Aya is the only survivor of the events of that game. Now before anyone tries to excuse that* by pointing out how Kansen isn’t a happy series (not to mention it’s a zombie series) and a tragic outcome should be expected, let me remind you that Aya and Makoto’s True Ends weren’t happy (not really worth mentioning Kozue’s), they were both bittersweet conclusions that made for good representations of what one does after losing practically everything in a tragedy. Each ending had just the right amount of writing that conveyed a feeling that even after so much loss Daisuke and either Aya or Makoto had established a path together that would eventually move them past it. To see such strong story conclusions sacrificed simply to try to inject a brief feeling of drama into an unnecessary and shoddy commercial disguised as a fandisk is just plain insulting to me as a fan of the Kansen series. I know it’s been overused but this particular video pretty much sums up Chronicle Teller…

In the area of presentation BB does well in the art department as the characters and CG are well drawn. I should point out that for the first Kansen game’s segment in the Chronicle Teller, the artists touched up the art a bit to make it look better. I think it just looks okay, but in a couple cases it looks like all they did was make the characters’ skin color whiter. In the sound department the voice acting is good too with the VAs turning in good performances, especially Tsugumi’s. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the two new music tracks for this game “Wake Up” and “XXX (Ball Buster)”. The latter track isn’t that bad on its own, but it just doesn’t fit a Kansen game as it sounds like something you’d use for an arcade style video game. The former on the other hand…I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more irritating and obnoxious sounding tune in any visual novel game. It’s basically a guy screaming gibberish in what sounds like a megaphone mixed in with music that on its own would be forgettable, and guess what? That’s the music for the game’s ero scenes and speaking of which…

When it comes to the ero scenes, the only good ones in BB are the ones shown in Chronicle Teller from the previous games. “What about the ones in The Other’s Aspect?” you ask. Well, the only good thing I can say about them is they’re well drawn. The problem is they almost all follow the exact same premise: Kazumi makes the wrong decision, a group of female zombies overwhelm him, and the customary ero scene follows. That’s it; that’s almost every ero scene in the game. There are no “good” ero scenes with the heroines at all as the only ero scenes with them are bad end ero scenes where they’re already infected. BB has essentially made an even bigger fumble than the second game on the ero scene front because at least Kansen 2 featured “good” ero scenes even if they were in the bad endings. To any fans of the darker kind of ero scenes, hate to break this to you, but in every case where the heroines are infected, they catch it by non ero means. The only one who gets screwed is Kazumi…and anyone else who bought this fan disk.


In Conclusion:

                Kansen Ball Buster is a pitiful excuse for a fandisk, let alone a Kansen game. The few good things like Shizuka’s route are lost between the unsatisfying story of The Other’s Aspect and the crappy commercial that is The Chronicle Teller, which adds insult to injury by shamelessly betraying the story of Kansen 4. Not only do I not recommend this game to anyone, especially fans of the series, but I also beg any fan of the series or anyone curious about the series to avoid this game like the plague.

Final Score: 2/10 Garbage!

Author Recommendation: Devil SPAWN!


And yes, I am aware of the OVA adaptation for The Other’s Aspect coming out this November. My only reaction is this:

*Now before anyone posts any messages about how the extra reading material that came with copies of each game strongly hint at what’s canon, let me point out that those are, as I just called them, “extras” meaning I can take or leave them as I please and still enjoy the series.

No comments:

Post a Comment