Shout out to Sony for implementing HDCP into the PS3 without any way to disable it, thanks, appreciate it, solid move. There are complicated ways around this involving HDMI splitters, but thanks to the generosity of people who donated to the Tip Jar, we have one of the Elgato HD Capture models that has built-in PS3 support. It does this by plugging into the Component cable port of the PS3 then outputting to the TV and computer via a HDMI cable. Something like that. Basically it means these shots are the highest quality we have available, being spat out at 720p (1280 x 720) with some very minor contrast alterations on our end as the white balance was a little off at default settings. This is as good as it gets, folks, but to see them in their full glory you need to click our shrunk-down previews. So, you know, standard issue for us with higher resolution screenshots. Please appreciate.
Thank you again to the Tip Jar contributors, without whom this article would not exist!
Getting fancy this time, we're looking at a multimedia art project!
Hey, not every game that shows up at Gaming Hell is tied to something that showed up at the Oscars, ya know.
Let's start at the very beginning, then. Short Peace was an anthology film of four anime shorts released in select Japanese cinemas on July 20th 2013 (much later given a release in about 45 cinemas in the United States on April 18th 2014 by a company called Eleven Arts) telling four short stories set in different time periods vaguely tied together with the theme of Japan itself. Overseen by industry veteran Katsuhiro Otomo best known for Akira (and, for me, screenwriting Roujin Z, a personal favourite), each of the shorts has a different director and very different visual approach, with my personal favourite being the one nominated for an Academy Award, Possessions / Tsukumo, where a weary travelling tailor has to deal with tools and frabrics possessed by unruly spirits in a hut in the middle of nowhere. However, upon release in the project was actually incomplete, as there was a fifth part to come early in the following year... In the form of a video game, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day.
As with the Short Peace film itself, it has some big names attached to it- the story was written by Goichi 'Suda51' Suda from Grasshopper Manufacture, and development was handled by Crispy's of Tokyo Jungle fame- but as it was intended to be part of the Short Peace project, it had a bit of an unusual release. It was released exclusively for the Playstation 3 as a Blu-ray Hybrid disc in January 2014 in Japan and April 18th in Europe, where it had the Short Peace anthology film as a standard Blu-ray film you'd watch from the Video tab of the XMB, and Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day as a game played from the Game tab, rather than having the shorts as an extra in the game or something like that. Weirder still, the physical release only came to Japan and Europe (not as a budget release either), with the US having to settle for a digital download of both the shorts and the game released in September 2014 and a stand-alone Blu-ray release of Short Peace a month before, sans game. What a weird set of circumstances for a game to be released in, eh?
So, let's move on to the game itself. Ranko Tsukigime is just an ordinary high school girl who happens to be the only daughter of the head of Tsukigime Enterprises, Japan's long-term-parking industry juggernaut, and who lives alone in a gigantic parking complex. However, at night, she dons her pink wedding dress and becomes a hitwoman-for-hire who takes out targets with her violin-sniper-rifle combo, with her ultimate plan being to kill the one responsible for her mother's death- her own father. While preparing to take out a mob boss on what's an otherwise normal job, however, she's beset on all sides by adversity on this, her longest day, ranging from the bizarre demons chasing her calling themselves The Veiled, her own schoolmates turning into gigantic dragons trying to kill her, and the mysterious Masked Man who seems to want to read her last rites. Can she get to the end of the day alive and make time for some karaoke? Her fate is in your hands.
There's a few different play styles in Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day, but the first half of the game plus a few stages in the latter half adhere to one particular style, so let's focus on that one to start- it's a endless runner where the stages have an end. That sounds a little silly, but it's probably the best point of comparison because with the odd exception here and there, you are expected to always be running, always moving forward and pressing onwards boldly, because Ranko is always being chased. The objective is to reach the goal alive, but Ranko doesn't have a health bar to worry about, and while there are enemies in her path that she has to carve up with her close-range sword attacks or divekicks, they can only momentarily stun her. The real danger is whatever cosmic horror is chasing her- the reaching, grasping hands of The Veiled, the Oni-masked Legion, or the king of the jungle himself, Pom Pom the Pomeranian. If you don't keep running or get waylaid by tripping on enemies or hazards, her pursuers will appear from the left side of the screen and give you a few seconds to either try to outrun them or use Ranko's gun which has limited ammo (built up by killing popcorn enemies) to send them back momentarily. Get caught and you lose a life and have to restart the stage (fortunately the stages are real short), and that's it really. Probably the most interesting wrinkle is that enemies you destroy leave after-effects- streaming light-trails, giant speech bubbles, explosions of colour- that will destroy other enemies if they collide into them, which leads to little combo strings (and, rarely, hitting enemies in the background you can't hit otherwise) and help keep the momentum up. A few others get introduced over the first two stages, mind- you can wall-jump up shafts when your path is blocked, slow your descent from a jump to traverse large holes and obstacles, and slide when you have enough momentum which automatically destroys enemies and lets you slip past small gaps for an alternate path- but this definitely keeps things pretty simple, relying more on its spectacle and the speed at which you're moving to keep things interesting.
The main problem with the controls can be found in the precious few moments when you have to stop and do some actual platforming- there's a huge wind-up when going between not moving and moving, and also when turning around, which makes any sort of jumping between platforms a real pain. Ranko's float does mitigate it slightly, but it really doesn't feel great. For the most part the game avoids making you do this, but when it does happen (mostly in the Vault stage where you have to hop between platforms to grab an item to progress, or if you need to go back for extra momentum for a jump) it really takes the wind out of your sails. Of all things, it reminds me of the platforming sequences in The Subspace Emissary mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the controls you are given are much more suited to one task (in that game's case, fighting; in this one, running forward) than what you're asked to do. This is a shame because one of the more interesting levels is perhaps a bit too platforming-heavy- Stage 6, the boss battle with Day and Night, has you clambering up a series of platforms trying to take out the two assassins as the ground below you is being swallowed up by a gigantic drilling machine. It's the only vertical level in the game and is a neat little twist on what you've been doing up to this point, but the stodgy platforming controls make it just feel rough to play through, especially since Day and Night don't hang around too long for you to hit them. A relatively small element of the game in the end as it doesn't do much with platforming, but a shame regardless.
After Stage 6, the game gets a little wilder and the genre changes every level, so we'll tackle them briefly in order. Stage 7 is much like previous stages except you're automatically scrolling as you're riding a bike- not much to report here, you're basically waiting for your meter to fill so you can stop the Legion nipping at your motorcycle's heels. Stage 8, on the other hand, is a very basic non-scrolling shoot-em-up battle against the Kirara Dragon (a dragon adorned with love hearts, because of course) that's mostly notably for dragging on for ages- you have to shoot it in its specific weak points one at a time, and every time you break one of them, you have to wait for the Kirara Dragon to slowly fly off-screen, then do a dashing attack, then slowly amble back on before you can move on to the next one. If nothing else, you have a generous health bar. After a mind-bending cutscene, Stage 9 is a return to the standard game style of before except the path behind you is constantly destroyed by a gigantic pomeranian, then Stage 10 is a neat idea, executed rather well- a final platforming battle (with a completely different, and better, set of platforming physics) where you have to rip a number of masks off the mysterious Masked Man who tries to do the same to you by belly-flopping and cloning himself. The fight gets increasingly complex as more clones appear and Ranko's sister from the future joins in to mess you up, and it's all done quite well... Mostly because it has completely different controls from the main game. Ahem. As you can see, there's not much to the second half as all of these stages are pretty insubstantial, although I would definitely mark the final battle as a highlight... And then, you're done, credits roll.
That's the thing about this one- it is short. Now, this isn't the complaint you think it is, honest. I am very much a fan of short games- I mean, you've seen this website, you've spotted all the arcade games I love- and so is an esteemed online friend, but this is a distinct kind of short. It's not the kind of short where the game is not very long (it is, but that's not the issue) but has mechanics engaging enough to warrant multiple replays, it's the kind of short where the game just doesn't have any meat to its bones. The game just barely gets enough time with its main gameplay style to do anything with it- the first stage is just a tutorial, the primary mechanics aren't fully introduced until after the second stage, and so by the time the game starts to flesh things out, it starts to change styles completely. This is distinct from something like, say, NiGHTS, where there's incentive to replay to improve your scores in a meaningful way, something beyond unlocking stuff in the Concept Art gallery in this game (grabbing present boxes and killing gold enemies unlocks that kinda junk, which will require multiple playthroughs... And is also frustrating because the game does not keep track of which stages you've got all these things on). The game does record your fastest clear times and highest kill counts, but in all my runs of the game I never felt that urge to go back and get a better time or improve, probably because there's so little to the game. It really would've benefitted from something like an endless or challenge mode to encourage you to engage with what mechanics are here to get better at it, but there's nothing like that.
So, with all that said, what makes this game even worthy of discussion? In a word, presentation. The game itself is basic and there's not too much to sink your teeth into, but the hour or so you get to spend with it is a wild ride that never stops. The game is almost always going at 90 miles an hour, destroying any enemy splatters a bunch of vibrant effects across the screen causing gigantic chain reactions, the music is pumping techno... It's not super-exciting to play but it is very exciting to watch (ruined a little by the constant vertical screen-tearing in some stages that rendered half my screenshots unusable). The cutscenes are also on their own level as the story is complete nonesnse that tries, giddily, to make each scene more ridiculous than the last, but it's exciting nonsense, visually so too- each cutscene is presented in a different style, from 3D CG to manga-style panels to traditional animation to what I can only describe as 'those Resident Evil manhwas given flesh', and even Ranko herself can't keep up with what's happening, they are a delight. The ending credits are a particular highlight, a live-action dance sequence set in a karaoke bar with members / former members of the idol group Link STAR's with Maaya Uchida's stomping Galactic★GAL-ACT blasting in the background. That's how you end a video game!
Honestly, the best way to enjoy Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is to make an evening of the whole package with a friend or two. Set yourself up with a comfy settee, a nice cuppa, a friend or friends who are up for a little anime (and have no problem with the phrase 'ogre fetuses' because Gambo is a little rough and violent) and dim the lights, watch Short Peace then dive into the game. It's more an experience to be shared, and that's exactly how I tackled the game the first time I played it- at that time, I knew I had to see this thing play out, but didn't actually have a Playstation 3 (please note: the staff of Gaming Hell are notoriously cheap and tight-fisted) so I took it over to my brother's house to watch and play on his console, and we made an evening of it. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and then I never thought about it again. This is the ideal- share it with friends, then put on your shelf for the rest of time until you remember, hey, I have that Ranko Tsukigime game and I now have some capture equipment, why don't I take some screenshots and write about it on the internet. Well, that specific trajectory might only apply to me and not you, but you see what I'm getting at.
Sadly, the style is the biggest draw of Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day, and that's a real shame. There's the core of a pretty neat game here, potentially- with some more time given to tightening up the movement controls and something like an infinite-runner mode or challenge mode or something, we could've had a game with more to it, with more exciting and engaging gameplay, but in the end that's not what we have. Instead, it's a fairly shallow video game that's best enjoyed with the shorts it's packaged with and in the company of others, but much like Daffy Duck's show-stopping magic act, it only gets to do it once. Again, this is nothing to do with the game being short or linear or anything like that. I like short games! I think most games should be shorter, honestly! It's just there's almost no mechanics to get stuck into here, nothing to experiment and have fun with, just presentation- fantastic presentation, mind you- but little else that a website that mostly talks about video games (I think) can talk about. It's missing that spark that other arcade-style games have, that hook that lets you happily replay something again and again for reasons beyond unlocking extra gumf or that sort of nonsense, you know? So, this is one to experience with other people in a nice, casual setting, and then not think about for a long, long time. Maybe that's the way it was meant to be, eh?
For being a preamble to a night of karaoke, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is awarded...
In a sentence, Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is...
An Experience, for all that's worth.
And now, it's that time, folks!
Before this show wraps up, a few brief notes on the Short Peace film and the nature of the disc itself.
Oh, reader, if you think I'm at all prepared to critique this kind of thing, you are dreamin'. I am only qualified to properly review animated content of a specific variety. I can at least provide some very basic info on the project as a whole and the individual shorts therein, plus a screenshot of each, so you'll have to make do with what I have here. Although touted as four shorts, there's really five, with a brief intro just credited to Koji Morimoto. After that, there's the Oscar-nominated Possessions about a tailor being hassled by spirits possessing various umbrellas and fabrics, written and directed by Shuhei Morita with story and concept design by Keisuke Kishi. Following that is Combustible chronicling the doomed romance between an upper-class woman and her firefighter childhood sweetheart, written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo with character design and visual work by Hidekazu Ohara. Next is Gambo about a wandering samurai and a mysterious polar bear helping a village being terrorised by a demon, directed by Hiroaki Ando with story / creative direction by Katsuhito Ishii and character design by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Finally, probably the most famous short (and the most heavily-promoted) is A Farewell to Weapons based on a 1981 short-story manga by Katsuhiro Otomo which you can read more about here (caution: that page contains a nude man because that's an integral part of the story, honest), with this short written and directed by Hajime Katoki and character design by Tatsuyuki Tanaka. I'm sorry I can't say much else about those names, I'm just more of a 'identifying weird voice actor connections' kind of person (like the fact that Hiromi Igarashi, the lady who voices Roll in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, also voices Anzu Futaba in THE iDOLM@STER: CINDERELLA GIRLS, that sort of thing) but Katsuhiro Otomo is a name you might recognise- the original mangaka of Akira among many others.
As for the format of this disc... As I said, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day isn't just a Playstation 3 Blu-ray, it's a Blu-ray Hybrid disc. They basically act as both a video disc and a game disc, and while not many of them were made, it's certainly an interesting concept, so let's just show off what exists. What you see above are the other Blu-ray Hybrid discs I could find, starting with ones released worldwide and moving on to territory-specific. So, we have Tekken Hybrid (comes with Tekken: Blood Rebellion 3D); Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection (comes with Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel and Metal Gear Solid 2: Digital Graphic Novel); Top Gun Wingman Edition (US-exclusive, comes with film of the same name); Days of Thunder NASCAR Edition (US-exclusive, comes with film of the same name); Gekijouban Macross F: Itsuwari no Utahime -Hybrid Pack- (Japan-exclusive, comes with film of the same name, game is called Macross Trial Frontier);
Gekijouban Macross F: Sayonara no Tsubasa -Hybrid Pack– (Japan-exclusive, comes with film of the same name, game is called Macross Last Frontier); Rinne no Lagrange: Kamogawa Days (Japan-exclusive, comes with OVA of the same name); and Eureka Seven AO: Jungfrau no Hanabanatachi (Japan-exclusive, comes with OVA of the same name, game is titled Eureka Seven AO -ATTACK THE LEGEND-). As you can see, Bandai Namco in particular loved this concept and published the majority of them.
Finally, here's the physical release the game got in Europe. Nice cover, eh?
The artbook was a pre-order bonus for the game in Europe, it contains concept art and storyboards for the Short Peace shorts, not the game.
It's probably quite rare now, I mean, did you pre-order it?
(This book was published in Japan too, with a white cover, but it's unclear how this was distributed.)
We said make an evening of it, so it looks like the girls of Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day are taking that advice to heart here.
Truly, a night of karaoke solves all problems, even galactic wars.