Disaster Report 4 Summer Memories for the Nintendo Switch Review

Disaster Report 4 Summer Memories

 

Disaster Report 4 Summer Memories, also known in Japan as Zettai Zetsumei Toshi, is a survival-adventure game developed by GZ Studio.  It’s the 4th installment of the Disaster Report series and it will be released for the Nintendo Switch on the 7th of April.

The game is set in modern-day Japan, in a city that has been struck by a strong earthquake: buildings are falling, people are dying and the streets are in an absolute panic. While visiting the city, you are caught up in this disaster and must find a way to escape the city while helping other survivors and exploring buildings in ruins, solving puzzles and other mysteries.

Right off the bat, we are introduced to the main character: you. After a short introduction scene where various people talk about what they would do during a disaster, we enter the customization screen in which we can create our personal character. We can choose their gender, face, hair color, and hairstyle, as well as a name. Oddly though, you cannot change the color of their eyes, and the faces are a small selection of preset characteristics, most likely to emphasize the most common facial traits found in Japanese people.  As you progress, you can also find new clothes and makeup in the environment. After creating our character, we are thrown into the game.
It all starts on a bus ride, where our character talks about where she is going and why.  And it’s up to decide!
This game features a wide selection of dialogue options. Some of them are thoughts from our character that do not influence the story and others are exchanges with the various characters you will meet. You may decide to be rude, kind, polite or even neutral. Sometimes your decisions will affect the story, but most of the impact comes in dialogue variations.

 

Most of the gameplay revolves around exploring the city and finding people to help. Some of them will just speak to you while others may require you to find objects or other people in order to proceed. The areas to explore are usually pretty big and offer a lot to find. You can speak to almost every NPC and, while some of them can be very serious, some of them can be very random. Very, VERY random. And also, there are some Easter Eggs here and there. Exploration and talking with other survivors is encouraged by the possibility of getting items, such as money or even new clothes.
Of course, you can’t forget the aftershocks of the earthquakes. Sometimes those aftershocks will kick in and destroy even more buildings.  If you don’t get to safety and duck in time, you may lose health and, possibly, die. You also need to buy food and water and go to the bathroom in order to keep your stress level down. You can get the money needed by asking people for a reward for completing a task or by selling the items you found during your adventure. Honestly, though, the stress level was never a problem. You can find shops pretty easily and money is (almost) never a problem.  The lack of a tutorial that explains the main functions of the game, such as the stress level, doesn’t help much.

While the gameplay itself on paper is good, the execution falls low. Right when you start playing, you can see how bad the game looks and runs. Surely, graphics don’t make the game, but having at least a solid 30 frames per second does. And this game NEVER reaches a stable 30 FPS. Most of the time it will run between 15-25 FPS, and if an area is loading up it will go even lower. While a game like this doesn’t require precision like action games do, it’s awful to see it this way. The graphics are REALLY muddy, the resolution is low, lighting is really weird as in some places some light will cast shadows, and other times it won’t.  Sometimes, your character’s face will be so blurry and muddy you won’t be able to see it clearly. The light’s reflections on the hair might make them too bright and put too much contrast with the face, which makes it look weird. To add to that, the trailer and the pictures on the eShop page are from the PC version and not the Switch version, so don’t get your hopes up. This was the weakest point for this version of the game,  and it may ruin the experience for some.

 

The area to explore usually are really big, and you can enter some of the buildings surrounding you. But sometimes, especially at the start, you may not know what to do. It has happened to me to be absolutely lost and wander for dozens of minutes before finding what I was supposed to do. The lack of a “What do I do?” screen or even a point on the map to signal where to go really made it hard for me to continue with the game, but eventually you will get used to it.
The area themselves are mostly “okay”. They are bright and vibrant in colors, but most of the action happens in the streets, and buildings are just a way to get by from one area to the other. The NPCs are mostly copies of one another with some exceptions, most of them wearing business suits, but all have something to say.

The story and its characters are… something. There isn’t one way to describe it, as there are a LOT of secondary characters and story arcs, where some are really short and others may last too long. For example, at the start, you have to help a school teacher find her students and in another, you find “miraculous water” that will cure anything. The plot sometimes gets really weird and nonsensical, and you may think that it’s there just for the laughs. This game never takes itself too seriously. Surely, it has its moments, but most of the time things will be very random and other times sad moments will just fall flat because our character doesn’t seem to have any sort of reaction to what just happened. I must say though, thanks to the randomness, I actually had fun. It was just so random at times that I enjoyed it. It’s not bad, but it’s absolutely facetious. Some arcs should have used some extra time to clarify what happened instead of just rushing through the events.
Some of the themes taken though are really inappropriate. Not once, not twice, but thrice, rape plays a role in the story.  I really disliked that part as it felt inappropriate and absolutely unnecessary.

Weird compass, eh?

Another weak point might be the soundtrack. While the game features some Japanese songs that are VERY nice, in many areas, there’s just nothing. Occasionally, there will be the “danger” music or music for when you shop, or even sad music for some of the tragedies that happen, but mostly, when exploring, there’s nothing except the sound of your footstep or the voices of other characters and NPCs. The experience might have been nicer if there was something to listen to.

 

But it’s not all that bad. The customization and clothes you find are really nice (and I noticed that some of the clothes are remnants of clothes made by Granzella for PlayStation Home!). There are some collectibles, such as extra backpacks that will give extra storage for all the items you will find and even compasses with very random looks. I had fun talking with other NPCs and finding all the weird Easter Eggs and hidden secrets. There are MANY mentions of the game itself in the world and even for a possible sequel.
The vehicle sections (yes, there are vehicle sections) are actually well done and I had no problem with them.
Surprisingly, the developers took advantage of the Joycons’ HD Rumble feature. Whenever there is an earthquake our controller will rumble a lot, and it feels almost immersive.

Oddly enough, vehicle sections work pretty well.

In the end, if I wanted to find a word to describe Disaster Report 4, it would be random. Is it bad? No, it’s just really, really random. If you want a serious disaster simulator, this isn’t it, but if you want a taste of that “Weird Japanese media you might find on YouTube” then this might be it. It’s wonky and niche, but some people will find enjoyment in what this game has to offer. Even if you want just a laugh, I might recommend this game to you. The story isn’t too long (about 12-14 hours) and it has some replayability value. It also includes an epilogue where we find out what happened to the characters after the events of the story. Is it worth 60 whole dollars? Absolutely not. If you can find it heavily discounted though, go for it. But this game needs some serious improvements because, as of now, it feels like a fast enough slideshow with bad graphics.

Needs Improvements

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Reviewed by Senpavo on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by NISA.

Senpavo

Hi! I'm an Italian student that spends more time playing videogames than studying! I've been playing videogames for as long as I can remember. I started with only memory puzzles, and now, here I am! During my free time, if I'm not playing games, I'm either talking about videogames, watching videos about them or just reading my mangas (I freaking love Sailor Moon). Yeah, I'm pretty much a nerd. You can find me on Twitter at @Senpavo_

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