G.G Series: Z-ONE
DSiWare | Genterprise / SUZAK | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
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22nd June 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Taking the setup of your usual side-scrolling space shooter, players move a ship in all four directions using the D-Pad as the camera moves at a steady pace. You use either the A or Y Button to shoot and that's about how complicated it gets -- except for the key system that prevents the game from being viewed with little-to-no interest. Instead of shooting from a frontal cannon, you use two pods floating at the front of your ship to direct your blows. To do so, you need to move in the reverse direction to aim where you actually want the pods to face. So if you're simply moving forward, then the pods will be aimed at your back. This proves to be a more versatile form of attack, in part because these can actually be positioned at a diagonal which your ship would normally be unable to do. But the best part about these pods is that they can do damage on their own without you even having to fire bullets. Yes, you can knock out enemies (objects) just with a simple touch, making them not just pods, but multipurpose pods.
Logistically, this helps in narrow passages where you'd otherwise have trouble squeezing yourself into a small gap where enemies also block the way. Without this in place, maneuvering would be very meticulous for the sometimes cramped environment that's been created for this game. You would think this makes the game easier, but you need not forget that the caveat to this is that much of the game will involve moving into place quickly and effectively. Even along these narrow paths, it can be tricky to have to move forward and back without hitting anything so you can position your shots in the direction of whatever stands in your way. By holding down the action button to lock the pods in a certain position, you can be better equipped for attacks coming from the same direction (though this is usually not common). As a result, there is a bit of a learning curve, but it's actually kind of welcome just because the game might otherwise be a bit bland if it were so straightforward.
The changes in gameplay are not unlike what's seen in other G.G titles where, after a few levels have been completed, something slightly different takes place. In Z-ONE, this comes in the form of, first, moments where the game puts the scrolling on pause and has you either facing a short boss or just trying to survive with a number of traps firing at you. Second on the list are high-speed travels towards the exit in what is actually a not-so-fast excursion. Also learning from other titles in this series, levels are always short in length and perfectly organized for quick sessions. Back again with the caveats, the developers have made it so that you only have a small life count to work with, which adds some difficulty in a because-we-can kind of way as opposed to it being a decision that makes sense within the context of the game. Once you get past that and get a good handle on the functionality of your method of attack, Z-ONE delivers simple execution that doesn't do much to upset.
Z-ONE is to be commended a bit for having some of the nicest music and overall look of all the games in this series, but that isn't saying very much. The presentation in this game is, like the others, decent at best with nothing really worth getting into detail-wise. So I'll leave it at that.
Originally I thought the developers did a good job with this game, mostly because, unlike some of the other efforts, this actually manages to do something that feels its own and borrows to a lesser extent. As I continued with the game, I went from appreciating the unique system as something more than just a functional element and a feature that gives the gameplay leverage, to feeling that this same system was the only thing keeping me tied to the game. Z-ONE puts up two barriers that inhibit players to a degree as far as being welcomed into the experience and feeling inclined to stay. The first is that everything's generally the same. This isn't to say that the layouts aren't different, but you could definitely say they aren't different enough. Interestingly, the enemies you face in a level are not always found in the same spots, as you will discover if you die at some point before the end and have to start over. This was presumably done to prevent you from feeling that it's all the same through and through, but it still happens anyway.
Furthermore, the system does not create a particularly interesting dynamic in practice. Although the game is not just functional nothingness and there's actually some added strategy that stems from the main system, you won't find yourself zoning in to the experience at all. It's only a matter of time before you come to the realization that the game isn't going to go anywhere and it will just leave you feeling more empty than satisfied. I honestly have no idea how long the game goes on for, but what I do know is that you'll really need to pace yourself if you want to get the most out of the game for your $2. Honestly, I was quite surprised over how quickly my initially-receptive attitude towards the game changed. By the time I reached Level 20, I zoned out and was done with it.
Who's really going to care about this game at the end of the day? Very few people, honestly. Z-ONE is not a success on all counts. To be frank, it's not a success on very many counts, either. It's a shooter that's just good enough, which is fine if someone is looking for something cheap to deal with some rainy day boredom. But even in these situations, I can't say I recommend Z-ONE all that much. If you have $2 to spare and typically fancy games from this genre, then sure, give it a shot. Just keep your expectations low.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Interesting pod system, short stages that don't feel very different, occasional changes in the design but nothing noteworthy
Presentation 7/10 - Overall look is more interesting than some of the other titles in this series, nice music, merely decent
Enjoyment 3/5 - Fading interest makes it not so easy to stick with, welcome difficulty in managing the pod system, a bit of strategy involved
Extra Content 3/5 - Experience goes on for quite a while but some may tire of the repetition and give up, not a bad buy for $2
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System