Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories (Review)

Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is the latest in the disaster survival series Zettai Zetsumei Toshi. Similar to the gameplay, the development of Disaster Report 4 was fraught with many difficulties and disasters that developer Granzella had to overcome. Originally scheduled for release back in 2011, difficulties in development would see it having to be delayed and missing it’s original launch window and the day after it was originally scheduled to launch was the day of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. After this the game was completely shelved until parent company Kujo restarted development in 2014. Since then the game saw many revisions and development restarts until we end up with the game we have today Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories. 

Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories sells itself as a game which asks the player what you would do in the event of a crisis, would you be selfless and think of others? Or would you look after number one and get out of there as quickly as possible? After picking your characters Sex, hair style and motivations for going to an unfamiliar city in Japan, an Earthquake hits and the bus you’re on tips over and you have to survive and escape the city. The range of choices at the start is quite thought provoking and it set me up to have to make many more difficult choices on how to progress going forward.  

How would you react if a disaster struck while you were in an unknown city?

However, very quickly you’ll start to realise that Disaster Report isn’t exactly the kinda game that it maybe sells itself as. Despite asking the player how they would react in a disaster scenario at the beginning, almost nothing else in the game asks the same from you. The rest of the game more closely resembles a mid 90’s point and click adventure game and similar to some of those, you’ll often find yourself clicking everything on screen trying to find which pixel on the screen will progress the story forward. The game doesn’t feature any in game hints to allow you to progress forward easily and the NPC’s littering the streets don’t provide any hints or pointers on where to go next.

The game is very linear and doesn’t really give the player any freedom to really express how they would react to a disaster scenario at all and so it’s very strange that the game asks as much at the start and often gives them dialogue options throughout to express how they would influence the story going forward, but ultimately it feels quite hollow. As the game seemingly has one track, no matter how you react to characters or situations, the game will continue to progress regardless. In one section I found a man that was badly injured that needed a drink to survive, Whether you would want to help the man or save the water/supplies for yourself is a logical choice you would maybe have to make at this time, but unfortunately you must help the man if you want to progress. Despite being in a grocery store with many bottles of drinks lying around and many parcels of food, you can’t scavenge any of them and instead have to buy the food and drink you would need to survive from the convenience store clerk who seemingly hasn’t taken the apocalyptic scenario as a sign to shut up shop.  

Even in a disaster scenario, the shops will stay open.

The game also has the funny habit of showing people dying en masse to natural disasters like earthquakes and floods and the NPC’s in the game all just walk around in their regular cycles and only rarely react to the mayhem around them. Often when talking to NPC’s you can’t get much relevant help or clues from them other than “Oh no the Earthquake!” or “This is a disaster.” I think if I was in a disaster I would try to group up with others to try and survive, maybe try and climb some rubble to get out of the areas with all the collapsing buildings but up until the point where the game WANTS you to do that, there’s no ability to do so. I certainly wouldn’t stroll calmly down the street looking like I just got on my lunch break from work. 

A strength of the game is that when you’re having the dialogue sections and scripted sequences they can be quite fun. The voice acting from all the characters is good and even though in Japanese I could tell the voice cast were trying to deliver compelling performances. Also, when the characters are showing personality it is fun to watch them in the world. Whether it be somewhat poorly timed comic scenes (like after a big bridge falls and kills a bunch of people) or a fellow survivor crying over her lost fiance. The story on display is quite compelling. It’s just a shame that the majority of NPC’s aren’t as interesting or complex as the few characters. 

Some of the standout characters in the game are disappointingly mandatory to progress so there’s no sense of the game experience varying from player to player.

The game also features a wide array of collectable costumes and compasses that you can find in the world and use to customise your character. The costumes are a great addition and allow you to wear hats outfits and different bags. These are purely cosmetic and so you aren’t punished for wearing your favourite look. With the compasses, I was a little bit more confused at the use of them in the game as I almost never looked at my compass throughout the entire game. But it’s a cool little trinket you can collect and the variety of them is very cool.

In a way I was hoping this game would be similar to something like Dead Rising where you’re in a disaster scenario and there are NPC survivors to rescue but each would be optional and provide benefits towards saving them. That game also allowed you to scavenge environments for supplies and provisions to survive and aid in your quest. Also the disaster would progress on an in game timer allowing the clear conditions to be somewhat broadened and allowing for multiple endings. Unfortunately the scale of the disaster in this game only escalates at scripted points and mostly as a way to open up pathways from sectioned off point and click sandboxes. 

Although I have enjoyed my time playing Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, I can’t help but want for the kind of survival game that uses the situations and characters that would emerge from a natural disaster to ask questions about my own priorities and test my survivability. Instead Disaster Report 4 uses the scenario more as a backdrop for it’s own style of point and click gameplay. Because of this there’s often a disconnect between the emergency of the situation and the reactions in the environment and this effects both the story and gameflow in a negative way.

Thank you to NIS America for providing the review code. Disaster Report 4 is available now both physically and digitally on the eShop for £53.99/€59.99/$59.99.

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