Saturday, May 21, 2011

Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series 絶体絶命都市

I’ve been meaning to make a post like this since the fourth game in this disaster survival series was cancelled by Irem, soon after the disaster in Japan. I’ve had ZZT3 for PSP on my shelf for years now, and with the fourth game likely to never arrive, I thought it time to play it – especially since I already love the first two entries in the series. The first was known as Disaster Report in the US, SOS: The Final Escape in Europe and 絶体絶命都市 in Japan. The sequel was known as Raw Danger in both the US and Europe and 絶体絶命都市2 -凍てついた記憶たち- in Japan. The third game (絶体絶命都市3 - 壊れゆく街と彼女の歌) on PSP never left Japan.

Along with cancelling Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4: Summer Memories for PS3, Irem also put a halt to sales of earlier releases. Which really only constitutes the PSP game, since I doubt they were still printing the PS2 versions. Most people couldn’t understand this, and neither did I, until I started the game.

Note with tragic irony that Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3: Kowareyuku Machi to Kanojo no Uta takes place during the actual time the real disaster occurred in Japan (March 2011). Seeing the above opening screen it’s perhaps unsurprising Irem doesn’t want further sales of the PSP game. In addition ZZT3, like all the ZZT games, places the blame for the loss of life during natural disasters on corrupt government and unscrupulous corporations. So not only does ZZT3 take place during a time when Japan was really hit with a natural disaster, the poor rescue attempts are caused by bureaucratic red-tape and the destruction of the city itself the result of a greedy construction company not following building laws
(I'm talking in-game here). Again, tragically ironic considering the criticism some parts of the media made of the messages given out and the Fukushima plant's resulting problems. Taking these factors into account - the time the game takes places and its political commentary - it's plain to see that ZZT3 could ignite emotions if viewed out of context. Hell, I feel uncomfortable even typing this blog entry, such is its razor-like controversy. As for ZZT4, I have no idea, I've not played it.

And yet in spite of all the tragedy and awkward parallels, I still feel that cancelling this series was a bad idea (and I have Japanese friends who actually live in Fukushima, so I don’t want accusations of insensitivity).

Apart from the fact that all three are fantastic games in their own right, conveying an exciting action adventure dynamic mixed with survival elements while being devoid of aggression on the player’s part, they also act as guides for real disaster events. ZZT3 actually has survival information provided by the Japan Disaster Information Support Network. This isn’t the kind of game you hide away and cancel, almost as if Irem were ashamed of it, it’s something people should embrace with acceptance and understanding. Edutainment has such a bad stigma, but if this is portraying real possible situations, with information from a know respected organisations, then it’s not too far to imagine that a Zettai Zetsumei Toshi game could save someone’s life one day.

In addition they also contain a great examination of human nature in a multiple-choice environment. In all games you’re regularly posed questions by fellow survivors, and you can either act like a jerk, jeopardising other people’s safety, or you can work together. And while you can still be a jerk and survive, those who behave like decent human beings always end up better for it. The multiple choice nature of the games is something exemplary, considering that Japanese games are criticised for never providing real choices, when for example compared to western games like Mass Effect.

If you’ve never played one of these games by Irem, then you should. The first two are available in English, and while the localisation was poor, and the games are inherently clunky, they’re still something unique and worth experiencing. There was a disaster game by a different developer on Wii, but it focused too much on gunplay and placing you in a series of action-film situations. The ZZT series is more thoughtful in its approach. I’m going to try to complete ZZT3, whereupon I should have a 100 or so screens for an HG101 article. Discoalucard I believe has the first two (I sold my copies years ago), and there are screens and videos of the 4th online. So together there’s probably a big feature for sometime in the future. MAYBE.

ZZT3 was never localised and there’s no fan translations that I know of (but damn I hope someone is working on it somewhere), but there is THIS GUIDE online, complete with translations for every dialogue section in the game. I actually printed it off and am playing with it by my side. Heck, maybe hackers could hook up with the guy to create a translation patch. My only other hope is that Irem comes to their senses. ZZT4 was almost complete, surely a more logical solution would be to publish it and donate profits to relief aid for victims of Japan’s tsunami? As it is they’ve essentially thrown away the hard works of countless staff over several years, taken a financial loss that could bankrupt them (Irem is a small company), and without actually benefiting anyone affected by the tsunami.


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  2. Condensing three posts into one:

    Turns out there is a MAJOR FATAL glitch in ZZT3. If you examine the rope before the hole you can NEVER collect it and are trapped in that room.

    I've reverted to an old save, but CRIKEY!

    Looks like my attempt to complete this has come to a halt. I've reached the bit where you need to knock down some rope and it's just not happening. The game keeps saying "rope ga aru", meaning there's rope, instead of letting me tackle the wall to knock it down.

    Has my game been glitched to hell now?

    This walkthrough video at 2.20 shows what is SUPPOSED to happen:

    But it never happens in my game.

    If anyone knows what the problem is, please post.


    Googling reveals a few thousand people with the same glitch:

    Just search:
    絶体絶命都市3 "ロープがある"


  3. Odd, that never happened in any of my games.

    Usually, if you saw the rope first, all you need to do is just enter the office building and go up near the hole, making your character comment about how big it is and that there's no choice but to go down. Then you go back to where the rope, is, tackle it, and Bob's your uncle.

    The only theory I have in mind is from reloading saves. This game has a nasty habit of resetting flags when you save, quit and restart. Case in point would be the Magoya sequence, where if you talk to the mom, save, quit and reload, the game will act as if you didn't talk to her at all, and would have to do it again just to get the hidden employee entrance key. Most people who weren't aware of that spent quite a while wondering why the key didn't appear.

    Try it and check back with me. Feel free to use my main blog's shoutbox as well.

  4. Thanks for posting!

    Ahh dang, I only saw this comment after reloading saves and then later saving over the bad one.

    But I triple checked everything. I checked the rope, then went into the room to check out the massive hole, then went back to the rope and it wouldn't let me pick it up. I went back and forth a few times trying to talk to everyone with no luck.

    I think I've still got a save prior to the stealth section. Will do more testing on it.

    Near the end now anyway.

  5. Wow, that's rough.

    Even so, that's one tidbit I should definitely add in the walkthrough section as well. And here I was thinking that the only glitches were the key flag and the great Magoya freeze...

  6. Now I can't seem to recreate the glitch! Hmm, I just can't fathom it. I'm going to try for a bit more, and I'll try to recreate it exactly - but this is most mysterious!

  7. lol, now it's hard to tell what's worse...

    Anyway, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I seem to have been way too lucky in all my ZZT3 game sessions, never having experienced any of these glitches at all.

    Now working on the endgame sequence. There are a lot of funky revelations there that needs proper wording, hence the delay. People who can understand Japanese are aware of them already, but for the sake of those who don't, I WILL finish this.

  8. Looking forward to it. :)

    My Japanese isn't very good, so it's handy for me to have a guide.

    As for the glitch, I reloaded several times, redoing the stealth bit and saving and reloading various points inside the building (before checking out the big hole, after checking it, after and before checking out the small hole), and I can't seem to recreate this glitch. I've even tried jumping in the hole and restarting, to see if it resets the flag. Nothing...

    The small hole cutscene seems to reset every time I reload, but now I can grab the rope just fine, every time. Which is maddening, because it honestly would not work with my old save.

    I can't guarantee it's a real glitch, or if I was just making some basic error, but when I come to write up an entry I'm going to warn readers anyway - better be on the safe side and keep an extra 300kb save file before the stealth section, just in case...

  9. Irem was really affected by the earthquake:

    -April Fools joke cancelled (this is actually a really important event for Irem)
    -ZZT4 cancelled
    -Bumpy Trot 2 cancelled
    -Irem store closed
    -Not looking for new employees to work on home console games and are focusing on pachinko games instead

    Things really aren't looking good for them.

  10. Just wanted to report that the main walkthrough is now complete.

    I'll just build a section on NG+, items and the Multiplay Quests later.