Short films and video games are forms of art that are rarely connected, but Suda 51 and Grasshopper Interactive, whose previous games include Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes, have decided to break this tradition. Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is a combination of an action based video game, and four pieces of Japanese animation that are loosely connected by the shattering of tranquillity by bringing about chaos
The main game, named Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, allows you to take the role of a high school student who leads a double life as an assassin. Although her goal seems simple at first, she is drawn into a series of events that defy even her range of experience. There are eight stages in the game, with half of them being ‘hold right to win’ side-scrolling stages, a couple of boss battles and a section on which you ride a customised motorcycle. Fans of Bit Trip Runner and Viewtiful Joe will definitely feel at home in the platformer levels, as the ‘hold right to win’ style of gameplay relies on you to get to the other side of the level as fast as you can, with the occasional need to solve a puzzle to progress.
The major difference the game has to others in it’s genre is that you are in control of your character’s acceleration, and that there is a mass of bizarre supernatural energy and creatures that will consume you if you make too many mistakes. There are moments where the controls feel unnecessarily tight, especially if you try to go backwards on a level where you are being chased. But for the most part, you will not come across a situation where you are unable to reach the next section because of a programming error.
Graphically speaking, Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day has a vivid punk aesthetic, with cell-shaded models and graffiti stickers that have been used in the developer’s previous games. There is rarely any slowdown within the game levels, #which is a relief because of the split second reactions required to traverse each individual location. The cutscenes between levels use the same drawing style that is found in Short Peace, which is a nice touch from the usual engine created movies that populate recent titles. However, the two artistic interpretations don’t exactly gel together, making the immersion fall apart the second that the styles switch around. This isn’t helped by the fact that the loading times seem to last for an average of thirty seconds each, even for a simple switch from the settings to the new game screen.
Various enemies and obstacles will bar your way as your run to the goal of each stage, but Ranko has a special lightsaber-style weapon that will deal with most of the enemies, and a gun that will freeze the scrolling energy for a short period of time. This will allow you a brief moment to regain your speed, provided you have defeated enough enemies to recharge your ammo.Although each level will only take you a matter of minutes to complete, there is a catalogue of concept art, extra costumes and music tracks to collect around the stages, and some require you to have met special conditions before they will unlock. This system works well in principle, but some of the unlockables have an annoying trait of you needing to play a mission an unnecessary amount of times, which can make gaining them all a tedious task.
A vivid J-Rock soundtrack accompanies the majority of the game, with the occasional lower key track making an appearance when the action slows down. Most of these tracks suit well enough, but none of them feel as if they stand out from the crowd, so unless you are playing a game like it for the first time, it doesn’t seem like it will break any musical boundaries. The voice acting is of excellent quality in both Short Peace and Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, but there are several occasions where it is evident that the actors are simply reading the script, rather than using their creative energy to bring to life the characters they are meant to be portraying.
Although the game is meant to be the focus of the compilation, the Short Peace films do take the majority of the spotlight, and are definitely worthy of recognition. Each one has a distinct style of storytelling, but the animation used rarely changes from the graphical style they have decided to use. Unlike traditional western animation, the ending of each short is not always a happy one. To start the movie, we have the mysterious Possessions, where a samurai warrior takes refuge in a temple filled with mischievous spirits. We are then lead to the cautionary tale of childhood friends and fighting fires in Combustible. A white bear rids a village of an evil presence in Gambo, and the collection finishes with an apocalyptic excavation attempt whilst avoiding robotic guardians in A Farewell to Weapons.
If you were expecting an English dub as an alternative to the original Japanese dialogue, I am afraid you will be disappointed, as the Japanese language track is the sole option available for both the game and the short films. There is still some good news for international audiences, though, as there are subtitles available in most major languages. While it is slightly disappointing to not receive a localised version, it is probably an intentional choice to allow us to appreciate a different type of culture, or to appease the majority of the intended audience.
In conclusion, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is a unique collection of Japanese culture. While it may not receive the same attention as some western titles, it is a treasure trove of thought provoking narratives that ask you to look deeper than the surface values. The overall world is well constructed, but the game fails to reach it’s potential with an average sounding soundtrack, a short single player campaign and an unnecessary unlocking system bolted on to increase its lifespan. It is definitely worth playing for the intriguing narrative and fast hitting game play, but a few minor issues with loading times can hinder the experience. We rarely see visual content of this caliber in the west, so despite the problems, it is most certainly worth waiting for, at least the first time around.