Sunday, 29 March 2009

Review: Nanashi no Game

NOTE: As it turns out, I wrote this review months ago and completely forgot about it until now.

Nanashi no Game: Let’s see how many times I use the word ‘game’ in a single sentence.

Title: Nanashi no Game (aka: Nameless Game)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Year: 2008 (JP)

When I first heard of Nanashi no Game, my initial reaction was ‘Oh my god. Square Enix? Not doing a RPG?!’ Well this is true for the most part. Nanashi no Game is basically two games in one – part old-school, Dragon Quest-style RPG and part first-person adventure. ‘What gives?’ You may wonder, but it makes sense if you look at the storyline.

Now, I don’t know Japanese, but from what I can gather (along with various previews and translation efforts), they game’s about a cursed RPG that is making rounds and killing people who play it after seven days. If this sounds like a certain J-Horror film, you are totally correct! The whole point of Nanashi no Game is to find out the source of the curse and therefore, break it. Before you dismiss it as being a cheap knockoff though, I’d like to say that Nanashi no Game actually pulls it off quite well in that:

  1. You never see your character, adding a whole personal level to it; and

  2. You do get to play the cursed game – even having to navigate through a DS menu to get into it. [I’ve read from various sources that some creepy, fourth wall-breaking messages pop up (ala Eternal Darkness) so here’s hoping for an English release so we can all actually understand them.

Being a horror game, Nanashi no Game contains its fair share of jump scares, but is also notable for being one that doesn’t rely on them entirely. Every area you visit in the game oozes creepy, and it certainly doesn’t help that they are all completely empty. Maybe they mention why all the buildings are empty somewhere in the game, I don’t know.

There are a considerable amount of ‘Oh, fuck’ moments, especially when you swing round into a corridor and suddenly see a sickly-blue ghost just standing there, like it’s daring you to come closer. The ‘oh, fuck’ turns into ‘FUCK’, especially if you’re trapped in a tiny area (which WILL happen) and the ghost is actively chasing you (the control scheme doesn’t help this either, but more on that later).

Your little forays into the cursed RPG occur at the important points of your adventure. For example, at one point in the game, the main character throws a fit and smashes his DS, along with the cursed game – only to find another DS nearby! (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you about this because as we all know, you can’t outrun a curse that easily!) The DS makes a little tone when the cursed game is available for play, prompting you to hit ‘SELECT’ and go, go, go.

There’s no dragon-battling in the cursed game, though. It’s more of a story-driven thing in which you basically wander around talking to people until something significant happens. The cursed game, while probably a lot creepier if you know Japanese, is still pretty unsettling to play. It comes complete with haunting melody which distorts at various points. Couple this with graphics that go all glitch whenever you take a step and it makes you wonder if YOU’RE going to die in seven days.

Playing Nanashi no Game requires you to hold your DS like a ‘book’ as is the case with games like Hotel Dusk and Brain Training. Moving is purely touchscreen-based, with the option of using the directional pad in order to make your character move faster. It was certainly kind of them to give you this option because your character is really quite fucking slow. Does he have a broken leg or something? Maybe a sprained ankle? Even with this ‘speed boost’, he’s still terrible. It’s hard to manoeuvre, particularly if you’ve got to do a 180 degree turn. As I mentioned previously, this WILL happen, ESPECIALLY when you’re in a tiny corner.

Nanashi no Game is worth having a shot at if you enjoy survival horror and/or games like Hotel Dusk. Despite its flaws, it’s like The Ring of horror games (disregarding the godawful Dreamcast game) in a literal sense, only not a classic. Perhaps if it was ever translated and released in North America and/or Europe, it will receive, at the very least, the attention it deserves.

[6/10] – Interesting, but not interesting enough. When you get a wishbone, wish for a translation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i know this is an old thread and all, and that you didn't know japanese, but the english version is out there and i've just started to play it, and one thing i saw you did not know is that the point of the controls is for you to use both the touch screen and d-pad to move around, you will see its more fun that way =)