One of the most difficult to read titles to grace the PS3, Short Peace is the new creation from Namco Bandai, Crispy’s Inc and Suda 51, a movie and video game crossover that spans Ranko Tsukigme’s longest day. Will this obscure Japanese title find its deserved niche, or will it sink under the tidal flood of western releases designed to appeal to the masses?
Hoping for a breath of fresh air, I dove into Short Peace with an open mind; prepared for anything, I encountered one of the most bewildering gaming experiences of my life. With the contemporary rulebook strewn out of the window, you’ll encounter all of the classic atypical Japanese stereotypes such as, ‘terraforming young girl’ and ‘rugged motorbike rider that can transform into an Ironman suit’. I’m skipping ahead however; Short Peace starts out fairly sedately before jumping into the land of the nonsensical.
You play as Ranko, an average schoolgirl during the day, who by nightfall, becomes a deadly assassin tasked with ending the life of her own father. If you’re familiar with the workings of Katsuhiro Otomo, then you’ll be pleased to know that this functions as a tie-in to his four part film compilation. Whilst the gameplay is certainly entertaining in its own right, it becomes clear early on, in part due to the cutscenes often being longer than the levels, that the main focus of this package lies sorely in its storytelling and cutscenes.
Much akin to an infinite runner style game, only with an end, Short Peace places you in a multi-tiered, 2D environment with the only goal being to evade the, often unexplained, pursuing threat. Starting out simply, the game informs you briefly on the control setup, which essentially boils down to holding a direction, jumping occasionally and mashing square whenever you see an enemy. Whilst you can’t directly fail the level by choosing from the multitude of paths on offer, some are undeniably quicker, some hold secrets and some have an increased number of enemies. If the pursuing behemoth does start catching up with you (and on later levels it most certainly will!) you have your trusty gun at your side to help. Firing at it from your trusty instrument/gun will make it back off and keep the pressure down, however using it will deplete its ammunition, which is regenerated only by vanquishing scores of enemies.
With it being such a fast paced game; most levels only taking approximately 90 seconds to complete, combat on the fly sounds potentially tricky. Fortunately, for the most part, it isn’t. It all boils down to timing and reaction speeds, most of the early enemies are stationary and provide little to no challenge, later on however, enemies will swoop, home in on you and even fire projectiles. The difficulty spikes a little after some of these enemies as you may imagine! Fortuitously, due to the chaining system, it usually ends up as more of a spectacle than a true challenge, for when you kill enemies one after another, the vivid and dramatic effects of their destruction will link and take out subsequent nearby enemies in a row. With each defeated enemy releasing a potent array of colour and shapes, when you’re on a longer ‘streak’ the screen can cross the inevitable boundry between a Jackson Pollock painting and an all-night rave.
For a game, dedicated to reaction times and quick, committed judgement calls, it’s a good job that the controls are tight, responsive and simple. In fact the only time when I came into problems was during the first boss fight where you can’t rely upon your usual momentum and instead must change direction constantly. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, yet if you jump backwards instead of first facing the correct direction, you will leap about half of the expected distance, a potential problem when you can’t clearly see your character due to the myriad of on-screen effects. All of which can be exasperated when you factor in that there are no checkpoints, but conversely, you will rarely have to replay more than a couple of minutes should you succumb to the ensuing darkness.
Helpfully breaking up the pace are the bosses, some often pose not only a different kind of threat, but also can change the game up entirely, as is the case of the second boss encounter where the largely un-adhered to rulebook, is once again ignored and the game instead takes the form of a 2D overhead shooting battle, with a dragon, that was once a little girl. Obviously.
Whilst it might not be the longest game available, you’re better off looking at Short Peace as a package. The game itself, despite how actually engaging it can be, is not the focal point, it’s the fantastic movies that enthral the most and will be the games largest draw. The artwork is sublime and the comic book stylised effects during the in-game cutscenes work well. Despite the game’s spoken language being entirely in Japanese, the subtitles aren’t too intrusive yet they can however disappear fairly quickly, especially the hints. The odd sense of humour retains its quintessentially Japanese appeal, with loading screen messages murmuring about various restraints in development and the like!
Short Peace is not without its fair share of faults however, its short length is a little problematic and not entirely excusable, even with the replay value in beating stage times and collecting secrets such as artwork and costumes. For the most part, the load times are great; if you fail a stage, the retry screen is quick and painless to appear, for some reason however, if you select the extras screen from the main menu, it can seem like an eternity before something happens. There are also some great scenes on the XMB video section when you have the disc inserted that can be potentially easy to miss if, like I did, you assumed they’d be in the game’s menus somewhere.
In truth, Short Peace is going to be a subjective matter for most. Those who’ll appreciate it will relish its accompaniment to the saga. On the other hand, those who have had no experience of the source material will not only be greatly bemused, but also presented with what could in essence, be a very highly polished mobile game, albeit with fantastic presentation, engaging cutscenes and slick, responsive controls.