January 10, 2011

Review – Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman

Review ZHP Unlosing Ranger vs DarkDeath Evilman
Would it shock you to learn that Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman was one of the best games I played in 2010? It certainly was the game with the longest, most esoteric title that anyone played in 2010. Beyond the hokey moniker however, there hides a roguelike tactical RPG that is wholly fresh, inventive, and surprisingly accessible.

Z.H.P. is a strange game, to say the least – though I use the term ‘strange’ as both a term of endearment and for descriptive purposes – the pre-title sequence warns you right off the top that the game only contains one battle, but that it’s awesomely epic. This had my interest piqued well before the title sequence and opening story portions fully introduced me to the breadth of Z.H.P.’s overt strangeness.

The opening story is told through Television news updates and eye witness accounts, global attention fixed on the scene of an epic battle that is about to take place between the supreme hero and his arch-villain nemesis. Running late to the epic showdown is our hero however, the Unlosing Ranger, and unfortunately for the well being of all mankind he is unceremoniously hit by a car and killed along the way. With his last breathe he bequeaths the Unlosing Ranger mantle to you, the accident’s sole witness.

Taking up the challenge thrust upon you, you set out for your date with destiny – the final showdown against Darkdeath Evilman, wherein you are instantly killed and sent to a realm known as Bizzarro Earth.

It seems that Bizzarro Earth serves as a kind of limbo between death and the real Earth. There is an alternate person in Bizzarro Earth for every person on real Earth. Upon arriving, you are introduced to Pirohiko Ichimon ji, the departed soul of the recently deceased Unlosing Ranger.

With the previous Ranger’s constant encouragement, and the constant negative reinforcement of a girl named Etranger, you are driven to strengthen yourself in order to return to that fateful final battle and end Darkdeath Evilman’s reign of terror.

The name of the game is dungeon crawling. Guided by Etranger and Pirohiko, you trudge through various randomly generated, multi-floored worlds. Each has the end goal of not only building your stats in preparation for your final shot at Darkdeath Evilman, but also carries the added challenge of altering the fate of an individual in the Bizzarro realm, there by helping them in the real world.

The combat is akin to a hyper-simplified variation on typical turn-based strategy RPGs. You are able to move and attack freely, foregoing the use of traditional menu commands. This gives the game a faster pace, and an almost Zelda-esque feel. The flipside to this simplified battle system is that for every action you take, much like any other strategy RPG, you must be acutely aware that each opponent you have on screen gets an equal number of actions. This gives the game a “cat and mouse” quality, where you need to carefully plan out which enemies to engage and in what order, or risk becoming trapped by multiple baddies.

Successfully clearing the isometric grid-based dungeons isn’t a walk in the park, either. This is a game that demands you grind – becoming strong enough to survive entire dungeons is key.

If you happen to die in a dungeon, and you will, you net all of the experience and levels gained up until your demise. This contributes to your overall level, which serves as a base for how high your stats will be at the onset of a dungeon campaign. Within the dungeons it is possible to upgrade your stats even more as you progress toward the end boss of said dungeon. The downside is that upon dying you lose all of the weapons you brought into the dungeon, as well as the spoils acquired within that session.

Z.H.P. even provides a twist on movement within the dungeons – in addition to your standard HP gauge, you also have Energy Points. This gauge exhausts a little with every step and action your character takes. You can refill you EP gauge by eating meat that can both be purchased and appears randomly throughout each dungeon.

The rate of depletion is also greatly accelerated by the type and quantity of armaments you have equipped, and the quantity of items you are carrying. For example, you can equip a weapon in each hand and carry a full load of medicine, but the trade-off is that your EP gauge will decrease at a faster rate. It is essential to plan ahead and correctly balance how you equip your character, along with the types of items you bring to each dungeon outing.

Another mechanic, one I normally loathe in RPGs, is that your weapons and armor wear out and lose their effectiveness over time. You can have weapons and armor repaired at the hub world’s blacksmith shop, but luckily there are tons of weapons, armor and items randomly scattered throughout each dungeon floor, so you won’t be caught in the lurch as often as you might think. This adds yet another layer of strategy, in that battles must be chosen carefully with thought given to arriving at your end goal, whether that be clearing a level for grinding purposes, or to kill the end boss.

The game play, battle mechanics, and grinding are all done so very well in Z.H.P. that there had to be shortcomings somewhere. Like most rogue-like dungeon crawlers, this catch often relates to the story. While that story is certainly unique and interesting, the supporting character’s personalities are a little overpowering. The constant pep talks and encouragement you receive from Etranger and Pirohiko, most often in the midst of the dungeons, are for the most part silly, unnecessary, and distracting. The storyline, while interesting at its core, is overly bogged down with corny dialog and shallow characters. I understand that the game’s story is meant to be a send-up of role-playing game and anime cliches, but the game follows these conventions it mocks in order to lampoon them, leaving them ever present and at times cringe-worthy.

Z.H.P. fits Nippon Ichi’s usual offerings, and if you’re going to pick this game up based on NIS alone, then you already know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re on the fence, I can tell you this is enough of a twist on grind heavy tactical RPGs to warrant a thorough play through… just expect a story that intentionally plays in the cliche and at times overwhelms the player with the trappings attached to that.

Nippon Ichi Software

NIS America

PlayStation Portable


Release Date
October 26, 2010

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. Thanks for the review. I’ll be adding this to my collection over the summer once I’m done with my first round of PSP purchases.

    Comment by EdEN — January 10, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

  2. I feel horrible that I haven’t bought this yet… seeing I’m pretty much the target audience of this game. Doh! Sorry NIS!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — January 11, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

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