Suda 51 sure is a strange dude. I mean that in the most complimentary way, of course. He’s weird in the same way Wes Anderson is weird… Or Trent Reznor. It’s that weird that just skirts around the edge of genius. Sadly, his last few outings have played things relatively safe. Ever since he went somewhat “Mainstream” with No More Heroes, Suda’s games have become a bit more… traditional.
Sure, games like Shadows of the Damned and Lollipop Chainsaw were (a little) weird, but they lacked that undeniable genius found in earlier Suda 51 games like Killer 7, Flower Sun and Rain and of course, No More Heroes. That genius returns, albeit momentarily, in Suda’s latest game which forms part of the expanded collective arts effort – Short Peace.
Short Peace is comprised of four animated short movies from some of the worlds greatest anime directors and one short game from Japan’s premier master of the bizarre. The works collectively share one recurring theme – Japan. Each short (including Suda 51’s “Ranko” game) takes place in “the land of the rising sun” at some point in history, whether it be past, present or a bizarre alternate future.
The four short films are available on the retail disc of Short Peace Ranko (full title – Short Peace Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day… you see why I’ve shortened it) all brought together by visionary anime director Katsuhiro Otomo; creator of Akira and Steamboy. This is not Otomo’s first short movie collection. Back in 1995 he brought the world “Memories”, a collection of shorts that shared the theme of… well, memories, obviously. Side note: It was fantastic. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Now!
It’s tough reviewing Short Peace as it’s a very different package to the usual game. I mean, as a “game”, Short Peace Ranko delivers fantastic gameplay but is incredibly short – ringing in at around 3 to 4 hours play time. Considering the brevity it’s amazing that Short Peace Ranko manages to fit so much in. It’s got 2D platforming, a motorcycle chase, an R-type style level and a 2D wrestling match.
Each of the little game types comprises a level and ties into the games suitably bizarre story. At first things seem pretty normal – well, by anime standards. You play as Ranko Tsukigime, a high-schooler who harbours a dark secret. At night, Ranko acts as an assassin, with her ultimate goal being vengeance against her own father. She blames her father, a car-park mogul, for the death of her mother and uses her “La Femme Nikita” style skills to hunt him through Tokyo.
About mid-way through the game, things take a turn for the mental… and I don’t just mean by anime standards, here. I mean by Suda 51 standards. I honestly couldn’t even begin to describe the events that take place in the latter half of the game, but I will say the cutscene animations are absolutely gorgeous. The visual style changes for each cutscene, with some looking like the “We Love Katamari” opening, while others feel like a living Manga comic.
The director of 2012’s Tokyo Jungle, Yohei Kataoka, worked with Suda 51 on Ranko and there are more than a few nods to that game in Short Peace Ranko, including a particularly hilarious scene involving a giant Pomeranian who makes it very clear that he’s… “on top of the food chain!”. Suda has a few throwbacks to his own previous titles in the game, including a homage to Mask De Smith, from classic Suda 51 gem, Killer 7.
It’s a real shame that the game is simply too short for me to recommend at the hefty asking price. In saying that, you are getting a full anime Blu-Ray as well. The way I see it, Memories costs about 20 bucks on Blu-Ray. So if you view the asking price for Short Peace Ranko as a full price anime Blu-Ray and a game, it works out at about 20 bucks each.
If you are O.K with that, then I definitely recommend Short Peace Ranko. If you feel that you’ll watch the short movies – which are absolutely stunning by the way- and want to play something a bit off the wall, I think there’s great value on offer here.
If however you are looking for something to soak up the hours, you’d best look elsewhere.