- Developer: Granzella Inc
- Publisher: NIS America
- Release Date: 04/07/2020
- Price: $59.99 / £53.99
- Review code provided by NIS America
Introducing Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
It’s often said that life imitates art, but what about art imitating life? What if we take it to another level and we have art, imitating life, imitating art. I’ve thought about this and the game I reviewed feels more like art, imitating life, imitating an arthouse film produced by Takashi Miike and directed by David Lynch. If my previous statement confused you, it’s understandable, because this title confused me. I was mesmerized by the absurdity of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories and while this was enough to keep me playing, it was not always a walk in the park.
You Shook Me All Night Long
The game begins with the player choosing an avatar for themselves. You can choose to either be a male or female protagonist, your complexion, facial structure, hair style and color. Your avatar starts in a business outfit and sadly, it cannot be changed until later in the game. Next, the player is given a choice on how they would respond in a crisis. I’m not entirely sure if this had a direct effect on my playthrough or not, but it made me think, something this game did often. What follows was the beginning of my harrowing tale of disaster and destruction through the city.
The main game takes place over the course of a few days after a fateful bus ride into the city. An earthquake hits and the bus wrecks. You are safe but dazed and bewildered. You aren’t the only one as there are many citizens that are stranded as well, looking for a way out. This is where your character comes into play. While it’s difficult to place a single genre on this game, I say the closest thing would be a puzzle adventure, since your goal is to solve the problems of all of the survivors you encounter while searching for a way out of the city. By the time the credits roll, many questions still felt unanswered and I was scratching my head. Thankfully, an epilogue chapter unlocks, which takes place in the same city but during the reconstruction period.
Though the epilogue did a pretty good job of tying almost all the loose ends, I am guessing my own choices, or lack thereof, led me to not see all my side stories through to completion. The ending segment of this game, without spoilers, may have been one of the craziest and random experiences in a game ever. I was thoroughly excited by it and while it was not perfect, I have not had a scene cause such joy.
Great Balls of Fire
As I mentioned above, Disaster Report 4 is kind of like a puzzle adventure game. You walk around sections of the city, interacting with NPCs, listening to their problems while gaining information about the world that can be used for later. Sometimes all a puzzle requires is for you to have had a conversation with “person A” so you can tell “person B” what they need to know. This will open a path or give you an item which will allow you to move further. Here in lies my first issue with this title. It is not always clear where to go and what to do. One section of the game I repeatedly walked around the area talking to the same people over and over. Nothing was changing and while other sections would eventually click with me, this one didn’t. After an hour of talking to every NPC repeatedly, I finally clicked on the bus stop and BOOM, I was able to proceed. Regardless of this frustration, the story kept me moving. I found myself genuinely caring about the characters I interacted with. Figuring out how to help them out and keeping them safe made muddling through the puzzles not so bad.
When you’re not trying to problem solve, you need to scavenge for food and water. Disaster Report features a hunger, thirst and bathroom gauge. Eating will cure your hunger but make you thirsty. Drinking will quench your thirst, and both activities add to your bathroom need. These parameters seemed more tedious and scarier in the early game, but I never had an issue with finding food, liquid or restroom. Money seemed like a more precious resource until I found myself with over 100 million yen. Around this point I realized how absolutely bonkers the title is.
You ride a scooter, swim in a dilapidated apartment building, row a boat, sneak through windows and yell at random pedestrians. That’s right, there is a dedicated button for yelling and if you hold R while doing that, you can scream louder. I found no real use for this in game other than to crack my wife up randomly. Another aspect that comes into play is your choices. You can be good, bad or indifferent in almost every situation, which will sometimes gift you with moral and immoral points. When my playthrough was done, I had just a few more moral than immoral points, so I would consider that a fantastic finish.
It’s the End of the World As We Know It
Over the period of the game’s 6 day timeline, I slowly realized this wasn’t a surreal take on surviving a crisis. This was a deep dive on the darkness of humanity and its odd beauty. There was death, sexual assault, kidnapping and cults. Even with the darkness present, humor was abounding. For example, you can find absurd outfits to wear and people act like nothing is wrong with your character wearing a star fleet costume. Due to this and other aspects, I noticed that Disaster Report wants you to remember it is a video game. It pokes fun at itself and even has billboards advertising the game and even NPCs talking about it.
At one point in a rather serious section of dialog, I asked if I could see the ending now. The person I was talking to was flabbergasted. They asked if I really wanted to see the ending now. Of course, I said yes, and the credits began to roll right on the spot. Now I became the exasperated one as I wondered if this was truly the ending. Thankfully, it went right back into the game and continued like nothing happened.
The story was a wild ride, through and through. The story wasn’t the only thing that kept me searching, as I wanted to keep finding more compasses and bags. Compasses are the games form of collectibles and do not really do anything different other than adding a cute or odd-looking compass to the bottom right of your screen. Bags increase your storage capacity and are much more vital to the core of the game. Each one has a different number of spots to hold items, and the largest one I found held 40 items.
When I first started Disaster Report, I thought, “Man, this game looks pretty good”. The beginning cutscene with the earthquake and the bus turning over and having to crawl out in first person was great. Until it wasn’t. The game was filled with so many different characters, but they were stiff, and many were reused. When I say reused, I mean overused. Case in point, I was looking for an arsonist. I clearly saw the character model, and I went and talk to that person, only to find someone else in the next town over that looked just like him. And it kept happening. Not to mention that the game was downgraded from the PS4 version.
At one point when I was stuck, I thought to look up play footage of the Japanese version and I noticed how much of a downgrade the Switch version suffered from. That’s not to fault the developer or publisher, as the Switch is only capable of so much and I am still happy to be able to play this title on the Switch. It just made me sad knowing that a more polished version existed.
The sound on the other hand was a different situation. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was sparse. There was a song for imminent danger and a theme song for a street side musician. Though none can compare to the deep and thoughtful bathroom song. I’m not sure why, but when you relieve yourself in the restroom, a beautiful and slow piano tune is played. I cracked up the first time I heard it as it seemed so out of place. This is one of the beauties of this title, it flourishes in the strange and unusual.
Flirtin’ With Disaster
Even though I enjoyed my time with the game, I found many things were just not right. Loading times were extremely long between changing environments and they would often leave you with a grainy afterimage. When playing on the handheld, the games graphics were downgraded to look like an early Wii title. Again, it wasn’t a deal breaker, but add to the fact that the frame rate would drop when large crowds would appear, this put a damper on my fun.
Another peculiarity I noticed involved the text. I found one portion late in the game that was not translated. When I went to talk to an NPC, Kanji appeared over their head. Yet, when the conversation began, it showed their name. It may have been an odd glitch, or something left unchecked in the code. Another odd instance featured “/” symbols in each dialog option. Such as “choose to get /on the bus”. Again, none of these were that bad, but when the game crashed on me unexpectedly, I was a bit upset. It only happened once, and I lost a minimal amount of progress luckily.
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is one of the most unique games I have had the pleasure of playing. It is not perfect, and it does have rough edges, but that doesn’t change the fact it features a compelling story with morality choices that still finds time to have fun and make light of itself. Some of its best qualities are also its worst. The fact it is a video game that is self-aware makes it a joy at times, while also being archaic and frustrating at others. If you don’t mind wading through a few confusing puzzles and somewhat less than stellar graphics, this game has quite a bit to offer.
- Off the Wall Story
- Lovable Characters
- Diverse Gameplay
- Bathroom Song
- Frustrating Puzzles
- Graphic Downgrade
- Scavenging System
To say I have never played a game like Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories would be an understatement. It is completely unique, magical and absurd. While it is nowhere near perfect, it is still a fun game that should be experienced by fans of Japanese dramas or peculiar stories.