Developed By: Granzella Published by: Nippon Ichi Software America Categories: Adventure, Survival Release Date: 04.07.20
The Following Review contains spoilers.
March 10, 2011. The day Disaster Report 4 was to release in Japan. The game however would get delayed due to the developer Irem requiring more development time. March 11, 2011. The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami occurs. The game would proceed to be formally cancelled three days later on March 14th along with other titles in development such as the next Steambot Chronicles titles. While the game’s cancellation is ultimately chocked up to the company’s restructuring , the content of Disaster Report 4, and as a series as a whole could be misconstrued as being in bad taste. Fast forward three years, Granzella, an offshoot of Irem, formed in April 2011, mostly known for working on Playstation Home content acquires the rights to the Disaster Report series from Irem with plans on reviving the series. The next year, Disaster Report 4 rises from the dead, this time as a Playstation 4 title, with the game originally being developed for PS3. The game would release in 2018 on PS4, with a Switch port a year later, and a western localization as well as a PC release in 2020.
WHAT DO YOU DO
The game starts in a bus, almost immediately giving you the choice of how you react to an old woman needing a seat. Do you give it o her with no issue, make a stink about it, or just ignore the woman. A key mechanic of the game is often stopping you in conversations or events to ask how you as a person would react or what you would tell a person. Upon finding a young teacher who needs help finding her students, do you flirt with her in an attempt to woo her, do you fulfill altruistic fantasies, or do you demand compensation from her for wasting your time. It may not seem apparent at first, but these choices can decide how events will play out hours down the line in the game. Maybe a character mentions someone offhand and you meet up with them, everything seems to be related to an extent. You find a suspicious looking man asking your assistance in finding a man in a black shirt, you can either tell him where you saw him run, or purposefully mislead him, the man he’s looking for is soon seen hiding out in the back room of a convenience store badly injured asking for you to find an item in a locker for him. After some time, you’ll meet a young woman who needs your help after being trapped under rubble, she’s looking for her boy. After spending days with her trying to get back into town after an escape plan doesn’t go as plan, you finally find her boyfriend…the man in the black shirt, and you give him the item he requested, an engagement ring. None of this explicitly being said ahead of time, just playing out as you try to escape danger.
HOW IT HAPPENS
Disaster Report 4 plays as a mix of many things, survival games, visual novel, and old fashion adventure games. For each area you walk around in, it’s open, you can talk to the dozens of survivors, look around wrecked buildings, and even find dropped items, such as an optional flashlight to help you out in dark areas or collectable companies of different looks. This leads into the customization of your avatar, you can find or buy clothes, to make your character look as goofy, or as serious as needed. At some points, you’ll need to wear a certain set of clothes for an event to occur such as needing to help a scared convenience store worker with angry customers so he can give you toilet paper to help a man in need of some in the bathroom. You do so only for the man to claim he’s the store manager charging outrageous prices for food and drink…only to get confronted by the actual manager who will question why you’re wearing the uniform if you’re not an employee. Even in this chain of events, the game constantly gives you the option to make your own choices on many things. Pocket the money the customers give you for goods when you’re assisting the clerk, charge the man in the toilet money for the roll of the toilet paper, if your goal is to be an opportunistic jerk, the game will let you as nearly every moment. A set of mechanics that liken it to survival games is your stress, hunger, thirst, and bathroom need meters. You are asked to eat, drink, and visit bathrooms on the occasion, but I never once felt like they seriously made a difference if not taken care of. The Stress Meter however is to be taken more seriously, as when you take stress from being knocked over, or swimming underwater, if not taken care of by reaching a checkpoint/save point, it lowers your maximum HP.
The game’s story feels very Japanese for better or worse. It feels much like an anime series based on what happens to a city and it’s people after a large crisis, with wacky reoccurring characters, romances, and emotional moments with vocal songs. At times, some story beats are predictable, such as a captain to a boat that would be an escape out of the city, only to die getting crushed by a platform, to give you a key to reach a lifeboat he was going to use. Other times, events much like this come as a shock and out of left field. Shortly after the aforementioned drama, you reach a series of flooded apartment complexes, hearing a baby crying, you go inside you find a family with the mother asking for you to help her find medicine for her older child, which you can again, chose to do in a heroic way, or take advantage of the mother. After she lets you spend your night at her apartment, the situation there gets worse and floods more, with you needing to escape, the mother tells you to give her time to pack her items, and for you to wait outside for her, but as soon as you get in your lifeboat, the entire building sinks into the water, presumably killing the family, with no way of avoiding this, ultimately giving a feeling of dread, going through the effort of helping a mother and her children out, only for them to die shortly after, making all of that for naught. Soon you go into a divided town with more low income, rural folk, and upper class snobs with lovers on both sides and accusations of arson to split things up, only for it to delve into broken families and trails of death.
The game’s origins as a PS3 game become very apparent the moment you start playing the game, it’s a rough looking game and has a poor framerate to boot. What seems to be where an upgrade came in the console jump was the number of NPCs on screen at once, often getting to downright crowded spaces, and the (albeit scripted) destruction of environments. A janky feeling never leaves the game with your standard walking speed being too slow to requiring you hold down a button for a delayed crouch and eventual crawl to animate, which can often lead to you standing back up and subsequently getting knocked over during earthquakes or tremors. Often the game is rather cryptic on what it wants you to do, where to go, leading you to talking to everyone and going in circles, giving reminders of point and click games. Talk to this person to talk to this person, to talk to this final person, to then go back to the original person you were speaking to. Moments like this if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing take longer then moving through wreckage to get to the next area and bog down the pace tremendously, regardless of how much charisma some characters may have.
BETTER OFF ELSEWHERE
The Switch port of the game is not good. At all. From what already was a rather poor looking game with framerate issues becomes a smeared, blurry mess with framerate drops into the single digits. I don’t consider myself a framerate snob, but the game’s framerate can often become detrimental and combined with how slow your character walks by default makes the game look like a slideshow. Even in cutscenes, the technical issues are displayed in full, with texture pop in for everything, blur and smearing at any movement, and what always seems to be a framerate under 15fps. If there was any interest in the game, it would be in someone’s best interest to avoid the Switch port at all costs unless a patch to fix even some of these issues is released. As a game, Disaster Report 4 is a flawed, but interesting game that has no shortage of things to do, but performance of the Switch version transforms a janky, but manageable game into an unbearable slog.
*Game download code provided for review purposes.