Few video games manage to release without issues but when it comes to Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, it almost seemed like it would never see the light of day. Originally announced back in 2010 for the PlayStation 3, a devastating earthquake struck Japan in 2011 and, considering the title is focused around surviving during a massive string of earthquakes, the game was eventually cancelled by its original developer Irem only to be revived years later by a new owner in the form of Granzella. Now years later Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories has managed to be released during another significant problem sweeping the world, bringing at least a few unique points to light but is this disaster game worth checking out?
Players begin with a customizable male or female character who has found themselves traveling to this city for the first time. While riding the bus through the city an emergency alarm is sent out just prior to an apocalyptic earthquake strikes the city, sending the bus crashing over onto its side. Once the player crawls from the wreckage they witness a city destroyed as paths are blocked by fire, collapsed buildings and roadways, and people scream while trapped under rubble. This serves as an outstanding first impression that can really nail home how horrific such an event might be and traveling around the initial devastation lets players get a glimpse at how various people may react to such a situation as NPCs can worry for their life or sit stunned while others are more concerned about being in a slight fender bender.
This type of storytelling holds up rather well through a lot of the game as players encounter tons of people in need of their help as well as plenty of odd situations as well adding some levity here and there; especially with some situations that were once outlandish seeming possible now. Unfortunately this does fall apart here and there. Not only does the tone of the game swing wildly at times during “quirky” scenes, especially in the latter half of the game, but there are numerous situations that players simply cannot interact with that seem strange. While playing players can come across a number of people who are wounded, trapped, or need help but can do nothing but glance at them, even if they might have tools that would help in that situation. In many cases this appears to simply be a way to force players forward rather than making them feel powerless and often is quite frustrating, especially in a few key situations.
It also doesn’t help that while Disaster Report 4 touts that this is the player’s story and provides a large number of choices ranging from dialogue spoken out loud to other survivors or internal thoughts about how they might handle a situation, nearly every one of these choices are simply there for flavor text and nothing else. A few interactions will result in various “moral” and “immoral” points being added to the player’s score, though even these can be inconsistent as obviously evil acts can be treated as positive while negative points can be given for taking down someone taking advantage of people, and some reappearing characters will react differently depending on how the player interacts with them as well but outside of one significant decision player choice does little to vary things up.
In fact, Disaster Report 4 often feels like a classic adventure game that requires players to interact with a specific item or situation to advance the story, whether they want to or not. Oddly enough, with the nature of having to survive in such a situation and seeing humanity at both its best and its worst, this style of storyline and writing, as odd as it can be at times, does make the game quite an engrossing one to play even if it raises a few eyebrows at times.
As mentioned before, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories plays similar to a classic adventure game but mixes in some survival elements as well. Not only do players have a health meter that they have to keep an eye on but they will also grow hungry, thirsty, and have to go to the bathroom as well. Players will find backpacks in many areas that allow for a bit of customization as well as carrying useful supplies such as food, water, and health packs. Oddly enough rather than being able to scrounge from obvious sources of such items, players are generally left with only what the game specifically puts in their path here, leaving plenty of obviously full water bottles and food sitting without the ability to interact with it.
Along those same lines, players will need to watch their health as countless aftershocks will rock the city and can send the main character to the ground for a shocking amount of damage if they don’t properly brace themselves. Being close to fire or other hazards can also cause damage though most deaths will likely come from having a building or object come down right on top of the character after running the wrong way, though a generous checkpoint system alleviates most worries here. Stress can also build up though taking a quick breather at most save locations does help with that. Other systems, like crafting, only make an appearance for plot purposes so players don’t need to worry about that.
It is also worth noting that, as mentioned before, players can often find themselves left with no obvious sign of progression and are instead left to wander either hoping to trigger a scene that may only occur in a specific spot or after a certain period of time has passed. This is also compounded with the fact that the control system is a bit on the rough side and, even while jogging, the player character moves at a shockingly slow pace and can barely climb over a guard rail at times, let alone a waist high wall.
That being said, there are a ton of costumes ranging from standard clothes to absurd outfits to find throughout the game allowing players to embrace the crazy world in an even crazier outfit should they choose and compasses can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, though these are usually only cosmetic changes a few outfits do spark some extra dialogue here and there, plus it does make for some rather interesting looking scenes to play out.
Visuals & Audio
With Disaster Report 4 originally being unveiled for the PlayStation 3 back in 2010 there are more than a few lingering issues that seem to persist through this final release. The character designs for unique characters are solid enough with plenty of the aforementioned costumes ranging from normal to goofy which is a nice touch and venturing into many destroyed areas for the first time can be quite shocking, especially during a collapse, but spending time in these areas quickly shows them for being rough looking and often shockingly empty despite the destruction. This emptiness then leads into some rather large frame rate drops that see the game stuttering heavily during populated scenes and even randomly from time to time despite there being almost nothing happening on screen at the time.
NIS America has released Disaster Report 4 in the West with only the original Japanese voice track which works quite well here as the company has made sure to provide ample subtitles for every bit of spoken dialogue, including the emergency broadcast app players can activate in-game. Although most player choices won’t play a big role in the plot there is plenty of voiced dialogue to match the player’s personality no matter how they play, be it a virtuous soul, someone who wants to take advantage of everyone, or even a bit of a creep.
The journey that Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories took to finally get released to consoles as well as the circumstances that see it being released now make it something of a disaster itself but that doesn’t hold it back from being a rather satisfyingly weird game to play thanks taking drama and absurd situations and mixing them together fairly well, especially in these times even if it is incredibly rough around the edges on a technical level.
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