Realm of the Dead
Realm of the Dead (Bakuen Kakusei Neverland Senki Zero in Japan) is a hack and slash game co-developed by Neverland and XPEC Entertainment, and published by Idea Factory in Japan, and Midas Interactive Entertainment in Europe. It is a PlayStation 2 port/reboot of a Taiwanese game released in 2004 for Xbox and Microsoft Windows called Daemon Vector. This page will only cover the PS2 version, and while the original game is not so good at all and it shares some of the negative qualities, is a much better and a more polished game.
Three valiant souls are now all that stands between mankind and a fate worse than death. A terrible plague is sweeping the country, raging through towns and countryside, turning all those in its wake into bloodthirsty zombies. Charged with carving a path through the undead, the three main heroes must rescue a noble Count and uncover an evil conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the realm.
You can choose between three main characters to play: Hiro, daughter of the demon lord who has a big scythe (kinda like Ruby Rose from RWBY), Greezer, a holy knight with a sword and Lyla Dol, a female black knight who uses a weapon that looks like a giant fidget spinner with blades. Each one has different stats that involve total HP, attack, defense and agility. After each level, the player can level up their weapons and amulets, buy items and choose the equipment for the next level. As your experience grows so does your defense and attack ratings, and over time you can unlock more combination attacks.
Why It Sucks
- Boring, repetitive and frustrating gameplay that consists entirely of running through abandoned towns and structures while killing zombies and sometimes finding keys.
- Poor and muddy graphics that look more like a PSX game; also, most of the levels lack vivid colors, making the game look really dark and empty.
- Poor and stiff animations. Most of the characters lack dynamic movements and attacking an enemy with your strong attack or a special movement will make that enemy fly up and fall down in a very stiff and lazily animated way, like one of those dank SFM animations where the characters move strangely and slide on the floor instead of walking on it.
- Awful camera. In some sections of the game the camera is placed almost at the top of your character, considerably reducing your visibility and making navigation an extremely painful task, as the camera can only rotate to the sides, and even worse, the camera will only automatically follow your character if you walk to the northeast or the northwest, which can disorient you a lot if you fight against too many enemies in a single area. In some levels the camera is placed in a better position, but it's still very awkward for a hack and slash game. Also, there are times where the structures can obstruct the camera when you enter a small roofed area.
- Terrible controls. Some of the attack combinations are very unresponsive and the camera controls are extremely sluggish and inverted, meaning that you need to move the right analog stick to the left if you want to move the camera to the right and vice versa. To make the things worse, you can't remap any of the buttons, adjust the sensibility or invert the camera controls.
- Painful hit and collision detection. There are some narrow zones where your character can't go through despite being wide enough to pass through and sometimes your attacks will not be able to hit enemies, especially when they are downed or getting up. Also, it can get pretty buggy at times, as you can hit an enemy even if you're not facing at it.
- All of the three main characters are extremely weak in comparison to the two main characters from Daemon Vector. While Asgard is a weak but fast character and Rhea uses heavy weaponry for combat (the main characters from Daemon Vector), Hiro, Greezer and Lyla Dol have almost the same stats, including their HP and attack stats, making the necessity of having three main characters almost useless, especially when you see that Hiro is the strongest character and her attacks are just as fast as her teammates attacks.
- Lyla Dol's blades and Greezer's sword have a very small attack range. You need to get very close to the enemies just to attack them, which can be very risky, especially with dangerous or fast enemies.
- Almost all of the special attacks are extremely weak; the main special attack that can be executed by pressing the triangle button hardly does any damage to the enemies and it will only down them, and what's worse, some of them consume your entire yellow or blue SP bar, and while they can be refilled by attacking enemies, it can take a lot of time to do this, especially when you're traveling through an empty zone.
- You can unlock new special movements and attacks, but the game barely explains how to execute them; for instance, to execute the Hiro's Netherworld attack you have to "Simultaneously press the weak attack and strong attack buttons". The problem here is that the game only specifies which are the "weak" and "strong" attack buttons in the options menu, therefore if you already started the game, you'll need to quit your current game, go to the options menu and check the controls. Wouldn't it be better to put an option to check the game controls when you pause the game?
- Terrible braindead AI. The zombies have a really poor field of view and they will stay firm until they see you instead of wandering around. There are times where they won't even attack you, probably because of the poor programming of the game.
- Enemies take a lot of hits to die, especially when you're using Greezer or Lyla Dol, characters that will need to attack the enemies around 9 or even 15 times just to kill them.
- The zombie dogs are incredibly annoying; they move and attack back and forth very fast to the point that you can't use your strong attack because they will attack you before you can even perform the attack. In addition to that, if you play the game on the hard difficulty, the dogs will be even more annoying and faster, and taking in count that the items in this difficulty level are scarcer, beating the game is completely impossible.
- There are zombies with shields that have the ability to dodge attacks at lightning speed.
- Horrible level design. Also, all of the levels are extremely short and they can be finished in less than 5 minutes. It is also worth mentioning that the set piece variety is also pretty lackluster; you will only find burning villages, sewers, castles and caves.
- All of the levels have an abysmal amount of enemies. Some parts can even spawn more than 8 enemies in a very small or narrow area, giving you a considerable disadvantage against the enemies, and even worse, in some parts you will need to kill all of the zombies to get further in the game, which can take from 5 minutes to even 20.
- When you start the game, you will appear in an area where you can find some dead bodies, boxes, tents and knights. You will probably wander all around the map until you get frustrated because there isn't any kind of visible exit. To start with the real game, you need to speak to a knight near a gate so he can open it for you. While this sounds normal, the game never tells you about this.
- There is a knight in the first stage that can only explain three moves to you, but the only one that is kinda useful despite being completely unresponsive is the counter-attack move. The other moves are the guard that can be activated by pressing R1 and the camera movement. Why would you need to remember such a basic mechanic?
- While the idea of having a map to guide yourself in case you get lost is good, you will need to pause the game to get to it. This is a normal thing in many videogames, but the map only represents your position with a red arrow and it doesn't show you where are you facing at, as a result, it ends up being tedious to pause the game, open the map and check your current position to be sure if you're following the right route.
- Apparently the game has a plot, but it's only explained in the manual and in the intro of the game. The game itself explains nothing, has an abysmal amount of plot holes, the characters and bosses have no real impact on the game's plot and gives no sense of story progression because you only wander through villages and kill zombies over and over without any context about why are you exploring those specific places.
- If this wasn't enough, the plot is inconsistent and misleading; the box of the game says that you have to "rescue a noble Count", but the manual states that he has been missing for some time and is the prime suspect for the zombies popping up.
- Speaking of the game's plot, all of the character endings are terrible and generic; they resemble more of a typical NES game ending and there aren't many differences between them, and because of the lack of context and the massive amount of plot holes, the endings can confuse you or make you feel that something is wrong with them. Watch them for yourself.
- Terrible and boring boss battles. For example, the first boss is just some kind of wizard that spawns enemies by using some kind of detonator and the second one is a female zombie with an unpredictable attack pattern. There is even a boss that consists of an owl that can shoot lasers. No joke.
- To add salt to the wound, you can't directly kill them before or after the battles. After beating them, they will just run away instead of dying or getting wounded. Besides being absurd, it's completely disappointing and even infuriating for most people.
- To obtain items, you have to go to the desired item and pick it up by pressing circle. Again, this can be normal for other games, but here the game does not explain this to you by default.
- For some reason the items are 2D sprites instead of 3D models, making it seem kinda out of place.
- Weird inventory system. For some reason you can only carry up to five small antidotes, but you can carry more than 10 small health potions, or even worse, more than 5 big healh potions or bombs.
- There are some throwable weapons like regular bombs, fire bombs and gas bombs, but they are almost useless. Their explosion radius is extremely small and all of the enemies (especially the zombie dogs) will just move apart when you throw them. This means that throwing a bomb at long ranges is completely impossible as an effective approach to killing enemies. To make efficent use of them, you need to get very close to your target and press the L1 button as fast as you can, and even if you can barely hit an enemy, the damage that the bombs do is very poor; only the fire bombs and the poison bombs are kinda efficent, but they are still too weak to kill an enemy or deal critical damage.
- While the store items like the potions and the throwable weapons have a cheap to moderate range of prices, upgrading your weapons and amulets is a very expensive task. Depending on the character you're using, upgrading a weapon or an amulet can cost from 2000 points to even 7000; also, when you beat a level, you only earn a poor amount of points, mostly a little over 1000 points.
- Upgrading a weapon or an amulet will only increase a small percentage of the desired weapon/amulet in most of the cases. Sometimes, upgrading a weapon or an amulet will only increase their power by a ridiculous amount of 5 points, and in addition some of these upgrades are exaggeratedly expensive. It is much better to save your points for a better chance.
- After the first levels, the items will get incredibly scarce to the point that you will barely find one health/antidote potion in the boxes or barrels, forcing you to buy the items from the store, something that can get kinda expensive at times.
- You can only save your game after finishing a level and optionally upgrading/buying/selling items. Also, there is no option to get back, meaning that if you made a wrong purchase, you will need to beat the level again. If you didn't save your game before, you're as good as dead.
- The audio design is so terrible and monotonous that it can make your ears bleed in a matter of seconds. A wide amount of the sound effects like the sound of the melee weapons are recycled across the game, almost all of the zombies make the same awful sound effects that sound like a junkie moaning loudly and the main characters don't have a considerable amount of voice acting, as they just scream and make pain noises. The worst part of the audio design is in the torture chamber levels, because an incredibly annoying sound that resembles a nail being hammered will sound everytime your character walks on the stone floor, and these levels are 90% comprised of this stone floor.
- Awful and repetitive soundtrack. The game has only two songs for its entirety and they will play over and over across the levels. To add salt to the wound, these songs are incredibly short and they last only 20 seconds.
- There is no local or online multiplayer mode, meaning that the game will be a frustrating and boring experience because of the aforementioned problems.
- Because of the poor variety of levels and the lineal structure of the game, the replay value is almost zero. Also, there are no unlockables or anything that makes the task of playing the whole game again worth it.
- The European version's box art is ridiculous. Instead of portraying the three main characters in an anime style like the Japanese cover, the publishers decided to make an ugly representation of the enemies of the game.
- The intro video is very lazily done. It uses a lot of ugly visual effects and the vanilla sprites of the main characters instead of creating new ones. You can even compare it to one of those background cartoons that the main character of an animated cartoon watches to waste his time. Watch it for yourself.
- The music doesn't help to improve it, as it's an unbearable cacophony made of many out of tune instruments and it will make your ears bleed in a matter of seconds.
- The design of the enemies and the three main characters is pretty decent, despite the fact that Hiro's design seems to be copied from Lair Iwakura.
- Some of the upgrades are worthy and cheap. To give an example, upgrading Greezer's sword for the first time will give it 15 points of damage and it only costs 2000 points.
- The game had a lot of good ideas, but the execution was terrible.
The game didn't receive a good reception, with many people citing that it was highly repetitive and antiquated by the time it was released, with the awful camera, the boring gameplay and the traditional Japanese text box styled dialogue being the main complaints. Some people compared it to Diablo II, but lacking in atmosphere. These negative reviews likely served as the reason why it was never released in America.
While there aren't many reviews of the game on the internet, the website MeriStation gave it a 2 out of 10 and there are some internet pages that criticize the boring gameplay, the terrible AI, the repetitive soundtrack and the bad graphics.
- The ISO European version is very hard to find, and the Japanese version is considered a lost game, as there is no link to download the game.
- Maristation's page of the game: https://as.com/meristation/juegos/realm_of_the_dead/