Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman Playtest: Let’s Save Super Baby!

By Jenni . October 19, 2010 . 3:07am


Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman is a first for Nippon Ichi – it’s a roguelike dungeon crawler done in the style of Disgaea. Players help level up a newbie hero who’s suddenly been forced into the shoes of the Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger.


Z.H.P. begins as the world is about to end. There is this adorable little baby with blond cowlick and giant gold clock necklace known as Super Baby. She’s destined to save the world, but Darkdeath Evilman stole her. The only one who’s able to stand up to the "final boss" is the Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger. Or he would have been able to, if two reckless teens hadn’t run him over with a car and killed him.


As the real Unlosing Ranger is dying, he sees some random guy on the street and passes a morphing belt to him. He says he can see this stranger has a heart of justice and can be a hero. The world watches as the new Unlosing Ranger steps up to face Darkdeath Evilman and save Super Baby in an epic, retro battle like Dragon Quest… but he fails… miserably. The Unlosing Ranger wakes up on Bizarro Earth, the place where heroes train. A strange girl named Etranger, with blond hair and a bunny hat, says she’s going to whip him into shape. Pirohiko, the original Unlosing Ranger, shows up as well, to act as a guardian spirit mentor.


So, the first battle in Z.H.P. is technically "the last battle". You’ll challenge Darkdeath Evilman multiple times, with better graphics as the game progresses, before you finally reach a point where the Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger is strong enough to be a threat. After each defeat, Darkdeath Evilman whacks the Unlosing Ranger back into outer space to Bizarro Earth, where he’ll train some more with Etranger and Pirohiko while the Super Baby keeps Darkdeath Evilman distracted on Earth.




Since Bizarro Earth and regular Earth are connected, the Unlosing Ranger’s training solves the problems of people watching the Unlosing Ranger/Darkdeath Evilman battle on TV in Earth. NIS America designed lots of funny adventures with Bizarro characters, which have a hint of morality in them.


Once the new Unlosing Ranger gets into a dungeon, it’s a standard roguelike. The Unlosing Ranger works (trains) alone. Walking around decreases hunger and slowly regenerates health. Getting into battles wears out equipment. Enemies wander everywhere and move when you do. Traps are hidden where you least expect them. You even occasionally run into a Rosenqueen shop branch in dungeons. To help the Unlosing Ranger survive his training you can set a caravan with backup waiting on a certain floor, call a blacksmith to repair equipment or your Prinny wife to bring an energy restoring home made lunch. (You automatically get a Prinny wife and daughter at the start of the game.)


A grids is always visible underneath the Unlosing Ranger and enemies. The enemy grid is there for a specific reason, as it shows you when the enemy will detect you. If you walk into their grid, the enemy will then hunt the Unlosing Ranger down. Enemies also let out a battle cry when they die. If the defeated enemy’s grid overlaps with another enemy’s, the other enemy will hear the cry and hunt you down for revenge. So, you have to be quite careful when attacking to keep track of opponents’ ranges. It really adds an extra challenge to Z.H.P..


Enemies have another trick up their sleeves. They can crush the Unlosing Ranger’s confidence and make him afraid. If an enemy succeeds in killing the Unlosing Ranger, and believe me it will happen, trauma will be inflicted on the Unlosing Ranger before he dies. For example, he could have a Harpy or Petite Dragon phobia. Which means that he will take more damage than usual from those creatures until the fear wears off. I loved this, because it really made you think, but will admit that I sometimes forgot about trauma and saw my hero die a few times because of it.




I also loved the hot-key controls. You don’t have to bring up the main menu to equip items, use items or unleash special abilities. You just press the analog stick up or down for item management, and press it up and down while holding the square button to prepare and unleash special attacks. It almost felt like taking the time to actually bring up the menu while dungeon crawling would disturb the flow of gameplay, so having these options kept things flowing smoothly. Plus, you’re able to see equipment’s condition right below the Unlosing Ranger’s health and hunger bars. Everything’s managed perfectly.


I was a little disappointed initially that the Unlosing Ranger was a silent hero, but it suits him and Z.H.P. well. The original Unlosing Ranger (Pirohiko) and Etranger provide most of the personality, after all, and the new Unlosing Ranger is supposed to be (initially) a bit of a pushover and weakling. The two of them do all the talking for him and even the other characters seem to realize that even though he’s the star, he’s not really meant to be.


This also means you get a blank slate. Which is great for a game like Z.H.P. where customization is such a huge aspect. Every piece of equipment changes how the Unlosing Ranger works after he equips it. You can equip leg, head, back and arm parts, all of which change the Unlosing Ranger’s appearance, add additional abilities and effect stats.


You also boost the Unlosing Ranger’s stats with body modification. Old equipment can be converted into chips, which you place onto a grid that represents the Unlosing Ranger’s body. You can also place mods to boost the overall power of certain chips (like arm or leg parts) or direct Hero energy to enhance mods. You can even modify the amount of item storage space you have in dungeons and place mods which let you bring back one object even if you die in a dungeon.




Even though constant dungeon crawling is the way to improve the new Unlosing Ranger, The Unlosing Ranger enters each dungeon at level one. Clearing dungeons boosts his overall level, which makes his base stats higher each time he enters a dungeon. So he’ll always be at level one, but each time he’ll be a stronger level one.


While it may sound difficult, your base level will jump without even realizing it. Even completing one of the first few randomly generated dungeons will cause your level to increase by at least three. And even if you die, you’ll lose all items and money, but still level up. I managed to hit a base level of 100 before I even beat the third episode without grinding.


Aside from having the best names ever for a hero and villain, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath has everything a PSP owner could possibly want in a dungeon crawler. The script is fantastic, the characters are likeable, and you can spend endless hours playing to create the strongest hero. Plus, Z.H.P. has that special kind of challenge where you feel like you have to beat certain levels, just to prove to yourself (and the game) that you can. It’s just another example of a strong and wonderful NIS America game. When I played Z.H.P., I had that same sense of joy as when I played the original Disgaea for the first time. It’s fresh yet familiar at the same time.


Food for Thought

  • I hated the third dungeon, just because of the layout. It was so annoying to have to try and judge when stages would overlap enough so you could jump down and find the exit.
  • The Darkdeath Evilman battle looks different almost every time you fight. The first few times, it looks like an old NES first person RPG battle. Then it looks like an SNES Final Fantasy style battle. It’s a fantastic touch.
  • The new character designs help make Z.H.P. feel even more fresh. I really liked the new art style for character portraits.
  • I’d love to see a sequel. Perhaps ,something with those HD graphics like Disgaea 4‘s getting.
  • If you click through the random names when picking a name for the new Unlosing Ranger, you’ll see NISA has added some new ones! I went with "Fragile."
  • Even though she had very few lines and was a minor character, the Prinny wife was my favorite character. Just the idea that the Unlosing Ranger is provided with a fake "wife" for support is fantastic.

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  • Wow this sounds like it will be a challenge but it looks cool and sounds amazing and Im up for it. I cant wait to buy it!

    I didnt see any remarks about the music or soundtrack.

    • The soundtrack is good, very reminiscent of old-school super-hero TV shows and dramas. I was mostly playing on the L while commuting though, so I couldn’t have it too loud.

      I thought the English voice acting was good. NIS America did a good job of casting the speaking characters.

    • Exkaiser

      Might be too oldschool and difficult for you. It is a roguelike, after all.

      • Well Im in for the challenge! If its just going into randomly generated dungeons and teaching baddies whose boss then I can slave away hours on end, and so much customization! Its a PSP wonderland!!!!

      • Code

        Nah I’m not about to rag on someone because they might have a tough time with some games. rar, I think he (sorta at least xpx?) gets the more important point about respecting older games >w<' So I'm not sweating the small stuff, he's as free to have his tastes as anyone else, just don't mess with the classics +o+ *fist pump*

        • I respect ye olde games.

        • Exkaiser

          I think you’re more of a gentleman than I am, Code.

  • xhunter

    From what I’ve heard on Youtube,amazing.Last last battle has got to be one of the most epic last boss them songs I’ve heard in years.

  • – traps- a silent hero- phobias (this sounds AWESOME)- “The Unlosing Ranger enters each dungeon at level one”- “if you die, you’ll lose all items and money”Curse you, Jenni. I’d written this one off in order to save some money (also, I’d heard a bunch of apparently incorrect information about this game) but I think you just re-sold me on it. (Being surprised by how good Prinny is hasn’t helped.)Stupid question…but do you know if this is a dual-language release? Not a dub hater, I just get a huge kick out of Norio Wakamoto’s narration.

    • I didn’t even check to see if it was. I’ll look when I get home and let you know. :D

    • I can answer this since I’ve been playing ZHP too. There’s an option to switch between English and Japanese in the options menu.

  • malek86

    Uhm… I don’t mind the idea of a new roguelike, but one where you actually gain stats by repeating the dungeons? That basically means that you can eventually beat the game easily just by playing enough times. A roguelike usually implies that every playthrough can be just as hard as the previous one, so you must rely on your own experience with the enemies and object to improve costantly (and some console games actually help you by letting you keep some items – I usually don’t take advantage of this). This feels less of a roguelike and more of a standard dungeon crawler, albeit with roguelike elements. Is it somewhat comparable to PMD? I tried Red Rescue team, and didn’t like it much.I might check it out regardless, but I really hoped this would be a real roguelike. Oh well… I guess “it’s not a NIS game if it doesn’t have grinding”.

    • The only PMD you played was the inferior Red Rescue Team? Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky blew it out of the water.

      • Eh…Time/Darkness/Sky is even less “roguelike” than Red/Blue Rescue Team. Sky is particularly wussy. Not to say that they’re bad games, especially if you’re a Pokémon fan, but outside of certain post-game dungeons they’re not really what malek’s looking for.

    • I never played the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. It reminded me a little of both Izuna games though. (Just a little.)

      Trust me, it does get more and more difficult. And you won’t always get stat boosts from leveling up. I’d say usually after gaining 3-4 levels you’ll get a boost to stats. Once you’ve gotten the third “dungeon” unlocked, the first one isn’t a threat anymore at all. But it is helpful to return to it to get weapons or equipment to use for modding.

      • malek86

        Wouldn’t that encourage grinding?

        • Definitely – never said it didn’t.

          But there are some other tricks you can use to avoid grinding. Your “house” (where the prinny wife and monster daughter live) has a storage space. If you go through a few lower level dungeons just searching for equipment to make into chips or wear, you can load up on good equipment and tackle a slightly more difficult dungeon at a lower level. I almost beat the third dungeon on my first time through because I’d loaded up on awesome items like a Prinny Jet leg equip item, staves with ice and fire magic and this robot hat which would show traps in a level.

          If the stairs to the boss hadn’t been in a room filled with sleeping petit dragons that all woke up when the Unlosing Ranger dropped down, I probably could have beaten that dungeon in one try! But then I lost all my WP, equipment and had the dragon trauma. So it took me 5 attempts at that dungeon to level up and regroup.

          • malek86

            Uhm, I see. It sounds like a standard console roguelike in that aspect. But that’s probably not my cup of tea.

            Something similar was in Shiren DS. You could store items in a warehouse, and slowly build them up, so you could eventually tackle on the dungeon and have a higher chance of getting to the end thanks to your uber sword and shield.

            But I usually didn’t do that. I like it better when I just enter completely from scratch. So that every run is a whole new run, with almost the same chances of defeat or victory depending on your experience and also your luck (I say almost, because you did get some bonuses for completing sidequests – but they weren’t too relevant).

  • nyoron

    I’ve always wanted a prinny wife! Since this is NIS I’m going to give roguelikes one last chance. If they can’t make me like the genre, nobody can.

  • How does Event customization work? Are the changes minor or are they big? Also, how deep is the customization of your base?

  • Code

    rar, looking forward to the game, I put my reserve in the other week >ww<;

  • kupomogli

    My PSP motor is screwed up and makes a loud screeching sound whenever there’s a UMD inside. I have to wait on playing any new games for the system. I really want to play this :(. I’d fix it myself but I’d probably screw it up.

  • Kris

    Man, I can’t wait until this comes out. I’ve been hyped since the first Japanese trailers!

  • M’iau M’iaut

    So what must one do to unlock the Taiga, Horo or Dokoro costumes?

  • epiphaniesarefun

    I’m very glad the release is immanent :) happy times, indeed!

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