Tsukiyo ni Saraba

aka 10,000 Bullets in Europe.

 

Purchase at Play-Asia

 

Purchase at Lik-Sang

 

Bullet time that cinematography style popularized from the Matrix. It’s been featured in so many games. Max Payne and Dead to Rights made a sizeable splash in the US with a bullet time mechanic. While US and European gamers readily bought games featuring bullet time (just look at how many copies of Enter the Matrix were sold) these games haven’t fared well in Japan. Enter Blue Moon Studio, a relatively new studio set up by the creator of Suikoden. Their first major console creation, Tsukiyo ni Saraba attempts to bring a bullet time shooter to the Japanese masses.

 

Tsukiyo ni Saraba borrows more than using bullet time effects from the Matrix. The way the characters look and dress appear to be pulled out of the Wachowski Brothers imagination. Crow is dual gun wielding main character of the game. You’ll also encounter and be able to play as Alice and a Bruce Lee look alike named Dragon. Crow and his companions all possess a unique power to bend time. There are three levels of this power: enhancement, blitz and frozen time. Enhancement allows you to feel time as it is slowed down, which is good for evading gunshots. However, in this mode you’ll be slowed down too. Blitz is a preferred ability because you can slow time plus move around at normal speed. Frozen time is the ultimate time power where everything around you stands still. You can also move at full speed, which gives you a distinct advantage over the whatever you have coming.

 

Mastering when to use time maneuvering is key to completing this game. Bullets will come flying left and right at all times. The only hope of coming out alive is to slow down time and focus on dodging. Many of the bosses can only be beaten by using your time altering power. For instance the second boss Lightning Joe will blink in and out of shooting range. Crow has little chance against something he can’t aim at, but one use of "enhancement" will level the battle towards his favor.

 

One of the most annoying aspects of Tsukiyo ni Saraba is that even using all of your fast reflexes, time maneuvering and the worthless avoid ability you’ll still get shot a lot. The problem really lies with the broken lock on system. Pressing R1 is supposed to lock on to a nearby enemy. Since you’re pretty much focused on dodging in the game you’ll be utilizing the lock on ability as much as possible. Although when you lock on to something, whatever it is, the camera fixes its focus on it. What normally happens is you lose focus on what incoming shots are fired at you. Sometimes you can’t even see the character you’re controlling. Even worse is when the camera bugs out and zooms in some nearby scenery. The problems don’t just happen in narrow areas, by the way Tsukiyo ni Saraba has plenty of those, also in wide open spaces. Locking on to targets has its own share of bugs too. Instead of locking on to a threat right in front of you it might lock on to a high up target. Pressing R2 to switch targets doesn’t solve the problem either. The lock on system still doesn’t find what you’re looking for. You can opt to shoot without locking on. Although, when you don’t lock on you’re at the mercy of luck because Crow and his crew will miss targets standing a few feet away.

 

The level design in Tsukiyo ni Saraba is as bland as the action. Most levels are straightforward survive through the gauntlet of randomly appearing enemies. There is little reason to explore a level mainly because there isn’t anything to find. Other levels have even worse design, these put you in a small arena against spawning gangsters. Arena levels give you ample opportunity to perform combos. By successfully shooting targets in a row you’ll gain a bonus in your skill points. At the end of every level skill points can be spent to purchase upgrades for your characters. Some of the things you can purchase are HP Up, new attacks and increased evasion skills. Skills range from the damaging disorder shot to acrobatic leaps. New skills you get can be assigned to the trigger buttons for quick access. The skill system isn’t really balanced. Most players will benefit more from a HP increase than a new attack.

 

Between Tsukiyo ni Saraba’s battle scenes is an "adventure" mode. In this mode you’ll go through the game’s story told in a graphic novel style. The story is rather generic. The adventure sequences are more tedious than entertaining. You’ll have to find a specific person to talk to, which means randomly entering areas. It’s kind of like those old graphic adventure titles where you need to trigger events to continue the game. If anything this takes away from the action.

 

If Tsukiyo ni Saraba does one thing right is that the action sequences look really cool. When you’re in enhanced time you see bullets whiz by in slow motion. Crow has a bunch of aerobatic moves, like flips and such. He can also kick an enemy in the air to do aerial raves, which is kind of neat. Dragon has his own set of wire-fu fighting moves that look pretty neat too. Movement isn’t as fluid as other action games. However, Tsukiyo ni Saraba doesn’t look half bad.

 

One disappointing aspect is the game’s soundtrack. Composed by the brilliant Yasunori Mitsuda from Chrono Trigger Fame, Tsukiyo ni Saraba’s music fails to blend with the game. The jazz music is cool and gives the game a different feel from an action game. Although, blasting rounds to an upbeat jazz tune goes up and down tempo doesn’t mix. Most of the songs would probably sound good on their own, but they just don’t fit a sci-fi action game.

 

Tsukiyo ni Saraba looked to be a promising title, but it has a lion’s share of problems to overcome. The off the wall camera and broken lock on targeting are problematic enough. Everything else in this game, even the use of slow motion has been done before. Many times better than what Tsukiyo ni Saraba came up with. What Tsukiyo ni Saraba really boils down to is a poor imitator of style and gameplay.

 

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2

You can pick up and figure out how to play this game with a little experience. However, the story and all of the many essential cut scenes are in Japanese.

 

US Bound?

Right now no US publisher has announced any interest in this title. With the low Japanese sales it doesn’t look likely that we’ll see this game in English.

 

+ Pros: Good looking battle scenes with bullet time action.

 

– Cons: Barebones shooting with horrible targeting.

 

Overall: Tsukiyo ni Saraba looks great in screen shots, but the game is so buggy that it just isn’t enjoyable.

           

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