I hope you’re in the mood for bewildering insanity. I still have no idea what happened. The protagonist seemed to have no idea after a while either.
Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is a very unusual game. For one thing, the game can be completed in about an hour if you know what you’re doing. While that seems extremely short at first glance, the game actually comes bundled with a set of 4 anime short films named Short Peace. These shorts have a cumulative runtime of about an hour. Since Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day is part of this greater collection of stories, one can’t really hold its length against it.
Short length aside, Ranko Tsukigime is an interesting game, so I’d like to begin with a brief overview of its story. Leave here if you want to avoid spoilers, however—the game is so short, my description of its events cover a significant portion of the plot.
You play as Ranko Tsukigime, who apparently wants to kill her rich father. At least, that’s what we’re told before we find out that Ranko is an assassin. She gets assigned a mission to kill a mafia boss. After the target is killed in a cutscene, you’re rescued from danger by a friend and her brother, who’s in obvious Super Sentai parody gear and takes you away on a motorcycle. It then turns out that another friend of yours is now mad at you for killing her lover, that very same mafia boss, and transforms into a dragon. After you defeat her, she turns out to be alive, turns into some sort of ice dragon statue, and stabs Ranko’s friend’s brother to death with her now spear-like tongue.
Ranko then suddenly begins to feel hot (literally) and faints as an enormous structure covered in padlocks appears somewhere far away. We then jump 50 years in the future, where a three-eyed girl wakes up as if from a nightmare and asks for her younger sister.
Did that sound hard to follow? That’s how it is in the game as well. Ranko Tsukigime’s story isn’t presented very clearly. In fact, the game’s presentation is all over the place to emphasize the feeling of randomness. You start out with a purely CG slice of life anime cutscene, followed by a video styled after a manga. Then you’re tossed into visual novel-style scenes that autoplay, and finally, some relatively-normal-looking anime scenes. I say “relatively” because the animation looks so ridiculous that I thought anime studios SHAFT and Gainax had something to do with them (although it also gave me flashbacks to what little I watched of Kill la Kill).
On the other hand, while keeping up with Ranko Tsukigime’s story is exhausting, gameplay is fairly straightforward. It’s something I’d describe as a “voluntary runner”. You indulge in some very basic platforming, including wall-jumping, as you run through the game’s 2-4-minute stages. The whole time, you need to keep running to the right and killing enemies as you charge up your gun. This gun can clear out large amounts of enemies in front of you, or it can be shot behind you to stun a big enemy that is chasing you. These enemies basically personify the game forcing you to keep moving, so you die if they catch you, and have to start from the beginning.
Most other enemies can be safely ignored unless you need to charge up your gun, since they can’t really kill you. However, enemies that shoot projectiles can slow you down significantly, which leads to your death from being caught. Thankfully, you can use a melee attack to deflect their bullets back at them, but the mechanic for this is rather unusual. When you hit an enemy with the attack, you automatically kill other enemies in a given range determined by how fast you’re going.
When you boil it down to a single goal, Ranko Tsukigime’s goal is to incentivize high speeds and penalize low speeds. The developers want you blazing through these levels as quickly as you can. This is why I haven’t really bothered to describe the enemies you fight in the game. Aside from bosses, you’re generally moving too fast to get a decent look at them.
There are seven runner stages in the game, but there are also three boss stages, each of which plays very differently. One involves fleeing upwards as you attack the bosses when they leave themselves open, one is basically the time of boss you’d find in a shoot ‘em up. The last one changes everything into 2D sprites and reminds me of a Mega Man boss, despite playing nothing like a Mega Man game.
The only real concerns I have on the gameplay end are related to replayability. There isn’t very much. You can collect pieces of concept art from a stage, as well as costumes, but all that’s left outside of experiencing the stages again is getting a better time and kill count. There are no leaderboards to compare yourself to other players with either. If you play this game, you play for the experience. The gameplay is well-done, but I wish there was more of it. At the same time, gameplay doesn’t appear to be the point to begin with anyway. No, you play this game to experience something that honestly feels like it was written while inebriated.
Food for thought:
1. If you can’t find this on the PSN store, that’s because it’s sorted under Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day. Look under S, not R.
2. Short Peace seems to credit Sunrise. Sunrise is an enormous anime company with 13 studios. They make everything from Gundam and Cowboy Bebop to Love Live! School Idol Project and Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. Sentai Filmworks has released these short films separate from the game on discs.
3. Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day has significant timing issues with the subtitles. It’s fine in scenes with only one line, any subtitles overlapped onto gameplay, and for the first and final scenes, but the ones in between have the subs very noticeably ahead of what’s being said.
4. If you lose to the final boss, prepare to hear the short speech at the start of it again. It sets the tone fine the first time, but it’s just annoying when retrying.
5. The various effects that appear on the screen look nice in a trailer or for screenshots, but some of them obscure what’s going on a bit too much.
6. I kind of wished I was streaming with a webcam when I played this. My reactions to the story segments were legendary.