Thursday, July 18, 2024
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From Honkai to Zenless

Renowned studio Hoyoverse known for some of the most popular free-to-play titles such as Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail, has released their latest game Zenless Zone Zero commonly referred to by the community simply as Zenless or ZZZ.

With three close beta tests over the past year that garnered widespread attention among the community, many were anticipating the release of ZZZ on July 4.

The main draw of Zenless has to be the stylistic and over-the-top combat coupled with its striking anime-inspired visuals that highlight Hoyoverse’s growth from their humble beginnings starting from Honkai Impact 3rd.

Hoyoverse, formerly known as miHoYo, began its journey with the also critically acclaimed Honkai Impact 3rd, as this early venture showcased the studio’s potential with its engaging storyline, dynamic combat, and striking visuals.

However, it was Genshin Impact that catapulted the studio into global recognition. With its expansive open world, intricate character designs, and exceptional animation, Genshin Impact set a new standard for open-world role-playing action games in the industry that inspired other similar titles such as Wuthering Waves by Kuro Games.

Following this, Hoyoverse released Honkai Star Rail, further solidifying its reputation for high-quality content as a free-to-play turn-based game.

ABOVE & BELOW: Cover art for Zenless Zone Zero; and a scene from the game. PHOTO: HOYOVERSE
ABOVE & BELOW: ‘Zenless Zone Zero’ offers a frenetic and fast-paced combat system that is both smooth and satisfying for players. PHOTO: HOYOVERSE

Over the years, through Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail, Hoyoverse has demonstrated how far they have grown as they continue to push the boundaries of animation, game design, and cinematography with each new game.

Zenless Zone Zero continues this trend, showcasing some of the most expressive and creative animations in cutscenes and gameplay. This can easily be seen immediately as players start the game, thrusting straight into a cutscene and tutorial that showcases both.

Each in-game character has a distinct personality, expressed by their unique animation shown in the first few cutscenes, from the flashy and flamboyant Billy Kid brandishing his twin pistols to the more meticulous and accurate slices of the katana by Anby Demara.

Their personality and charm also extend to the gameplay, as the fluid and smooth action-oriented combat can only be described as condensed euphoria.

Drawing inspiration from genre-defining titles like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, Zenless Zone Zero offers a frenetic and fast-paced combat system that is both smooth and satisfying, as players select three characters that can be swapped freely mid-combat with their attributes and combat abilities.

Players can easily execute combo by using basic attacks which charge a gauge that allows special attacks to be chained into. While pulling off these stylish attacks, players will inevitably be attacked and are forced to dodge which forms the bread and butter of Zenless.

Similar to Bayonetta, dodging at the last second triggers a perfect dodge which slows down time, allowing for follow-up attacks.

Furthermore, certain enemy attacks that flash gold can also be perfectly parried by switching characters at the exact time, which not only slows down time but also leads to the delightful sound of clashing steel before it eventually cascades into large strings of attacks by the selected characters that the player can freely choose from.

Unlike Hoyoverse’s previous titles, specifically Genshin Impact, combat in Zenless is housed in small and linear arenas, and maps which may sound restricting at first but are beneficial for the pacing of the game as it lends itself as a game meant to be played in short sessions rather than grand epics of open-world exploration.

What Zenless does make up for is the storyline, which is set in the world of New Eridu and sees two siblings Wise and Belle, whom players can choose at the game’s start, running a video tape store Random Play that serves as a front for their real agenda, which is a base for diving into the Hollow.

In between combat and exploration of the Hollow, players can roam around sections of the town where the characters are based, Sixth Street, with various storefronts that can be visited, some of which provide combat buffs to acquire new gear.

Further into the game, the world of New Eridu opens up as the player can explore more sections of the world, such as the Hollow Investigation Association which provides a daily challenge for materials used to level up characters to Scotts Outpost.

Also found within these sections of the map are plentiful side quests and activities which are acquired through in-game time-based life simulation similar to other titles such as Persona 5, with certain quests and missions only available during certain in-game hours which can be easily progressed by playing the combat or Hollow exploration portion of the game. – Daniel Lim