Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, originally released last year in Japan, is quickly approaching its North America release date. Designed by Granzella and localized by NIS America, the game is looking to finally reach an international audience, especially regarding its rather troubled development history throughout the 2010s. Does the game hold up to the test of time?
Unfortunately, the world seems rather barren at times. With few things to do in tightly compressed areas and no sort of clarity on where to go, the game comes across as having an issue with pacing and exploration. Further still, the game has a rather odd sound design in some places and has varying amounts of visual glitches, as well.
Does the game have any salvageable qualities? Or is the entire experience just a confusing walk through a Japanese setpiece? That’s what we’re going to find out today. Welcome to Bagogames and our review for Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, coming soon from Granzella Inc. and published by NIS America.
“Choices” Is The Word of The Day
Every single story detail in Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, even down to the way you look, is a matter of choice. Upon beginning the game, you create your character, choosing between your gender, face, skin tone, hairstyle and hair color, making the character unique to the player. It’s quite refreshing to have this level of control when it comes to a game’s decision making and player input.
The choices persist throughout the game, giving you lots of options of how you want to approach people, like being truthful to some or lying to others. Your choices can alter scenes, akin to what was shown in the Choices trailer. These choices, however, make up every single form of dialogue that your character takes part in, making some cutscenes feel rather tedious in length.
They also factor into a sort of karmic system known as Moral and Immoral Points. It’s like a tally that keeps track of what you did in terms of good and bad. Unfortunately, it meant nothing in the grand scale, and it was just… there. I was expecting a sort of alternate ending, but that didn’t come to be, either.
A Navigational Disaster
Unfortunately, right when the game allows the player to take control, the game gives you very little to work with in terms of what to do. You’ll be spending almost the entire game trying to figure out where to go, triggering cutscenes randomly as you talk to people.
Most of the cutscenes in the game hold credence in one of two categories: either it’s you asking what happened/dissolving a problem, or agreeing to do something for a character. This then results in things becoming extremely fetch quest-like from the jump, while the level layout changes more often than not.
The earthquake that sets itself as its precedence loves to just show up after triggering certain cutscenes, leading to some outright unavoidable deaths if the player happens to be there for the first time. The earthquake, if it doesn’t outright kill you, does damage you, and kicks in another mechanic.
The mechanic is known as Stress, It makes max health decrease relative to the character’s stress. Stress builds as the player character takes damage. To relieve stress and regain your max HP, you need to either eat food or rest at a save point.
Even more oddly, NPCs that follow you can glitch in doorways and other spots, and if you leave the area, they’re teleported right to you. It makes it feel as if the characters are just missing elements like climbing ladders and not getting stuck. NPC teleportation happens pretty often and on the most mundane things, like opening doors. [WARNING: SUDDEN LOUD SOUND]
Also, the game gives you a map, except, it appears by pressing L2, and you can’t play the game while using it. Using the map automatically pauses the game while looking at it. Also, there’s no way to make it display on the main game screen, making utilizing it slower than it needs to be. Also, the game’s map screen is so light on info, it only shows savepoints, inaccessible areas, and where you triggered cutscenes, nothing more.
A Dated Appearance, Bad Optimization, and Odd Sound Choices
On top of all of those issues, the game also shows its age quite early. Most of the game looks like the models are somewhat fuzzy, and lighting, while okay in some areas (but not above), is also kind of crappy elsewhere. Also, most of the facial expressions look odd. Even if the game were to be released on previous-gen consoles (PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii/Wii U), it would still look quite strange and dated, and most likely perform even worse.
Aside from the models looking fuzzy, the game also has rather jarring framerate differences. For instance, a player can play through an area at a native 30fps pace. Then the next area they load into will be either the same framerate (rarely) or have a higher or lower framerate (more likely).
This is almost unacceptable for a PS4 game that originally released in 2018. The entire first playthrough of the PS4 version was completed on a model 1 PS4. Only two areas loaded in 60fps across the entire game. The area pictured below was unfortunately not one of them, and it chugged really hard at around 20fps.
The Sound of Silence
Further still, the game has a rather great soundtrack of “no music” in 75% of it. I’m not kidding. Your PS4 won’t be messing with you when you play it; because Granzella made the game feel a little too real with the absolute lack of music in a very significant chunk of the game. Hell, even some basic piano compositions could have worked and it would have felt less like an empty experience.
To add to the whole issue with lack of music, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories makes some rather odd sound design decisions. Some of them could potentially be glitches in some spots. For instance, you enter a building that’s still somehow standing, and it sounds like the player is walking through sand or grass. That’s strange, considering there are no traces of sand or grass anywhere. Thankfully, odd sound choices like this are few and far between, but the lack of music is quite jarring.
A Troubled Development Cycle
The 2018 release of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories comes after the game went into limbo in March 2011 following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The game was also being developed by a different company, Irem, and planned to use PlayStation Move and 3D output for PS3.
Irem’s chief producer, Kazuma Kujo, explained that the game got delayed was because it could not be completed in time. In the span of a week, Disaster Report 4 was supposed to release (the 10th), it got delayed (the 11th thru 13th), and ultimately canceled on the 14th.
Nearly 4 years later, in December 2014, Kujo explains that he and his new company, Granzella Inc., had acquired the intellectual property of the Disaster Report series. Planning to formally announce the game in Q3/Q4 of 2015, the game was eventually revealed in November 2015 with the title Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 Plus: Summer Memories, coming to PS4. Kujo also revealed that the title was being recreated from scratch.
Form there, a non-public VR Demo was tested in 2016. and eventually, the game released in Japan on November 22nd, 2018 following more delays. Granzella also reportedly worked with the Kobe Fire Department for the purposes of the game’s development. Eventually, NIS America announced plans to localize the title in North America and Europe. That brings us to the present, where the game releases on April 7th.
A Rant on the Nonsensical Story
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories’ story has you, the player character, going into the city, for one of five reasons (your choice):
- They could be on the way for a job interview.
- On the way to a company business meeting.
- Visiting Suiren Park (one of the game’s locations).
- Going through a Suiren Street shopping spree.
- You could just be going out to meet some people.
After this choice, the earthquake tears the city apart. It’s at this point where the game’s story is dependent on where you happen to be from time to time. All of this happens under the guise that the player is trying to escape the city.
How many plots are there?!
For instance, you get to a section that has three overarching plots in one. First, you go and help prepare a soup kitchen for a destroyed town. This gets resolved after you help complete the soup kitchen. After that, a second plot begins where you stop a restaurant from burning down. In it, you spend the entire time trying to find the arson culprit.
When that second plot ends, a third one starts where you deliver a letter to another character. This is the most convoluted, as you do a favor for someone and take the letter. Then, you deliver it by sneaking into the back of someone’s apartment. Afterward, said person you did the favor for gets locked into a shed.
After rescuing them, the player gets themselves locked into the same shed for no reason. You escape the locale later, and no other area in the game has anything to do with this section in any way. No, I’m not leaving anything out, this is the EXACT order of events.
This section was confusing enough for me to warrant to do some research. I found out that this scene is literally NOWHERE in the original JP build of the game. I looked at 4 different playthroughs of the game and every single one always skips to a different section. This means that this section was completely tacked on for the international release.
And then… There’s even more!
No, we’re not done yet! One section has three overarching plots and these three plots have no relevance in the long run. It’s extremely baffling. This isn’t the only section where this happens, either. Granzella designed four other sections of the game which are absolutely disconnected from the rest of the game’s nonsensical plot. One of them is this cursed boat section.
That Boat Section…
Midway through the game, the player leaves a bridge with a safety boat and comes across a mostly submerged apartment complex with multiple buildings. This section is quite possibly the worst controlling part of the entire game, for several reasons.
For one, the boat itself is an issue. Not only do you navigate by using the left stick and the momentum with turning is delayed, but it’s horrible. It gets to the point where you’re more often than not gonna be sent into a wall if you go any faster than a snail’s pace, and once the boat hits a wall, it takes damage. You’re more than likely going to die at least once or twice to the boat controls themselves.
But wait, it gets worse.
On top of those godawful controls, the game also has the player navigating very narrow apartments while climbing across thin ledges between balconies. The earthquake triggers on two of these, and if you aren’t expecting it, you’re gonna die repeatedly.
The main goal of the section is to build a long enough rope where the player can hoist a sign out of the way and pass under it. However, finding two of these pieces involves going into submerged apartments, meaning super slow underwater sections. Health is treated as oxygen here, like Giraffe and Annika, so if you’re lax in exploration, you’re gonna take a lot of damage for basic exploration.
Also, the underwater section has two parts, one in one building and another in the opposite building. This means extremely needless backtracking and potential deaths via the bad boat controls. The section was so dreadful, the playthrough almost stopped right there.
A Miracle Water? What?
Another section is about three hours later, where the player carries an old woman to a shelter to treat her injuries. The residents’ behavior increasingly becomes more hostile, until you find “miracle water” (you read that correctly) and start helping people. Eventually, you and the community learn it’s a farce and you’re driven out.
Am I playing an interactive r/AntiMLM section or am I playing a video game? What even is character structuring in this game? If you wanted a sensical story mode, then be prepared to die with that question. I mean, you’ll get plenty more questions on top of that. Guess what? The game is not interested in giving answers to you. Granzella gives the impression that it has no idea how to tell any character-driven stories properly.
In closing, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is not a very good game. It’s not even a game worth introducing someone to the series with. Furthermore, this isn’t a game that’s “too bad that it’s good”. Most of what you’ll find is frustration and annoyance at the weird level design and lack of coherent direction.
It’s baffling because even a prompt on the top right of the screen would have made the experience a lot more bearable. On top of that, incorrect sound design and general design layout is a case study on what NOT to do. Overall, it would be asking a lot to get anyone to play this outside of a curious experiment to sate boredom. I mean, if you love trial and error and constant death over your basic sense of exploration.
Granzella’s 2018 envisioning of Disaster Report is just a sad case of troublesome choices, glitches, and other issues. Unfortunately, the game’s development might have made the development team lose its focus. While the game doesn’t crash constantly, it did make my PS4 scream in agony every now and then.
While the game might reach a cult-like status at some point (there are people with high tolerance to pain). No game should have to go through the arduous design life of this game. Furthermore, no game should be an end result like this, case closed. I’m throwing this report away and never looking back to it.
What do you think of our Disaster Report 4 Review? Do you agree with our viewpoints? Are you going to get the game on PS4, Switch, or PC? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
This game review copy was provided by the game’s publisher.
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
Disaster Report 4 has so many bad ideas that are weighing down an otherwise interesting premise, combined with the fact that the design quality is almost unacceptable for a 2018-released title.
- The atmosphere is good and the topic is an interesting one to explore
- Inventory management is strange at first, but you get used to it
- The choice system makes conversations have some level of life in them
- Nonsensical level design
- Lack of music in most sections
- Disconnected and generally unneeded plots
- The boat section goes for too long
- Characters feel wooden due to the choices system
- NPC glitching and teleporting to keep up