Zeno Clash: The Ultimate Edition
Atlus has announced that this week on May 5, Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition will finally arrive on Xbox Live Arcade. If you haven’t heard of this off-the-wall first-person adventure from last year’s PC release, we’ll fill you in from our early hands-on time with the Xbox 360 port.
The first and most important thing to know about Zeno Clash is that even though it’s in first-person, this is not a shooter. You get the occasional strange gun weapon to take care of ranged enemies or knock down incoming baddies, but most of the game’s combat is performed with your fists.
Each area of the game loads up with a stylish “Vs.” splash screen that shows the handful of opponents you’re about to face. You’ll take them on in a small arena, alternating quick light punches with slower powerful hits to knock them out. You can also pick up hammers, sticks, and other makeshift weapons. The moment-to-moment gameplay is more like an ultra-weird first-person version of Double Dragon than any traditional FPS.
Each melee battle is split up by short story sequences that jump around in time. You play as Ghat, a renegade on the run after murdering Father-Mother, his, er…father and mother. The game chronicles Ghat’s escape from his outraged family and slowly reveals his motives and methods for killing the being that birthed him.
If the story sounds a little weird, that’s definitely part of the draw. As you can see in the screenshot gallery below, Zeno Clash’s world of Zenozoik is bizarre, aggressively colorful, and full of odd shapes, characters, and concepts. As you progress, you’ll meet more of the world’s denizens and learn snippets of its history and culture, but expect to be confounded more often than clarified.
The story moves along at a rather brisk pace, but once you’ve wrapped it up, you can jump into the Challenge mode. Here you choose between ascending a Tower or descending into a Pit. Each challenge tasks you with clearing several floors of enemies before taking down a bigger boss opponent.
So what’s new that makes this XBLA port the “Ultimate Edition”? Graphical tweaks, improved animation, an expanded repertoire of attacks, and a few new weapons help add value to an already interesting game, but the biggest addition is a new cooperative multiplayer option for Challenge mode. A friend will be able to join you via Xbox Live or splitscreen as you work your way through the Tower and Pit Challenges. For those more inclined to fight their friends than team up with them, you’ll be able to compare speed-runs with a new “Zeno Rush” time trial mode that allows you to blast through short sections of the single-player game.
Atlus has yet to reveal the pricing for Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition, but with the release just days away, we should know soon. If this crazy first-person brawler sounds like it might pique your interest, stay tuned for our full review later this week.