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SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter (PlayStation 4) artwork

SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter (PlayStation 4) review


"Highschool of the Brain-Dead"


School Girl Zombie Hunter is a very dumb video game. Itís also at times a very fun video game. These are not mutually exclusive things, but it's worth noting the experience does tend to veer more towards the dumb more often than not.

School Girl Zombie Hunter is the latest from D3 Publisherís Oneechanbara zombie killing franchise, which means players are in for a campy, sexy ride. Unlike past games, however, School Girl Zombie Hunter breaks from the series from which it was born to focus on five high school girls who are trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. While the setting and characters may have changed, the focus on camp and outlandish fan service is at an all-time high.

Like most zombie stories, School Girl Zombie Hunter opens with our protagonist (a girl named Sayuri) caught in the middle of a zombie uprising. Fortunately for her, sheís somehow equipped with a ďschool-issuedĒ handgun, which she must use to fight off the incoming hordes. Over the course of the campaign, sheíll meet up with four other girls and they'll team up to find a way out of the school while discovering the source of the outbreak.

SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter (PlayStation 4) image

The narrative doesnít really explore anything new in zombie fiction, but each girl does have a unique personality that plays well with the setting. For instance, Himeji is the selfish girl who battles with the internal struggle of self-preservation versus the desire to work as a group. The story never reached a point where any events genuinely surprised me, but itís engaging enough. What makes the narrative great is that every cutscene is littered with fade-to-black hard cuts after every piece of dialog. Thatís at first incredibly jarring, but then it becomes very funny. Iím not sure if itís intentional, but I want to believe the developers are channeling awful B movies.

Unlike Oneechanbara, which was a third-person character action game, School Girl Zombie Hunter is a third-person shooter that plays similarly to D3 Publisherís Earth Defense Force series. Each girl can equip up to five guns, alongside a physical attack that is used to clear dense areas. The gunplay is very simple third-person shooter fare that sees players simply holding down the trigger and letting it rip. Not much thought goes into it, as ammo is limitless. The only strategy comes down to your choice of when to reload.

School Girl Zombie Hunter (much like Earth Defense Force before it) works because every weapon is just plain fun to use. The assault rifles and shotguns in particular feel great, as they make zombies go flying all over the room thanks to the gameís over-enthusiastic ragdoll physics. Players are never wanting for new guns, either, as the game dips its toes a bit into the loot shooter genre. Zombies drop new weapons at an almost constant rate.

SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter (PlayStation 4) image

Interestingly enough, the game does have a bizarre take on the clothing destruction system pioneered by Senran Kagura. While regular combat damage does reduce clothing to mere rags rather quickly, the game gives players the option to simply toss their clothes away with a tap of the touchpad. Doing so serves as a momentary distraction, since zombies are seemingly not attracted to brains, but rather to school girl uniforms. It becomes a progressively more valid tactic as the game progresses, but never quite amounts to anything other than blatant fan service.

Unfortunately, the dumb gets in the way of the fun as the story progresses, thanks to weird zombie spawning patterns and unintelligent AI. On more than one occasion, I had two zombies spawn on both sides of the player character, trapping her between them. I was only able to move either after a zombie moved, or after a zombie hit her out of the way. The AI is even more offensive in frequent instances when your partners get stuck on geometry, fail to move out of the way of exploding zombies or just die a lot in general. AI partners can be revived, but doing so requires you to utilize a specific item dropped by zombies. One mission in particular had me standing around a downed partner, hoping for a revival item drop for three minutes. When most missions have a time limit of 10 minutes, itís a little ridiculous to wait that long for a drop. At times, itís almost better to just run ahead and complete the mission instead of waiting, as finishing a mission with a dead teammate doesnít carry any consequences.

Despite having a relatively short campaign, School Girl Zombie Hunter does encourage replays by allowing players to take on a mission with any character after completing it the first time. Since each girl has a unique ability, such as being able to detect secrets or reviving fallen partners, thereís quite a bit of variety with which to experiment. Some missions also have birds hidden throughout the level that you can kill to gain access to new costumes or hairstyles.

SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter (PlayStation 4) image

The game also includes an online co-op mode, for those who want to take on the zombie hordes together. Unfortunately, as of this review, the mode seems to not work. As I draft this review, there appear to be no rooms to join, and I got an error message when trying to create one one of my own. I can imagine, however, that the multiplayer is about as much fun as Earth Defense Forceís co-op, which is only a good thing.

Finally, School Girl Zombie Hunter must be commended for its music. It has an incredible soundtrack that channels the very best of 70s and 80s synth pop and film scores. At best, it features a John Carpenter meets Starsky and Hutch sound that ended up being the game's biggest surprise for me, and is easily a contender for one of the best scores of the year.

School Girl Zombie Hunter isnít truly great, and it never really tries to be. Itís very comfortable as a B movie-inspired game that never tries to punch above its weight. In a way, itís a pleasure to see a game play to its strengths like this. Sure, there are some frustrations along the way, but I came away really admiring the end result. If youíre in the mood for the video game equivalent of a trashy direct-to-DVD horror film, School Girl Zombie Hunter is a perfect fit.

3/5

Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (November 25, 2017)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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zigfried posted November 25, 2017:

Sadly, the multiplayer did not turn out to be like EDF.

In EDF, you could play the actual main missions with friends. There were scripted events and big open environments and lots of challenge. You could play multiplayer-only and still experience the whole game (and it would be a heck of a lot of fun).

In SG/ZH, the multiplayer missions are dumbed down versions of main game missions -- such as "stay inside this one room and survive for 5 minutes", or "hang out inside this one room and defend the base for 5 minutes". To really experience the game, you have to play SG/ZH by yourself.

The other difference is that the EDF games keep getting better -- 4.1 on the PS4 is actually a great, great game. I played it with friends for a good two months before we got tired of it. Meanwhile, SG/ZH manages to be "good enough", but I've been playing it for a few days and I'm close to done.
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Phazonmasher posted November 26, 2017:

Thanks for the update! I really wanted to try it out, but I could never get a match going. From the sounds of it, it looks like I didn't miss out much. I still stand by the 3/5 score, however, as I feel the single-player campaign is at least worth a play.
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zigfried posted November 26, 2017:

I agree, I'd say the game is more good than bad.

(Nice review by the way, just now realized I didn't mention that I liked reading it)

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