Title: Undead Storm Nightmare
Release Date: January 22, 2015 (US)
I didn’t understand the man who threw a hot dog at Tiger Woods and then blamed his actions on the film Drive – which he said left him wanting to do ‘something courageous and epic’ – until I watched Highschool of the Dead and began itching to shoot some zombies. I was on the point of playing House of the Dead II with a half-broken mouse when we got on to G-STYLE’s Undead Storm Nightmare, the sequel to their GO series DSiWare title Undead Storm and its spin-off Undead Bowling. Hooray for impeccable timing!
Undead Storm Nightmare is a top-down 3D zombie shooter with a mission-based structure. In each mission, you shoot down zombies through three areas to reach the goal at the end, which is a safe zone abounding with health packs, ammo boxes and money. In every mission apart from the introductory one, you face a boss at the end: Big Fujiyama is a zombified sumo wrestler, Billy the Bomber is laden with grenades and mines, and Bobby (the same Bobby as the Undead Bowling one) is a chainsaw-wielding biker who loves death metal. Along the way, you break containers and boxes to get Survival Coins (the game’s currency), health packs, ammo boxes and materials to upgrade your weapons or sell for Survival Coins. Messages from a support operator are displayed on the touch screen, telling you a little about the area you enter and warning you that a boss is about to transform or that a certain zombie is approaching.
The Circle Pad is used for moving and strafing while the L and R buttons are used for turning. This felt a bit like tank controls in the beginning, but you get used to them pretty quickly and after that they’re quite easy to use. The rest of the controls are just as practical – Up/Down buttons to switch weapons, Y for shooting, A for using health packs (of which you can carry three at a time), B for reloading and X for activating switches or rescuing an ally in multiplayer. Is it just me, or is the face buttons’ layout similar to the Resident Evil games on the 3DS?
There are plenty of weapons which you can use once you buy them: shotgun, magnum, chainsaw, grenades, rocket launcher, assault rifle and more. Weapons can be upgraded between missions if you have enough materials and Survival Coins, in departments such as power, firing speed and range. You can create five sets of four weapons each to take on missions. Having a balanced weapon set is important; the magnum might have been the ultimate pistol in every horror game ever but here, if you get swarmed by zombies (as you will very, very often) its low capacity and slow reload speed will render it useless. Oh, and unlike most other games, if you get hit while reloading the gun won’t be reloaded and you’ll have to reload again. You start out with a handgun, a knife and a piddling riot pistol which you automatically equip when you run out of ammo for a weapon. God help you if that happens for all of your weapons and you get cornered by a horde of them. Explosives are the most useful, as they clear a path and knock over crowds of zombies so you can breathe freely, if only for a second, and cut your way through them.
The three areas in the game are a zombie-overrun deserted city, a zombie-overrun lost cave and a military base which is – you guessed it – also teeming with the undead. Don’t worry about the areas being repetitive, as the level design in each mission is different, so the only similarity an area has with its other-mission counterparts is the environmental details. Each area has something unique to it – Mad City has Zombie Cage, Lost Cave has dark areas and Deadly Base has locked gates which require you to find and activate three switches to open. There are fuel drums and gasoline tanks in the areas which explode when you shoot them, and these are very helpful in dealing with enemies and momentarily stopping them from following you – although often you’ll have to take down an enemy that’s getting in the way first before shooting the drum or tank.
The zombies, apart from the bosses, are similar to zombies in any media: an infected regular citizen (cannon fodder), a Mr. Fat (bigger, more dangerous cannon fodder), plague dogs (they used to be police dogs in happier times), metalhead Carcass zombies whose upper half continues to crawl once you blow their legs off, Flame Worms (they are quite deadly, but drop supplies once you kill them) and the Nightwalker. The Nightwalker is the ultimate zombie, a lantern-carrying Ms. Death who is invincible and so dangerous that there’s a Nightmare Pulse on the lower screen to warn you when she’s coming. If she sees you, she doesn’t attack you directly but lets out a shriek of delight and runs for you with horror-monster speed. If she catches you, as she usually will because the zombie crowds make it impossible for you to escape most of the time, Nightmare Time is activated.
In Nightmare Time, an army of zombies gone even berserker than usual go for you, and without explosives or a chainsaw handy you’ll die almost immediately. Even with those weapons it’s difficult to get out alive. The only way to survive, I find, is to run away while throwing grenades left right and center. If you manage to kill enough zombies, you’ll scare the Nightwalker off and Nightmare Time will be over. It’s best to avoid her altogether; make sure she doesn’t see you and all will be fine. There can be multiple Nightwalkers in a single area, too. In some missions, making sure I wasn’t seen by the Nightwalker was the most thrilling part.
The visuals are simple but serviceable. About half of the zombies’ designs – that of citizens, Mr. Fats and Carcasses – are directly recycled from Undead Bowling which is slightly disappointing but hey, we always had to have these types of zombies anywhere. Even so, the character models could have stood to be smoother. I really liked the design of the Nightwalker and the boss zombies, though. What’s more impressive about the graphics is that even with apparently hundreds of zombies onscreen, I couldn’t detect the slightest bit of slowdown.
The thing Nightmare is most justified to pride itself on is its music. The heavy metal BGMs are a real delight, especially in the boss battles. When you’re dodging Billy the Bomber’s grenades and the guitars in the background are rocking to a start-stop precision that would make Synyster Gates proud, it’s all the more exhilarating. Another thing I found cool is how seamlessly the songs jump to their end when the boss battle is done.
The zombie voices are good too, but the announcer’s (who says stuff like ‘Mission Start’ and ‘Mission Completed’) and the boss’ voice work was really over-the-top and ridiculous. The announcer (who I’m certain has the same voice actor as the bosses) in particular sounds like he’s trying to make his voice heavier than is possible for a human being – even a zombified one – and is thus forced to speak very, very slowly to make sure he sounds guttural. The boss’ voices fare only slightly better, with Fujiyama’s constant ‘Doskoi! Doskoi! Dos-koiii!‘ being both mildly amusing and grating at the same time.
There’s a multiplayer mode to Nightmare that allows up to four people to participate locally, which is great since this sort of game is always more fun with friends. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a 3DS-owning acquaintance or online multiplayer, I was unable to try it out – but if you and a friend are both considering this game, then it’s even more incentive to buy it.
Nightmare is a great game and gets better the more you play it, as you buy better, more fun to use weapons and more challenging missions. The difficulty is balanced and while I died a few times thanks to that pesky Nightwalker, there was no frustration or endless deaths on a single mission. The only disappointing thing gameplay-wise was that there’s no additional mode – no time attack or such – and no scoring system, which would have made multiplayer more of a competition between players. But there isn’t much about Nightmare that I can complain about. G-STYLE have added another excellent title to their catalogue; for 3DS eShop gamers, it’s the go-to game for zombie killing action.
Overall Score: 8/10