Zenless Zone Zero: What I learned about the new HoYoverse game playing the 15-minute demo at Tokyo Game Show 2023

The HoYoverse booth at Tokyo Game Show 2023 revealed the demo version of Zenless Zone Zero, the contents of which have been firmly kept under wraps for quite some time now. Of course, I had to seize this once-in-a-lifetime chance and give it a go. Here’s what I thought of the demo.

Zenless Zone Zero is a HoYoverse 3D action RPG. The title’s release date has yet to be announced, but it is planned for release for PC, console, and mobile. The game takes place in New Eridu, the last oasis in a world hit by mysterious supernatural disasters known as Hollows. You take on the role of a Proxy, a specialist who connects Hollows and New Eridu, jumping into a story where different forces are entwined.

Moving on to the demo, at the TGS2023 booth, we were able to choose from 3 different modes to play: the “story demo,” in which you get to experience how the story of the game starts, the “high-difficulty challenge demo,” in which you experience intense battle with a strong enemy, and the “city exploration demo,” which allows you to explore the environment of New Eridu. Wanting to get a feel of the game’s setting and word-building, I went for the story demo.

The story began as a somehow nostalgic, slapstick crime suspense, conveyed in a comic-style and through dialogue between 3D models of the characters. According to HoYoverse, the game places importance on the feeling of “everyday life,” and such scenes are one of the many methods they have employed to depict daily life in the city. These elements are apparently especially evident in the City Exploration demo, which I wasn’t able to try out this time. HoYoverse has always been telling grand-scale stories in their other RPG titles such as Honkai Impact 3rd, Genshin, and Honkai: Star Rail, so I was very interested in this title.

What caught my attention personally was the game’s character designs. The use of bold, vivid colors made the characters seem even more iconic than those of previous works. They have a feel to them similar to recent VTubers. The modern vibes of the characters, the number of characters that have been created, and the fact that they are all playable in an action game is all quite impressive.

When the dialogue ends, you go right into taking on an enemy. Like in previous titles, you form a team of multiple characters in this game, taking advantage of their respective strengths and mutual compatibility. The controls themselves are very simple, and the characters have combos and evasive maneuvers that can be executed by continuously pressing one button.

Additionally, characters have Special Attacks and Ultimates. Enemies have a stagger value, which accumulates as they’re continuously attacked, and certain characters work more efficiently against certain enemies in this sense. Eventually, when the enemy’s stagger value reaches 100, they will become stunned, temporarily becoming incapacitated, allowing the player to inflict additional damage.

What’s unique about this game is that the forced switching of characters is the key to attacking. When you deal a heavy blow to a staggered enemy, Combo Attacks will become available. By clicking on the left or right character icon within the time limit, the controlled character will be switched to the character selected, unleashing a powerful attack. In this demo, the use of EX Special Attacks deals heavy blows. Special Skills on their own can be used without restriction but can be enhanced by generating Ether, which can be obtained by continuously landing attacks. Incidentally, EX Special Skills also have the effect of raising the enemy’s stagger bar, so don’t be reluctant to aim for Combo Attacks. When the Decibel Rating reaches maximum, you will be able to use an Ultimate (the gauge is filled by landing attacks and avoiding them with the right timing). The way everything plays out kind of reminds me of shonen manga, in addition to the comic-like direction of the story, clearly setting the tone for the game.

My current impression of the game is that it’s made to be satisfying. The well-calculated timing of the hit stops and the meteor shower-like effects are very pleasant to watch. Additionally, the Combo Attack system that forces the player to switch characters is a nice touch too, as suddenly switching to a character with a different feel keeps the tension of the battle high and keeps the player strategizing on what character to select. The game also allows players to practice various characters in order to switch smoothly from one to the other. It is an interesting system that brings together many existing action game features.

Furthermore, when you clear a stage your score and rank are displayed, directly showing you your progress. The allowed play time for the demo was 15 minutes so that’s all I managed to get in, but I’m looking forward to exploring New Eridu and encountering more powerful enemies in the full game.

Written by. Remi Morisawa based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2023-09-23 20:05 JST)


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