There have been a number of games delayed, put on hold, or simply cancelled due to coincidental events which occur in real life that mirror the concepts within the game. A while ago Death Road to Canada‘s release was delayed due to a tragic set of murders in Toronto via a van, although not affected – The Complex has just released whilst the world is currently under Quarantine from COVID-19, and Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 (Disaster Report 4) was cancelled back in 2011 as it was set to launch just after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Thankfully, due to fan feedback, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories was revived in 2018 over in Japan and has just released here in the West on PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Although a series I’ve not really seen or experienced in the past, after playing the demo on PSN a few weeks ago, I knew I had to play this game. Published by our friends over at NIS America, and developed by Granzella, what we have here is a very deep, hilarious, emotional, very interactive, and fully immersive adventure game, one which will absorb you within the disaster-stricken world as you make moral choices in hopes of staying alive. If you own a PSVR headset, the best version to pick up is the PS4 edition as it includes the VR mode as a bonus (something even the PC version doesn’t appear to have).
But, before I talk about the VR segments and vent off my grievances and praise for it, let’s take a look at the simply amazing Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories…
Remember the days when you could hop on a bus full of people, on a trip into town for an interview, to do some window shopping, or just to meet up with some friends? Well, you can relive this fabled event with Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, that is until the earthquake kicks in and sees your bus tumble, leaving all the passengers – yourself included – fighting for their lives as you finally get to use the ’emergency window’ and crawl out into the wreck which was once a town. Stumbling to find your bearings, you seek refuge with a few groups of people (ain’t no social distancing with this disaster) whilst either finding ways to profit off the situation or help those in need.
This isn’t your town, you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time – how the hell are you going to find your way home?
That is your initial goal within Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories. You’ll meet up with various people (over 90) throughout your journey, either helping them or having them help you as you make your way through the city, a city which is literally falling apart all around you. Although the main earthquake may have stopped, aftershocks will cause lampposts to fall, buildings to crumble, sinkholes to emerge, and the floor to wobble so much that you’ll faceplant the floor or fall on your arse if you don’t crouch in time!
This isn’t simply a linear ‘Point A to Point B’ game though, as you progress through the various districts, you’ll obtain new companions, get pulled into local issues, find yourself trapped and are forced to retrace your steps, and you’ll even become part of a cult (but I won’t spoil that for you). So, although you’re looking for a way to exit the city and return home, there is so much more going on around you which you’ll become involved within. The question is, will you use the disaster to your advantage and gain as much money as you can from those who are desperate, or will you try your hardest to help out those in need? With the multitude of dialogue choices – you can literally be whoever you want to be!
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is an adventure game, you control the protagonist in first and third-person as you solve environmental puzzles, talk to people, perform simple inventory puzzles, and dress up in a multitude of costumes. However, the entire game is almost like a giant puzzle, especially if you’re going for the platinum (which I’m a proud daddy of). In general, the game is split up into chapters, each one defined by the number of days since the ‘event’. So, depending on who you interact with and help out on one day will then affect your relationship and the events which happen on another – this resulted in me completing the 20+ hour game three times (although subsequent playthroughs were more like 8-10 hours).
The actual ‘gameplay’ also varies as you progress, depending on the situation. In most cases, you’ll just be walking, or running, around, but you’ll also end up riding bikes, rowing boats, and getting chased. I particularly liked day two, which involves you getting dragged into a turf-war dispute between two neighbouring sections of a town. Events happen which mimic narratives we’ve seen in other games and media previously, but the final ‘whodunnit’ moment is perfect – it plays out like a Poirot episode! That’s all I’ll say on that though…
Again, I won’t spoil it but there are three endings within Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories. These are chosen by picking an option, not by what your actions have been up until that point – which is a bit of a shame. But, it does mean you can easily try them all out in one playthrough should you have made enough manual saves (as there is no autosave within the game). Each one was funny and satisfying, I felt like I was happy enough with each conclusion the game came too – and there appears to be a ‘Prologue’ DLC out either day-one or very soon, as there is already trophies for it (It may be free as the Asian version was).
Strangely enough, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories has a ‘survival’ element to it, requiring you to eat, drink, and poop in order to keep your stress levels down. Although the game likes to tell you when you need these – via a symbol and your characters body language – I’m not sure how it affects your gameplay. I’ve heard it limits the interactions you can give, but I never wet myself or died due to not eating. I do have an unintentionally funny occurrence though. As a female, you can’t enter the male bathrooms – and vice-versa. However, the first collapsing building lets you enter one, and it has urinals… That’s right, you can have a pee stood up as a woman – hilarious!
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories goes above and beyond with the dialogue options. Whereas most adventure games may give you one, two, or maybe three responses to situations (usually depicting a good, bad, and neutral response), this game sometimes gives you up to ten replies! The range goes from being nice to downright insane, with hilarious, neutral, and nasty thrown in as well. For example, when you’re in a boat with a girl who you’ve just saved, you can either sympathise with her, tell her that her boyfriend must be alive, regret saving her as you never knew she had a boyfriend, ask her to be your lover because he’s dead, simply start crying, or sing a song.
The large number of responses you get is both a good and bad thing. It’s great because the person you’re talking to will react differently based upon what option you choose, changing the atmosphere from relatively good to an awkward one, yet the majority of your replies don’t actually change the narrative. After playing the game three times, although the deviations are good, characters will almost always find their way back onto the main dialogue track fairly quickly. So, although I encourage replayability (which you’ll most likely have to do if not using a guide anyway), don’t expect there to be a lot of changes until the final few days of the game.
There are a number of choices you can make which ‘test’ your morality, seeing just how much you care about people or how ignorant you can be (such as picking your nose whilst they tell you about a tragic event in their past). These choices ‘reward’ you with Moral and Immoral points, providing bigger amounts depending on the level of how good or bad your reaction is. Although, just like choices, there doesn’t appear to be any major consequence for being overly good or bad. But, you do get a trophy for hitting a total of 1,000 points!
There are some adult themes within the game, ones which can be quite disturbing – even if not shown on camera all the time. There are situations of intended sexual abuse, children being killed, rubble crushing people, racist attacks, people being stoned to death, and SPOILER (highlight to see) human trafficking. They’re not all realistic and gory, so don’t worry about ‘painting the town red’ with the blood of the innocent, but I thought I’d mention it as I saw over on the Steam forums that people were complaining over the rating suggesting sexual themes – it basically means the above.
I look Fabulous!
One of the fun pastimes in Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is to change your clothes regularly. Just like the Dead Rising series, you can wear anything you find lying around within the game. There’s a whole bunch of hats, clothes, accessories, and even some face masks or glasses to try out. My first playthrough, with my female protagonist, consisted of me being a sexy cowgirl until I found a sexy sailor outfit, which I wore with heart-shaped glasses and a big puffy chefs hat. My second playthrough, as a male, consisted of Elton John star-shaped glasses, pink blusher, black (or red) lipstick, and once again, the sexy female sailor outfit.
That’s right, there isn’t many of them but you can wear female clothes as a male and the female can wear trousers as well as skirts.
Also, there are a bunch of compass designs to find and collect, changing the on-screen compass into things such as a surfing dude, a bowl of spaghetti, or even a man conducting an orchestra. Both costumes and compasses are more than just a way of customising your gameplay, they are both related to trophies. You need to find 22 costume pieces and 15 compasses, two numbers which aren’t that hard to reach when you factor in just how many items there are within a playthrough. You seriously don’t need any form of guide – just open your eyes and check every room.
The one negative I have in regards to the costumes is in relation to the ‘New Game Plus’ mode. Upon completing the game and creating a new save, you can replay the entire experience (no chapter select or anything) with a few things carried over. You get to keep the number of compasses you found (so in the NG+ you’ll only find those you didn’t before) and certain stats like how much you were worth previously (for a trophy). However, costumes don’t carry over, meaning you have to find them all again if you wish to get dressed up. This meant I had to play for about two hours before I could put my guy in his sexy sailor skirt again!
As I stated earlier, there’s no VR mode highlighted on the Steam Store listing, so it appears the VR mode ‘may’ be PSVR only at launch – this is the assumption I’m going with, but if you’re reading this at a later date, check to see if it’s been added to the PC version. *Update* The Steam Store listing now states the PC version also has the same VR mode as the PS4 version – however, people are reporting the mode isn’t live. I’ve contacted NIS America for comment. VR gives Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories a whole new dimension, not only due to the fact that it’s now in VR but because it also increases the immersion and experience to the point where I was shrieking at times.
First things first, the visuals within VR are ‘average’. Everything is much lower quality than the ‘flat mode’ and a lot of the textures look like big blurry puddles – especially things like newspapers and photos. However, what was surprising is that these VR stages aren’t simply a 1:1 recreation of the stages you’ve played in ‘flat mode’ (as they only unlock once you’ve passed certain points within the main game). For example, at one point you’re outside of a school, trying to get medical support in the main game, yet the equivalent VR mode sees you wandering around the inside of the school and all the classrooms – even through this is locked in the main game.
The goal of the VR mode is the same as the ‘flat mode’, escape the destruction-prone areas. However, there’s a second goal – find and collect the letters which make up the games’ title. you can collect up to 15 points per stage and then redeem them in the main game (at a save point) for unique clothing (including a male and female swimsuit). My one issue – there are five VR stages, 15 points on offer in each, but the costumes are 150 points EACH. this means multiple playthroughs of each VR stage in order to buy a single costume.
Would I recommend the VR mode – yup, if you have the headset. The immersion, although the world is a little ‘low-quality’, is great. It’s quite intense trying to get into a subway train before the entire roof caves in and squashes you! I personally want to unlock the costumes but I’ve got the platinum now, so I don’t know when I’d use them – maybe for the DLC? Also, for my fellow seated VR players out there – the VR controls are very uncomfy. There are action points all around you, yet you can’t swivel in-game. This means you have to literally keep rotating yourself IRL in order to find where you can move to and what you can interact with.
I’m very glad I own a PS4 Pro and that I got the chance to play this game on here and not the base PS4 or the Switch (I imagine PC will be better). For the most part, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories runs just fine on the Pro, I’m not sure on the framerate but it seriously felt unlocked as some segments felt very fluid and some seemed like 30fps. However, there’s a part in the game with a hotel on fire, with reflections all over the place and lots of effects on screen – this caused the game to feel like it was running sub-30fps, probably around 25ish. Similarly, there’s another part later on which sees you running in and out of burnt-down buildings. There’s no fire at this point but the framerate drops quite a bit.
For me, these two areas didn’t affect my enjoyment as it was still very playable and didn’t interrupt my fun, but I can only imagine what it must be like on weaker systems if it hasn’t been optimised as I believe the Pro version was 1080p based on the images I captured (but I could be wrong on this).
Visually, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories looks like a remastered PS3 game. This makes sense as the game was originally slated to come out on the PS3 back in 2011 (albeit with Move Controller and 3DTV support – where are those features Granzella!), but it feels like the game wasn’t resurrected and remade for the current systems, it simply got a coat of paint and a bump in resolution. Again, I’m fine with this – I’m just glad we got it – but I know some people may be a bit more critical and picky over the visuals. However, the depth of field, character animations, environmental effects, lighting, and reflections all looked really good to me, even if the overall game is a little less realistic than modern games.
Soundwise, I loved the music which played when certain events happened and the atmospheric noises really fit the situation. All vocal work is in Japanese, with English subtitles for those of us who can’t understand the language.
Bonus DLC and Epilogue *Updated*
Today (launch day), a bunch of DLC has been launched for the PS4 version (most likely for the Switch and PC as well). However, the vast majority of the DLC is FREE (but doesn’t count towards trophy progress). There are 17 costume bundles (male and female clothes), including the adorable blue maid outfit you can see my character modelling above, the Epilogue chapter, and a pack containing a Theme and a bunch of Avatars (PS4 only). These are all free but there are also three costume packs priced at £1.19, should you wish to pick up those as well.
Warning – DO NOT play the epilogue until you’ve completed the main story as it’s set six months after the events of the main game, seeing your imported main-game character return to various locations which have been restored. It’s a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane as you’re back in town to check up on the people you met when the whole world was literally falling apart, those who helped you, and the ones you personally helped yourself. You’ll also get to see how businesses change and evolve prior to a major event.
The epilogue itself is around two to three hours long, with three new trophies for you to unlock. It’s more of the same, for the most part, with a rather unusual gameplay mechanic towards the end which really fitted in with my whole ‘blue maid’ costume. I personally enjoyed playing through this and bumping my trophy percentage up to the full 100%, but I believe there may be more content coming – maybe – as the listing states this is part one of the epilogue. However, the Theme and Avatar pack is named ‘part two’, so this may be all we get. Either way, the best thing is that Disaster Report 5 is mentioned, so I can only hope that this is truthful and not just to get peoples hopes up for nothing – I’m looking at you Danganronpa V3 with your Ultra Despair Girls 2 teaser!
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories was so much bigger and more in-depth than I originally thought it would be. Try and find your way home as you abuse desperate people or try to help those in need, the way you react and deal with the various situations all comes down to your own personality. Although the core narrative is set in stone, only deviating at set waypoints, the comedic and down-right silly interactions you can have are all rather unique and special. I’m very grateful that we were able to experience this fantastic game, easily one of my favourite games of the year so far.
Additionally, if you’re a PS4 owner with a PSVR headset, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is a fun VR game to play once you’ve unlocked the bonus VR stages. They may only be small snippets in comparison to the very long main game, but the immersion and urgency are unlike any recent disaster-based VR game I’ve played (other than FREEDIVER: Triton Down – which is an awesome disaster-based VR game).
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories£49.99
- - Lots of dialogue and response options, ranging from funny to helpful
- - Took over 20 hours to complete my first time as there's so much so see and so many people to try and help
- - The narrative and branching pathways are all really fun and well worth replaying the game for
- - The PSVR mode is well-done, offering incentives to unlock in the main game whilst also a few new scenarious which aren't identical to the stage you've just completed in 'flat mode'
- - Tonnes and tonnes of clothing to find, wear, and look fabulous in
- - The PSVR mode requires you to literally turn around yourself, making it awkward if you play sitting down
- - The costumes you unlock with PSVR all look great but they cost far too many points