There's something almost compelling about disasters. Let's face it. Without that ability to draw people in, Roland Emerich wouldn't even have a career in all likelihood. It's no shock that that innate ability to draw people in also extends to video games. Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, the latest entry in a series started back in 2002, pits the player against a variety of difficult situations all stemming from a natural disaster. You're typically dealing with an earthquake, though not always. The latest entry is no different, plonking players down into the disaster-filled summer days of a large Japanese city.
Summer Memories is something of a watershed moment for the series. There are several new features this time around, not to mention an entirely new developer tackling the creation and release of the title. Well, technically the designer of the previous 3 titles, Kazuma Kujo, is in charge of this one as well, but it's being made by his new company Granzella. It was also supposed to come out back in 2011, but there was that whole Fukushima Earthquake business going on at the time, so a game about surviving a disastrous earthquake was probably not going to be seen as particularly tasteful.
Since the game was originally designed to be released over a decade ago, there are some graphical hiccups. It sort of does look like a slightly tweaked PS3 title in all honestly. It's not much of a problem, the graphics are clunky and the animations stiff, but graphics aren't everything. The janky animations and graphics also sort of fit with the tone. While it is serious at points, there also a lot of comedic and fourth-wall-breaking moments. It's made even funnier by some of the downright silly motions made by numerous characters.
The Story Of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
The plot of Disaster Report 4 sees you entering a large Japanese city via a bus. As the game starts out you're given the choice of several different reasons why you're in the city, from going to work to attending an interview, to even just bumming around the local park. This sort of sets up a trend that is pretty constant throughout the game: making choices. Not just for things that make sense either. You're constantly asked to respond to other people's questions and problems, and it's not immediately clear if these choices really change anything. They probably do otherwise what would be the point. But, beyond a moment towards the end, I couldn't really tell if I was making a difference to the narrative in any significant way.
In fact, after having gone through the game a second time, I can't tell if they make a difference at all. For instance, when someone asks you your name you can respond casually, gracefully or darkly (whatever that means). However, the people you're introducing yourself to seem to have the same reaction, no matter what you actually pick. It's kind of disappointing when you go through the game a second time expecting a different experience to end up with the same stuff happening again. Not that it ruins the experience or anything, but it does sort of wreck any change of replayability.
For the most part, Disaster Report 4 plays like a survival/adventure game hybrid. Most of your time is spent solving puzzles to advance the plot or to get yourself out of danger. While all for his is going on you need to keep an eye on how much food and water you have, since you can get thirsty and hungry. You also need to make sure that you take care of your toilet needs because not doing so can stress your character out. Exactly what happens when you get too stressed out I'm not 100% sure, mainly because it never happened during my time with the game.
Getting Stressed Out In Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
Save points are found in every level of the game's linear structure. You can access one of these at pretty much any moment, bar a few particularly restrictive scenes. As well as saving at these safe spaces you can also 'rest', which completely removes your stress. In all honestly, the stress meter just felt a little pointless. Even when you're being careless it never gets all that high because you're constantly able to just rest for a few moments, even in high-pressure situations which wouldn't normally allow a person to distress at all.
Disaster Report 4 also has a very linear nature. There are a few situations where you can freely choose where to go, but only towards the end of the game. For the most part, as you make your way through the different obstacles you only have one way out. That's not to say that figuring out your way through these obstacles isn't fun, it certainly is. It's just that because of the linear nature of the puzzles and story there's not much reason to come back once you've experienced it once. While your first playthrough may take anywhere from 7 to 11 hours depending on how quickly you can figure the game you, your second run can be done in only a couple of hours if you skip most of the dialogue.
There are some good points to Disaster Report 4 as well. The story's slightly insane tone can get a few laughs at times. Your first time through the game you might be expecting a 100% straight-faced affair. The first time you run across some of the insane stuff you can you might be a bit shocked. For instance, the occasional ghosts living on stairs that you come across, to the time that you are given the option to rename the entire game. As well as that, it feels great to not only figure out what you're supposed to be doing, but also to do it while helping as many people as possible. Even if the game doesn't really reward you that much for being a good person.
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories' Malodius Morality System
The moral points system is a bit of a disappointment overall. You can get moral or immoral points by doing different things, like stealing money or helping an old lady to get to the hospital. The problem is that no matter how many of each you get, they don't seem to do anything. The main character won't grow horns or anything if you have loads of immoral points. The only thing that might be affected is the sorts of costumes you can unlock, even then I can't be 100% sure that I wasn't always going to get the angel wings backpack no matter what I did. It's all guesswork at this stage.
There's also a couple of extra modes to spend your time on as well. VR Mode has you explore maps you've already completed to search for stickers. As you complete these you gain points you can spend at save points in the main game for cosmetic items. Obviously this mode is only available if you have PSVR available to you, but don't fret if you don't have access to VR. This mode feels really tacked on, and honestly, the cosmetics you can unlock aren't really worth the effort it takes to get them. Who wants to dress like an explorer during a metropolitan earthquake anyway?
The final extra mode in Disaster Report 4 is an optional epilogue. It doesn't actually come with the game, you have to download it afterward as DLC but it is free at least. It sees your character return to the city 4 months after you escape to speak to some of the people who were involved in the disaster. Weirdly it feels like you have more choice over the direction of the epilogue than you did in the main game. The only real negative about the epilogue is how low-effort it is. None of the character positions from the main game are changed resulting in some hilariously bad character moments where characters are sort of floating over objects that aren't there anymore.
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories | Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is a fun experience. While it has its fair share of issues, from the graphics to the weird tone, there's a lot of enjoyment in figuring out what you need to do to progress. If you're into cheesy, over-the-top disaster movies then you'll probably enjoy the adventure-style gameplay. On the other hand, if the concept itself holds no appeal to you then the gameplay isn't exactly going to sell you on the game. Just bear in mind, that this is the sort of game it's really only fun to play once through.
TechRaptor reviewed Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
- Compelling Disaster/Survival Gameplay
- Lots Of Outfits And Collectibles To Find
- It Has Some Genuinely Hilarious Moments
- Sort Of Worthless Morality System
- Graphics And Animations Are Dated
- Your Choices Don't Seem To Matter Much