I’m not a huge fan of Anime-inspired games, unless they are of a very particular strain. Basically I’ll know a good Anime when I see one, but I can’t really explain the type I’d like. Zenonia 5 is uber cute, filled with massive explosions and weapons, packed with cute but deadly monsters and pretty much what you might expect from a freemium Anime shoot-em-up for Android. I found it semi-delightful until the game would punish me for seemingly no reason.
The controls are basic and easy to understand. You’re left hand moves the avatar around the screen using a typical control pad that usually responds well. Your right thumb remains in a constant state of clicking, pressing and mashing as you fire off volley after volley of chained attacks, punctuated occasionally by much larger attacks. In fact I was playing Zenonia 5 on the couch while my wife watched television, and she was convinced I was having some sort of attack. Needless to say, I moved to another area. You just won’t stop mashing the button on-screen button as you play this game, but it’s sort of fun. The only problem occurs when the controls do not respond as accurately as they should and you find your character pushing off into the wrong direction. That can not only be annoying, but dangerous.
The game is very difficult even when the controls respond perfectly. It might be easy enough at first, but boss fights can often result in hair-pulling challenges. Sure, I could grind out several levels to make it easier on myself but that simply takes so long and repeats so much of the same content that it just stops becoming fun. I’d prefer it if the game allowed me to freely explore the map, gaining levels along the way but it forces players on a linear path. I even ran into invisible walls that would explain how I was not allowed into the new area until I had finished earlier quests. It wasn’t only annoying, but stole away almost all of the previous fun I might have been having.
Despite combat being challenging, I did grow used to the pacing and movement of my character and slowly became more deadly. My ranged character blew apart enemies pretty easily but one or two hits from certain mobs and I was destroyed. The death penalty wasn’t outrageous but the constant offers to spend real money to do away with any experience and gold losses were aggravating. I have no problem spending money on a game, not at all, but not when it’s such a tedious procedure.
If a developer is going to charge players for almost everything useful, the game better damn well be a heckuva lotta fun. Zenonia 5 really isn’t. I have a feeling that freemium titles like this one make the bulk of their profits from younger players who cannot stand to lose or who cannot fathom losing a boss fight. Well, to be fair, you cannot move further in the story without defeating those bosses, so I can understand the need to buy a time saver or two. So, while I enjoy games that sell all sorts of items I cannot stand a game that takes most of the fun stuff, puts it high on a shelf and asks me to pay for it. Just charge me 10 dollars for the game right away and leave it alone... stop asking me to buy everything possible.
Zenonia 5 is a neat little adventure on the side. There’s a story about rescuing the hero’s mother that’s interesting enough if it wasn’t always punctuated by those silly Anime emotes. If I had a dime for every time I had to see a “...” on the screen, I’d be in the Bahamas right now. I understand that part of the genre’s style is to use over-the-top emotions and floating, cartoony expressions over character's heads, but it just so rarely works. When it does work, it’s great... but it has to be done sparingly. Zenonia 5 is filled with cutscenes that are filled with these emotes and pauses. I largely skipped them. The shameful thing is that I could have literally skipped every single cutscene and not have been any worse for the wear. That, to me, shows just how fluffy and useless the story was and often is in games like this. They’re there for no reason. Sure, I could see an attempt to build character but there is no use for the information. It’s just filler.
The combat makes this game worth downloading. It’s a fun little blast-em-up that often thrills and can provide some real challenge. Just be prepared to be begged for cash at every turn. Again, it’s not that a developer wants to make money, but it’s how they ask for it. Do it in the wrong way and it just feels cheap. Zenonia 5 deserves better.