ZeroRanger |OT| WARNING: A Huge FINALBOSS Is Approaching Fast

Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#1
The vertical shoot 'em up formerly known as FINALBOSS is finally out after a decade of development. Are you ready to take to the skies?



Genre
: vertical shmup
Release Date: September 28th, 2018
Developer: System Erasure
Publisher: System Erasure
Platform: PC
Website: https://se-made.com/zeroranger.html
Price: $11.99 ($10.79 until October 5th)
Places to buy:
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/809020/ZeroRanger/
Itch.io: https://system-erasure.itch.io/zeroranger
Reviews: Don't hold your breath
Demo: Available on official website above
Trailer:

What is ZeroRanger?

ZeroRanger is a traditional, non-bullet hell vertical shmup with an aesthetic design reminiscent of WonderSwan shmups and an engaging, energetic soundtrack. The game features a distinctive orange and cyan art style and is fully sprite-based. In a move that is somewhat unusual for vertical shmups, ZeroRanger includes stage hazards, which you can see in the 1:34 mark in the above trailer, which provide nice variety to the stage design. Over the course of development the game has evolved and undergone many design changes. Earlier this year the developers provided this comparison image between some old versions of sprites (left) and the updated sprites (right):


ChryZ helpfully points out some useful visual and support options:
The OP should mention TATE support, the visuals scale nearest neighbors and remain pixeliciously sharp no matter the res, scanline support is also there (hori,vert,blend,%,etc).
The game also features an alternate color palette aimed at colorblind folks, plus there are some unlockable palettes too.

It's a shmup. Who cares?

Shmups are not as popular as they were in the 80s and 90s, which means that new releases are somewhat rarer than they used to be and thus strong efforts like ZeroRanger deserve support. Shmups are frequently derided as too difficult or too easy and short, but the fact of the matter is that shmups are for everyone (and that includes you). While everyone must determine what is most fun for themselves, the greatest pleasure in playing shmups is dedicating yourself to learning one in and out, not unlike learning a complex roguelike or fighting game. As you play, you better understand why enemies are placed where they are, how the scoring system works, and most of all, why people enjoy shmups: the more you put in, the more you get out of them.

Furthermore, shmups offer one of the purest, most distilled examples of video game-ness you can find: take control of an object with a hitbox, destroy other objects, and earn points. Game developers have iterated on this formula for decades, and the fact that it still survives in games like ZeroRanger is a testament both to the economy of design and simplicity in the original concept (brevity is the soul of wit, as they say) as well as to the near limitless potential in complicating and further developing the fundamentals of the shmup genre.

Inspirations

While ZeroRanger is very clearly its own thing, the developers have mentioned some influences, and older builds of the game included even more direct homages to other shmups. The devs have stated that they are big fans of Siter Skain, a fan favorite indie shmup company from before indie was cool -- they created the Alltynex Trilogy, which consists of Kamui, RefleX, and Alltynex Second. I also can't help but feel a resonance with the Famicom juggernaut shmup, Summer Carnival '92: RECCA, as well as Cho Ren Sha 68k, which was itself inspired by RECCA and the ZeroRanger devs have stated that they are fans of CRS as well.

In a discussion on the Steam forums, a developer mentioned that they're a fan of Qute, an indie developer best known for Judgment Silversword (WonderSwan, XB360, PC) and Eschatos. You can definitely sense some Judgement Silversword in here.

Resources:

The soundtrack has changed over the years. An album called GREEN SOUNDS -Raw Label- featuring tracks from early builds of the game came out a few years ago that you can get on Bandcamp, which is still quite good, though the more recent remade tracks are a bit better, in my opinion. https://eebrozgi.bandcamp.com/album/green-sounds-raw-label

If you dig the vibe of ZeroRanger and want something that scratches a similar itch, I recommend the excellent twin-stick roguelite Monolith, which came out last year. While it's from a different genre, it contains a somewhat similarly moody, post-apocalyptic setting with a cozy vibe. Coincidentally, I just checked out the official ZeroRanger YouTube channel and it includes a playthrough of Monolith, so clearly they're fans of Monolith too!


Good luck in your quest to becoming the ZeroRanger. This game just might be more than meets the...eye.
 
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OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#3
Nice! I didn't expect an OT, glad to see that :)
Will grab it this weekend.
Yeah, I knew the thread wouldn't be bustling (to say the least) but I think it's important to give exposure to great projects like this.

Also the game kicks ass so far. I'm in love with it.
 
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OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#5
Only had time to credit feed for a few hours, this is a special game. I get the impression that there are a lot of surprises in store.
Yeah, I'm definitely getting the sense that this game has some twists and turns which has me pretty excited. I never actually played the old builds since I always knew I wanted to wait until the full release so I don't know how many if any of the surprises were in the old versions.

I just got to the stage two mini boss and holy shit the running theme for the mini bosses thus far is so hype.
 
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Nov 28, 2017
527
#7
PROTIP: you can track your extend progress by the coloring of your score. It gradually fills brighter orange as your killdudes. I think the game calls this your juice meter. The game also implies that the meter will fill faster if you keep your combo high.

Obligatory: wish this was on Switch.
If they port, I'll buy it again.
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#8
PROTIP: you can track your extend progress by the coloring of your score. It gradually fills brighter orange as your killdudes. I think the game calls this your juice meter. The game also implies that the meter will fill faster if you keep your combo high.


If they port, I'll buy it again.
...Woah. That's a great, subtle feature. I love that you can change the gender of the voice that plays when you reach max combo.
 
Oct 26, 2017
2,148
#13
Interested in this, though I'm not a big fan of the chosen color scheme. Feel it would just make it hard to see in busy conflicts.
 
Nov 10, 2017
1,256
#15
I don't like the color scheme... It looks like some details are getting lost to it and generally makes me think of fade-to-black effects in 8 bit games where they just swap the palette out a few times, like the image has lost some colors to that swapping process.

Animation wise it reminds me a lot of Cho Ren Sha 68k
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#18
It was just brought to my attention that (level 1 easter egg spoilers):
you can see the Vic Viper mini boss in the background before he approaches, which is fairly easy to spot, but if you keep your eye on him he actually shoots a wave of enemies and grabs a power up just like in the first section of each stage in a Gradius game. The attention to detail in this game is really wonderful.

Also I get that it's subjective but I don't understand the complaints about the color palette at all. I don't find it hard to keep track of things and I think the complementary scheme of orange and blue creates a fitting warm/cold dynamic that suits both fire and mechanical sprites as well as the tone of a post apocalyptic space adventure. It has a cozy feel like Monolith.
 
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Nov 28, 2017
527
#19
References I've caught so far:
Radiant Silvergun
Gradius
R-Type
Rayforce
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Zanac
Space Invaders/Missile Command

you really don't want to spoil this one
Undertale

I'm actually putting spoilers in a shmup thread. ZeroRanger is weird and wonderful. Might actually be my GOTY.
 
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Oct 28, 2017
1,473
#20
Also I get that it's subjective but I don't understand the complaints about the color palette at all. I don't find it hard to keep track of things and I think the complementary scheme of orange and blue creates a fitting warm/cold dynamic that suits both fire and mechanical sprites as well as the tone of a post apocalyptic space adventure. It has a cozy feel like Monolith.
I'm not an artist so it's hard to articulate why I don't like the look of this game but it almost looks like a higher-detail game that someone painted over with flat colors, as opposed to something like Monolith that more artfully works within those limitations. Beyond that, I jut really dislike the colors they picked.

They also need to be more upfront about the inclusion of unlockable palettes in the game, as well as the colorblind option that's available by default--I'm not colorblind but I found that option to be much easier to look at.

More than anything else, I just wish the game looked as good as it played, as it'd be a much easier sell if that were the case.
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#21
I'm not an artist so it's hard to articulate why I don't like the look of this game but it almost looks like a higher-detail game that someone painted over with flat colors, as opposed to something like Monolith that more artfully works within those limitations. Beyond that, I jut really dislike the colors they picked.

They also need to be more upfront about the inclusion of unlockable palettes in the game, as well as the colorblind option that's available by default--I'm not colorblind but I found that option to be much easier to look at.

More than anything else, I just wish the game looked as good as it played, as it'd be a much easier sell if that were the case.
I agree that they should advertise that there are multiple color palettes -- I didn't even know there were more until I browsed their Twitter today. It actually seems like the devs have a running theme of underselling their own game. They don't widely mention a lot of the features that are in the game and they always said there are four levels (which makes it sound kinda small), but it's pretty clear after some playing that the game is a lot more than it seems, which is almost certainly intentional but maybe they should be more clear about some features that could very well sell the game to more people.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,241
#22
I think ... I cleared the game? There were ending credits. Now my main menu title changed to Final Boss. What a trippy game, I've seen some crazy shit. I need a break and a drink.
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#24
Oh, so, this game has some kind of interesting story/atmosphere layers to it...? What a strange vibe I'm getting from this thread. Definitely interested.
Yeah, it does. Quite unusual for a shmup. I haven't wanted to spoil too much but the game definitely has some tricks up its sleeve...but make no mistake, this is a brilliant shmup in its own right. It doesn't depend on any gimmicks to elevate gameplay. It's very smartly designed.

Some folks on the system11 shmup forum are already calling it one of their favorite shmups, and they aren't known for their effusive praise to say the least.
 
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Elodes

Looks to the Moon
Member
Nov 1, 2017
534
The Netherlands
#25
Yeah, it does. Quite unusual for a shmup. I haven't wanted to spoil too much but the game definitely has some tricks up its sleeve...but make no mistake, this is a brilliant shmup in its own right. It doesn't depend on any gimmicks to elevate gameplay. It's very smartly designed.

Some folks on the system11 shmup forum are already calling it one of their favorite shmups, and they aren't known for their effusive praise to say the least.
That sounds super rad. I'll be checking this out soon, then. Thanks for making this OT!
 
Oct 27, 2017
413
#26
I think ... I cleared the game? There were ending credits. Now my main menu title changed to Final Boss. What a trippy game, I've seen some crazy shit. I need a break and a drink.
were you able to trigger the 2nd loop? I haven't been able to touch it yet but I'm curious what the loop requirements are. It's supposed to be pretty amazing
 
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Eolz

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,420
UK/FR
#27
Started playing today during lunch time, and I only got to the second level, but it's really nice!
You can feel it was a labour of love and trying to be its own thing (while having plenty of references and inspirations).
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,241
#28
Update: it seems the game went full on Doki Doki Literature Club on me.

I'm stuck in "Final Boss" followed by a Pinball game. I'm NOT kidding. Looking on the internet, there are a few choices which lead to the need of digging around the filesystem under User AppData and deleting the save file ... orz

were you able to trigger the 2nd loop? I haven't been able to touch it yet but I'm curious what the loop requirements are. It's supposed to be pretty amazing
Yes.
I survived the boss rush, the "computer room" was embarrassed by me still being alive, solved the problem by blackhole and then the 2nd loop started. Everything gets turned to 11 and then some.
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#29
Due to somewhat unexpected circumstances I won't be able to play anymore until the weekend so I'm already way behind you guys. If there's anything you all would like me to add to the OT, please let me know.
 

Tain

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,201
#30
Picked this up, looking forward to playing it once I can carve out some time. The visual style and being billed as having a traditional arcade structure is all it takes for me to pay at least a little bit of attention, but the additional praise helps!
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,241
#31
Due to somewhat unexpected circumstances I won't be able to play anymore until the weekend so I'm already way behind you guys. If there's anything you all would like me to add to the OT, please let me know.
The OP should mention TATE support, the visuals scale nearest neighbors and remain pixeliciously sharp no matter the res, scanline support is also there (hori,vert,blend,%,etc).
 
Oct 27, 2017
413
#32
Update: it seems the game went full on Doki Doki Literature Club on me.

I'm stuck in "Final Boss" followed by a Pinball game. I'm NOT kidding. Looking on the internet, there are a few choices which lead to the need of digging around the filesystem under User AppData and deleting the save file ... orz


Yes.
I survived the boss rush, the "computer room" was embarrassed by me still being alive, solved the problem by blackhole and then the 2nd loop started. Everything gets turned to 11 and then some.
Lol

That's. So. Cool!!
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,032
#33
Didn't realize this dropped. Been looking forward to it. Nice job, OP.

A lot of people go for old school aesthetics but there is something about the greens and oranges here that speaks directly to my soul.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,241
#34
Update: it seems the game went full on Doki Doki Literature Club on me.

I'm stuck in "Final Boss" followed by a Pinball game. I'm NOT kidding. Looking on the internet, there are a few choices which lead to the need of digging around the filesystem under User AppData and deleting the save file ... orz
OMG, I managed to escape "in-game", "Final Boss" is meta AF

Fake EDIT: King Onion's gabber battle theme is the best, lol
 
Nov 28, 2017
527
#35
The devs have planned updates coming: online leaderboards, easy/hard modes, and more.

Pretty sure I'm going to be buying this game for friends' Christmas gifts. And if they port it to consoles, I'll buy it there too.
 
OP
OP
1upsuper
Jan 30, 2018
2,814
#37
I'm really looking forward to learning about what the hell you guys are talking about, haha.

Edit: Damn, that's really clever.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
2,453
#39
Damn I didn't even know an OT was up. I bought it but have yet to play, will do so this week. Looks absolutely amazing.
 
Oct 26, 2017
2,103
#41
I thought I was doing alright at shmups, and then this one showed up and fierce kicked my ass.

Furthest I've gotten so far on one credit is early stage 3, and that's taking into account the fairly generous number of extends.
Right now I'm just trying to cut through my review backlog so I can give this game some serious attention.
 

Tain

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,201
#43
Yeah, this game definitely hands out extends but I've been needing them. I've only made it to the stage 3 boss so far.

I can't click those spoilers but my curiosity is eating at me for sure lol
 
Nov 28, 2017
527
#44
Holy crap GOTY GOTY GOTY
so I credit fed my way past the 2-3 boss, and the computerdude told me to take the thingy and leave. I get the credits, and my main menu changes to FINALBOSS. Now the game is a DODONPACHI clone. I play through one level, then it's a pinball game. Glitches out, back to DDP, then I kill the powerup thingy that the Onion guy drops. The screen cracks, I'm back in front of the evil computer, because FINALBOSS was a simulation, and the real TLB shows up.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,241
#46
BTW, the ZerOranger soundtrack is up on Bandcamp, pay what you want:


https://eebrozgi.bandcamp.com/releases

Holy crap GOTY GOTY GOTY
so I credit fed my way past the 2-3 boss, and the computerdude told me to take the thingy and leave. I get the credits, and my main menu changes to FINALBOSS. Now the game is a DODONPACHI clone. I play through one level, then it's a pinball game. Glitches out, back to DDP, then I kill the powerup thingy that the Onion guy drops. The screen cracks, I'm back in front of the evil computer, because FINALBOSS was a simulation, and the real TLB shows up.
Great, you've made me look really dense now. It took me 4 runs of Final Boss to figure this out. I've seen 3 glitched roms though: pinball, 80s JRPG, Tokimeki clone and then it loops.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,032
#49
Did my first run. Ate it in stage two hard, but holy shit, this is fucking fantastic so far. Also avoiding those spoiler tags.

If you like shmups even a tiny bit, do not sleep on this one.