I Wanna Break The Series Z 3
Creators: PDplayer, Hasi, Kr01, Fawfulthegreat, Sasanoke, HAEGOE, TMcreeper, Tokoroten, Kale, Pierrot, FlippyTheYoshi
Before I cover the game in-detail and how I felt about each part, I'd like to first say this review is based on clearing the game, and not necessarily all of the optional secret content. Secondly, to get it out of the way early, yes the format of the game is clearly inspired by Kamilia 3. There are various references I could list or similarities I could comment on, but I'll try and refrain from doing so for the purpose of the review and discuss the actual content. Personally, I like both games, and following a similar format (that I already happened to enjoy) doesn't really bother me, although it obviously has faults which I'll get to and this medley format definitely won't be to everyone's tastes.
So, Stage 1. Pretty standard stuff. Starts off with some fairly simple needle, mainly generic jumps early on although delving into some better stuff later with the Hurtful Pain screens. There are also a couple of exceptions with the Wannyaaaa block-building gimmick and the Diverse gravity-bouncing screens. Fairly simple but enjoyable platforming.
Viridian is the first boss of the game. This boss starts off fun with some neat attacks, then kinda slows down with the aimed attack that's kinda eh. Then there is the motion-blur overly-high platform-phase attack, followed by an avoidance that if you don't know how to survive the intro, you will die. Personally I don't like the second half of this fight, and would've preferred the platform-phase to be shorter jumps and the avoidance not to be so insta-gibby. Thankfully it isn't too hard, and the beginning kept it enjoyable for me.
Stage 2 follows the previous stage style of mainly needle with a couple trap-related screens and a gimmick, this being the time-freeze gimmick in the Hope The screens (which is kinda eh, although after getting used to it it's not too bad). This stage is okay, with the Ooparts and Tsutamao screens being particularly fun for me. The gimmick screen will definitely be hit or miss for most, usually being miss.
Haegoe is the second boss and is a vertical shoot-em-up style boss. This can be quite disconnecting if you're not familiar with this style of gameplay, and some attacks can be pretty tough initially. Still, I found this fight fun despite a few flaws. Firstly, if you don't have secret 2 then the boss becomes harder, as secret 2 allows you to kill the first phase of this fight much faster, skipping a couple of tricky attacks. Secondly, the avoidance starts off with pattern, before going into some late-curving RNG which whilst being fun, is kinda tough to learn and react to this late in.
Stage 3 is probably one of my favourite stages. The needle here just feels fun, with a couple of interesting screens, in particular the mini-game challenge Zero Game. The classic Sunspike screen also makes an appearance in this stage, although thankfully with no real buffs unless you're going for the secret. Unfortunately, the last save of the Possible screen is kinda...well, trash. Otherwise, good stage.
Gustav takes the spot for the third boss. Pretty fun boss overall with some interesting RNG in it, which only ever felt bad on the Misery attack (basically jump in the corner and pray). The avoidance cutaway is Sunspike which is a lot of fun, although can also be quite brutal depending on your familiarity with the sphere. Now, this boss was buffed in the most recent version which made certain attacks and the post-avoidance attack a little harder. Personally I don't see why this was buffed as it seemed rather unnecessary, and I would've much preferred just the original version. Oh well.
Stage 4 steps up the difficulty, and is also up there with stage 3 for my favourite pre-boss-rush stages. Lots of nice screens such as Not Another Needle Game, Uhuhu Spike and visually I love Entrance. Ives on the other hand has a pretty unpleasant ceiling-double-diamond into a required(?) 1f jump into some nasty plane/corner hybrid. That was uh...interesting. Catastrophe also has a couple tricky saves alongside the ice physics, but it wasn't too bad. It remained fun for me regardless.
And next up is....Boss Rush! Wooo hurrah etc. Welcome to a wall of 4 pretty damn hard bosses you must beat to progress in the game. Yeah, the concept of this sucks and it'd be better without it, and I reached this thinking "Yeah I'm good, might play Entrance for fun but I think I'm done". Well, obviously that ended up going further but I digress.
Entrance is a tough 1:40 avoidance with some real heavy RNG towards the end. Starting with some pattern and growing into some veeeerry fast bullet RNG, it'll test your reactions and patience. Personally I had fun with this, playing it not aiming to win but just to have fun with it. It's arguably the most RNG-heavy fight in the game, and this will likely come down to your attitude playing it whether or not it'll be enjoyable.
Catastrophe Miku is roughly a 4:20 avoidance full of lots of pattern and tricky RNG. This was my least favourite fight in boss rush, not that I particularly disliked it but it just wasn't as fun for me as the rest. Whilst some attacks are fun to read and patterns are fun to suss out, there are certain attack transitions towards the end that can be brutal to the point where it really killed my motivation to progress. Also the standard 9 platform Miku avoidance layout is always an initial turnoff despite it actually being an interesting fight.
Humantic Miku is a 4:00 avoidance with a questionable difficulty balance, with many tricky things to grasp in the early parts of the fight before getting suspiciously simple towards the end. I mean, I'd rather it be this way round than the alternative. I really enjoyed the design of the fight, the visuals, the song and honestly there's not much to complain about for me. I guess the first chorus aimed-pattern was kinda awkward to learn and get used to though.
C/O/S/M/O is roughly 3:00 and stands out for me as the hardest avoidance in boss rush, but also ended up being my favourite fight in the game. This is an infinite jump dot-hitbox avoidance with two notably difficult pattern attacks, in particular The Spiral. Learning this can be quite daunting with the mish-mash of tons of cherries, aimed cherry bursts and visual overload, but I had a blast making progress in it and gaining consistency. Just getting past it once felt like I'd beaten a boss in itself! Also the final attack is intense and incredibly fun to read, with a closing-in circle of RNG getting gradually harder before the fight comes to an end. A lovely fight, and whilst I understand it's not for everyone, I had a great time with it.
After this comes the Stage 4 boss, lasting 2:30. This is essentially a medley of bosses from Z2 with four phases. It's uh, not the best boss in the game. Well, I'd say that it's not really a good boss but it feels surprisingly fun to play. Music is also pretty catchy too with a pretty hype climax to the song and fight. In ways, it's a nice cool-down from the previous four bosses whilst also being somewhat underwhelming.
After stage 4 comes the classic guest-creator stage, starting with FawfulTheGreat. This is a needle area comprising of 3 screens. All of this is fairly generic needle, nothing too unique or difficult which was a little disappointing for this late into the game. I didn't find it bad, but it was fairly forgettable give or take a couple of saves.
Hasi Area is up next, a charming 2:30 avoidance with a bunch of pattern and interesting attacks involving water (going with the rain theme). It was fairly easy compared to a lot of the stuff so far, and fun to figure out. The overall visual design was also quite unique, and I have to give it props for the originality of the avoidance. Not my personal favourite, but very well made in my opinion.
Next is Haegoe Area, another 3-screen needle segment although this time focusing more on triggers. It remains fairly easy and enjoyable with the exception of the first save on the final screen which is pretty much just 5 set-up non-fulljump corners. I don't know why that was left in really, as it's just boring design. The other saves felt pretty fun, although nothing particularly noteworthy for me.
Pierrot Area is next, a 2:00 5x5(?) hitbox avoidance with some pretty easy pattern and RNG in the first half, before climaxing to some exciting fast RNG attacks in the second half. The music (LegenD.) does a good job of making this feel really hype the further you get in the fight, and the barrage was a ton of fun to read and react to. Whilst I really like this area, it could've done without the grid. Also the final attack can be kinda sketchy depending on the RNG, although I was given good luck in this regard.
TMCreeper Area follows, and this is something I expected to hate. This is the side-scroller shoot-em-up segment of the game, and honestly it's uh...actually really fun. Lasting around 5:30, it's a pretty lengthy segment...although a lot of that comes down to an aimed attack in the fight that lasts a full minute. All of the attacks felt very fair to me, with Sakuya being difficult to master but rewarding when you do. Visually it is also very pretty, and was a ton of fun for me to play (surprisingly!).
KR01 Area. A 4:30 long pattern-heavy avoidance with some silly RNG mixed in-between. It's a fairly fun boss once you've figured out the first minute or so which features some pretty damn tricky pattern, before getting a little easier mid-way through aaaaand then back to scary pattern again. The background change is very visually distracting for me, and some attacks felt overly precise or just uninspired. Also the audio quality is AWFUL, but thankfully you can replace it. Not a personal favourite at all, and whilst parts are fun, on a whole I was pretty mixed about it.
Kale Area. So, stage 5 needle is about to get a whole lot harder. The first screen (save 2 in particular) is real tough, lots of precise needle for you to weave through. Whilst I had fun with this, the difficulty balance is really strange (for reference, save 2 took me 2 hours whereas save 3 took me...1 minute). There were definitely some issues in the final development phases regarding save placement, although without certain saves this would've been very scary. Anyway, the needle style is fun, despite some jumps being overly finicky for my liking. Definitely the hardest needle in the game.
Sasanoke Area. Beautifully done avoidance. Standing at roughly 4:15 in length, there are tons of pretty patterns in this fight that feel like a lot of fun to pull off. The attacks are synced exceptionally well with the music, to the point where your key inputs even feel synced perfectly with the song. This was a blast to play...well, aside from one attack. Anyone who knows this fight will know that, unfortunately, Squares exists. This is an attack roughly 3 minutes into the fight then feels incredibly luck based on whether or not you'll survive, which really put a dampener on the fight for me. Not to mention the pattern AFTER this that's tricky to learn due to the limited amount of attempts you'll have that reach it. This is honestly an amazing pattern-heavy avoidance in visuals and attack design, but I'd have liked to see it without a luck-heavy attack late into it.
Coming towards the end, PDPlayer Area is a medley of different avoidances such as Crime & Punishment, Tear It and Bye the Entrance to name the first few, lasting around 3:20. The catch is, you start with 1 life and gain an additional life with each avoidance segment you pass through. This is a ton of fun, and a nice easier challenge after Sasanoke. No real complaints here.
The final platforming segment of the game comes as The Bottomless Pit of Regret. This stage takes gimmicks throughout the game and mixes them together with some tricky needle for a final challenge. The first screen has a kind of obnoxious jump at the very beginning that I didn't like doing at the start of every attempt, but thankfully the difficulty eased down after that. Most screens were fun, although the block-building screen took a lot of getting used to. It ends with a 1:10 long RNG avoidance in a thin elevator-based room. This can be fun to read but also pretty brutal and unfair, although I got somewhat lucky with the final attack. This area was fun on a whole despite a few gripes regarding balance and enjoyment of segments.
So. Final Boss. PDPlayer is...a mixed bag. Visually it is very confusing to begin with, but the idea is you spend time traversing to the 4 different portals in the arena, each with 10HP and you have to reduce them all to 0 whilst managing the 7 different attacks that are cycled through in a random order, before being taken to the do-or-die phase where you'll either beat the game or get drowned in a clown fiesta. The thing is, the fight is fun when it wants to be, but it can also be complete and utter bullshit. Lasers can completely fill the space you're in, leaving you with no possible way out. Bombs can spawn literally on your face, and they also leave a huge explosion hitbox which makes managing your space even harder. Sonic also takes a LOT of getting used to, especially when controlling him alongside other attacks. I'd love to see this fight nerfed with regard to the RNG that can occur, as it caused me a lot of frustration when fighting it. Also to note the music is incredibly hype, and when you get 3 minutes in and you hear the vocals reach their climax, you know you're about to go deep into the clown fiesta, and damn is that exciting. Overall, it is a surprisingly fun boss plagued with dumb RNG and silly design choices.
That's it! PDPlayer is defeated, the credits roll with happy J-pop/rap music and all is good again. Well, of course there are always the secrets. Each stage has a secret platforming screen (giving either boss health, bigger shots or alternate costumes) and also a hidden boss (such as a nerfed Gel, a buffed Bye the Bye, a cute cat-infested silly-hard avoidance etc.). I only did a couple of these, so I won't comment on individuals. Still, it's more optional content should you choose to go for it.
And well, that's about it. There is uh...a lot of stuff in this game. A lot of the content I had a lot of fun with, notably bosses such as C/O/S/M/O, Sasanoke and Pierrot. Other parts such as KR01, Catastrophe and various platforming segments were less enjoyable, and other parts such as PDPlayer the Final Boss left me confused over whether or not I actually liked it.
Either way, there's a ton of stuff to delve into. Of course, this is a difficult game and if the concept of grinding difficult bosses doesn't appeal to you then this game probably won't either, which you probably knew before reading the review. Still, if you read this far then I salute you. I had a lot of fun with Z3. A lot of work was clearly put into it, and judging it on its own merits and faults as opposed to comparisons seems more fair to me. It's not a game for everyone, but I'd particularly recommend people who judge it solely on being a similar format to K3 to take another look at it. Either way, thanks for reading!
Terrible design, an obvious Kamilia clone. Awful screen choices with poor visuals. The first boss was actually enjoyable, despite the obvious clone picks from K2/K3's first bosses, until the insta-gib avoidance. All enjoyment goes out the window. Whatever "testers" he picked for this game only told him what he wanted to hear throughout their play sessions.
This will be the last game I ever open from PDPlayer, and I hope no one actually thinks this game is worthy of being played past the title screen.