One look at School Girl/Zombie Hunter is all you need to know that it’s a Tamsoft game, and it shares a lot in common with some of their other series’ – Senran Kagura, Onechanbara and Drive Girls, you know the works. I think School Girl/Zombie Hunter is better than all of those games though, even if it won’t blow you away.
School Girl/Zombie Hunter follows five high school girls as they fight to survive a zombie outbreak on their school, Kirisaku, where they’re the only survivors. Help isn’t coming anytime soon due to zombie outbreaks happening all over Japan, so all they can do is wait for help in the form of care packages, and hope that they’ll be rescued someday. The five girls weren’t all close friends before any of this went down, so now they have to learn to work together if they wish to make it out of this nightmare. Fortunately, all five of them excel at a variety of combat skills such as karate and firearms, so they won’t be going down without a fight.
I was surprised at the amount of cutscenes and dialogue that this game has, and more so to find that it has actual substance. Senran Kagura started with a strong story, but the last few entries have been so heavily fan-service orientated to the point that there’s barely a story to be seen. I wanted to see the girls get along with each other and all survive, and seeing how they interact with one another and develop is satisfying.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so tripped up by a control scheme before School Girl/Zombie Hunter, but the controls here are very… unorthodox. X is to zoom in with your weapon, L1 is jump, L2 is sprint and R1 is evade. That last one isn’t too out of the ordinary, but the others took some getting used to. The control scheme fits the arcade-inspired gameplay, with each main action being right at the tips of where your fingers naturally rest on the DualShock 4. That’s not to say I didn’t waste a few healing items by mistake more than a couple of times, but the unorthodox control scheme works in School Girl/Zombie Hunter’s favour.
The game doesn’t last long enough for it to feel overly repetitive, but you will be tackling the same environments and killing the same enemies (although new ones are introduced every few missions), but I had a blast running through it. The levels themselves are rather short and sometimes you can sprint to your destination without having to fight much, but most of the time you’ll be forced to kill a wave of enemies before you’re allowed to progress.
There are a handful of sub-missions too which are usually wave-based, timed-based or a fetch quest, and these are equally as brief. They tend to be more challenging than the main missions though because many of them force you to use a specific weapon — I’m not very good with the sniper ones! As with the main missions, it’s easy to want to improve your score thanks to the brevity of each mission. There are various weapons to unlock with different stats and abilities too, so you’ll likely be switching up your loadout before each mission to find what you’re most comfortable with.
Whilst I’m happy that I enjoyed the story of School Girl/Zombie Hunter, I’m not able to say that I had high expectations for its narrative or delivery, and found myself pleasantly surprised by the game’s visuals alongside its plot. They’re not going to blow you away by any means, and there’s some frame-rate issues, but it’s serviceable and won’t slow you down.
There’s a bunch of outfits to collect and there’s a feature that when you take damage, your clothes show wear and tear. As it turns out, the undead love abandoned clothing and so you can throw your uniform off to distract them, leaving you in underwear for the rest of the mission (and any following cutscenes in that mission). You can find underwear for each girl too. The Japanese voice-acting is great and brimming with expression, and the music fits the action on-screen.
School Girl/Zombie Hunter is an engaging, fun game which offers plenty of replayability with many costumes and weapons to collect, and high scores to beat. There’s an online co-op mode too if you fancy that, although you won’t really struggle alone on normal mode. On hard mode, however, you might find yourself becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of zombies and the AI not being quite as skilled at defending themselves.
If you’re looking for a solid shooter with oodles of fan-service, then School Girl/Zombie Hunter is a good fit for you. I’m surprised that I enjoyed my time with this one as much as I did and whilst it isn’t one of the best games I’ve played this year, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself itching to play it when I put it down. If Tamsoft create another game in this series, then I hope that they remain true to the formula set up here rather than knuckling down on more fan-service at the expense of story. School Girl/Zombie Hunter has a good balance of both, and it’s a blast to play.