Dead Or School Review $29.99
3

Grab your toast and run out the door!

During this time of social isolation, we have been instructed to keep our distance, and in doing so maybe one day we will all be able to go back to school or work with our friends. For me, it’s being able to go back to work with those who I need to directly manage. Having those social experiences though is something we might not miss until it’s gone. In Dead or School, the main character has never known that experience.

In the not so distant future, humans have been forced underground by mutants. The story starts 78 years later, miles under the surface of Japan. While this is technically an action RPG, there are visual novel cutscenes that pander to the targeted audience, which trust me, you know if you are the correct audience. The story opens with a group of girls wanting to explore the surface which no one has seen. The scene progresses to the group making it to a higher level near the surface but encountering a mutant attack. That’s where the main character makes her stunning entrance by sticking her whole arm through a monster.

Up until this point, there is no action but rather a longer back story where Hisako, our heroine, visits the village elder who is her grandmother. With the gift of a traditional Japanese schoolgirl outfit and legends of a place called school Hisako is sent out into the world with a sword, gun, and rocket launcher to find friends and a way to the surface to experience a school. This is where the action starts as you use a train (decked out with circular saws, chains, a plow) or rather a murder train to move between the different underground areas. This animation is particularly funny to watch since coming into the first station you plow through a dozen mutants.

Now is where we get into the real meat and potatoes of this beast. Your combat takes place on a 2D plane with enemies jumping into the fray or appearing around you. Combat can be done with the aforementioned items. I personally like to go through combat with the sword but you need to vary your attacks as each weapon has durability with limited use before its damage is reduced or runs out of bullets. At the same time you will lose stamina from repeated attacks, so be careful. Items drop from combat or chests which allow you to replace or upgrade your weapons. This adds some depth to this particular game but the skill trees add a lot more.

The skill tree can be used to improve your overall attack power with some of the weapons, durability for your sword, ammo for guns, etc. However, in order to get the skill points to improve Hisako, there are a number of different things you can do. First and foremost is killing mutants. As you progress from area to area more and stronger enemies appear with a boss at the end. To give Hisako a much-needed boost of power you have side missions and bonus hidden items around the map that will increase your character’s stats while adding to the overall story. Sometimes you can find other survivors to join your crew and other times it’s seeing something from Japanese culture like a fancy dress from Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion district. 

Let me be straight forward here, there is a target audience here so fair warning the capture gallery and visual novel elements can be fairly lewd. When your HP is low Hisako’s school clothing will slightly explode off of her body to show battle damage but also boost attack and defense. Even more in your face are the provocative ways the stand or their positions during a brief scene. It certainly has a way of presenting itself that I have become familiar with but also not the most tasteless display as there is no nudity.

So here’s the skinny – the combat can get very repetitive and there are different models of weapons to help overcome some of that. You can also try to vary your play style but it can still get a little stale after a while since I picked to focus on sword combat early on. Some of the visuals are dated as it looks like the shadows of the action happening in the foreground appear as 8-bit models. If you can make it past some of the surface issues with the visuals and the combat being repetitive there is a pretty interesting story to be told here. With the current climate in the world, maybe disappearing underground for a while would be interesting, where someone is craving and carving a path to the future to have something we take for granted, that’s worth playing right now. I am currently enjoying it with the plan of seeing how Hisako makes it to the end of her story and hope everyone else is staying safe while we make it to the end of ours.

Pros

  • A driving story keeps you invested in the main character.
  • The capture gallery is worth exploring more of the sidequests.
  • The train animation is really funny to watch each time you pull into a new area.

Cons

  • Repetitive combat makes the gameplay stale at times. 
  • Combat gating occurs even in areas where you are severely under-leveled, leading to death.

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