Oh no, Zenless Zone Zero is good now

June 28, 2024
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You know that giddy feeling you get when a game does something unmistakably right? I felt it using the delectable Grappleshot in Halo Infinite for the first time; when floating through a trippy music video-like sequence in Control; and when fighting the beautifully horrific Hyperion boss to ethereal organ tunes in Returnal. Perfectly preserved memories I reach for when I need a reminder on how good games can be. Imagine my surprise then when that giddy mood resurfaced during a hands-on preview for Zenless Zone Zero, Genshin Impact developer miHoYo’s upcoming release. Something I already previewed during its second beta – and had a lot of issues with at the time.

It was the Twin Marionettes that did it. A boss picked at random in an area I stumbled into by chance while flicking through new maps. From what I can gather, you can challenge these ‘Hunt’ bosses three times a week to get either level-up materials or currency rewards, a standard way to keep you coming back and building shiny new characters. Resource farming doesn’t exactly scream excitement, but that’s precisely why the fight caught me so off guard. I had no idea what to do for the majority of it, but damn did it feel good swapping between my three characters at speed, watching flashy transition animations and blasting the duo with chaotic ultimate attacks.

My tiny Bangboo bunny-robot-thing even joined in on the fun to adorably slap the boss about, after I downed my dear Nicole by getting distracted by the spectacle of the Marionettes’ assault. It felt like I was back in some bizarre, anime version of Returnal, sussing out how to dodge and weave in my offence, only this time the arena was coated in comic-book style dressings, reminiscent of the urban surroundings in games like Persona 5, Jet Set Radio, and Hi-Fi Rush. An ultracool design paired with super slick combat. Hello precious gaming memory, take a seat next to the Master Chief, you’ll feel right at home.

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