Undead Darlings is getting a physical release – here’s why you should care

I was very excited to see that, two years after the game’s original release, Mr. Tired Media and Sekai Games’ Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is finally getting a physical release through Limited Run Games. I’m delighted to see this, as I fell in love with the game the moment I started playing it — and I’ve been bugging everyone I can think of to publish a physical edition for the last two years.

Since the game first came out two years ago, though, it’s entirely possible that you might not be familiar with it. So with the announcement that preorders for the physical edition will be opening from October 11, 2022, I thought this would be a fine opportunity to revisit it. That way, those of you who want to snag a physical copy can do so when orders open — and those who want to jump in right now can do so with the existing digital version. So let’s get to it!

Undead Darlings

A labour of love

Undead Darlings is a game whose development started back in 2015. The developers at Mr. Tired Media, a group that included former members of NIS America’s staff, were convinced that there was an audience for a game involving zombie waifus, and took to Kickstarter to seek funding. Unfortunately, the initial crowdfunding attempt didn’t work out — while a decent number of people pledged their support, it wasn’t enough to cross the threshold for Kickstarter to consider it a successful campaign — but this didn’t deter the folks who wanted to make this game.

After a second attempt at Kickstarter again didn’t quite reach its goal despite some decent exposure from the enthusiast press, Mr. Tired Media took to Patreon for ongoing support from the most passionate supporters of the project, and eventually managed to partner with Sekai Project to actually get the game out the door. The developers always noted that “this game was going to happen no matter what — funding would only accelerate its development cycle”. The very definition of a labour of love.

Undead Darlings

Finally, in 2020, the game finally arrived in both its originally proposed PC incarnation and in console form on PS4 and Switch also. The game mostly passed the enthusiast press by, sadly — though a former incarnation of myself gave it a positive writeup on encountering it for the first time — and this meant that it ended up slapped with a relatively mediocre Metacritic rating.

As we all know, though, review scores are a bunch of hooey, particularly if you actually read the commentary that actually goes along with them. Everyone who came into contact with Undead Darlings commented on how while there were times it wore its low-budget “indie” nature on its sleeve, it was obviously the passionate project of people who really believed in what they were doing. And that is why it’s worth playing — and, more to the point, why it’s so genuinely pleasing to see it finally having the opportunity to take pride of place on players’ (and the devs’!) shelves.

Undead Darlings

What is Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~?

Undead Darlings is best described as a blend of dungeon crawling, adventure gaming and romantic comedy visual novel, drawing strong inspirations from Japanese anime-style aesthetics and presentation. For those concerned about having to sit around reading rather than playing the game, fear not — while there’s a fair amount of dialogue in Undead Darlings, the emphasis here is very much on the gameplay side of things.

In Undead Darlings, you take on the role of Reginald Happenstahnce, who wakes up to discover that a zombie apocalypse has apparently occurred while he was asleep. His childhood friend and neighbour Pearl has come over to wake him up as she always has done, in true anime style, but she smells rather more dead than usual. And thus begins an adventure to determine the truth behind the situation — and whether or not Reggie’s scientist father actually has anything to do with all this.

Undead Darlings

Undead Darlings’ adventure takes you through a series of dungeons that you explore in “gridder” fashion. What makes the game stand out from other games of this type, however, is how it eschews the usual featureless boxy rooms of the genre in favour of convincing environments that actually look and feel plausible. While you still explore these environments by step, turning by 90 degrees at a time, when the game tells you you’re exploring a school or a shopping centre, you believe it.

As you explore the various environments, you’ll encounter events depending on the lineup of characters you take into the dungeon. You’ll encounter a small but well-formed cast of zombie waifus over the course of the game’s story, with each of them having plenty of stories to tell. The ways in which they interact with one another and Reggie help you learn a lot more about their backgrounds as well as developing your relationships with them.

Combat is a mechanically interesting affair that is based on building up multipliers by hitting enemy weaknesses, then expending those multipliers to deal heavy damage or increase the power of defensive abilities. It’s by no means one of those dungeon crawlers where you can easily over-level your characters and just mash the attack button — you’ll need to actively engage with the combat system here, though a “Macro” mechanic does allow you to program combo attacks and manipulate the turn order somewhat.

Undead Darlings

Pleasingly, if you play the game more than once to see different events or endings, you can turn off random encounters for your second playthrough, making exploration much more straightforward. You’ll still have battles at predefined locations in the dungeons, but you won’t be held up by randomly occurring encounters.

There’s also a strong survival horror element to the game, since you have very limited inventory space and weapons only last as long as their durability value. Thankfully, our heroines are perfectly capable bare-handed battlers and new weapons are easy to come by — you’ll just often find yourself having to improvise a bit, or adjust your strategies according to the particular strengths and weaknesses of new equipment that you scavenge.

Undead Darlings

Why should I play Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~?

A combination of factors, really — and the nice thing about Undead Darlings is that it caters to a variety of play styles.

Dungeon crawling fans will get a kick out of the intricately designed environments and the intriguing puzzles you’ll have to solve to get around. Mechanics junkies will enjoy the challenging combat and the strategy required to equip our zombie heroines with the equipment that best complements their fighting style. And those who just want to romance zombie waifus will have a thoroughly lovely time, as these are some truly memorable characters.

The writing is very witty and snappy, and thankfully eschews the western trend for drenching everything in post-modern irony in favour of something that feels like it has genuine heart and soul to it. The characters are all designed in such a way that they initially appear to embody traditional anime tropes, but as you get to know each of them you’ll discover there’s a lot more to all of them than their first impressions might suggest.

Undead Darlings

Undead Darlings actually covers some surprisingly weighty themes in its story; all of its major characters have been through some fairly traumatic events prior to your involvement with them, and it’s genuinely heartwarming when they start to open up to you and explain what they’re thinking and feeling.

Comedy is never too far away, though; the varied and interesting dynamics between the different characters keeps things constantly interesting and amusing, and before long you’ll forget that this delightful group of girls you’re hanging out with are half-dead and will remain that way unless you’re able to do something fairly drastic.

What’s the deal with the physical edition?

The physical releases of Undead Darlings open for preorders on October 11, 2022 at 12pm Eastern time. Preorders will remain open until November 13, 2022, so don’t feel you need to rush if you need to wait for payday or something! Those who are able to order from Limited Run Games’ Amazon store will also find an exclusive cover for the Switch version there.

Like most Limited Run Games releases, you have a few options for editions. There are Switch and PS4 versions, for starters — there’s no difference in content between the two — and both platforms have the option for either standard or deluxe editions. The former will cost $39.99 while the latter will set you back $64.99.

Undead Darlings limited edition

The deluxe edition comes in a display box, and includes the game itself, six character profile cards for the zombie waifus, a CD featuring music from the game and a few remixes, and a series of hand-drawn maps for about half of the dungeons in the game. They were originally used during development, but the versions in the deluxe edition have been updated to ensure that they are accurate to what actually appears in the game. (Don’t worry, the game itself also features a conventional auto-map, so you don’t need to use the paper maps if you don’t want to!)

I want to play now!

If you can’t wait until October 11 and like the sound of what we’ve talked about today, you can pick up a digital version of Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ right now for PC via Steam or GOG.com, PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch.

Whether you go physical, digital or both, I sincerely recommend you give this game the time, attention and love it craves. It’s gone disappointingly overlooked and underappreciated up until this point — and it most certainly deserves better. Here’s hoping the physical release convinces a lot more people to give it a go for themselves. I’ll most certainly be returning to it for another round!

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Pete Davison
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