Less than a week ago I read and finished Volume 01 of “I Walk Among Zombies” and called it great, but flawed due to its overuse of sex scenes, particularly ones of questionable content, and a main character who made logical sense, but at the same time was not someone who you could cheer on like a hero. A hero he was not. Volume 02 of this story has pretty much corrected all of my previous complaints.
The story picks up exactly where it left off in Volume 01, with Yusuke and Mitsuki heading for the cities town hall where a group of survivors had radioed from to bring other survivors to them in time for an evacuation. It overall deals with an even more human-centric story than the first volume, detailing the struggles of this now over 50+ strong group trying to survive in a cramped space and tense atmosphere as the prospects of being rescued slowly begin to fade and fear begins to set in.
This time around the main character, Yusuke, is still as logical as ever, but his cold demeanor that made him an ass before has started to melt even in the midst of winter, and it makes him a much more compelling lead when his emotions finally start to break through. He’s a man that pretends to not care about anyone and anything, he lived alone for so long that it became nature to him to not need anyone. His solitude a barrier from heartbreak. Volume 02 finally shows cracks starting to show in his mindset. He wants to leave, he plans to leave, but he keeps feeling compelled to return and protect like an actual human being rather than a zombie.
Speaking of zombies, they don’t feature as prominently in Volume 02 as they did before and there’s largely a reason for this. A lot of zombie stories often don’t address the elephant in the room of how they would react in reality. Zombies give off no body heat, they’re dead and the vast majority of their biological processes have largely stopped. They seemingly still digest what they consume, produce saliva, and absorb nutrients from a variety of things, but they’re still cold. In the winter, they would freeze. This story acknowledges that, and since zombies have at least a tiny bit of intelligence, or at least animalistic instincts, the vast majority of them take shelter indoors and underground to protect themselves from the cold. As a result, the living can travel much more safely, albeit still liable to run into a few zombies here or there, especially if they enter a home or business to scavenge. While this makes the story feel safer for the characters who venture beyond the town halls perimeter, it also adds a ticking timer to the story. They’ve only been able to fend off small zombie incursions and survive BECAUSE the larger hordes have effectively gone into hibernation. Once spring rolls around and it warms up again, they’ll return, and probably overrun the survivors.
I found Volume 02 to be a far better balance of calm moments, heart pounding tension, and love making. And by that last one, I mean I encountered only two scenes in the entirety of my 5 to 6 hour playthrough. That being said, unlike the first game which was a straight up kinetic novel, the second game offers a single choice about an hour or so into the story. I tested it to see if it would change anything and it actually did. While I only gave it a couple lines of dialogue, the contrast was quite different. One option has Yusuke hang around his apartment with Tokiko, a zombie girl, in no rush to return to the town hall. The other option, the one I ultimately went with, skips all of that and has him returning to the town hall. While I don’t ultimately know what difference this choice makes beyond that initial scene(I’ll look into that later.), it is nice to feel like I have at least a little control over the story. After the final credits rolled, I noticed that an additional tab had been added to the main menu titled “Additional Scenes.” I’ll look into these as well later. I can tell from the names of the scenes that they show you more of what was happening while Yusuke was not present, so odds are they’re quite literally additional scenes that you don’t need to watch, and perhaps this is where the majority of sex scenes were offloaded to. At the very least they should provide additional character and world building.
The games artwork is consistent with the previous game and still looks absolutely gorgeous. However, if I had to have one small gripe it’s that they reused CG’s of zombies from the first game rather than making new ones. This is of course the economic choice to make, and they still do their job of illustrating, well, zombies. The above image is one of the few new ones. There was one scene where it was describing a zombie they had just run into and it changed to a CG. If it were putting that much focus on one specific zombie you’d think they would have made a new CG. Instead however they used an old one, specifically that of a supermarket employee from the first game. The visual of the supermarket employee, while thematically consistent with that of a convenience store employee since that was the zombie they were trying to describe, is not physically the same and thus the description doesn’t match the visual.
The soundtrack is another point where they opted to reuse a lot of the tracks from the previous game, only adding one or two new ones to the mix which are in turn used in very specific scenes. It definitely feels like they may have been a bit more strapped for cash this time around, hence all the cost saving decisions. And then there’s the oddity that Volume 01 released in 2015, and then Volume 02 released in March 2018. Which is fine, new games take time especially if the developer is small... but then Volume 03 and a Volume 00 fan disk released in April 2018 only a month later. Really fast turnaround that has me slightly nervous going into Volume 03 when it eventually released here in the States sometime this year, though according to VNDB it’s approximately the same length as the first two. So crossing my fingers it’s not rushed in any way.
Overall, I Walk Among Zombies Volume 02 is a better constructed story than the previous game even with its extremely minor faults. At this point I feel more comfortable recommending this games to visual novel fans and those just looking for a great story. Unfortunately, if you have no taste or time for sex scenes, especially ones that can get a tad uncomfortable at times, then these probably aren’t for you since they can’t be turned off. I’m satisfied with the improvements made with this interest and I hope this will continue into Volume 03, which is presumably the final volume since they made a collection of all three volumes and the fan disk two months after its release.