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Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Tokyo Beat Down

For those who enjoy challenging Japanese beat ’em up video games, “Tokyo Beat Down” is reminiscent to games like “Renegade” with an ’80s flair.

TITLE: Tokyo Beat Down (野獣刑事 東京同時多発テロを鎮圧せよ!)

DEVELOPER: SUCCESS/TAMSOFT

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence

The sweet satisfaction of classic coin-op beat ’em ups returns with the Beast Cops! With an ever-growing threat of violence, crime, and terrorism, these cops will do whatever it takes, inflict as much damage as necessary to restore peace and security to the streets of Tokyo.

  • Beat ’em up that lets you shoot ’em up – When fisticuffs aren’t enough, add guns to deliver a whole new brand of justice to the mean streets of Tokyo. Pick up a variety of weapons, ranging from handguns to rocket launchers, for intense action on each level.
  • 70’s cop shows have nothing on this – Outrageous style, over-the-top substance, and no holds barred hardboiled police action mix with madcap humor and sharply-written dialogue. Dishing out justice to the seamy underbelly of Tokyo has never been this satisfying.
  • Multiple characters & endings – This sordid tale of Tokyo’s criminal set unfolds through the eyes of three different cops with unique play styles. Story branches lead to multiple endings that determine whether you’ll get your shot to beat down the ultimate crime boss.

Ah! I’ve been wanting a video game similar to what I enjoyed back in the early ’90s such as the popular coin-op arcade games such as “Renegade”, “Streets of Rage” “Final Fight”, “Double Dragon” and several others that I grew up playing at the arcade or old school consoles.

But then I heard Atlus was releasing SUCCESS’s Nintendo DS game “Yajuu Deka” stateside! Granted, I knew nothing about this game but having wanted a beat ’em up game, I was hooked by the artwork. It reminded me of Ryoichi Ikegami’s work on his ’80s manga series “Crying Freeman” mashed with old school “Miami Vice”.

“Tokyo Beat Down” is a game about the “Beast Cops” of Yaesu Station. World famous as police officers who take on the baddest of the bad in Japan.

The Beast Cops are:

* for playable characters

* Captain Takeshi Bando – Responsible for the Beast Cops and keeps them in line. Although his tactics can be a bit excessive. An offensive character.

* Sr. Patrol Officer Lewis Cannon – The hotheaded, reckless cop who enjoys kicking butt. A well-balanced character who keeps telling bad jokes.

* Patrol Officer Rika Hyodo – Not scared of getting into Cannon’s face if he is out of line. A tough, agile character with a bad mouth.

Sergeant Hiro Suzuki – An all-purpose officer known to give good advice and when the going gets tough, he can get you from point A to point B.

Chief Eiji Watanabe – The head chief who dresses up in cool duds. Older gentleman who reminisces of the old days.

Patrol Officer Shin Koga – The rookie cop who goes by the book and doesn’t like Lewis’s fight first talk later. Shin believes in communicating.

Officer Madoka – Keeps the file room organized.

Inspector Jean Saburo – An elitist sent from the main office to work at Yaesu Station.

GAMEPLAY:

In “Tokyo Beat Down”, you play and start off with the character of Agent Lewis Canon. Fighting goes from right to left, similar to “Final Fight” and yo get hoards of enemies coming at you. Some punch and other shoot guns. Meanwhile, your job is to take them out. Fortunately, there are crates, garbage cans and vending machines that you can break and pick up an item for energy.

During the course of the game, you get to play with three different characters and depending on how you play the game, you can get three multiple endings.

CONTROLS:

The controls are straight forward. Control pad to move your character in a direction. B to jump, Y to punch and X to kick. R to guard and L to break out your gun (note: bullets are limited). The “A” button is used to communicate with others. Using a combination of buttons such as Y+B allows you to throw, pressing on a direction twice and quickly allows you to dash and R+Y or R+X allows you to do special attacks. Although, special attacks use up some health.

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are like Playstation 1 style graphics. Not the prettiest looking game but fortunately, the art work of the still-art of the characters are pretty cool to look at with the ’80s style of art

AUDIO:

So far, the background music I’ve heard is a bit jazzy and a bit of funk and most of the noise from the characters are grunts and clicks and gunshots.

So, far I’m really digging the game and its artwork. For those looking for innovation, you’re not going to see anything new. It’s more or less along the lines of beat ’em up games like Taito’s 1986 game “Renegade” but in this case, you are part of a kick-butt police agency and you have hoards of enemies from street punks and people in camouflage all going at you at once and shooting you. Timing is very important in this game and also listening as a click is a precursor to bullets shooting at you. Although, you can’t see the bullets, you just have to time your movements and hope you dodge it.

As expected, the game gets pretty tough. In the beginning, I was flying through the game but when you have people surrounding you on both sides and shooting at you, it makes things quite challenging. Especially when you have a weapon and you hope that he can get it out in time but it’s not as quick as you hope, so you need to improvise. But I still have yet to beat the game and will follow up this review upon completion.

The negatives are quite a few in this game from repetitiveness, repetitive enemies with different color pallets for clothing, repetitive scenes and unresponsive special attacks plus a difficult and challenging game. It all comes down to your patience and learning which moves to beat the enemies but even then, the repetitiveness gets to become too tedious at times.

So, is this game worth it? For me, I love these type of games and it’s an Atlus game, so I’m going to pick up no matter what. Again, it’s not a pretty game but if you want pretty games, then you would be playing on an XBOX 360 or PS3. For the DS, it’s good. But another positive selling point for me was that Gamestop sells it for $14.99 and that’s pretty cheap for an Atlus game.

Overall Review: 75%

Pros:

+ A Japanese beat ’em up game for the DS

+ ’80s style characters inc. bad humor

+ The ability to learn more moves for your characters

+ Ability to play different characters

+ Cheap price

Cons:

– Repetitive enemies and repetitive stages

– Enemies all wear the same clothes but different colors

– Graphics and music are not that great

– Cheap bosses and enemies makes this game quite difficult at times

– Control issues and unresponsive moves

PS2 Video Game Review: Rule of Rose (ルールオブローズ)

Controversial, dark and eerie… Atlus’s “Rule of Rose” is a dark video game that has a grim but interesting storyline but as far as gameplay, has a bit of control issues at times.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Rule of Rose (ルールオブローズ)

PLATFORM: Sony PS2

COMPANY: Shirogumi Inc./Atlus Games

There are few games that I’ve seen where players have been so passionate about a storyline (which is left to a players interpretation) and people are very hardcore to the point that they will go to the extremes on their own theories and yes, unfortunately you will find the occasional flame wars and that game is from Atlus titled “Rule of Rose”, a PlayStation 2 game released in 2006.

The game has received attention because of its mature rating and rumors ran rampant that the UK had banned the game fueling video game collectors to hunt down this game and in most cases for Atlus games, possibly very limited print runs.

For me, I have to admit that I knew nothing of this game. Being an Atlus fan, or more or less a “Shin Megami Tensei” fan, I decided to pick up many of the games published by Atlus.

A game that caught my eye was “Rule of Rose” from Japanese company PUNCHLINE and CG house SHIROGUMI INC. PUNCHLINE is known for making the kissing PS2 very Japanese game Chulip but what caught my attention was the survival horror title put on the game and that it was so unlike “Silent Hill”, “Fatal Frame”, “Siren” and “Biohazard”. So, that in itself was good enough for me to make the purchase…. if I could find it.

Fortunately, found a place (out of a dozen places that I checked) that had two used copies…but one was so severely scratched up that I was luck the other was not bad.

WHAT IS THIS GAME ABOUT?:

The game takes place in the 1930’s in England and focuses on a girl named Jennifer whose parents were killed in an accident and had to live in a creepy orphanage with pardon my language, really f’ed up children who seem to hate her.

All she has is a friend, a dog named Brown who helps her as she uncovers clues about the orphanage and the orphans who have their own secret society/club.

The game is like stepping into a time paradox whisked into playing in a orphanage or a zeppelin but once you advance through the game, you realize that there are some cruel things that have gone on in that orphanage or within the vicinity near that orphanage.

GAMEPLAY:

The game has you controlling the character of Jennifer, finding items with the use of your dog Brown. Jennifer can attack with weapons, while the primary uses of the buttons outside of attacking is to give commands to your dog to find, stay or to come back.

Because Jennifer is a weak person, controlling her is not easy. She’s always scared and even swinging a weapon, she can’t look and sometimes its very clumsy.

But you come to accept that this fits Jennifer’s character. You’re dealing with a terrified girl not Lara Croft.

Camera angles sometimes get janky at times but fortunately you can switch the camera with the L1 button.

WHY IS THIS GAME SO CONTROVERSIAL?:

Before I answer this, I know there is another Japanese game in the US out that involves a girl in a janky, haunted area with a dog called “Haunting Ground” but this is totally different.

By saying that, I’m going to talk about a few things that are spoilers, so you may not want to read further.

The game is about a girl named Jennifer but what you are playing is Jennifer, possibly seeing things through her eyes as she was younger and possibly the trauma she has faced as a child.

Now why is this game so controversial? After all, controversy is “hot coffee” in GTA: San Andreas or the violence in “Manhunt 2” and similar situations but for “Rule of Rose”, the things that you will see if you did a search on “Rule of Rose” is that this game was controversial because the game possibly dealt with lesbian relationships, abuse, cruelty to animals, child kidnappings, murder, abortion and child molestation.

Topics you pretty much thought you would not see in a video game. In fact, these situations are not shown in the most part but certain things can be implied that these things possibly and I stress “possibly” could have happened. Each of these topics are up to debate and if you read online, these debates are what fuels the interest of this game.

It’s probably one of the reasons why Sony, who published the game in Japan, did not want to publish it in the US. Atlus, who has a record for taking on things not so politically correct, released the game in the US.

I really don’t think you will find a game that is dark in this manner and because the creators of this series want you to make your interpretation of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. The character Jennifer has some twisted and imaginary of things that may or may not have taken place with what may have happened in reality. Thus depending on your perspective, the game could mean different things to different people.

After playing this game, I read many of the theories and there are some people who really did some in-depth investigative work on the years and dates shown through letters and newspaper clippings in the game and really made their case on what may have transpired.

IS THIS GAME A TRUE HORROR GAME?:

In a sense of killer imps, pigs, goats and rats trying to kill you and having to wack an axe, steel pipe or knife on them and see blood everywhere, yeah I guess that can be seen as horror. But will it scare you? Probably not.

But if there is anything I found disturbing aside from the topics discussed above, it’s the character of the young girl, Amanda.

Her smile alone is utterly twisted.

REPLAY VALUE:

The game takes about 8-10 hours to play and once you beat the game, you can try to access a variety of clothes including dressing Jennifer in a gothic lolita outfit (definitely targeting the j-rock visual kei or rococo fans out there) sans the J-rock music of course.

My oh my… I enjoyed this game because of its thought provoking storyline. It makes you wonder why there was no marketing on this game and how it flew under the radar, possibly because of the dark undertones or traumatic nature of the character may be too real for some.

There was an HK film that I once watched that shows the different kinds of love outside of passionate and intimate love. The creators wanted to show that within the cruel world of these young orphans, there is beauty.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is quite evident in “Rule of Rose”. There is a character in “Rule of Rose” who tries to show her love but once you ponder what she does to make her love known, you being to realize how disturbing her love is. Possessive and cruel love.

After beating the game, I was left with… “Oh my… Did this things happen? No way!” and online you will find those who say…”oh, hell yeah that happened” to those who feel “I don’t think that happened”. Hours after beating the game, I’m still surprised by it all (btw, there are two endings to this game).

As for the gameplay, at first I found playing Jennifer and such a scared character, I was put off by what I felt was janky controls but as the game continued, I realized… the controls work, especially for the character of Jennifer. This girl has gone through too much shit in her young life and you are mean to see what this girl has been through and how she felt.

If there was one thing I didn’t like, I found “Rule of Rose” a game that featured quite a bit of backtracking. I hate backtracking but fortunately, if you use Brown correctly, that shouldn’t be a problem. Fortunately, you can find areas where you can save and there are more than enough ways to rebuild health for your character and for the dog after being injured.

All in all, I will say right now that this game is not for everyone. I actually thought I was going to play something close to “Silent Hill 1” or something similar to survival horror games that I’ve played but in the end, you get a little bit of what those other games offer but something incredibly different is when the enemy are not zombies (although they are on here) but the enemies are the people who are meant to take care of kids and the children themselves.

I felt that the way the storyline was made to leave it to the player’s interpretation is its major strength because its evident, people have an opinion of the situations that happen in this game.

Definitely check this game out if you are up to it and most of all, if you can find it.

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Luminous Arc

“A Japanese anime-style tactical RPG game with a fun and engaging storyline but with an average at best gameplay. Still, one of the more interesting tactical RPG games on the Nintendo DS”

TITLE: Luminous Arc (ルミナスアーク)

DEVELOPER: Marvelous Interactive

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, language, mild fantasy violence, suggestive themes

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Protect the Light, Condemn the Dark!

A millennium of peace is about to be torn asunder by the spread of darkness. A war with the witches 1,000 years ago nearly destroyed the planet and now they have returned. Character designs by Kaito Shibano, music from Yasunori Mitsuda and solid storylines combine to give tactical RPG fans the kind of portable gaming experience they’ve been craving!

I have to admit that ever since playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Disgaea” on the Sony PSP, I’ve been purchasing nearly every Japanese strategy/tactical RPG that has come out for all the consoles and I realize that there some gems and there are some clunkers.

For many years, I avoided the anything tactical or strategy-based RPG to come out. But since playing these games, I’ve been like fanboy-ish and purchasing not just the Japanese games but even going back and purchasing hits on the PC of U.S. games.

l I really love the strategy and the challenge (and thrill) of beating a difficult group of enemies and then enjoying the various systems, may it be weapon or armor-based, financial base… you name, I’ll enjoy it my own way. And balance that with an engaging storyline and I’m all up for it.

With Atlus announcing the second “Luminous Arc” by Marvelous Entertainment to be released in 2008 in the US, I figured that I better kick things into gear with the first game, which I bought when it first came out.

Since its release, I have been level grinding for many, many, many hours (I tend to focus this style of gameplay with RPG’s) before getting into full-story mode.

The main storyline revolves around the Garden Children. A group of orphans trained by the Arc Knight Heath to fight monsters and follow their goal to condemn the witches who have appeared in the world after being sealed for a thousand years.

As the Church prepares battle, the Garden Children prepare to battle with the witches. The Garden Children are:

Alph: The leader of the Garden Children and dedicated to the goals of the Church and follows the footsteps of Heath. Fights with a sword and uses rifle-based skills.

Theo: Alph’s younger brother. A bit naive and a young kid but excellent with a bow and arrow.

Leon: The oldest member, a bit cocky and the guy who gets all the girls, with the exception of Garden Children member, Cecille. Uses a sword but is very powerful and like his father “The Lion King”, has some really cool skills.

Cecille: A priestess dedicated to the church. The healer.

Saki: A ninja who collects intelligence data. Very professional and mature. Uses various magical, skill attacks.

Nikolai: Loves Cecille but infatuated by witches. Gets on the nerves of the Garden Children but joins to offer his knowledge on witches. Has the ability to improve stats of members during battle and able to do long distance attacks.

And of course, these are just a few of the characters that you get to play. As you progress through the game, you meet various characters who you get to control and each have their own cool, special ways of attacking.

So, the many characters involved definitely enhances the game as well.

Each character and witch also opens up a special attack called “Flash Drive”. You have a meter and when a character does a certain action (like increasing tech or speed during battle), your meter goes up and you unleash a powerful attack or cause status ailments to enemies.

Assigned to help the Garden Children is a maid named Lucia who Alph finds out is a witch and encounters with other witches. But what happens when the Garden Children find out that like humans, not all witches are evil? What will happen when the Church forces the group to continue with their goal to eliminate the witches? Will Alph and team follow or will they end up going against the church that raised them?

GAMEPLAY:

Similar to other JRPG tactical games, the battlefield shows enemies and when it’s your turn, using that character you move (as far as that character can go) and plan which direction they are going to go and assign your 5-8 characters to that direction. Have them use an action to battle or use magical skills or to heal.

Throughout the game, there is a storyline which allows you to shop for better weapons, armor and accessories. Or talk with various people and possibly get more items. Also, a library with detail from the witch or church perspective of the battle between the two.

Shown is a map where you can battle in certain areas (aka keep level grinding over and over) and go to the next village for which the next storyline begins.

After each battle, you can talk to a member of the team and build a relationship and get “Philia” points and after each battle is a short story titled “Kopin”. Mysterious creatures that live with witches. Touch the screen and certain things may happen.

Then there is Vitae – Appraisal and Imbuing. Vitae are stones that have the power of the Rune and you can add these stones to weapons or armor to strengthen effects and abilities.

MULTIPLAYER BATTLES: You can do multiplayer battles with another player that has a “Luminous Arc” cartridge and participate in battles with up to eight units. This will open once reaching Chapter 13.

EXTRA DUNGEON: A hidden extra dungeon is available but is not relevant to the storyline.

NEW GAME +: After finishing the game, everything can be carried over to a new game and this is for those who want to get better intermission screens with the characters and earn more Philia points

CONTROLS:

With your stylus, you can assign where your characters go. The only problem that I found is that you can’t rotate the battle screen. You can move up, left, down and right but when monsters and your team are together. Because you can’t rotate, selecting that enemy during battle becomes cumbersome and you may end up selecting your own character that will get the brunt of a hit or magical spell.

So, because of that…. “Save often”.

And of course, selecting the actions, skills, magic, flash drive or using an item during battle.

GRAPHICS:

The anime-style illustrations are pretty cool with character designs by Shibano Kaito. known for his work on PC games and trading cards. Cool to see the animated opening sequence. The cut-scenes are not animated but various illustrated still shots. The in-game battle are fine for a tactical RPG, nothing major. The use of the “flash drive” shows an animated sequence but nothing super.

All in all, I really enjoyed the character designs for “Luminous Arc” and Shibano’s artwork is just beautiful to look at.

AUDIO:

When I first started the game, it was cool to get the J-Pop theme at the beginning and then to find out that many of the cut-scenes include full audio. That was pretty cool!

The audio featured is in English. That would have been cool if the Japanese audio was included but with the amount of dialogue included, not sure if it could all fit in a DS flash card.

OVERALL:

So, far I’m halfway through the game. I think that perhaps I’ve spent too much time level grinding because the enemies are fairly easy for me to beat. One or two-hits and they are dead and really, there is no really strategy like I had in other tactical RPG games.

I just go all-offensive and really never had to use any defensive measures. Hopefully, things change as I further progress but without any real strategy at this time, the game is too easy and cumbersome.

If anything, the storyline and the characters are engaging and so far has kept me in. I really like the storyline and the variety of characters introduced, that will join your team.

All in all, I have been enjoying “Luminous Arc”. It’s not a deep storyline but I like the fact that it has a fun, humorous and lighthearted storyline but as you progress, you can tell things are getting darker.

I like the fact that you get more and more people with their own skills to join your team but I felt so much time was taken to level grinding and I’m a patient man but I feel like my patience of level grinding was starting to wear thin.

If anything, the engaging storyline, the ability to develop relationships (or stronger friendships) with your teammates depending on your answer is pretty cool.

But so far, so good. A bit easy so far but I think things should get a bit more challenging. The controls (of selecting an enemy when it’s populated with a lot of enemies or your own people was the only problem. But very minor.

All in all, the overall gameplay for “Luminous Arc” is enjoyable, not in the same level as “Final Fantasy Tactics” or “Disgaea” but still quite fun.

I will have a more in-depth review after I complete the game.

+ Many cool characters, unique storyline, cool attacks

+ You meet many characters who you can play as the game progresses.

+ Audio during most of the cut-scenes

+ Definitely cool for additional gameplay for multiplayer or after you beat the game

– Minor control issues

– Not much strategy as I would of hoped. The game is fairly easy if you are a level grinder but probably challenging if you don’t put time into level grinding.

– Level grinding is tedious because you literally play the same map, same enemies, same positions each time.