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PS3 Video Game Review: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay. Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play! If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, give this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!

Images courtesy of © 2013 KOEI. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2

TYPE OF GAME: Fighting

PLATFORM: Sony PS3 and XBOX 360

PSN DOWNLOAD SIZE: 9GB

DEVELOPER: Koei

COMPANY: Koei Tecmo

RATED: M for MATURE

RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2013

Kenshiro and over twenty other characters from the Fist of the North Star series are ready to unleash rage in another game from Tecmo Koei. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has Legend mode that covers the entire manga storyline from the Raoh Saga to the Land of Shura. Dream Mode has original storylines made just for the game that often focus on minor characters from the Fist of the North Star series.

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is back! And with the sequel comes a whole lot of changes to the overall gameplay but most importantly, an epic storyline that is heavily-based on the popular “Hokuto no Ken” manga series from Tetsuo Hara and Buronson.

The second video game adaptation features legend mode, over 20 playable characters, new moves, dream mode plus online co-op and versus play.

“HOKUTO NO KEN/FIST OF THE NORTH STAR” HISTORY

In 1983, the manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) was unleashed in Japan. Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson, the manga series was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from 1983-1988 and has spawned anime TV series (one which lasted over 150-episodes from 1984-1988), two films, OAV’s, novels, video games and more.

Needless to say, in Japan, the story of “Fist of the North Star” has been a big part of Japanese pop culture as it was a story that showcased good vs. evil in a post-apocalyptic era in which the world is now unstable with fear running rampant across the land. Where power is justice and power ruled. Those without power are left in fear. Those who have power command great armies or a ragtag group of the men who have succumbed to evil.

So, popular the manga/anime series, the antagonist Raoh can be seen like a Japan equivalent to characters such as Darth Vader, Cobra Commander or even Megatron. Villains with power and despite being evil, their fan following is tremendous. In fact, Raoh is so popular that back in 2007, a mock funeral was held for the character in order to promote the theatrical release of “Raoh Den Gekito no Sho” (a retelling of the final battle between Kenshiro vs. Raoh). And thousands of people attended the mock funeral, and many genuinely mourned Raoh as a man who touched their lives (despite not being a real person).

And suffice to say, both Kenshiro and Raoh are the two primary characters that are featured in this latest video game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

The storyline featured four adoptive brothers who were taught the “Hokuto Shinken” (aka “God Fist of the North Star”). The four are eldest brother Raoh, Toki, Jagi and Kenshiro. With the main storyline focusing on the eldest, Raoh and the youngest Kenshiro.

In the series, Kenshiro has been chosen as the successor to the martial art known as Hokuto Shinken, a martial art that is 18-centuries old and involves using the body’s 708 vital pressure points to either destroy or heal a person from within. Kenshiro is a man who is in love with Julia and instead of having a happy life, his evil brother Jagi uses his influence over Kenshiro’s good friend Shin, who is from a family which is a rival to “Hokuto Shinken” known as “Nanto Seiken” (aka Sacred Fist of the South Star). If Hokuto Shinken is the Yin, Nanto Seiken is the Yang. Two can’t exist without each other.

In the storyline, Kenshiro has been seen as the younger brother who is not at all strong. His brother Raoh has chosen the path to be a conqueror of lands, Toki who is the healer is thought to be dead (due to radiation poisoning) and Jagi, the jealous older brother of Kenshiro who is upset his younger brother is thought to be a better fighter than he is.

So far in the storyline, Kenshiro’s girlfriend Julia was kidnapped by Shin and Shin defeats Kenshiro and leaving him for dead.

The first video game “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” is similar to the Dynasty Warriors games from Koei Tecmo. The game introduced a LEGEND MODE which followed the original manga series in which you played Kenshiro (or other characters) as the story progresses, building up your characters skills and your character while gaining additional special moves. With each character you encounter, once you beat a level, the key opponent/major character will be added to DREAM MODE, and those characters will be playable. And an additional CHALLENGE MODE in which one can play Kenshiro and take on a string of opponents.

The game was released for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360.

And now, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of “Hokuto no Ken”, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” has been released courtesy of KOEI TECMO.

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: KEN’S RAGE 2 is the second game of the series which was developed by Koei, not Omega Force (who did the first game). Unlike the first game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is available for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Wii U (digital distribution only), while available as a physical release for the XBOX 360. Also, the release was only two months after its release in Japan.

I will be reviewing the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

GAMEPLAY:

There are slight differences between the first and second game. While the game keeps to the “Dynasty Warriors” theme, the game has removed the option to jump and is replaced by a dodging system. During a game, characters can find hidden scrolls to help add to their character’s abilities. After each battle with a key rival character, one can learn a signature move. Saving the game takes place after a major chapter and while a chapter can be long, there are interim saves, but unfortunately, interim saves will not start where one has left off but at the beginning of a chapter.

As for the modes featured in the “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”:

LEGEND MODE

This is probably my favorite part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”. The first game didn’t really explain characters all that much, but this time around, KOEI decided that the story would be a primary focus for Legend Mode.

And instead of featuring short stories, KOEI allows for more character development, by allowing you to play these other characters. But most importantly, developing a long story that covers the remainder of the “Hokuto no Ken” storyline revolving Kenshiro and his brothers.

So, one can possibly expect anywhere around 10-20 hours of gameplay, because some of these chapters are long, cut scenes also can be long but the biggest part that made me enjoy this game even more, is the fact that KOEI featured the following the manga series:

  • Kenshiro meeting Bat and Rin as children
  • Kenshiro storyline involving Shin and Yuria
  • Kenshiro taking on Rei and also introducing Mamiya
  • Kenshiro taking on those who represent Nanto Goshasei
  • Kenshiro taking on his three brothers Jaki, Toki and Raoh + other opponents
  • The Golden Celestial Storyline featuring a grown up Bat and Rin and the Falco storyline
  • The Shura storyline featuring Kenshiro taking on those who know Hokuto Ryuken, and introducing and including battles with Jukei, Shchi, Han, Hyoh and Kaioh
  • Conclusion of the Bat, Rin Mamiya and Bolge storyline

These arcs are quite long and if KOEI wanted to, they could have easily stopped at the Raoh storyline and save the other for a third game, but instead, the Shura/Hokuto Ryuken is featured in “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

The object of LEGEND MODE is to play Kenshiro and going through what was featured in the manga series. Similar to Dynasty Warriors, hordes of enemies come from every direction and your character begins with either 3-4 signature moves. Using your buttons, you can do straight hits, combo moves, grab, taunt, etc. Scattered in each area are chests that contain a chicken or bread (for extra health), a canister (for extra aura) or scrolls that can enhance your character.

You can equip five scrolls and each scroll may have 1 to 4 symbols. A green heart for extra life, a yellow flame aura which allows one to have a quick recharge to pull off a signature move, a red fist for attack, blue shield for defense and purple for technique.

Some scrolls allow for a special ability, such as RECOVER which can allow your character to recover faster, STAMINA for added stamina during battle, others that activate more defense, better aura when you are low on health and more. Scroll levels start at level 1 but as you progress, you eventually find scrolls that feature higher levels and adds to your character’s life, aura, attack, defense and technique points.

But LEGEND MODE is a straightforward story mode with long cut scenes after each battle or after a segment during a fight against a key rival character.

To explain the bar segment (as shown on the image above), on the bottom at the screen during a fight with a key rival character character, you will notice their red health bar is broken down by three (or four) segments.

When one bar of segment goes down, the main fight will stop, transition to a cut-scene and feature a storyline in which Kenshiro or an opponent will get stronger, question a character’s fight style or continue a storyline with a new revelation.

Because LEGEND MODE follows the manga series, this style is much different than other games which allows you to take on a key rival character, fight to the death and then a cut scene.

Some are major opponents, captains or low ranking commanders and thus, some will not have a save point until after the chapter ends. While there are interim save points, this is not one of those games where one has 10 minutes to play and hope they can find a save point. Sometimes, some chapters are quite long, so for those wondering if they can play a game and save at any point of game, this is not one of them.

The game also allows other type of gameplay instead of fighting. Some levels ask for one to be stealthy and sneak and kill an enemy guard without being detected, another allows objects to be thrown at an enemy from the distance and some enemies rely on different strategies and standard hits or kicks may not work. Other levels have you protecting a child or a wounded comrade, while moving through a violent area.

But as the story progresses for Kenshiro and friends, LEGEND MODE is the most satisfying part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” because of how much of the manga is presented in this mode.

DREAM MODE

Dream Mode allows one to play with characters that were opened up in LEGEND MODE. The story is similar for those who have played Dynasty Warriors in which you are presented with a map which show where enemy forces have occupied several bases. Your job is to take back five of the bases (after beating the first base, you are joined with soldiers who fight for you) which have around 50 people plus two commanders or captains and after taking back five of the bases, you then take on a key rival character (which sometimes is followed by a second key rival).

The good news is that your soldiers actually do some fighting. Where in the first game, even if an opponent is nearly dead, you could never trust your soldiers as they seemed weak. And a lot of time, you had to go back to the bases you have beaten and reclaim them. The issue is not the case with “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

You can play over 20 characters (which represent Hokuto Shinken, Nanto Seiken, Hokuto Army, Hokoto Ryuken, Lone Warriors and Others), many characters who are available after beating their storyline in LEGEND MODE and level them up (all are level 1 with the exception of Kenshiro who maintains the same level for those who played LEGEND MODE first).

But the object is to defeat each map level by controlling your character on the map, reclaiming about five bases from the enemies and taking on the key rival for that area on the map. It’s important to note that two simultaneous bosses/key rival characters on screen have been removed but there are two simultaneous commanders or captains that are featured during battle.

The bad news for those who loved the missions of the first game, the missions are no longer featured in DREAM MODE. It’s now focused on claiming bases and taking on final key rival in that map area.

You can choose from a STORY MODE, FREE PLAY MODE and ONLINE.

For STORY MODE and FREE MODE, you can access one of the many characters and play up to 10 maps plus a challenge level for each character. The main difference between the two is that STORY MODE contains an alternate storyline with cut scenes.

At the time of this review, there aren’t many people playing ONLINE MODE at this time (for the PS3) but what is available is CO-OP PLAY and TEAM MATCH. The benefit of co-op is that you can access high level scrolls that are not available in the offline single player version of the game.

I do feel that KOEI is taking the risk of not letting characters be available for ONLINE MODE. You are forced to play LEGEND MODE first and literally beat the entire game before going into DREAM MODE which one can play Kenshiro. But I do understand the reason for this is because of the STORY MODE, which feature characters that can only be featured if you beat LEGEND MODE. So, it’s a restriction that does hurt the ONLINE mode.

It would have been nice to have two-player co-op but because of the restricti0n, it does make people focus on the single player aspect of the game much more.

Also, available is GALLERY which allows you to view artwork and movies that were saved after beating LEGENDARY MODE or STORY for DREAM MODE. You can also access SETTINGS to change difficulty, if you want a tutorial featured during play.

Also, DOWNLOAD for DLC content is available and as of right now, the characters Amiba, Nameless Shura and Han can be downloaded for $8 each.

 

CONTROLS:

For controls, you use the L3 stick to control your character, but most of the time, you will be using SQUARE and TRIANGLE to unleash a string of combos. CIRCLE to unleash your signature move and other buttons to dodge, taunt or grab/strike your character (which is important in facing off against stronger, same-size opponents, as you will need to do combos such as SQUARE, SQUARE, TRIANGLE, GRAB.

I felt the fighting mechanics for the second game is much better but this is subjective as some will miss the jumping ability of the first game.

While controls are fine and I rarely had problems, I did have issues with camera. Not all the time, but a few times during a fight against a major opponent, where I try to have my character pull off a string of combos, when the opponent circles around, it becomes a first person perspective. Granted, I could easily move out and re-position my character but during battles where timing is important, especially vs. Raoh or Kaoh, you don’t want these camera issues to happen and affect timing.

Once again, this did not affect me too much but it did happen a few times.

GRAPHICS:

The graphics for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” are good (don’t expect big budget graphics like “Final Fantasy” or “Mass Effect”). But I enjoyed the character designs for this game. The characters compliment Tetsuo Hara’s character designs from the manga and I was quite pleased to see how the emotion and violence was captured in this video game.

Because it’s based on the manga series, most are 3D based characters that are featured as still images, but there are moments when the characters are in full movement and are speaking.

For people familiar with the manga or the anime series, the series is extremely violent and bloody. Characters are beaten, eyes are gouged out, heads explode, one scene has a character being drilled to death. So, for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” you expect to see characters bruised, bloody and beaten and you see that in this game.

Did I experience lag? Just once, during a scene where there were a ton of characters, there was a slight lag and choppiness but other than that, I was quite pleased with the game because having played many other “Hokuto no Ken” games, his is the best I have seen of a game so far.

AUDIO:

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” was quite immersive. Listening it on a 7.2 system, KOEI definitely let a lot of the sound effects be utilized through the surround and rear surround channels. Dialogue was crisp and clear but probably the highlight is the voice acting. The Japanese voice acting is fantastic. From the emotion coming from Bat, Rin, Yuria and Mamiya, to the evil that comes from Kaoh. I was quite pleased with the overall voice acting for the game.

With that being said, not everyone likes listening to a video game in Japanese with English subtitles. And those who prefer it to be dubbed, like the first game, may be disappointed to find out that the game is only in Japanese with English subtitles.

REPLAY VALUE:

While I considered LEGEND MODE to be the main mode for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, the fact that there are over 20-characters that one can continue playing on DREAM MODE, adds to the replay value of the game. It’s been a staple of the DYNASTY WARRIORS type games to include so many characters, that you get your money’s worth and the fact that each character have their own fighting style (and these are NOT clone characters), is a plus. And the addition of an ONLINE MODE adds to the replay value of the game.

I was very fortunate to have grown up with “Fist of the North Star”. The manga series that was released in the U.S. from Viz Communications and the anime series released on VHS easily made me a fan, but it was the old Streamline Pictures animated film that introduced me to “Fist of the North Star” and that was back in 1991.

I was captivated by the Mad Max storyline, a post-apocalyptic world where power rules over cash and the world turned into chaos because of it. And like many other anime/manga fans during the very early ’90s, we also played the import games and one of the first import games that I purchased was the side-scrolling game “Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyuseishu Densetsu” for the Sega Mega Drive, which I still own today.

And when I visit Japan, suffice to say, I still tend to look for anything related to “Hokuto no Ken” (First of the North Star) and another fighting series titled “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”. And while both games have been released in arcades in Japan, I have hoped and long wished for the series to have an awesome video game release.

By 2003, with the release of the animated OVA series, “New Fist of the North Star”, I was hoping that there would be of interested in Japan for a new video game. While there was a focus on bringing it out as a game, moreso for pachinko.

By 2008, I was excited about the release of “Hokuto no Ken: Hokuto Shinken Denshosha no Michi” for the Nintendo DS, just to find out it was a digital comic which required touching vital points. In 2009, with the release of the animated OVA series featuring Raoh titled “Hokuto no Ken: Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh”, I immediately purchased the video game which featured the characters of the OVA series and the game was a 3D fighting game, more on the “Street Fighter” side.

In 2010, I was excited to find out that KOEI would be releasing a “Dynasty Warriors” type of game but in the “Hokuto no Ken” universe and heavily inspired by the manga series. For me, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” was awesome to see made for the current gen consoles, but what I wanted to see and play are the characters leading up to the final half of the series. Kenshiro vs. Shin, Kenshiro vs. Raoh, Kenshiro vs. Kaoh, etc.

So, when I started seeing the promotional videos from Japan for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, I couldn’t wait! Because the version I wanted to see and play for so long, is now here!

Before I continue with my review, I need to say that I’m not a “Dynasty Warriors” hater. Many reviewers who dislike the game, I feel should not be reviewing it in the first place. They score the games low, they hardly play it and every year, they talk about how the game lacks innovation and can’t understand why people play them.

I’m not that kind of reviewer. In fact, I have owned and played many “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” games, for a variety of consoles, and I enjoy playing the Musou games.

Perhaps it was because I grew up with games such as “Final Fantasy”, “Streets of Rage” and many others were you fought the same looking characters, repeat the same moves. I’m so used to playing Japanese RPG’s, level grinding for hours upon hours and I don’t mind it.

And while there are a niche group who will forever support these games, I know there are people who don’t and they are vocal about it in their review.

In my case, I enjoyed playing “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”. In my opinion, this is the best game to come out featuring the characters and how awesome is it that the video game is based on the manga series.

The character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s style, the voice acting is incredible and while the game leans more to the easier side (which can be fixed by difficulty select in the settings), the fact that Kenshiro has so many cool signature moves and find a way to defeat these herds of soldiers or psychopaths as quickly as possible is quite fun. But what made it worth my while is the LEGEND MODE.

I realized that KOEI could have stopped anywhere after the long arc which involved Kenshiro vs. his brothers, especially Raoh. But the story continued as it goes into the Falco storyline and just when you think that the game would end on a teaser for possibly a third “Ken’s Rage”, you are then presented a new long storyline revolving the Shura and the battle against those who possess the Hokoto Ryuken.

And just when you think the game was about to end, you are then presented with a new storyline revolving around the character of Bat.

Looking at my character profile and how long I have played, LEGEND MODE, I was near 20 hours. Granted, probably 18 hours at the most as those extra two hours was testing interim save and having to replay a level again and finding a way to beat Kaoh underground in a sulfur pit, but playing this mode alone, I felt the game was worth the money because the interactive cut scenes based on the manga were fantastic and for any “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans, this longer LEGEND MODE was so, worth playing!

As for the DREAM MODE, this is where I can see some players being a bit upset with. The mission mode is no longer there, the hordes of enemies that are featured in LEGEND MODE are now broken up into 50-men armies, many characters are not available until you beat LEGEND MODE and because some people don’t want to get involved in a long storyline with long cut-scenes to access players for DREAM MODE, I can see a few frustrated gamers. And because of the lack of players, it won’t help much with the ONLINE MODE because everyone would have to play LEGEND MODE to unlock the characters.

So, I can see the frustration for some gamers for DREAM MODE in that aspect. But if you did beat LEGEND MODE, you realize that because the games within DREAM MODE for story relates to many characters that have yet to be opened, it makes sense why KOEI went this direction. But it was a risk for KOEI because it does hurt gameplay for those who want to play online immediately.

As for problems, the main problems that I experienced was just camera issues for a few matches against key opponents. The camera would switch to a first person view when fighting that it easily distracts your rhythm if you are trying to create a string of combos. Fortunately, it happened a few times and that was it.

As for lag, I didn’t see much of it. Only one time, where I can remember it going slow with so many things on the screen but other than that, I had no issues with the game at all.

But I think that where people may have difficulty with this game are outside of the game modes, are repetitive gameplay and the interruption of fights against key rival characters. Rarely do we see boss fights in a video game that stop the momentum and go into a lengthy cinematic sequence, but it does happen in LEGEND MODE a few times for a good reason. It adds to the storyline as it was featured in the manga, especially when it focuses on the turn of the battles. Where the opponent may be kicking Kenshiro’s butt but then all of a sudden, he finds a way to make his comeback. This is how those fights are set up, if you manage to beat the key rival character and see their health bar decrease by a segment (which I explain above in gameplay).

In the way it was implemented, I didn’t mind so much. Unless one was low on time and had to leave or go to sleep, I can see why some may get frustrated because you could only save after the end of a chapter and some of these chapters are long. It would have been great if interim saves would allow for a restart where you last saved, but because of the way the game was built, it’s not possible. That was probably the only thing that did make me frustrated, not knowing how long the chapter would be and if a save would ever come. There were times it took a long while just to get a save point.

Graphics were good, not great but the character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s work from the manga series. Audio was very good as it utilized the surround channels, but another caveat for some, may be the fact that only the Japanese dialogue with English subtitles are included. While the Japanese voice acting was fantastic, those who dislike having to read subtitles, may have a problem with this game not having an English dub.

But the positives outweighed the negative for me. I’m an avid gamer who enjoys “Dynasty Warriors” type of games and I’m a big fan of “Hokuto no Ken”. While, I’m not sure if “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” will continue, especially with more stories that can be explored with “New Fist of the North Star” and “Fist of the Blue Sky”, if this is the final game in the “Ken’s Rage” series, I feel that KOEI gave “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans a game that was exciting and a storyline that kept to the manga series with efficacy.

As for differences between the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360 version, the PS3 is not available on physical media in the U.S. but as a digital download on the PSN store, while the XBOX 360 is available in physical media. While I did not play the XBOX 360 version, I can say that the PS3 version is over 9GB long and you will need to have at least 18GB free to install it.

People who hardly play the “Dynasty Warriors” style games, may it be “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” or even “One Piece: Pirate Wars” will always complain about repetitiveness and to tell you the truth, that has been going on since “Dynasty Warriors 2” for the PS2.

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is not perfect but by no means is it terrible. I’ll proudly say it’s the best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” made so far. The LEGEND MODE is a reason enough to buy this game alone and the DREAM MODE was like extra content that added to replay value and I love that. But for those in it for the ONLINE MODE, will be disappointed and will say, do not buy this game if your priority is online gaming or online co-op.

Overall, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay. Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play! If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, gives this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!

PROS:

+ The Best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” game made so far!

+ LEGEND MODE is awesome and fans of the series will no doubt love it. 15-20 hours of gameplay for LEGEND MODE alone.

+ “Ken’s Rage 2” features more characters that many of us have been wanting to play!

+ Fantastic voice acting! And respectful design based on Tetsuo Hara’s manga designs.

+ Better fight mechanics than the previous game.

CONS:

– ONLINE MODE for DREAM MODE requires one to play through LEGEND MODE first.

– Camera tends to go astray a few times.

– Mission mode removed from DREAM MODE and 50-person battles per base may seem to easy.

– Some may find the halting for more cut scenes during major key opponent battles to be bothersome.

Nintendo Wii Video Game Review: WarioWare Smooth Moves

Another wonderful party game featuring Wario and many more characters utilizing the Wii technology!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: WarioWare Smooth Moves

PLATFORM: Nintendo Wii

COMPANY: Nintendo

WarioWare’s back with an idea so crazy, it could only be made with the latest technology: the Wii Remote™. When Wario™ stumbles upon a strange device called a Form Baton, he and his friends use it to learn new moves that are as fun as they are wacky. With hundreds of microgames, this game is just as wild as you’d expect from the name WarioWare, but the game play has been revolutionized. Under Wario’s tutelage, and with the help of the Wii Remote, players swing, spin and squat their way to victory.

  • With more than 200 lightning-quick microgames and controls that range from scribbling to flailing, WarioWare: Smooth Moves takes interactive gaming to a whole new level. Players steer cars, twirl pizzas, saw logs and dance their way to victory. All they need to be the champ is confidence, a Wii Remote and their best moves.
  • With games that are as much fun to play as they are to WATCH people play, WarioWare: Smooth Moves brings the party to its feet. It’s hilarious for players and audiences alike.

Finally, “WarioWare SMOOTH MOVES” makes it to the United States on the Nintendo Wii and after a full year of hearing about it, watching the Japanese video clips, was this game worth the wait? HECK YEAH!

The latest installment in the popular WarioWare series features more than 200 lightning-quick microgames and controls that range from scribbling to flailing, WarioWare: Smooth Moves takes interactive gaming to a whole new level.
Players steer cars, twirl pizzas, saw logs and dance their way to victory. All they need to be the champ is confidence, a Wii Remote and their best moves.

Although, WarioWare games have simple storyline, the main storyline for “Smooth Moves” revolves around a pursuit of a strange creature that steals Wario’s snack. Wario then stumbles into an old building called the “Temple of Form” in which he finds a mysterious and mystical treasure called the Form Baton (the Wii remote). Wario learns that the Form Baton gives him special powers depending on the way he holds and moves the baton. Thus with the new treasure, the form craze spreads throughout Diamond City.

Our usual suspects such as Wario, Mona, Jimmy, 9-Volt, Orbulon, Dr. Crygor and more are back in a very innovative way to play the game.

I was very surprised to see how easy this game was to pickup. The controls are easy to learn and playing different games such as using the From Baton to box, a pulling motion to saw, striking the form baton like a sword, using it to place a key and open a door or knock on a door. Nintendo developers did a great job finding innovative ways to use the controller. Most people might think that this is all one player but fortunately after you beat the game, you open the multiplayer section which allows for playing games like darts.

If I had one problem with this game is how easy it was compared to some WarioWare games. Granted, WarioWare games are not meant to be frustratingly difficult but I expect a challenge. Especially during the boss levels.
I found the bosses too easy to beat. For example, on Ashley’s final boss stage, all that was required was required was to put the Wii remote down while a burger was being made and picking it up when it was completed. What challenge is that?

The game will not take long to beat and when you do, you will find yourself playing it again to make sure you opened up all mini games or collected all poses, thus there is replay value.

All in all, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is a fun, innovative game. Not the best WarioWare in the series but still worth the purchase.

POSITIVES:

+ A fun game that utilizes the Wii remote’s innovation.
+ Easy to pickup and learn
+ After beating the game, there is replay value, multiplayer mode and mini-games.

CONS:
– Not much of a challenge. Very easy.
– The boss mode aren’t really that
challenging. Compared to previous WarioWare boss levels, not too much of a challenge.
– Wish there was more music integration like the DS “WarioWare Touched”.

PSP Video Game Review: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (喧嘩番長3 全国制覇) from Atlus for the Sony PSP

If you enjoyed games like “River City Ransom” or even the fighting aspects of “Shenmue”, you’ll definitely dig “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble”!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (喧嘩番長3 全国制覇)

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: Spike

COMPANY: Atlus

In Japan, a video game series created by Spike known as “Kenka Bancho” has had a solid following since 2005. The series has spawned a total of three games (the first game for the PS2 was re-released for the Sony PSP in 2009) and a fourth game set for release in Japan on Feb. 2010.

In the US, Atlus has released the third game “Kenka Bancho 3: Zenkoku Seiha” for the Sony PSP titled “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble”.

The video game focuses on “yankii” culture which in Japan, describes anti-social people who typically are part of a gang. Often known for having pompadours or a certain way they wear their clothing, similar to the gangs in the US, these guys fight with other gangs in various parts of the city for dominance (others become member of Bosozoku, biker gangs) and for some, its just a phase in high school and live productive lives and for others, when they get older, some move up to become yakuza members or get into some type of trouble.

In “Kenka Bancho”, you are a high school student named Takahashi Sakamoto who wants to be the top “Bancho” in your city. Your father teaches you how to fight, how to use your “Menchi Beam” (a stare down in which you either get respect from other yankii’s or initiate a fight) and if you are about to get into the face of someone, you will be given a phrase which you will be shown each word from the phrase and must quickly select the right word from a total of four words. If you succeed, you get the first punch/kick against an opponent, lose and they get the first hit/kick against you. You also learn from your father on how to use the “Kiai Charge”, which keeps your spirits high and prepares you for anything and help regain your yankii spirit.

The object of the game is to beat the other bancho leaders from other cities and with a one week school trip in Kyoto, what best way to achieve your goal by beating up other yankii’s and stealing their trip itinerary and learning where these banchos from other cities are headed for their trip, so you can beat them and make them your peons. But during the game, you have decisions to make. Do you want to fight all bancho’s, find love with the various female interests? Depending what choices you make can lead you into different storylines.

There is also a clock in the game, so you need to follow whether or not the bancho’s will be at a certain area during the morning, afternoon or evenings and also make sure that you are in your room by curfew (at 19:00) but during curfew, interesting things go on at the Inn that you and your classmates are staying.

So, while others are on their school trip for historical fact finding, you get to roam around various cities and kick ass, earn some money, impress a girl and buy some souvenirs. But most of all gaining the respect in order to be the head bancho.

There is a two-player co-op mode via ad-hoc.

CONTROL:

Controls are quite simple. Use the analog stick to control your character and use R button for the Menchi beam, square for a charged attack, triangle for a finishing attack, X button to charge and circle button to jump. Use a combination of these buttons for a combo attack.

GRAPHICS:

Controls are good but not great. I suppose if you compare this with something similar, it would be “Shenmue” on the Dreamcast and “Shenmue” has more detail and looks better than this game. We see various shops and people walking around but the graphics are not super detailed but for this game, I do like the fact that you can go through different cities and roam around different areas.

AUDIO:

Audio is good. Mostly rockish game music and sound effects when you are punching or the sound of the “Menchi Beam” or picking up items from the ground left over by the goons.

“Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble” is a pretty cool game. The story is not super deep but the game is fun as it focuses on beating up various yankii’s on their turf, and gaining their respect. I think for those who are wanting an action game that just focuses on kicking ass, “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble” is perfect. In a way, it does remind me of “Downtown Nekketsu Story” (aka River City Ransom) in which you fight, build up your character and use money earned to buy food but in this case, also getting better as you fight and earning more stronger moves that you can select. But for those who want a fighting game with a deeper story (ala “Shenmue”), then this game might not be for you.

Personally, so far I have been enjoying the gameplay and just grinding and building my character in order to prepare myself for the bigger brawls against more competitive bancho’s. It’s a very cool game and personally, I love anything like “River City Ransom” (which happens to be one of the first games I bought for my NES) like. And the fact that there are multiple characters that you interact with and although not a deep story, there is a story that is quite entertaining.

UPDATE: I have since beaten the game with two storylines (ignoring all potential love interests and one focusing on the Manami storyline). And there are several storylines I have yet to beat, including beating the main boss (if you lose, the game ends and you don’t get a choice of a refight. So, you will need to reload your saves). Upon beating the game, you carry over your stats and clothes but you literally play the game over again but trying to beat all the banchos and trying out various storylines. I really enjoy this game a lot and great replay value.

Overall score: 89%

PROS:
+ A very cool fighting game for the Sony PSP reminiscent to “River City Ransom”.

+ Interesting characters that you interact with.

+ Controls are easy to use and the game loads quickly.

+ The ability to gain more abilities and fight over 30+ banchos.

+ For some: More action, less story

+ Great replay value with different storyline branching

CONS:
– Some may find the grinding a bit repetitive.

– For some: More action, less story

– Camera sometimes obstructs your view of the action (ie. behind a tree).

Reviewer’s Score: 8.5/10

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

A PSP Video Game Review: Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations (キン肉マン マッスルジェネレーションズ)

If you enjoyed “Kinnikuman” (Ultimate Wrestling), you’ll definitely enjoy this wrestling game. Although not sporting the better animation like the GameCube game, this Sony PSP features more characters, fun gameplay and many special moves!

TITLE: Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations (キン肉マン マッスルジェネレーションズ )

DEVELOPER: Aki Corporation

PUBLISHED BY: Bandai

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations is a PSP fighting game based on the manga and anime published on Weekly Shonen Jump. Many people are familiar with “Kinnikuman” through the 80’s toys called M.U.S.C.L.E as well as the animated show “Ultimate Muscle” and through the Nintendo GameCube game “Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation”

The original show portrayed Kinnikuman as a hero who can turn to a giant and take on monsters, later on it became a comedy/fighting series which Kinnikuman and others take on rivals in the wrestling ring.

THE GAME:

The object of the game is broken down to several modes.

VICTORY MODE: This is where you take a fighter (you start off with around a dozen or so different fighters) and battle through a half dozen opponents. When you beat the final challenger, you open up new characters.

BATTLE MODE: Where you can play single battle, tag battle, tournament battle, elimination battle (5 vs. 5) and survival battle.

TAG TOURNAMENT: 8 tag teams fight for the tag team championship

The collection page shows the miniature figures of each character. Opened up when you win in victory mode.

And another mode which I can not access yet since I haven’t played the game to completion with each character just yet.

GAMEPLAY:

The gameplay is similar to a wrestling and a fighter. Square button to block, X button to hit and kick, triangle button to jump and do a combination of grappling, and circle a grapple button. Top shoulder buttons are utilized to trigger a special move(s).

Unlike wrestling, there is no pinning. You pretty much go at it until the person’s health bar is depleted.

In the beginning, once you figure out the moves it may seem boring at first…because you can do the same thing over and over again but once you start advancing, you realize that your opponents are stronger, will block and counter your moves, use grappling moves that will make you feel for your character as it cringes in pain and is about to lose.

This is where it becomes fun because with so many characters in the game and the fact that you want to open up these characters, this game will keep you busy.

But if you are in it for a straight forward wrestling game or straight forward fighter, this game is not that. Some may feel that it can be repetitive because each character doesn’t have a large move list but with a large roster, this is one of those games you can pass the time on a long commute. Note: You can’t save your progress during the match, it will save your progress when you beaten the game with the character and open new characters but sleep mode will come in handy.

It would have been cool to see an implementation of a tournament where you can create a fighter or take your character with its own storyline to rise to the top but the game is straightforward with no overwhelming story behind the character unless you have read the manga or watched the anime.

GRAPHICS:

Where the GC game is cel shaded, the characters are rendered like a 3D fighter. When you do your special moves, they are done well, some characters look very cool and really, on the PSP, it looks good. But the cel shaded look on the Gamecube version is what I enjoyed more.

AUDIO:

During the match, you hear the two announcers talking about the match. You get your grunts and bone cracking but unfortunately, this is no WWE Raw vs. Smackdown and you get a lot of voice and really, there are no cut scenes in that same manner. Well, you get the intro and the stare down and trash talk of the characters right before the game) A year later and seeing how games have implemented so much on the PSP games (video, audio, gameplay in Syphon Filter to the mass amount of videos and songs in DJ Max), you wish that there could have been much more to the game in the audio department. I did like the announcer, sounds like Jillian (announcer of WWE Raw vs. Smackdown) doing the introductions to this game.

Playing games like BLEACH 2 and with the upcoming NARUTO game on PSP, you want to see the combination of animation and voice being integrated with a game like this.

USER FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE SPEAKERS:

This game is indeed user friendly for non-Japanese speakers if you want to get in there and play a match. You can figure it out if you can’t read Japanese.

Let me just say that I’m not a reader of the manga, I have not watch too many episodes of Ultimate Muscle. But I am a fan of fighting and wrestling video games (and heavily into import gaming on the portable consoles). Although, the game felt repetitive at times because I can use a certain move over and over to beat an opponent, you realize as you progress of how tough these other characters can be. How frustrating it can be.

Remember the days of trying to beat M. Bison in Street Fighter II and how many quarters or continues you’d have to use to beat it? This is how “Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations” made me feel and gave me more excitement to find strategies to beat the final three opponents with each character.

RECOMMENDED: For those looking for a different hybrid fighting/wrestling game than what is currently offered on the PSP. Definitely for fans of the series.

RATED: 80% / 100

POSITIVES:
+ Many characters in one game to unlock and play against or play with
+ A variety of modes
+ With the vast number of characters, you will be playing this game for a long time.
+ Bosses will offer you a challenge but can be beaten (in other words, not as frustrating as an end boss of a SNK KOF game)
+ Based on a series that many people enjoy and the ability to play those characters

CONS:
– Unlike other games based on an animated or manga series, doesn’t utilize video or audio all that much and what is in the game is somewhat limited to just the announcers, intros and bone crunches. So, don’t expect animated shorts, videos or audio on par with games like BLEACH 2 or the upcoming NARUTO game.
– Fighting can get repetitive with the use of the same moves over and over because of low move list per character. Do not expect large move lists like WWE Smackdown vs. Raw
– No story implementation for each character.
– This is being nitpicky but it would have been nice if you can create your own wrestler/fighter but this is not WWE SvR so…no biggie.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Street Supremacy

It’s “Tokyo XTreme Racer” (Shutokou Battle) for the Sony PSP…but with the decline in franchise, this racer is not as good as it used to be.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Street Supremacy (首都高バトル )

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: GENKI

COMPANY: KONAMI

Ahh….the days of playing “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” on the Sega Dreamcast. Well, now the racer that critics hate but has a pretty good following is now out on the PSP. In Japan, known as “Shutokou Battle: Zone of Control”, “Street Supremacy” (US title) has made it to America but is it worth getting?

Well, before I go on with the review…I want to say that the selling point in the US is the name Tokyo Xtreme Racer (as Shutokou Battle is used in Japan). Why deviate from a name that is well known among fans of the series? “Street Supremacy” should have the TXR name to it. Anyway…

On to the review…

TXR has its strong fan following. Why is that? Well, before “Need for Speed Underground”, “Project Gotham Racing” and other racers available today on the consoles, “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” introduced us to illegal Japanese street car racing. Sure, there was “Initial D” but TXR gave us the opportunity to freely roam the freeways of Tokyo, passing through some noteable areas and highways of the city, tuning our cars and most of all… with being the unknown racer…you follow a racer (member of a team), flash your headlights and initiate a race and it was so enjoyable. Most of all, the game offered things for your vehicle that screams Japan and gave you the opportunity to race awesome Japanese cars.

Unfortunately for the series, with the PS2…despite a cool video showcasing Japanese street racing, the games since then have been lackluster compared to what was being offered on the consoles (Need For Speed Underground) and the arcade (Initial D: Arcade State v3). TXR was pretty much the same game over and over but still maintained its fan following (like how things are with Dynasty Warriors…few upgrades with release but pretty much the same game).

Well, now we have “Street Supremacy” on the PSP. A game that would feature new gameplay and heck…TXR portable. The game offers 3 modes:

* TEAM RUMBLE – The main game
* TIME ATTACK MODE
* REPLAY THEATER

GAMEPLAY:

The object of the game is that you are part of a racing team (I don’t use the word gang because in Japan…they are usually reserved for the pompador haired motorcycle gangs) and your job is to gain some rep and challenge other rival teams through races. Increase your level means more money to buy better cars and you can customize up to 25 cars. You can also purchase more cars but they are already customized.

The racing is focused primarily Kanto area (Tokyo) but what was my favorite part of TXR which allowed you to roam around and drive all over Tokyo to find a rival, the mode is now removed and are given a select area featuring a map with where the rival teams hang out and race and where you can challenge them.

There are three types of challenges/battles:

+ FREE BATTLE – Where you can challenge a rival team member and you can win experience and CP (CP is your money)
+ RANKING BATTLE – This is how you move up in ranking of your team. Beat a team member and move up.
+ TEAM BATTLE – When your team takes on another team and you can dominate their area. Beat a rival, you can get them to join your team. You want to build loyalty.

GRAPHICS: Well, the graphics are good. Nowhere as good as “Ridge Racer”, “Initial D: Street Stage” or “Burnout Legends” but ok. You see occasional black marks near the bottom but if you played TXR on a console, graphics have never been the series strong suit.

AUDIO: No, you are not going to get NFSU hip hop or rock music. Nor are you going to find dialogue. For dialogue, text is displayed. What you do hear is the sound of your car, the music which is usually fast electronic music and if you bump into something.

CONTROLS: I prefer using the D-Pad over the nub stick but cars are not as smooth as “Ridge Racer” but ok.

“Street Supremacy” is still “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” minus the free roaming around the city and the excitement of driving around the freeway and going behind them and flashing your lights is unfortunately gone. But still, quite a number of rivals to go against which is the meat of the game. And the fact that you don’t have to drive for long periods of time, definitely is a time saver for those who want a quick game to pass the time.

The appeal for this game is surely going to be targeted towards fans of the series, fans of import racing or Japanese street racing or people who want a cheap racing game.
The game is also among the cheapest PSP games out there, going for $29.99.

I am a fan of TXR..having bought nearly every game that has come out. I’m glad it is out for the portable but like the “Dynasty Warriors” series, fans of the game have always wanted more from it. “Street Supremacy”, although a fun game that us TXR fans are going to buy anyway, it’s really lacking the other parts of what we enjoyed from the console version.

It’s as if Genki rushed this game out in Japan and although over a year later since its release, you would expect something more from the US release. The rumored online multiplayer is not in the game, load times are still slow (but not WWE Raw vs. Smackdown slow) and even worse, Konami doesn’t even ad the TXR name to the game.

Still…I can’t deny that I still will support the series and I do enjoy the game despite its shortcomings because for it’s low price and the fact that the core function of the game is to challenge rival team racers on Tokyo highways, customize your car and these things are still in tact, that’s more than enough for me to enjoy another version of a TXR game.

SCORE: 72%/100

PROS:

+ TOKYO XTREME RACER for the PSP
+ What we love about TXR is on here…challenging racers from teams, customizing vehicle and riving on Tokyo highways.
+ For the busy racing video game fan, the matches are not only fun but also very quick.
+ Cost under $30

CONS:

– No TOKYO XTREME RACER on the title and replaced with cheesy “Street Supremacy” title.
– Some aspects that we enjoyed about TXR are not on the PSP version such as the ability to drive around freely on the highways and using your flashing headlights to initiate a race.
– Compared to other racers on the PSP these days, graphics are ok.
– Game seems rushed and no true improvement for the US release. Where are the multiplayer modes?
– Loading times although nowhere near as bad as WWE:RvsS….Still….ughh….

Reviewer’s Score: 7/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki (NARUTO-ナルト- ナルティメットヒーロー)

The first Naruto game on the PSP console is enjoyable but may be a bit too tedious for others!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki (NARUTO-ナルト- ナルティメットヒーロー )

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: Artdink

COMPANY: BANDAI

Many fans of the anime and manga series “Naruto” have been awaiting a PSP version of the “Naruto: Narutimate” line.

With quite a number of releases for the PS2, Gamecube, GBA, DS and Wonderswan, the PS2 Narutimate games featured awesome levels, many characters from the anime series but most of all, a combo system that when successfully pulled off, it would give a beatdown that surpasses anything you may have seen from a “Dragonball Z” or even a “Project Justice” game.

But with the PSP release, there have been a lot of rumors of what kind of game it would be. Especially from eager fans who have played the imports and are expecting a PSP release similar to the awesome third Naruto PS2 game.

How does this game fare? My first impression of the game was a bit so/so.
What is the game about? Something weird is going on in Konoha and out of the clouds comes a dark and evil tower. Naruto and friends (and rivals) go towards the tower to uncover is mystery.

Your main goal is to advance up the tower with each floor featuring 4-8 sections (or squares) which you can earn items, earn level ups and even earn more characters that can be used in versus mode.

To advance from square to square in each floor, you must utilize a variety of scrolls that allows you to play various mini-game and earn points or puts your character(s) in a battle with characters from the series.

Along the way you will face obstacles but fortunately, you start out with four people in your team which will grow as you advance further in the game.

In versus mode (against computer), characters earned in story mode can be utilized as you can practice or battle the computer. You can play against other players via wireless (AdHoc).

In NaruP, this is where the points you earned in story mode can open up a plethora of bonuses which range from art, music and video which can be viewed in the main menu.
As I continued to play this game, I was drawn into the gameplay and the storyline. It’s hard to put down because you want to have all 23 characters and possibly leveling them up..

If there was one draw back, its that the story/RPG mode can be very tedious. You have to replay the mini-games (scrolls) over and over to advance. Some quick and some long but fortunately certain characters have the ability to change types of scrolls.

The game looks beautiful and sounds great and sure, the game is a bit more simplified than the PS2 version and may not have the same (or all of the) move sets of certain characters but there is still enough there to really enjoy this game.

As far as replay value goes, after you beat the first story mode featuring Naruto’s storyline, you access a second story mode featuring Jiraiya’s storyline. After completing a storyline, all characters in the game are at your dispoal and you can level them up or earn more points to obtain more items.

“Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki”overall is a an enjoyable game.

By not even thinking of the PS2 games and comparing it to current fighting games on the PSP, you realize that it’s actually a very cool game, with really cool graphics, quick loading system, sound is done very well and a good fighting system (of course, not close to the PS2, third game but still awesome) and extra bonuses. It really is a very cool game and has more to offer than what many fighter games currently on the PSP have to offer.

I do knock some points down because I don’t see why the combo system and certain parts of the game were simplified for the PSP release. I also wish there was more utilization of full animated video (instead of videos with still pictures with animated leaves floating around) in this game and it does get a bit tedious in story mode of having to replay the same scrolls over and over again.

All in all, this is the best Naruto portable game. If you played the GBA, DS or Wonderswan version of the game…in my opinion, this PSP game surpasses many games out on a portable system and even some games out on the console.

Sure, it comes nowhere near greatness of the third Naruto game on the PS2 but for a portable game, what I played was much better than I expected for a first release. And knowing how each Naruto release on a console has gotten better and better from that first release, I look forward to the potential of future Naruto releases on the PSP.

PROS:
+ Many characters from the anime series are on this game.
+ Cool graphics, cool new music and voice acting
+ Controls are easy to use and the game loads quickly

CONS:
– Some characters and their movesets from console versions may not be in this PSP game.
– Combo special moves have been simplified or not as numerous or lengthy as in console version.
– Story mode can be tedious by playing the same scrolls over and over again.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Ultimate Block Party

An enjoyable puzzle game from Cyber Front that puts a unique twist on your typical Japanese puzzle game.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Ultimate Block Party (ころん)

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: CYBERFRONT

COMPANY: Conspiracy Entertainment

The addicting Japanese arcade coin-op “Kollon” has reached American shores with a new name:“Ultimate Block Party” featuring characters by Misumi Reiko. A puzzle game that utilizes its own twist on puzzle games similar to “Bejeweled”, “Zooo”/”Zoo Keeper” and even “Tetris” and to make things even more alluring for the PSP puzzle game fan is that it’s a budget title sold for $19.99.

First of all, the modes are as follows:

*SINGLE PLAY MODE – Single play mode allow for practicing, training and a mode where you go for higher points.
*MULTIPLAYER MODE – Where you compete against other characters or compete with a friend via wi-fi.

And the other two modes are the option and ranking modes.

GAMEPLAY:

The object of “Ultimate Block Party” is similar to most puzzle games where you line up a color and you eliminate connecting squares. You can play for points but in multiplayer level, you can go against different characters in the game thus showing a dual screen. Yours and the opponent. The object is by rotating four squares to link up colors. Similar to Tetris, if your blocks rise to high to the top, you will lose.

Now the twist with Ultimate Block Party is that when you link a certain color up, against an opponent, that color of the square can do a variety of attacks. There are seven different colors and as an example, if you link a lot of blue squares, your opponent will then receive squares that are four times the size of a regular square. Red will makes your four square selector turn into a 9 square selector making this a bit difficult. And other squares have different purposes such as creating rectangles to hiding rows of your opponent and more.

Throw in other things such as arrow triggers which can make a whole row change a color and also bombs which can eliminate squares around it.

So, this adds to the complexity of the game. While you focus on eliminating squares and doing combos, you need to pay attention to the colors of the squares because your opponent is very challenging.

CONTROLS:

Controls are simple: X,TRI rotates the 4 blocks to the right, SQUARE to the left. CIRCLE, R and L adds rows of blocks.

GRAPHICS:

Puzzle games are not really judged graphically but having played several puzzle games, the positive is that Misumi Reiko’s characters are interesting. With 8 characters, they have their own style. From Kollon and Marinne being the school girls, Agent Blanc looking like a mafia gunman, Dynamite Ace looking like a super hero and so forth.

The negative…well, the graphics of a game like “Lumines” looks nice and clean. Really cool! “Puyo Pop Fever” has a style and attraction with its characters especially with the vocals that feature the characters reacting to an opponent.

This game doesn’t have that. Basic animation of the characters and even during campaign mode, basic story using Kollon and reusing animation over and over.

AUDIO:

The imusic is not that bad. The disappointment lies in the fact that there are no voices at all for the characters. This is where a game like “Puyo Pop” shines on the PSP and gives the characters its identity due to vocals and an actual story. This one…is just thought bubbles or balloons ala comic/manga.

Overall, this is a very fun game. It’s very addicting. Although other puzzle games may be better than “Ultimate Block Party”when it comes to the overall , music or, bonuses offered and how other games implement a story line or voices to characters, UBP does a great job of what its supposed to be…. a unique solid puzzle game. And with the price at $19.99, if you are a puzzle game fan, for the price and the fun factor, definitely a game worth checking out.

RATING: 78%/100

PROS:
+ Unique puzzle game. Incorporates elements from other puzzle games but adding interesting features with the the squares.
+ Fun and enjoyable gameplay
+ Easy to learn and pick up
+ Budget title and sold for $19.99
+ Popular arcade game from Japan makes its way to the US introducing us to interesting characters
+ Quick load time
+ A game with good replay value

CONS:
– Compared to “Lumines” or “Puyo Pop Fever”…graphics are not as pretty.
– No voices for the characters
– BEING NITPICKY: Putting true single player competitions under multiplayer and single player mode being just playing for points.
– Not much their for secret or bonuses
– BEING NITPICKY AGAIN: You wish for a game that is unique as this, there would be more…more modes.
– You need to save manually, no auto-save

Reviewer’s Score: 7/10