Friday, January 13, 2017

Review #367: Gekido - Urban Fighters

 A whole lot of heart, but not the punch to back it up.
 Oh, Gekido, your heart is in the right place, but... but you just couldn't make the cut. Let me tell you Gekido's tale, a tale about a game that wanted to be the next big beat'em up game, the next Streets of Rage or Final Fight, if you will, a tale that ends in disappointment.

 While the game's instruction manual talks about a kidnapped girl, and paints this grim picture of New Tokyo... there's none of that in the game. Seriously, there's no story, there're no cutscenes, only a handful of pre-battle quips by some enemies. So hopefully you didn't expect to play this game for its engrossing storyline. Luckily there're plenty of modes for you to sink your teeth in. Urban Fighters is the main mode, in which you go from stage to stage beating up baddies to a pulp. Arena is a fighing game mode in which up to four players can do battle in closed-off arenas, not to bad! Shadow Fighter is an Arcade ladder of sorts focusing on fighting. Then there's Survival, once again for the Fighting mode, and an unlockable 'Street Gangs' mode, which I really don't care enough about to unlock, and you'll see why in a bit.
 The game gives you three attack buttons: X, triangle and square produce different kind of attacks, and there're specific button string for each character in order to produce combos. Movesets are rather extensive for a game of this kind, and they may involve pressing up to three buttons at the same time, a movelist menu would've been nice, since you'll just resort to mashing buttons. R2 let's you pick up items and weapons, such as pipes, guns or barrels, L1 jumps and L2 crouches. Pressing all four shoulder buttons at the same time will produce an AoE attack that consumes an orange energy gauge... although you can use it even if it isn't full at the cost of some health. Lastly, there's a blue gauge, Rage, which is unleashed by pressing circle. It's got up to three levels and each level does something different: Level 1 is a special attack, level 2 makes you stronger for a while and level 3 makes you stronger and invincible for a while as well as enhancing your AoE attack. Sounds pretty solid so far, right?

 And then it all falls apart. My biggest pet-peeve with beat'em up games is how hitting enemies feels, you'll be doing a lot of mashing, and killing repetitive hordes of enemies, so it will get repetitive, so it's a necessity to make hitting enemies feel crunchy, feel satisfying. But here it's anything but. Hitting enemies is like hitting air, there's very little audiovisual feedback, which feels very lame. It doesn't help that enemies have a lot of invincibility frames on some of their moves, and sometimes hit detection feels really sloppy, just try playing with Ushi and watch all your moves miss. Enemies are also rather cheap, some will shoot you while they are offscreen, others will hit you as soon as a stage starts, without giving you so much as a chance to do anything. Dogs are the most annoying enemy, since they have huge priority on their grab move, so be careful when approaching them! Lastly, sometimes the controls feel a bit unresponsive, particularly the Rage button, you gotta press it really hard, and I tried my controller with other games, so I know my button was working perfectly!
 The presentation leaves a lot to be desired at both a technical and an artistic levels. While Joe Madureira's art is fantastic, character designs are very generic and forgettable, the only memorable design in the entire game is Tetsuo, and that's because he is a Bruce Lee clone, so he is memorable for all the wrong reasons! The five unlockable characters also feel very... random? Why is Gorilla a playable character? Why is the mummy sub-boss from level 3 playable? Why them over the other generic-looking bosses? Why? They don't have importance on the story, none of them do(Except Angela and Akujin, but I digress), so why did they decide to make those playable? Why? As for the technical aspect of the presentations, the graphics are rather poor, and while the game's cover boasts about the artists involved in the game's soundtrack... it feels as if there're only 2-3 songs in the entire game. What the hell??

 What's really sad is that you can tell that the devs' hearts were in the right place. Every staple of the beat'em up genre is here, the elevators, the enemy dogs, the pipes, the train, everything. They even added an extra fighting mode, and characters have a decent assortment of moves! But the entire game was built around the main mode, Urban Fighters, and it just doesn't work very well. Hitting enemies isn't satisfying, enemies are cheap, stages and characters are plain and forgettable.... It gets a lot of things right, but the fundamentals? That's where the game failed. Gekido can be fun, Gekido can be entertaining... but it will never be what it could have been.
 5.5 out of 10

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