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Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble
Score: 84%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Spike
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
Across the world exists a demographic of gamers who have an insatiable appetite for the quirky. If you know for a fact that you don't belong to that group, hold the ALT button and press F4: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble was not developed with you in mind. If you're open-minded and have no qualms about injecting yourself with a potent dose of liquid stupidity, you may find yourself in wide-eyed captivation at the experience this game offers.

Badass Rumble is a decent-looking game, but it's not out to drop jaws. Characters look like they were pulled out of a generic anime, the city feels like an under-decorated version of the urban locale of a Persona game, and the draw distance is not very good at all. On the plus side, the characters' eyebrows undoubtedly have the potential to maim someone. Loading screens are a bit abundant, but they're usually adorned with funny messages. There are some little visual quirks that mesh well with the attitude of the game. Your Menchi Beam is literally a continuous stream of electric fire. My favorite animation is the one you see when you start a fight; the two aspiring banchos look at each other the way a cat would a mouse -- swiveling heads and all.

The voicework in Badass Rumble is no more than a series of grunts and gasps, but it's better to let the facial expressions do the talking in a game like this. I must admit, I quickly became tired of hearing the main character yell "Kora!" The music can get repetitive pretty quickly, but at least it fits the game well.

Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble's approach to storytelling is a rather unusual one: especially for a game. I like to think of it as a deconstruction of stereotypical Japanese archetypes. I took a seminar on satire in my last semester of college, and I really wish I could have shown this game to Dr. Doll (forgive the gratuitous shoutout).

Badass Rumble stars an absurdly hot-blooded and impossibly shallow Japanese high school student. Unlike most high schoolers, this guy knows his life's true calling: he wants to beat everybody up and become Japan's most powerful bancho (roughly translated as "Awesome Master of Badass Beating Up People Guy"). Fortunately for him, he's been forced to go on a class field trip to Kyouto (not a typo, I assure you), where other aspiring banchos are out to lay claim to that very title. One of Badass Rumble's biggest strengths is its charmingly stupid script, which is often laugh out loud funny. One minute you'll want to see someone get his ass handed to him, the next you'll be rooting for the dumb lunk. The whole premise is simply hysterical.

Once you've finished the introductory sequences and Tutorial, Kyouto is your playground. You can go around picking fights and blasting terrified pedestrians with your brawl-initiating Menchi Beam. Since you only have a certain amount of time per in-game day to do your thing, I would suggest that you plan your urban expeditions well. The game has no sense of pacing whatsoever, and it frankly doesn't care what you do with your time in Kyouto.

Badass Rumble features an ad hoc two-player cooperative mode called Night Out. You take the character that you've grown in the Single Player Campaign into a night environment in which your objective is... yes, to beat up Yakuza thugs.

If you tear into Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble without doing a little research first, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the game. After all, it turns you loose in a sandbox environment with hardly any leads on what you should be doing. However, if you spend thirty minutes acclimating yourself to all the different features, you'll get the hang of it.

The choice of three difficulty settings makes Badass Rumble a reasonably accessible game, though it will ridicule those who take the shabazo (roughly translated as "candy-ass weak fool") route. The fighting isn't all that hard. As long as you can stay out of the way of incoming attacks, you'll be fine. Since enemies telegraph their attacks, you won't have much trouble knowing when to step back.

Badass Rumble is best played in quick bursts. If you sit down to play with the aim of putting in a few consecutive hours, you will probably get bored quickly. The play plan I'd recommend is one in which you take down a few banchos at a time. It keeps the game fresh and fun, despite its rather repetitive nature.

Badass Rumble was built for multiple playthroughs. Since you only have seven days to achieve ultimate bancho deification, you're going to want to revisit the game later to tie up loose ends and finish exploring Kyouto.

Game Mechanics:
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a game about beating up other meatheads, but you'll have to track down your quarry before you get the chance to make him your peon. Here's how it goes: the more random people you beat up, the higher the chances are that you'll find the itinerary of one of the other 46 banchos in Kyouto. Once you find the itinerary, you must open your map and check if that particular bancho is currently in an area that you have access to; it's easier than it sounds, because the title of the area itself will be colored red whenever a bancho is roaming the zone. If you have problems locating an available bancho, tearing up an unexplored neighborhood usually yields an itinerary or two. If that fails, consulting your informant with your in-game cell phone's email function keeps you updated.

There are three phases to nearly every fight in Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble: Stare Down, Shout Down, and Beat Down. The Stare Down is what happens when you connect your Menchi Beam with that of a potential opponent. The Shout Down is a phase in which you must reconstruct an insult via a minigame that plays a bit like Simon Says. The Beat Down is where the real action occurs.

The actual fighting you do in the game is fun, but most of it is clunky and button-mashy to a fault. If you weren't allowed to mix up your character's fighting style, the score you see at the top of this page would have been at least ten points lower. You see, the main character doesn't just level up during all the brawling: he earns new moves, as well. His fighting style can be upgraded and modified during every subway, train, and bus ride. You can switch out fighting moves easily, and a power indicator at the bottom of the screen lets you know which moves are the best to use in combat. You can customize a standard combo with fighting moves that range from straight blows to bitch slaps. You will also earn different grappling moves and Local Specialties, which are Kenka Bancho's Limit Breaks.

If you've been waiting for a modern River City Ransom, here it is. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a very entertaining title that manages to charm its way past its gameplay issues -- in particular, I give major kudos to the localization team. Overall, Badass Rumble is a good stateside debut and one of the better games to be released for the PSP this year.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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