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.