reviews\ Nov 17, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Kakuto Chojin - XB - Review

The day has aged rather quickly.  Night consumes the natural light source just as wrinkles consume the skin of those who spend too much time in the sun.  While streetlights aid your tired eyes, cold air unforgivingly attacks your skin.  As gorgeous as this scenario may be, the person standing in front of you is anything but.  A street fighter cannot be affected by the weather though, especially when their life is at stake.  He or she must fully concentrate on the task at hand: defeat every opponent who comes near.

That's the basic premise of Kakuto Chojin, a fighting game developed by Dream-Publishing exclusively for the Xbox.  Kakuto Chojin made its worldwide debut at the Tokyo Game Show in 2001, showing off its impressive graphic engine.  As with most fighting games, Kakuto Chojin has a very basic storyline.  You remember the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, right?  Well, here we have the Fist of Fire Tournament.  Each character has a story and a reason why they're entering the tournament -- Reiji wants to avenge his father's death, Vittoria wants to track down her brother, etc.  Not exactly worthy of an Academy Award, but at least it gives gamers something new to talk about online.

Once the first battle has begun, players will be instantly reminded of two classic fighting games: Tekken and Virtua Fighter.  You could master all of one character's moves in an hour or less.  There are more moves than listed in the booklet, but none of them extend beyond a few extra button taps and directional variations.  Virtua Fighter 4 got around this by making the player perform an almost ridiculous amount of moves with two measly buttons.  Kakuto Chojin is more like the old Virtua Fighter games in that respect, except that in this case there are three attack buttons: high, medium and low, all of which vary between kicks and punches, depending on the character you select.

Kakuto Chojin's combo system is closer to a simplified version of Street Fighter than Tekken or Virtua Fighter.  There is very little (if any) timing involved -- just press each button, one after the other without a drop in speed.  This makes it extremely easy to pick up the controller and begin performing moves without ever touching the booklet.  For fighting novices, this is probably the best place to start.  The first combo-heavy fighting game I ever played was the first combo-heavy fighter ever created: Virtua Fighter.  Within a month I had mastered the game and was ready for more challenging fighters like Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat 3 and Tekken 2.  Had I not played Virtua Fighter first, the other games would have been a little too complex for me to conquer.

Despite having an easy combo system, most of the attack moves look really complex.  You can perform Rena's seven-hit combo just by pressing the Y button seven times!  But the result is a great-looking string of moves that's comparable to any of the combos in Virtua Fighter 4.  Many of the moves were "borrowed" from other fighting games (mainly Tekken), so don't be surprised if you find yourself in a state of deja vu.

Although more moves could have been programmed, having only three attack buttons really limits the amount of flexibility that the developers have.  Just one additional button could have done a world of good (as evidenced by Tekken and Mortal Kombat). 

Kakuto Chojin has an interesting visual style.  Every character is rock-solid, complete with one of the most realistic coats of paint (skin and clothe textures, real-time lighting, etc.) that I have ever seen.  The animation is fluid; no choppiness or framerate problems during battle.  It tends to lock up while the characters are showing off their stances (just before battle), but that is probably due to a loading mistake, and does not affect the gameplay in any way.  Right now though, Kakuto Chojin is forced to fight some fierce competition, including the year-old (but still outrageously gorgeous) Dead or Alive 3.  It goes without saying that Kakuto Chojin is one of the best-looking fighting games out there (especially when compared with what PS2 and GameCube have to offer), but I don't think it's going to be able to stand out from the crowd when the crowd looks even better.

Kakuto Chojin isn't as complex as Tekken, and it doesn't have as much depth as fighting fans want, but that doesn't make it a bad game.  It's not the kind of game you'd play for several days in a row, but it is definitely something that you'll look forward to playing with your friends every week or so.  As Dream-Publishing's first Xbox game, they've shown that they know how to utilize its capabilities, especially the graphic end of things.  The next step would be to refine their current combat system, add a hundred complex moves/combos, include more characters (there are only 13 playable characters in this game) and enhance the multiplayer mode.  Then they'd have a sequel that would make every fighting fan drool with anticipation.  The current Kakuto Chojin game is worth checking out, but I recommend that you save your money for the bigger, badder and more innovative fighting games in development.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7
As far as simple fighting games go, Kakuto Chojin is one of the best out there.  Of course, I would've preferred something a bit more complex.  But if you accept Kakuto Chojin for what it is, you'll enjoy it a lot.

Graphics: 8 
Kakuto Chojin is a gorgeous game, but we all know that the Xbox can do better.  Kudos to Kakuto for having amazing lighting effects and even better skin/clothing textures.  Of course, Dead or Alive 3 did all this and a whole lot more 12 months ago.

Sound: 7
Much to my surprise, Kakuto Chojin makes great use of techno music.  The songs sound more like real music (as opposed to a bunch of repetitive sounds, which is the case with most techno music).

Difficulty: Easy
Looking back, I can't think of too many fighting games that were easier than Kakuto Chojin.

Concept: 5.5
Kakuto Chojin's character designs are a bit unusual (especially their outfits), but other than that, there is very little that sets this game apart from other fighting games.  It plays better than most of the Virtua Fighter alternatives, but the concept is exactly the same.

Multiplayer: 7.1
As with any fighting game, Kakuto Chojin's best feature is its multiplayer mode.  Grab some friends, plug in four controllers and get ready to button-mash your day away.

Overall: 7
Kakuto Chojin is best suited to gamers who are very new to the fighting genre.  If you've never played Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, this is where you'll want to begin.  It's simple, yet still cool looking, and is one of the very few fighting games to include a four-player mode.  It's not the best feature in the world, but it's something fun to do with your friends on the weekend.


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