Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble - PSP - Review
Atlus has long been a publisher that has championed hardcore and "niche" games, taking Japanese titles with bizarre gameplay elements and themes and bringing them stateside. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for PSP is one such title in a long line of strange games. A open brawler-RPG hybrid, Kenka Bancho certainly gets points for being an original and strange title, harkening back to titles like River City Ransom and-well-okay, I guess there's really nothing else like it. There are still some quirks and frustrating issues that prevent the game from being a truly great game warranting a purchase, but those of you out there who are fans of Atlus and their penchant for embracing strange titles from across the ocean, then Kenka Bancho could be a worthy purchase.
While technically the third game in the Kenka Bancho (or Banchou) franchise, Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is the first entry on the PSP, as well as the first one to release outside of Japan. The game puts you in control of a maladjusted youth as he embarks on a quest to becoming the lead Bancho, or tough guy. You're a new kid with a chip on your shoulder, but that doesn't make you any less of a badass. Therefore, you must work your way from the bottom, taking on other banchos city and conquering their districts, becoming the head bancho of the whole city.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is primarily a brawler. You walk around the city, moving from district to district picking fights with other street toughs, procuring new items and weapons, and working your way up to the boss of the area. However, the game also has quite a few RPG elements. You're able to level up, moving up Bancho Levels and gaining better attributes and new skills as you knock out more opponents. You'll get skill points (dubbed Bancho Soul points) for each level that you gain, allowing you to build up things like your hit points, attacking power, and endurance. Additionally, you can go to stores throughout the map and purchase new things like weapons, health items and new clothing items. You can also engage in some illegal activities aside from getting into fights, like property damage, that will get you the attention of the police, requiring you to run for it or else be arrested and lose some items.
The combat in Kenka Bancho is pretty unique. Each fight begins with a menchi beam, where you hold the right shoulder button in order to start trying to stare down a foe. Some people on the street will run from this, but there are also others who will stand up to you and initiate a trash talk phase. This plays out like a quick-time event, where you must press the corresponding face button in order to say the right parts of the phrase. Doing it correctly will allow you to get in the first powerful hit, but messing it up will get you knocked on your butt.
Kenka Bancho is a pretty interesting take on the brawler genre, but it does have some problems that keep it from being a truly great entry to the franchise. The combat gets pretty repetitive very quickly, and the fighting system feels very stiff and uninspired. Throwing punches and kicks doesn't feel as responsive as it should, and some attacks will even miss due to your character moving around during the skirmish (there's no way to target enemies). Additionally, the camera works on its own accord, and will sometimes moves in a way that obscures the action, which can be very frustrating.
Another problem with Kenka Bancho are the load times, which are quite frequent and long. Every new game mode that is started up and every new area you go to is met with a long load screen, and considering the large scale of the game, these get old very quickly.
Graphically, Kenka Bancho isn't the most impressive game on the system, but it's no slouch either. The character models look good and fit with the precident set by its PS2 counterparts. The large environments also look pretty good and feature some impressive details.
The sound effects are well done. The music is nothing spectacular, but fits well with the game's theme. The sound effects themselves are pretty sparse, but sound decent nonetheless.
Kenka Bancho is a quirky and interesting title, and one that does some pretty original things with the beat 'em up genre. While there are some gameplay issues that prevent the game from being truly a great title, there's enough here for those looking to get their hands on something a little different.
The game's brawler-RPG hybrid style works well, and the environment is large and fun to explore. Unfortunately, there are some problems that hold the game back from true greatness, like stiff combat, a troublesome camera, and long and frequent load times.
The graphics hold up quite well on the PSP, capturing the art style of its PS2 brethren nicely. The environments are pretty large as well and boast some nice details.
Nothing too outstanding here, the music does a good job of capturing the theme of the game. The sound effects are decent.
The game is pretty original, offering a nice blend of brawling and RPG elements, and a quirky and funny storyline.
Kenka Bancho is another fine example of a quirky title that finally makes the trek stateside. While the gameplay has some issues, fans of original titles with odd themes should check this one out.