Q Reviews: Kamen Rider Battride War! (PS3)
Gaming is a funny thing to me.
Being a former hardcore gamer in the past (mostly during the Super Nintendo till the Playstation 2 eras), I stepped out of full-time gaming some years back, opting instead to focus on my toy collecting.
I had skipped out on the most recent, soon to be out-going generation of the PS3 and Xbox 360, confident that nothing I really wanted was ever going to come out.
But then I was proven wrong; delivering a 1-2 combination of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen and a direct feeding to my main fandom - Kamen Rider Battride War. Before I knew it, I was walking home with a PS3 in one hand, and a copy of the game in the other.
I was back.
Kamen Rider Battride War marks the franchise's debut on the Playstation 3. Sporting an original story, it tells the tale of how all the modern (that's Heisei, to you & me) Kamen Riders have been captured by a mysterious entity. Stripped of all their memories, they are left forever floating in a limbo-like space for all eternity.
A strange, faerie-like being called Katarina reaches out to Kamen Rider Wizard, and helps him relive some of the most memorable moments of his hero career, effectively snapping him out of the trance. Now freed, it's up to Wizard to free his fellow Kamen Riders, band them together, and face this new threat.
The story is fairly typical fare, but mostly effective. Essentially recreating scenes from Movie War 2010 (only with Wizard as the focus instead of Decade), it quickly branches off onto its own path with lots of dialogue, a fair bit of it spoken.
What makes this great is that many original actors return to reprise their original roles; Agito, Ryuki, Blade, the Imagins (Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros & Ryuutaros) and even some bad guys, just to name a few. Together with the mostly-very-competent sound alikes for the rest of the cast, lots of classic & original new lines are uttered throughout the game, many of which are context or episode specific.
Alongside little touches such as each Rider's respective show 'transition/commercial break' graphics being used when going from stage-to-stage, and you have a game that definitely packs a TON of fanservice for any Rider fan out there.
Fanservice alone, no matter how awesome, is rarely enough to hold a game up however.
Taking the template of the Sengoku Musou/Dynasty Warriors series, Kamen Rider Battride War has you controlling a single Rider, guiding him around a map to various objective points. Using a variety of moves, you beat off endless hoards of enemies such as evil Imagins, Shocker Troopers ("EEE!"), and many many more baddie alumni from the various Kamen Rider shows.
Every Rider plays exactly like how you'd expect them to; Blade has to fight to earn AP so he can Rouse cards to utilise his powers, Den-O must juggle his 4 main forms to ensure none of them get too injured, and Kabuto can choose between his slow but armoured Masked Form or "Cast Off" into his swift Rider Form.
All the famous (and infamous) lines you've come to expect from the various actions are all here and true - and it feels awesome. Every Rider feels different from one another, and I'm pretty confident that any fan would be satisfied at how his favourite hero is represented.
Unfortunately, everything else about the game isn't quite as strong as the fanservice.
While every Rider has a lot of special moves, it's the basic moveset that's surprisingly very shallow. Every Rider has a jump button, 2-3 main special moves, a button to change between forms and a Finisher; but only 1 button for his basic attack. Though this can be chained into a couple of different attack patterns, it almost never differs much throughout his various sub forms.
For instance, Kamen Rider W can swap between his 3 main forms (Cyclone-Joker, Heat-Metal, Luna-Trigger), but each of them only has 1 specific special attack each, with the other 2 being swaps into his secondary forms (like Heat-Joker). All of them have the same basic attack.
Taking this with the generally very brainless enemy AI and you have a game that's sadly lacking in a lot of long term challenge. While some bosses might pack a wallop, few enemies do more than performing very predictable attack patterns... or simply just standing there.
Beat up grunts, flail away at the boss until he drops his guard, finish off with finishing blow - all while using the same few moves over and over again. While fans would be tempted to use all of a Rider's moves; it's simply for variety and to break away from the tedium of seeing the same few animations over and over again, rather than actual skill or strategy.
And that's where the game's biggest flaw lays - the sheer monotony of it.
The music is extremely generic and unmemorable (although utilising the game's custom soundtrack option helps out), and the lack of mission variety hurts. You do little else aside from running from point A to point B, occasionally using your bike to speed things up, while beating up tons of brain-dead enemies.
Taking the startling lack of maps that get recycled far too soon, and I found myself 'spacing out' really quickly. Mini-bosses sometimes help break the repetitiveness, only to conveniently warp away when low on health, forcing me to chase after them in the same map I had fought in many times before - and extending the tedium even more.
If it was multiplayer, it might have helped to alleviate some of the monotony, but alas, the game is only 1 player. For something that's based on teamwork and smashing tons of bad guys, lacking even a local 2-player option is criminal in my book, and was a huge wasted opportunity.
While I was greatly anticipating this game, being a huge Kamen Rider fan and all, I honestly found this first PS3 romp to be a bit of a letdown.
Small issues such as the lack of playable characters (only the main Heiseis, Birth, Accel, and Meteor can be used) can be easily overlooked and even fixed with DLC.
But it's the sheer lack of any real thought or depth to the core gameplay and multiplayer support that really robs the game of any real long-term life.
The game might be a decent purchase for a BIG Kamen Rider fan as the little tidbits and tributes to the franchise's long history are definitely worth experiencing. But its shallow gameplay and high price tag pretty much rule out anyone else.