Genre : Action
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: March 2005
I must admit that regardless of all other factors, I do have to stand up and respect a game that allows me to equip a gun to my head.
Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory has many other features – vast randomized dungeons, powerful opponents, wireless multiplayer capabilities, some truly memorable character design by Jun Suemi, and a customizable protagonist – but the unknowable power of the head gun is what really stands out to me.
Rengoku is set in that most reliable of backgrounds, the Distant, Dark Future. In the absence of humanity, Earth is now the home of a race of androids. At the beginning of the game, one of those androids, a combat model, wakes up on the first floor of the mysterious Tower of Purgatory. He’s got no idea how he got there, but to get out, he’ll have to battle up through the eight floors of the Tower, challenge the other androids who serve as its guardians, and defeat the Tower’s master.
You begin Rengoku with a few simple parts for your android, and you can find more by defeating other robots. You can easily upgrade at save points, turning your character into a melee machine bristling with pointy implements of death or equipping guns to your arms, legs, and head. If you wind up with some extra tools you aren’t using, you can trade them to friends via the PSP’s multiplayer capabilities.
Then there’s the combat, which is surprisingly smooth. I’m not the biggest PSP fan in the world, but it’s pushing the boundaries of what you can and cannot do with a portable system. Rengoku is a smoothly animated 3D third-person brawler, with graphics that compare favorably to the PSOne. Your character’s customizability and the randomness of your surroundings make for a more cerebral experience than your average “run up to the guy and kill him ‘til he dies” slash-‘em-up, and we can only hope that there’ll be even more tactical options available in the full version. (By “even more tactical options,” I do of course mean “a bigger head gun.” I am a simple man, with simple pleasures.)
Rengoku’s nowhere near complete at this point, so I don’t want to make any sweeping generalizations about its gameplay. What I’ve seen and played has a lot of potential, it’s an original game with plenty of replay value, and it’s definitely one of the most visually striking games on the PSP. (What it occasionally lacks in visually complex scenes it often makes up for in bizarrely organic machinery; Suemi, an artist I’m unfamiliar with, has made Rengoku’s tech unique, spidery and effortlessly creepy in its pure antihuman design.) I’ll be keeping an eye on this game as the PSP’s lineup continues to develop.