Picture this: You are walking down the street, all pimped-out with your oversized jewelry and everything. Some kid with slicked-back hair and a long coat matches your gaze, and then he fires eye beams at you. Soon after, you are on the ground, having just been dominated by a Bancho. You will never be badass again after losing to a guy like this. Now, picture that you're the Bancho who just did that to some gangsta'-looking doofus.
That's the premise of Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble. Cast as the baddest of the badasses in your part of Japan — your ward is Bancho — you're on a mandatory senior field trip to Kyoto, with several high school buddies. The only good news is that Kyoto happens to be where every other Bancho is. As long as you can avoid the classic high school hazards of annoying teachers, a slightly overzealous police force, and the occasional UFO, you can eye-beam, taunt and smack every other Bancho into submission to become the most badass of all the badasses in Japan.
You've also only got seven days to do it, and you still have the actual field trip to worry about during the entire time. You also have no clue where in Kyoto these people are located. Fortunately, since most of the Banchos have a lot of buddies with them — or they're scattered around town — you just have to beat the information out of them ... without the cops noticing you. Did I mention the random pointless UFOs that show up in the background? Perhaps I shouldn't mention the fact that all of this is intentionally quite silly without being an obvious parody, eye beams notwithstanding.
The basic gameplay of Kenka Bancho is a bone-standard 3-D brawler with RPG elements. Every attack you land, every person you beat down, and especially every Bancho you dominate helps to raise your level. You gain a greater variety of attacks, and you can improve your character's life bar, defense, attack, endurance or speed. You also have a constantly shifting rank, rating you from the timid shabazo to the mighty shibui. The RPG elements also include being able to switch around your move list and call for allies when fighting — including any other Bancho that you've defeated, thanks to the special "peon rule."
The gameplay is fairly basic, but it's smooth and oh-so-pretty, thanks to some of the best texture work that I've seen on the PSP. If there's one thing that this game doesn't lack, it's graphical polish. From what I've heard of the soundtrack so far, it's solid, if not 100% amazing, with a properly badass rock style. I don't know if the final build will have voice acting, but our preview build is capable of communicating messages through text messaging. The result keeps gameplay exciting and relatively simple through sheer beauty, with punchy graphics, an excellent HUD and a reasonable buildup of new subtleties that encourages you to try new things with combat.
It's going to be nice to see how Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble turns out. What I've already seen includes a typically solid Atlus translation job, some of the most beautiful graphics I've ever seen on the PSP, a decent brawling base, and a level of polish indicating a game just about ready for release, all wrapped in a ridiculous, but controlled, sense of humor. Atlus may have their eye beams sighted on another strange hit this holiday season.
More articles about Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble