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Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble

Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Action
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2009


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PSP Review - 'Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on Dec. 24, 2009 @ 4:25 a.m. PST

Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a Japanese beat 'em up for PSP which puts you in the role of a high school student on a class trip to a historic Japanese city, includes no shortage of fist-to-face and knee-to-gut action, and all in the name of pride and bragging rights.

Isn't it sad when your awesome creation gets overlooked? Amidst the perfect storm that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a decidedly more downscale game has also came out: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for the PSP. If the name "Badass Rumble" alone does not make you interested, then you are dead inside. Fortunately, the gameplay can stand up to the name. Although it won't be a multiple "Game of the Year" winner, Kenka Bancho is well worth the time of an on-the-go gamer who wants to have a bunch of hilarious badass in one easily accessible title.

Kenka Bancho is actually the third game in its series, but with none of them are more than incidentally connected, so it'd be difficult for you to tell that it's not new, especially if you haven't played the last two. Nonetheless, the structure has been pretty consistent for the entire series. You play as your school's bancho, the guy who can kick everyone's ass. You go around challenging people to fights and proceed to beat them down and take their pocket change … and possibly their weapons. Meanwhile, UFOs fly by in the background, and people talk in increasingly ridiculous ways.

If you think this game is serious at all, then go into the in-game shop and put on the banana suit. Then go beat people up while wearing said banana suit. A recommended line for doing so includes, but isn't limited to, "It's peanut butter jelly time, bitch!" Did I mention the UFOs, the increasingly wild personalities of the rival banchos, or the cop who dresses like a Yakuza member? If you stop to think about it at all, it's pretty ludicrous that this is a game about beating up random people and taking their change for laughs. This game isn't serious, in spite of the occasional serious moment in its plot. Take it like the Munchkin card game in Japan, and you'll have an idea.

At its core, the gameplay is like a bare-bones traditional brawler, though there are several contextual attacks, including grabs, pins and a unique special move, which you can take after defeating them. Moves range from the basics, such as the traditional charged punch, to the ridiculous, such as tossing an orange into the air and smashing it into the opponent's face so it sprays juice all over him.  It's a genre that you've played many times with relatively few changes, but the good news is that it tends to work pretty well. The game asks you to choose your move set, rather than try and make a giant, confusing cluster. Since each move has its own timing and power, this gives you a lot of options with which to build.

The one major catch of the core brawling mechanics is the camera controls — or lack thereof. If there are a lot of enemies around you, it can be very difficult to keep up with things; it might be realistic, but it's certainly quite annoying. The game doesn't really offer a strong workaround, although you always bust out a flying kick that will open a hole to dash through. The mechanics may be a touch too slow for some players, but they felt just about right for a non-masher like myself, as it gives you time to change the direction of each hit of a combo, if you so wish.

Kenka Bancho also throws in several typical RPG elements; each hit you deal provides experience that might raise your bancho level and increase your stats. In addition, you can carry a number of items in the pockets of your outfit, and you can use them to recover health, stamina and bancho spirit. This is partially limited in that you can only carry one weapon, no matter what, and if you carry it, you have to fight with it, and that's very shabazo.

"Wait, what?", you might ask. One important aspect of gameplay is the line between being shibui and shabazo. A shibui bancho uses only his fists, opens every fight with proper smack talk and never runs away — except from cops. Shabazos, on the other hand, beat up innocents, wreck property, use the powerful weaponry to full effect, and aren't afraid to let discretion be the better part of valor if things aren't going their way. In other words, they behave realistically, rather than awesomely. The game gives negative opinions to shabazos, right down to the icon that reflects your happy status as a shibui and a frowning shabazo.  Surprisingly, the game will also throw epic shabazos a few bones because playing as one can earn you alternate characters to ally with.

The game's last major RPG element is being able to have minions help you, and this is done in two ways. Certain people are helpful; you start with one of your classmates and can get others to help you by meeting certain goals. More useful, though, is that this year's bancho competition is using the peon rules (as opposed to the more common "loser leaves town" rules). This means that every bancho you beat down has to serve you for the rest of the week. You call in allies with your cell phone, and they show up in a few minutes and help you take down others.(I didn't need this, being sufficiently shibui to muscle my way through the fights solo.

The game is well-assisted by its graphics and sound. The sound stays with an over-the-top tone; there's little music except during a fight, and the music is memorable and rock-styled to give combat a greater spark. While not precisely miraculous, the graphics have a solid amount of detail and adequate animation. The game maintains a decently busy feel, with plenty of fully detailed innocents traveling around (and avoiding you). The environments produce the feel of a proper city at a level that has been rare since the days of Shenmue. It avoids the extremely large scale in favor of capturing a certain feeling, and Kenka Bancho does it well.

While Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for the PSP really could have used a few camera controls, its mix of RPG and brawler elements is difficult to fault, even if its release timing may be second only to releasing on Boxing Day. Nonetheless, the game definitely qualifies as nicely shibui and is worth picking up.

Score: 8.4/10

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