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Itadaki Smash

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: SelectaVision
Developer: Main Loop Games
Release Date: July 23, 2022


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Switch Review - 'Itadaki Smash'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 20, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Itadaki Smash is a beat-'em-up game that pays tribute to the classics of the genre.

The beat-'em-up renaissance continues this year on the Switch, and from this summer alone, genre fans already have plenty to sink their teeth into. Among the riches are retro compilations like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, remakes like River City Ransom: Three Kingdoms, new titles like Final Vendetta, and hyped-up licensed ones like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge. Just about all of these have delivered on their promises and ensured that genre fans will be kept busy. Then there's Itadaki Smash, a title that seems promising but is disappointing all around.

The story starts off with you and your friends running a restaurant, and you all happen to be skilled warriors who trade in yokai fighting skills for cooking. The city's big food corporation, which is run by yokai, doesn't take kindly to this, so it unleashes its food-related demons into the world, steals your grandmother's recipes, and also transforms you and your friends into yokai. With the desire to change back, the group goes after the yokai in hopes of also getting those sacred recipes back.

The premise is silly enough that you expect this to be a humor-filled romp, but the game is anything but humorous. Get through some of the odd grammatical errors, and you'll see that the dialogue breaks the fourth wall enough times that the jokes become stale. The characters range from very unlikeable to barely tolerable, while the actual attempts at jokes fall flat. Those who crave any sort of narrative will find this to be a painful experience.

The game follows the basic blueprint of any beat-'em-up. You and your friends constantly walk to the right, stopping every once in a while to clear the area of enemies before venturing forth to defeat some more foes until you either reach the end of the stage or meet up with a boss. You have both a light and heavy attack, and you can charge up either to inflict more damage. You can launch enemies into the air for an extra hit, and you can also unleash a special move to deal more damage at the expense of a special meter — or, if you're out of energy, your health. As you progress, you'll get the ability to fill up another meter via combos that allow you to send a giant roll across the stage to damage everything in its path, regain your health, or give yourself a strength boost. You also have a dedicated throw button, which comes in handy when you're near an edge and want to quickly take care of an enemy.

The best part of the combat comes from the fact that you can play with up to four players. The combat and the special moves from landing combos are team-based, so while everyone can contribute to the meter's pool, it also means that anyone can trigger one of the three abilities. It becomes an agreed-upon thing or a source of contention if someone uses up a full meter for something that's not necessary at the time.

Otherwise, Itadaki Smash is kind of a mess. It starts with the combat; the moves animate slowly, making it difficult to do things like knock back enemy projectiles. That problem is compounded by the fact that the hitboxes for projectiles and enemies don't seem to be consistent, so you can't tell whether you'll actually hit something. You never see any upgrades, and your moves lack any flash. Enemy variety is scant, and most of them tend to be pushovers. Only the boss fights seem to be a challenge, but the final fight takes that to the extreme, as only one move ever seems to deliver any damage.

Beyond the combat, the game adds platforming in a number of sections, and the floaty jumping makes it a tedious affair. The game also commits the cardinal sin of having offscreen enemies be able to attack you. Some foes don't come into the battlefield immediately, so there will be times when you'll wonder if the game failed to register that you've cleared the area until someone waltzes in after a brief lull in the action.

Itadaki Smash also suffers from stability issues. In the short time it took to beat the game, it crashed three times. While the save system doesn't seem to work that well when you're prompted to continue or end the journey, it does ensure that rebooting the game doesn't make the player lose progress. To get unceremoniously booted to the main menu multiple times and have to sit through the unskippable company logos to get back to where you left off is enough to discourage players from even attempting to reach the cheap final boss and end the campaign.

Beyond the short campaign, there's not much else. There's an Arcade mode, which is just a test to see if you can beat the campaign with no continues. Survival mode has you and your team survive wave after wave of enemies until you all perish. There's also a Duel mode, which works as well as similar modes in other beat-'em-ups. Those modes haven't been popular since the advent of dedicated fighting games, but it almost feels like tradition to have it.

The presentation is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. As mentioned before, the animations for just about every move look lackluster, but the characters aren't exactly lookers. The heroes look cheaply done, especially when you start looking at them during cut scenes and have to ask if they were modeled for an earlier generation console, and the enemies fare worse. For example, sumo wrestlers sport a ton of seams in their models, so it looks like they're about to fall apart at any second. The backgrounds try to stand out by having some elements done with the thick black lines associated with a cel-shaded style, but they still end up looking rather drab. The only saving grace is that it all moves with a smooth frame rate.

As for the sound, it doesn't fare any better. The effects are decent when they decide to play; however, some of the actions come with no associated sound at all. The lack of voices for the cut scenes doesn't seem so bad since the dialogue is forgettable, but it often sounds like the same character sports two different voices due to the very different pitch for each scream. The music is also decent, but it gets repeated for at least five levels before finally changing tracks, so it's instantly forgettable as the player learns to mentally let it drown into the background.

Itadaki Smash isn't exactly the worst beat-'em-up on the Switch, but it gets close. The graphics are drab, with some bad-looking character models and mediocre animations. The humor is tiresome, and the lack of moves reveals the game's shallowness. The game is short, but the cumbersome saving combined with the overall instability makes it difficult to like. The Switch has a plethora of very good beat-'em-ups, both old and new, so there's no need to check out this offering.

Score: 4.0/10

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