Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a new PSP game which comes straight from Japan. The premise alone is enough to get someone hooked. You’re a bancho (head badass) in a prefecture in Kyuoto and you rule with an iron fist. During a school trip, numerous schools from around the country converge in one location for one week. This one week is all the time you get to go around asserting your dominance by finding and beating the banchos from other prefectures. Do you think you have what it takes to be the number one bancho in all of Japan?
Nov. 10, 2009
The premise had me sold from the start. I set off on a quest to find and beat all the banchos in the region. Instead of just walking up to the banchos and beating them, you are required to find them through itinerary sheets held by the banchos’ henchmen. You find the henchmen, start trash talking and then you beat them to a pulp before getting their information.
From the premise alone, you’d assume that this is just a straight up brawler. However, this is where it gets interesting: the gameplay is very weird. As you go around, you travel by bus, train or taxi. When you want to start a fight, you need to shoot someone in the face with a laser that you shoot out of your eyes like Superman. You then start trading predetermined insults with your opponent in order to improve your "badass" rating. Then you start fighting. You choose what type of attack you want to use and then use an attack which falls under that category. As you beat more and more banchos, you learn their signature moves, which you can then streamline into your fighting arsenal. This makes the fighting system slow and inefficient and makes the battles seem more machine like that I would have hoped. Instead of more fluid movements, I was left feeling as if the battle system was a bit underdeveloped.
Aside from fighting, you get to travel the city and create a life for your bancho. You can dress him up as you please. Surprisingly, these changes show up in cutaway scenes, which I thought was pretty cool since some games don’t let you do that (I’m looking at you GTA: San Andreas). You can also interact with other characters from your school which allows your Bancho’s personality to shine through as he shows soft spots for certain classmates and romances several girls in the process.
The weirdest part of the game is travelling within the game. When you move around there is no sound. No background music to entertain you. So this is a game which requires you to make your own soundtrack with your iPod. I felt this was a very unorthodox decision and made me wonder if the game was broken, but the lack of music was intentional. As disappointing as it was to travel around, the plot and customization kept me addicted to the games. Plus corny insults can be therapeutic sometimes!
Now let’s talk graphics. This game is nothing very special graphics wise. It’s mediocre at best when compared to other video games which have come from Japan. While I liked the cartoon nature of the game made me imagine that this was like Yu Yu Yakusho when Kuwabara and Yusuke were solidifying their power pre-supernatural days. It’s a shame the graphics aren’t sleeker.
Blast Factor: This game has quite a few weaknesses which detract from how enjoyable it is, but the free roaming and customization serve the plot well. My overall view is that the game feels unpolished and, if updated would be fantastic. A more streamlined fighting system and music would help with the tone of the game, while improved graphics would make it a stronger title. The plot is solid and it can be a fun game if you add your own soundtracks. There’s no real tutorial so you’re going to have to learn everything on the fly, but that’s part of the fun.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is available exclusively on the Playstation Portable, and retails for $39.99. A copy of this game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes.
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