KENGO: MASTER OF BUSHIDO / Crave / Playstation 2

Kengo is the spiritual sequel to the Bushido Blade games for the PS1, made by the same team but re-named due to Square retaining the rights to the IP when Crave left their fold. The Bushido Blade games showed promise, and the second one was actually pretty polished and fun enough for a general audience, but looked like they could really benefit from a jump in processing power. Somehow, however, despite now having that power, Kengo comes out much more of a clunky and unplayable mess than the original games.

You start out by choosing from one of three characters, then from a multitude of schools. The first goal is to get through basic gameplay training in order to progress, but ...

Either the tutorial is inadequate to explain the complex nuances of the combat engine ... or the combat engine just gargles balls and is a major regression from the Bushido Blade games. My money is on the latter. Characters move about slowly and stiffly; there's significant lag from your button press to getting an animated response from your guy, which often leaves you flailing in some silly-looking 3-step combo in the opposite direction of the enemy. This is exacerbated by being unable to lock onto a foe in any way. The game "explains" the three combat moves - swing, block and parry - by simply having you mash them over and over until they happen to work, without explanation of how to position the sword at different angles, how to swing at different elevations, etc. Again, I hope this was in the manual somewhere because otherwise it's complete trial-and-error while some generic student keeps Bokkening you in the face over and over.

It took me twenty minutes (about five tries) to actually win the "training" battle that concludes the tutorial before being let out into the game proper ... only to find that, unlike the varying expanses and adventure style of Bushido Blade, the whole game pretty much takes place in this bland dojo doing training battles to "raise your technique." Apparently every once in a while you challenge another school in a tournament, and there's steel swords used there instead of the bokkens, but otherwise the game is like one long, protracted clumsy training. This is especially galling as the opening video shows some Jubei-esque samurai fighting it out with a malevolent ghost; nothing anywhere near that exciting ever ends up actually happening in the game.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video