For all those gamers who live outside the land of the rising sun, we as a collective group are pretty jealous of the Japanese. There is a treasure trove of good games never released to North America and Europe. Publishers fear many games just wouldn’t sell well outside Japan.
However, once in a while a publisher will take a risk and bring a “different” game to our shores. Kendo Rage is one such game. The game is pretty obscure. It probably did not sell well here in America. The box art didn’t help, I’m sure. Nevertheless, it’s here and let’s find out if it is worthy.
The heroine of our story is Jo. She is sent to Japan by her parents to study kendo for the summer. She is being trained by no other than Osaki Yoritomo, Japan’s greatest kendo expert! Yoritomo-san prefers to be called “Bob”.
Anyway, Bob starts telling Jo she has super powers and it’s her duty to banish evil from the world. He gives her the Zopikki talisman which transforms her from an ordinary teenage girl into a Sailor Moon wannabe in no time flat!
Now our reluctant hero, Jo, must venture off into seven stages to reach summer school in time, all the while vanquishing evil. And you thought your job was rough!
Controls and Gameplay
Controls are simple enough. Press start to pause game. B is to jump. A is a dash attack and Y is used to swing your kendo sword. That’s it!
Though the controls are quite simplistic, they aren’t perfect. At times Jo will refuse to turn the other way as soon as she is commanded to. This gets pretty annoying in the heat of battle. I can only assume this is a bug that got past the final testing phase.
Another pet-peeve about the controls is the jumping mechanics on the ice stage. There are a few platforms you must jump upon to reach higher ground. For whatever reason, instead of jumping with ease, you’ll find yourself slipping off the platform you’re on. It takes persistence to get to your destination. I’m not sure if this was intended or another bug, but it did frustrate me.
Other than that, the controls are good. Jo has a nice vertical and is smooth to play with, the previous circumstances notwithstanding.
The game is challenging. Not quite Dino City hard, but this game will make you throw your hands in the air and give up sometimes. The game isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you love challenges, this game is right up your alley.
There is a clock on the screen. When you start the game, it is at 4:00. As you play the game, time goes forward. If you want to get the good ending, you must beat the game before the timer hits 9:00.
Jo does has a few neat weapons to help her get to summer school on time. First I’ll mention the dash attack. It’s Jo’s most powerful move, but one you’ll seldom want to use. Each time you use it, a chunk of your health depletes. You only want to use this move in the most dire of predicaments.
There are four orbs that Jo can utilize to harness the power of her sword:
- The green orb enables Jo to swing her sword super fast to land multiple blows on her target (personal favorite).
- The blue orb allows Jo to shoot ice beams at her enemies
- The red orb will give Jo the ability to shoot a long stream of fire
- The yellow orb will automatically deflect one hit from an opponent
In conjunction with these orbs, Jo has a psychic meter. When it is full, Jo’s attacks are at their peak performance. Each time you press the sword button, the meter goes down. It only recharges when Jo is not swinging.
Other items that will aid in your quest are:
Rice Bowl- Will re-fill your entire life bar
Shish Kebab- Re-fills a portion of your life bar
Clock- Will stop the timer temporarily.
Mini Jo face- It’s a 1-up!
With these tools at your disposal, you traverse through 7 stages varying from a forest, a frozen tundra, under the sea, a construction site, and more. At the end of the first six stages, there is a boss you must defeat. Sometimes there are mid-stage bosses. The last level is a boss rush stage that includes a final boss who gave me quite a surprise the first couple of times I fought him!
Stages are relatively short, considering you must beat the game on a time constraint to get the good ending. Enemies are in ample supply. They seem to keep on coming. The good news is once you kill an enemy, they don’t come back! I will mention here I love the variety of enemies you find in the game. Types of foes range from ghosts, panda bears, monkeys, and even Japanese business men who do karaoke singing!
As I said earlier, the game is quite challenging and a tad frustrating, but not to the point where I’d stop playing it before completion. It kept me coming back for more.
Options include difficulty setting, sound test, choice between stereo or mono, modification of controller setup, and the unusual pad test option. It’s there to make sure your controller is functioning correctly.
Graphics and Sound
Ok, I will tell you why I like the game so much. It’s like playing an anime series. There are cutscenes in the intro and after each stage that resemble an anime. Seeing as I love Japanese animation, the game’s visuals struck a chord with me. The dialogue in the cutscenes has cheesy humor that I really enjoy also.
As for the in game graphics, the localization department left in the Japanese writing on the landmarks which I highly enjoyed. There is a good use of colors, scrolling clouds, and detailed backgrounds. Bosses are quite large and detailed. Heck even the minor enemies look well fleshed out. The whole game has an anime vibe in terms of graphic design which I found pleasing to look at. The only quip I have in the graphics department is Jo herself. She looks nice for the most part, but I can’t see any of her facial features unless she is in midget mode.
If you ever watched an anime comedy before, you’ll get the idea of the soundtrack of this game. It’s very good. It’s lighthearted, goofy, and a lot of fun. Some of the tracks are good enough to listen to over and over again.
Sound effects are ok. The only thing Jo utters is a battle cry as she swings her sword. I learned the Japanese version had several voice effects for Jo that are absent from the American release. That’s sort of a bummer.
Other than that, there are sound effects when Jo jumps, does her dash attack, nabs an item, or transforms into her superhero outfit. Pretty paltry pickings to be honest.
The art style and corny humor make this game stand out. You just gotta love those quirky Japanese games which sadly, aren’t released outside Japan very often. I salute Seta U.S.A. for publishing this game in North America. I wish companies did this more, but I understand the business perspective.
Kendo Rage is one of those pattern based games where you must memorize the attack sequences of your enemies to excel. This game is hard, the controls are a bit iffy at times, but I had a fun experience overall and I recommend to gamers who enjoy anime and sidescrollers as I do.
Four out of five stars.
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