Ben and I are in total agreement on Gekido: Urban Fighters. Similar to how we were in agreement on Zombie Revenge, we are always disappointed to see such a fun genre perverted by contemporary developers. My biggest gripe though (and what I chose to focus my review on) has to do with the game's visuals. In all fairness, I believe that NA.P.S. did have an idea of how Gekido was going to look conceptually, unfortunately they went astray in the execution. The game obviously takes cues from Capcom's Street Fighter Alpha and Marvel releases. The stylized character designs, over-the-top moves and heavy use of pyrotechnics are a dead giveaway. And that would have been fine had Gekido been rendered in 2D—but as with most side scrolling fighting games, Gekido falls apart when thrown into the third dimension.
If done right, the combination of cel and CG animation found in the opening intro might have garnered comparisons to visual innovators like Jet Grind Radio and Fear Effect. Unfortunately, it is so badly done that it only deserves scorn. The cel images do not blend into the CG backgrounds at all; it looks like the cel images are floating above whatever backdrop they are set upon. The animation is another problem as it looks like it was done in a day; I am sure that had someone taken the time, they would have realized that arms and legs do not move independently of the body. Perhaps it was a good thing that this technique was limited to the intro, although the rest of the game does not fare any better.
The in-game graphics, which would have been considered standard five years ago, are a joke by today's standards. At every turn there are jaggy surfaces, grainy textures, horribly rendered 3D objects and more horrendous animation. Which brings me to my point about staying in 2D—these problems could have been avoided had NA.P.S gone the 2D route. Sure there would have been some complaints of a dated look from nay sayers, but as Capcom has shown 2D done right can stand up to games today, even in this 3D obsessed climate.
Gekido's saving grace may be its multiplayer modes. In two-player mode, you can take a friend with you through the story mode. With so many projectiles and body parts flying at you at once, having a friend along can make things a bit easier. It doesn't make the game more fun per se, but it does delay the inevitable onset of boredom. The Arena Battle mode was a nice thought but ultimately a disappointment. Oddly reminiscent to the four-player mode in Power Stone 2, Gekido allows gamers to duke it out with four of the eight selectable characters. Unfortunately, with only silly punch attacks and a pathetic jump feature, there isn't any of Power Stone 2's manic, over-the-top gameplay to be found here.
All that said, I am just as dumbfounded as Ben as to how so many of our peers could shower this game with praise. Their comparisons of Gekido to such highly regarded classics like Final Fight and Streets Of Rage were so complimentary that I have to believe that they forgot how much fun and groundbreaking those games actually were. They must not have wanted to embarrass themselves by doing the much-needed about-face after months of positive hype. Gekido is an utterly forgettable release, one that I hope to forget as soon as I grab my Super NES out of the basement and give Final Fight a go.