Game Description: Kintaro, an evil crime lord, kidnaps a young girl. You play the role of Travis, who has been hired by the girl's parents to find her and stop Kintaro. Aware of the difficulty ahead, Travis recruits Michelle, Ushi, and Tetsuo to help him rescue the girl and defeat Kintaro. Battle through Kintaro's minions in six different modes: Urban Fighters, Arena Battle, Shadow Fighter, Street Gang Battle, Team Battle, and Survivor. If you're feeling sociable, get together with three friends and try to save the little girl in Gekido.
Gekido: Urban Fighters is a terrible, terrible game—an unrefined mess of sloppy gameplay, sloppy graphics and sloppy sound. For a game that is basically a rehash of ideas that have been videogame staples for years, to come up so short in these areas means certain damnation once it gets in my hands. When it comes to games such as this, I usually direct my rage at the incompetent developers—but not this time. This time I feel that several members of the videogame press are to blame. Gekido did not deserve all the hype, positive buzz and overly enthusiastic reviews that surrounded its release last year. Though the game has now been out a while, I feel the need to apologize on behalf of the rest of videogame media, which is responsible for raising everyone's expectations of this pathetic little game—expectations that Gekido couldn't possibly live up to. As a result of the overzealous advice of my peers, I imagine there are many PlayStation owners like myself who got burned simply because they bought into all the undue praise.
Gekido is a shameless rip-off of Sega's Genesis classic, Streets Of Rage 2. It also steals gameplay elements from Treasure's amazing Saturn game, Guardian Heroes. Despite the fact that Gekido offers 3-D graphics, in no way is it nearly as fun as the two games that inspired it. In fact, the two games that basically started this genre—Double Dragon and Final Fight—are 10-times more fun than Gekido. I'd even go so far to say that Sega's Dreamcast game, Zombie Revenge, is a better game (although I hated every minute of playing it). It's certainly a better example of the genre, which is why I gave Gekido a lower score.
It doesn't bother me so much that Gekido imitates previous games of its type. PlayStation doesn't really have a decent Final Fight kind of game, and I was certainly excited about the idea of playing a 3-D version of Streets Of Rage 2 on mine. Its "furious four-player fighting" tag line definitely had my interest, but don't be fooled. Gekido is a game that appears to be aware of games like Streets Of Rage 2 and Guardian Heroes—it just doesn't understand them.
For starters, the visuals are so grainy and unpolished that the game's only novelty—its 3-D graphics—is a no-show right from the beginning. All of the characters—even the good guys—are drawn horribly, and they run around like they all have wedgies. The game's "camera" is so bad that I pictured the camera man as how Super Mario 64's koopa-in-a-cloud would behave after a few beers. The prespective constantly shifts angles and zooms in and out of the action without any rhyme or reason, and the levels only scroll forward when your character is running up against the edge of the screen—meaning you can't anticipate what lies ahead. Gekido covers up these visual inadequecies by filling the action with flashy special effects and loud music. Artists like Fatboy Slim have contributed to the game's soundtrack, but after just the third stage the tracks start to repeat themselves, so the music quickly grows as tiresome as the rest of game.
Gekido doesn't even get the small things right that are essential for games like this. During all of the fighting, there are no satisfying sounds of the crunching of ribs or the cracking of skulls. Instead all you hear are the characters grunting and moaning. If you closed your eyes and just listened to the game you'd think you were in the middle of the fabled orgy sequence in the film, Eyes Wide Shut. Most importantly, Gekido just doesn't play well. Most of the time it's hard to tell who's hitting who through all the senseless brawling, and even if you can it's anyone's guess as to whether or not your attacks are even making contact with the bad guys. And as if the game isn't frustrating enough, Gekido throws hordes of vicious doggies into the fighting fray just for good measure. We all know how much fun animals are to fight in games, right?
I found the developer's approach to the game and to the genre irresponsible. At this point, I wonder why a North American developer would even attempt to do a game like this. It's obvious that NA.P.S Team didn't know what it was doing with Gekido. As if it knew that only Japanese developers truly know how to do these kinds of games right, NA.P.S infused Gekido with a distinctly Japanese look and feel. It's like NA.P.S was trying to fool us into thinking Gekido was a Japanese game.
I already own the Double Dragon games for the Nintendo Entertainment System; the Streets Of Rage games for the Genesis; the Sega CD version of Final Fight; and Guardian Heroes for Saturn. There's nothing about Gekido that would make me think about putting those games away, despite the fact it's the only 3-D game of the bunch. Even if someone broke into my place and robbed me of all of those great action games, I still wouldn't play Gekido. The memories I would have of playing a game like Guardian Heroes would only be tainted by a session with Gekido.
However, like I stated at the beginning of this review, a sizable chunk of the videogame media should be held equally accountable for this lousy game. Had Gekido not been the receipient of such unwarranted hype, it would have made it into the bargain bin faster than it already has, and thousands of fighting-game hungry PlayStation owners wouldn't have been dupped into dropping the $30 the game cost when it was first released. Gekido was touted as a throw-back to the street fighting games of old, and what we got instead was a throw-away.
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.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Animated Violence
As far as younger gamers are concerned, Gekido: Urban Fighters is violent and features some blood, but perhaps the most dangerous bit of content in Gekido is the pair of breasts on the Michelle character. A good look at them in the game's opening movie reveals that they drawf even the mighty Lara Croft's—wow! Gekido can currently be found at bargain bins in stores all over the country. There's a reason for this—the game sucks.
Unless you absolutely must own every side-scrolling fighting game in existence, Gekido is not worth the discounted price. If you would like to play the best games of this kind, check out Streets Of Rage 2—which can be found on the new Sega Smash Pak collection for Dreamcast—or, if you can find it, the excellent Guardian Heroes for Sega Saturn.