When a new console comes out, the wide-eyed kid in me wakes up and shoves the jaded, disillusioned gamer aside for a time. With Microsoft's new 360 technology in my living room and two more consoles on the way, there's an innocent little part of my psyche that expects all new games to just be better. Unfortunately, it's not long before that optimism is completely slagged by the reality that graphics are the first thing to improve—it takes a lot longer for more important parts of design to catch up. Case in point: Rumble Roses XX.
While no one would ever hold the first Rumble Roses up as an example of stellar content or innovative design, it was a pretty decent game that had a great hook. After all, what's not to like about sexy women in outrageous outfits thrashing around in mud, or pinning each other down in quasi-sexual poses? All right, so maybe some people would have a problem with it, but the concept was golden in my book.
Naturally, since the first game on PlayStation 2 wasn't that bad, it seemed logical that Rumble Roses XX would (at the very least) be more of the same with better graphics. Not exactly what I call next-gen development, but my hopes weren't high for this series to begin with. The reality is that although the graphics are indeed better, every other aspect of the game took a huge turn for the worse.
First things first—the women look phenomenal. Without a doubt, the character models are stunning and the amount of detail that went into these fantastic ladies is second to none. I can say with confidence that Konami's work here is the absolute peak of soft-core videogaming. Taking things a step further, options allow each impossible physique to be modified with regard to dimension and musculature. Although fairly limited, I appreciated these options because they gave me the opportunity to strike a blow against the unhealthy societal standard of "anorexic-waif-as-sex-goddess" that I find so distasteful. Of course, the measurement sliders can be moved in a reducing direction as well, but why would anyone ever want to do that?
Besides the women, everything about Rumble Roses XX is an unsalvageable wreck. Compared to their starting point on the PS2, I have no idea why the developers removed as much as they did. It's not as if there was much content to start with, so slicing away meat from bones that didn't satisfy the first time is a huge mistake.
For example, the first Roses featured a "vow" system that let players set conditions like "no throws" or "no killer moves" during matches. It was simple, but added a nice layer of challenge and reward for those who wanted it. In XX? It's totally gone. Besides that, the first game featured comically bad storylines for each character. Although the writing was on par with the average low-budget porn film, seeing the crazy backstories gave me motivation to play through with each wrestler. In XX? The story mode is removed. Oh, and the famous mud wrestling? That got the axe too.
So what was added to the game? A ton of irritating load times, a slapdash presentation, a "slimmer" selection of moves, and a game flow that Sherlock Holmes and Phoenix Wright put together couldn't figure out.
Of these flaws, by far the worst offender is the impenetrably cryptic and drawn-out game flow. Instead of a linear path for players to follow on the road to the championship, the developers kept the requirements for getting a title match secret— literally. The way the game is laid out, players can choose from three different regular arenas, a "street fight", or a match that ends with the loser performing a (not very) humiliating act. Since there's no story mode and no particular order in which to choose any of them these things, the usual organizational structure that would guide players towards a goal is gone. It's the same for the unlockables; there are costumes and other things to purchase, but no hint is given on how to make them accessible in the shop. Things just sort of randomly happen after far too much time has passed. Keeping players in the dark isn't a good way to keep them playing—in fact, it has just the opposite effect. Putting time in with Rumble Roses XX under these conditions feels like a time-wasting exercise in futility.
This secretiveness in itself was enough to completely turn me off, but the other issues I mentioned only served to drive the game further down. When navigating through the menus, the overall presentation is horrible— every choice is followed by irritating load times and repetitive "useful tips" on display while the disc spins. The icons representing the various modes are scattered across a generic-looking map, and the save function is buried deep in the options. It's not like I need to be barraged by bells and whistles or the world's slickest design, but Rumble Roses XX comes off as cheap and patched-together. Konami should have put more work into making things (besides the women) appealing.
The final nail in the coffin is that the actual wrestling is just as shallow, if not shallower, that it was before. I'd usually be inclined to give a game like this slack, but after the first day I felt as though I had seen most of the moves, and the characters play so similarly that the action is mastered in an hour or two. It was an issue I had the first time around, and I'm disappointed to see that the "legitimate game" part of the Rumble Roses experience hasn't been improved on. With the game's tone still hesitating to go over the top along the lines of something like Ultimate Muscle, the developers need to decide whether they're going to go full-on crazy, or get serious and add some wrestling action that's truly respectable. Either direction is fine with me (well, okay… actually I'd like to see them go nuts) but keeping the franchise in this middle ground between totally entertaining fluff and totally engaging gameplay isn't doing anyone any favors.