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.