Everyone has the friend in their life that’s ‘all mouth and no trousers’ – and if you can’t think of that person then you’re in for an unwelcome shock cos it’s you, like, obviously. You know the one. The one who blatantly runs their mouth off as if to make themselves out to the big man or woman in the circle. The one who’ll tell everyone that they’re doing all sorts of crazy stunts and tricks and telling people all kinds of horrible, aggravating things about why they’re amazeballs and yet they’re just all for show.
Deep inside, they’re all mouth and no trousers. They can dish it out but they can’t take it. They can talk a good game but they can’t walk the walk and all those similar sayings that basically let everyone know they’re a fucking moron.
I could leave the rest of this review to your imagination as you will have guessed that this game is very much the definition of that saying. A game that promises so much and offers so little in terms of a key factor, fundamental to gaming. That is to say that this game is about as much fun as applying a cheese grater to your knees.
And thus, as soon it Gekido enters, you sincerely wish it exited. This is indeed that ‘friend’ who irritates the fucking life out of you with their “I’m going punch that twat in the face’ mentality, usually resulting in a punch in the face. Because they’re a twat. Gekido is that twat.
What’s amusing is that the instruction manual mentions that one of the character’s moveset’s energy is expended in a wasteful display of extravagance. I couldn’t really have summed this whole experience up better if I tried. Full marks for at least getting that one in there.
And here’s the ‘plot’ if you can so much as call it that. A girl has gone missing and you’ve been hired to go and find her.
I am not fucking around here. You have a girl to find because her parents want to know what happened to her. There’s a crime syndicate involved here somewhere and eventually you get some demon – at least the opening cutscene suggests there’s going to be a demon – rampaging through the city after you. It is about as exciting as that, folks. Welcome to the year 2000. Gaming’s storylines were at their pinnacle.
Seriously, at least Streets of Rage had something of an interesting back story to the whole thing. There is no rhyme or reason to why some of the characters are even there. I mean… the ‘main’ character Travis is the one who’s been hired, I guess so there’s at least a reason for him to be there. Michelle, the ‘lithe’ – the manual says that SEXISM – soldier is there… but why? And then you have Tetsuo and Ushi… for… some reason. There’s no plot explanation within the game and there doesn’t appear to be any real reason as to why anyone is there at all. It’s as if they sorta forgot to even care.
Now, here’s the thing. What they’re obviously going for here is Streets of Rage in 3D. What they ended up with was fits of rage from every gamer imaginable AH HA HA HA I WENT THERE. Now, if you are going to make a beat ’em up then Streets of Rage is a bloody brilliant model and example. IF YOU’RE GOING FOR 2D GAMING. In 3D, it has no credentials. There’s nothing else to base it of aside from poorly conceived early code and other, clearly worse, 3D beat ’em ups that didn’t work and have never worked. The genre lost its sparkle because no one seemed to be able to get the balance right that SOR managed to do.
And why is that?
Because this game is downright unfair. And when a game is unfair, it loses that KEY THING that it seriously cannot do: IT IS NOT FUN ANYMORE.
Look at her. LOOK AT HER. LOOK HOW EMBARRASSED SHE IS TO BE THERE. She might have just beaten the boss but she hates herself for it. The fact she has to be there makes her feel sick.
And no wonder. She’s stuck inside a game that just cannot keep up with its own ambition. It wants so desperately to be a good game but so much is clouding its senses that it struggles to know what it’s doing. Now if you’re planning on being a combat-based game then the combat had better be up to scratch. Press a few buttons and you’ll find that occasionally, you’ll hit an enemy. Occasionally the attacks with lock on to enemies that are stood behind you. Sometimes the attacks will take away a massive chunk of their health. Sometimes the attacks will take off ALL of their health. Sometimes isn’t good enough. Sometimes is as fucking annoying as finding a cucumber left on the kitchen counter after someone else has prepared dinner the night before. Being inconsistent with the combat mechanics is so utterly inexcusable and so frustrating that it should NEVER be allowed past the testing phase. There doesn’t seem to be any reason behind the combat set-up. All four of the face buttons attack in some way; some for punch and kick and one for a special attack. Jump is on the shoulder buttons, as is crouch whilst a lock-on is also one of the shoulder buttons. Now… not all of that seems natural. To have jump on the shoulder buttons feels really offputting. Even worse the fact that CROUCH is one of them too. PARTICULARLY when crouching is used to try and grab objects off the ground like the usual MEAT PLATES that are scattered in/under bins that you will of course chow down on to reboot your health meter a little bit. There are first aid kits too but that good ol’ meat in the bin trope just has to be there. One of these days, someone will make a game where there’s meat in a bin and it kills off your characters with an achievement called ‘DON’T BE SO FUCKING STUPID’ or something wittier.
And that’s the thing: every beat ’em up trope is in there but it has been fucked up so badly that it’s almost a parody of every trope in there. The meat in the bin BARELY gives you any health back. Perhaps they’re trying to tell you something? The relentless waves of enemies that come after you can actually be beaten with the same attacks over and over. The enemies can block your attacks all of the time but can you block any of theirs? Of course you frickin’ well can’t; that’d be way too sensible and FAIR.
“HEY, LET US MAKE A GAME WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER SPENDS ALL OF THEIR TIME ON THE GROUND.”
“I LIKE THE FACT THAT YOU CAME UP WITH A REALLY FUN CONCEPT.”
“LET US ALSO INCLUDE FIGHTING.”
“PEOPLE LIKE FIGHTING.”
“WE ARE BRILLIANT AT THINGS.”
“I LIKE THE THINGS WE COME UP WITH WHEN WE HAVE BRAINS.”
No, no, no, developers. Just fucking no. Look, there are rules to making games like this fair and fun. You have to actually… y’know… give the player a chance. I mean, I COULD spend the entire game mashing the triangle button in the hope that eventually everything on the screen will walk up to me a fall over. That wouldn’t be fun but I could complete the game pretty much by doing that.
Suffice to say I did.
But I shouldn’t have to. The reason being that the game itself gives you combos RANDOMLY as you progress. Perhaps it’s for achieving a certain score or hitting an enemy a certain number of times with a particular button. Maybe it’s for the number of enemies you defeat. Who fucking knows. You’ll learn these new combos and QUICK YOU’LL HAVE TO REMEMBER IT BEFORE IT DISAPP-ohhhhh. It’s gone. That long-ass combo command that just showed up out of nowhere? Yeah. Gone. Want to write it down? Maybe you can. Look, it’s all very well and good trying but to be honest, a lot of the combos that involve the shoulder buttons simply do not work because of the unnatural set-up of them. You can’t make it easier by changing the controls to have some of the fancier combo buttons (like crouch or jump) on the front buttons because which buttons do you move to the shoulders? You might need them for combos later. Yeah, I suppose moving the special attack button would be a good suggestion. You don’t figure that one into combos at all… but… ugh. Look. The combat is too sporadic, too frenetic and way too uncomfortable to really feel satisfying. Instead, triangle is your friend and occasionally, press the circle button… so you can hammer the triangle button again.
And hey, maybe you can get a screen effect like this one!
Or this one! Where no one has any fucking idea what’s going on! Much like the rest of the game!
This is simply another one of those games where the execution just doesn’t live up to the ambition of it all. The graphics are reasonable FOR THE MOST PART and the combat, while clunky and hit-and-miss, is actually pretty fast-paced all in all. There are a fair amount of levels in the game too as Michelle and Travis’s levels are different from the starter levels that Tetsuo and Ushi have which DOES make the game a bit longer and more diverse.
But it’s so unfair. You could be lying on the ground and be hit by a grenade or an exploding box and take even more damage while you get back up again. You could walk into a gate and it EXPLODES in your face. You could be electrocuted by a live wire trailing back and forth across the screen that you won’t be see until it hits you in the face. You could try to kick some bikers off their bikes only for them to mow you down every time because every attack you try doesn’t kill them. You could be trying to escape from a torrent of water coming from behind you but you take the wrong path, can’t jump over the CLEARLY JUMPABLE OBSTACLE IN FRONT OF YOU and have to start the fucking level again. You could block that massive barrage of barrels that a gorilla is throwing at you from on top of the boat we’re currently on because you can block attacks and there’s plenty of room for you to dodge the barrels. You could block any of your opponents’ attacks because they can block your-ohhhh no you can’t. You can do not of that shit because that would involve this game being nice to you and actually thinking that you, the gamer, actually deserve to have fun. Instead, it reeks of garbage because that is what this game ends up being: a misguided, ill-judged, poorly-programmed trope-fest of seismic proportions that can’t even stand its own weight of ambition.
The camera movements try to make it out as if this game is the fucking bees knees. Look it at changing its perspective to make your attacks seem worthwhile. Yeah. Go ahead and beat Steve and Jim and Ninja and Heidi with your shitty triangle attack patterns while everything else blows up around you. You go right ahead, Gekido. And while you’re at it, you can go and tell that man over there that he’s a twat like you said you would.
Oh you’re not going to?
All mouth. No trousers.
Now piss off and take your shitty GBA sequel with you.