Street Fighter 2 totally spoiled me, I feel. There’s a reason that that game is considered so highly and games like THIS are examples of why we should cherish that game and not consider it dated and past it and all of that. It’s not. It’s an enormous achievement that that game has been as massively successful as it has been and it is still as quintessential as a fighting game can be.
As such, without even pressing the power button on, you can tell that this game is NOT going to be a particularly spectacular game. And it’s all Street Fighter’s fault.
And every other DECENT fighting game’s.
First and foremost, I have to explain that this isn’t an AWFUL game. It’s not a bad game per se but there’s a reason that it’s a Let’s NOT Talk About as opposed to a Let’s… Sorta… Talk About title. The above opening is probably one of the game’s most glaring faults. I mean… *sighs* I better get teacher-head on.
Look… Kensei… you’re not a bad game and I feel as though you have many good qualities… but how are you going to achieve anything if you don’t even try? Have you looked at yourself and really been happy with what you see? What do you see? Do you see a decent fighting game that’s trying? Do you see a fighting game that could battle it out in the scary world of fighting games that rip out your spine, hadouken you into a corner, piledriver you to the ground and piss on your corpse? Do you?
Well I don’t. And do you know why? Because, Kensei, you’re not even trying. You are a lazy excuse for a fighting game and you won’t achieve anything unless you allow yourself the chance to try. You want to be the next big thing? Then it takes effort. Are you giving me 100%? No. It takes the right combination of attitude and perseverance to reach your goal. Are you giving me that? No.
What you’re giving me is a guy named David and a girl named Ann duking it out in boring locales with all of the excitement of watching a jelly wobble on a plate.
Sorry. Too exciting.
A BOX OF JELLY on a plate. Still too exciting? Then WHOOOOOA, did you come to the wrong place! Go back to counting your marshmallows, eating your Werthers and folding your pyjamas, grandpa.
See… things start of reasonably enough with a fairly nice-looking intro sequence that features most of the characters and a pretty decent attempt at water effects. It’s a bit clunky, as most PS1 intros were, Tekken and its sequel included. Story-wise, there is basically NOTHING to speak of. There’s no proper mention of the story at all anywhere. In fact, what is usually story mode in fighting games comes under NORMAL MODE in this game.
Which is moderately ironic given the circumstances.
Because it’s not normal.
You’ll get the joke in a bit. Anyway.
Now then… characters. Wow. We are really being treated to a cornucopia of amazing character design, flamboyant personalities and grandeur beyond all measure!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need a separate font for sarcasm because every single character in this game has basically been designed on the back of a bar napkin after a sober night of virgin cocktails. Imagine looking around a room as a party at your circle of friends and going “yeah, these guys could all be in a fighting game” only they’re all dressed in T-shirts and jeans and one of your friends wears a mask over his mouth because he’s the slightly unusual one in the group or he’s asthmatic.
And your grandad is there.
And your parrot’s going to get in there as well.
Let’s have a quick rundown of just so banal and basic the character designs are. Yugo and Yuli are your standard “WE WANT TO PROVE OURSELVES” fighters. Yuli’s slightly more interesting in that she uses Drunken Kung Fu, reminiscent of old men characters such as:
BRAD WONG! (who’s not as old but grey hair…)
AND SHUN DI!
And now we can add QINGTAO to that last because Yuli’s sub-boss is of course the old drunk man who trains her who basically looks like all of these characters. Because after pushing the boat out with a young female Zui Quan practitioner, they obviously couldn’t afford to be TOO ambitious.
Now… I suppose from another side, if a game is full of Japanese characters, throwing in a fistful of Japanese names must feel like I do with the English sounding names in this game. Let’s see now… we’ve got Ann, Arthur, Steve, Douglas, David, Cindy, Mark and Cornelia. Woo. Seriously… it could only have been worse if they threw in Jack, Jane, John and Joan or something. There’s so little excitement with even the character NAMES that of course they don’t transfer to the personalities. There’s so little variety in the designs that it’s almost painful. Everyone wears ordinary clothes with barely any flare or detail… they could have had scarves, belts, accessories… all floating about… unusual patterns on their clothing… instead we have characters in sweat pants and lycra leggings and waistcoats and it’s not even MEH. it’s just dull and monotonous. It’s abysmal character design. There’s one based on Steven Seagal, even down to the sickening leopard-print coat and gruff, lifeless expression. He isn’t much cop (PUN INTENDED) and he’s so lacking in originality that his whole backstory is based on every Seagal movie ever. Yawn. Throughout this game’s roster, there is not one single character who really feels memorable.
NOT EVEN THIS ONE. THERE IS A GUY WHO WEARS A PENGUIN OR A PARROT MASK AND HE’S NOT EVEN MEMORABLE. HE WEARS JEANS AND A WAISTCOAT AND LOOKS A BIT PODGY AND OH MY GOD, THE CHARACTERS JUST MAKE ME WANT TO PUNCH A PENGUIN FOR NO ADEQUATELY EXPLORED REASON.
Even the main boss characters are a pointless exercise in crap character design. Zhou is a squat, black man with an enormous face who rolls around a bit, acting like the master of ceremonies and giggling like a tit half of the time. He’s less stereotypical as a game character, I’ll give you that, but he’s a fucking useless character to play as in general. AND HE’S THE BOSS OF AN EVIL CRIME ORGANISATION AND HE’S NOT EVEN THE MAIN BOSS. THAT IS HOW USELESS HE IS. HE IS DREADFUL.
And then the game’s main boss, Kaiya, is a cheap-as-hell character who acts as though he’s button mashing, steps all over you, kicks you when you’re down and basically fucks you up quicker than everyone else can. That’s probably why he’s the boss but it doesn’t excuse anything. He’s still shit.
Also, everyone in this game appears to be related to someone else. It’s all very “WE WANT TO BE TEKKEN” only slightly more inbred… sort of. Well not. It’s a joke. You got that, right? Yeah? No? LOOK, THE CHARACTERS ARE SHIT. THEY’RE ALL SHIT AND THE DESIGNERS SHOULD FEEL ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES, OK? DONE.
Let’s just sum this up and move along by saying the plot is shit and the characters are shit. Done.
And Douglas Seagal is shit too.
Here’s a dealbreaker, and one that I’ve mentioned before: a fighting game lies or dies by its fighting engine. To be fair, there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with this game’s mechanics. It runs smoothly enough and yes, each character plays differently enough to warrant giving them a go, as boring as they fucking well are. However, in comparison to other fighting games, particularly the Tekkens and Virtua Fighters, it feels very rigid and forced. It doesn’t feel as though your movements on the controller really correspond to what happens to your fighter. There’s a punch, a kick and a throw button as well as a block button but you cannot shake off the feeling that it doesn’t feel quite right. Some characters can combo the life out of an opponent easily. Saya for example has a ten-hit combo that is achieved purely by pressing the kick button 10 times. You can walk through her entire game by pressing kick over and over and hoping for the best, even on hard mode.
Compare that to the ten-hit combos of Tekken 2 and you’ll feel slightly cheap at the fact that you just managed to defeat an opponent using only one button whereas you probably break your thumbs trying to achieve one in Tekken 2. But the reward and the satisfaction behind GETTING those combos off… and the general feeling behind the fighting in that game… it always felt amazing. Here, it feels wrong. It feels disturbingly unsatisfying. There aren’t the move sets that will make any characters too memorable or excite you. You could probably button mash and land a few blows but that wouldn’t feel remotely satisfying. The weakness in the combo system plagues the game and highlights how disastrously uninviting the whole game feels.
Kensei’s main problem is that on a console full of decent 2D fighters and the likes of Tekken and Soul Blade, Kensei feels decidedly lacklustre. There is no point to this game. There is no reason for it to exist. This game is having an existential crisis. You cannot feel upset for this game at all. You cannot feel any emotion other than the painful disappointment of feeling like this was your child and it just told you it wanted to get a job testing anal beads or something.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a game feels pointless. It doesn’t need to be on the shelf. It doesn’t do anything better than any other fighting game. It feels raw, tacky, cheap and flat. I really want to insert a joke here about a celebrity but I can’t think of a particularly one that fits that description and I’m fairly sure they’d sue me if I did anyway so probably better for my own pockets that I don’t go that route.
But here’s the thing: it’s not AWFUL. You could actually have some fun with it. It plays REASONABLY well. You could stand to complete the game a few times just for the sake of doing so and there are the usual Survival, Versus and Time Attack modes to have a bit of fun with.
There’s also this mode:
Trust me on this, people: YOU. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. KNOW.
WHO. THE FUCK. THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA???
I AM DYING TO KNOW.
SO INSTEAD OF PUTTING ENDINGS INTO THE GAME FOR EACH CHARACTER, THEY GAVE US A RUNNING MINI GAME THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE.
Oh yeah, there are no endings for any of the characters.
That’s why it’s pointless.
THAT AND THE FACT THAT THE RUNNING MINI GAME DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A TWO PLAYER OPTION (which actually, truth be told, is probably for the best. One player only needs to know how bad it is. You don’t need to spread the HATRED…)
And even worse? It’s called RUNNING BUGI.
Let that sink in for a second.
Now cry because you had to endure that.
And cry because I had to endure it again to take the screenshot of it.
Hope you’re pleased with yourselves.