Do you have dreams of being the badass? Do you contemplate on the deep philosophical meaning of increasing your manhood via fighting punks and scum-pukes? Do you feel the burning of your heart to do the suck-it motion to a hooligan just before body slamming him to the ground in the name of badassery? If you say yes to any of these questions then you too can benefit from Atlus’s newest foray into the world of obscure Japanese games. This newest addition just might be the most badass game of all time, Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for the Sony PSP.
You play the part of Takashi Sakamoto, an incredibly mean badass and all around tough guy. Sakamoto is riding a train which is taking him and his classmates on a field trip to the area of Kyoto, Japan. As Sakamoto drifts in and out of sleep he has a memory of his hardass father who instructs him on the ways of stare-downs, smack-talk, and smack-downs. Sakamoto’s dad basically says to him that there are two types of people in this world, badasses and candyasses, and nobody likes a candyass. Upon arriving at the train station, Sakamoto runs into a punk who feels the need to dominate Sakamoto’s manliness and proceeds to fight him. Of course since this your first major fight, this so-called tough guy comes off as a pansy and quickly begs for forgiveness. The downed punk also gives his life to you and becomes your first peon and proceeds to give you his cell phone number so that you can use him as your kickass buddy.
If this game sounds ridiculous to you then I would say that, yes this game is completely ridiculous, but it is also part of its charm. Your main goal in this game is to defeat the forty-some banchos (gang members, thugs) and mold yourself into the biggest bancho in all of Kyoto (talk about a guy with high hopes in his life). The way that you advance in the game is to pick fights with low-level thugs and while collecting clues that will lead you to the main bancho leaders that you will also beat up on your way to becoming the biggest badass of all time.
As you traverse the area of Kyoto, the game is presented in a 3D third person view. To me this game has more of a Shenmue feel to it then a GTA motif due to the fact that the camera is very close to the lead character and that the area of Kyoto is much more condense then Liberty City. Also, when you are not walking you are either taking a cab, bus, or train so you are never thieving any vehicles. The graphics are very good for a PSP game and it feels like a late PS2 game being seen through the very nice screen of Sony’s handheld. The environments are very urban and very Japanese at the same time giving us a rare glimpse into the stylized life of urban Japan.
The main game play mechanic is the battle system, and I must say, the system is both innovative and mediocre at the same time. As you are on your quest for badassery you will see lots of mean looking thugs and a-holes, and sometime you will want to just punch them in their ugly faces. So in order to start a fight, you must first begin a manly ritual of sorts. First comes the stare-down, you must look into the eyes of your enemy and shoot lasers out of your eyes into his (I am not making this up). The eye lasers, or menchi beam for the Tech geek, will start the beginnings for the fight. Next comes the smack-talk, you will then be shown a form of insult on the screen by which you will then be asked to reconstruct it via well timed button presses. If you deliver the proper insult then you will obtain the advantage of the first attack by which you will deliver the smack down. The fighting in this game is very plain and mediocre; it basically turns into a button masher with a little bit of strategy mixed in. You do have the ability of pulling off combos and special moves, but most of the fighting will be just a bunch of jabs and quick take downs.
Once again, the realm of RPGs invades other genres and Kenka Bancho is no different. When you are not running around in circles and bashing punk’s faces in, you can use your experience in order to increase your health, your attacking power, and to add new moves. Also, while you are at it, you can customize Sakamoto’s appearance in the game. You can change his clothes, his hair style, and even his facial hair, heck you can even give him an Adolf Hitler stash (don’t know if that is badass, or just plan insulting).
Kenka Bancho does have some things that I have a slight problem with. For one, sometimes the goal of the game is not clear, and you can end up spending hours running around in circles looking for fights and itinerary sheets that will give you clues as to when and where to face the next bancho. The load times also can be a pain, however during the loading; the game will teach you Japanese words and what they mean which can be a good thing. Also the music is bare minimum and for long stretches of gameplay you can be left with no music at all which can sometimes be a slight bore.
Overall, Kenka Bancho is a very good but imperfect game. It overflows with urban Japanese charm that rarely ever gets seen in the West. Kenka Bancho is also incredibly funny and has a very good localization from the folks at Atlus. So it you want a little bit of badass in your portable gaming collection you can’t go wrong with Kenka Bancho Badass Rumble.