If ever there was a game that could be summed up in one phrase it would be Tokyo Beat Down. Akin to classic titles from the 16-bit era this side-scrolling beat ’em up is just as straightforward and generic as the name implies. Thankfully this is not always a bad thing, and if you still enjoy tearing through the monotonous locales in Streets of Rage or Final Fight, then this game is right up your alley. Employing simple mechanics and mindless gameplay is certainly nostalgic, but for gamers in need of complicated combo systems and intricate puzzles, Tokyo Beat Down is not the game for you.
Much like all of Atlus’ other endeavors, Tokyo Beat Down is chock full of charm and fan-service that it is almost uncanny. Translating the game to English had to have taken a considerable amount of care, and you have to have a severe amount of respect for them to go through the effort. You play the role of Lewis Cannon (through most of the game), a clear play on words, who is a cop working out of the Yaesu police station. As you can imagine these are violent cops that care less about due process and more about ass-kicking. The over-the-top dialogue and ridiculous story present a comical package that entertains, and appeals to fans of the genre. Atlus certainly knows its audience, and with Tokyo Beat Down they have once again nailed the atmosphere perfectly.
You also can assume the role of two other playable characters: Takeshi Bando and Rika Hyodo, but for the most part everyone controls exactly the same. The combat is completely adolescent consisting of only punch and kick buttons, while the triggers serve as a block button and drawing your weapon. The combo system is simple enough that mashing buttons is certainly acceptable. You can perform just about anything with the tap of the same button over and over, and for the most part this strategy works on 99% of the enemies. You can also throw enemies, which gives you a quick burst of invincibility and can be exploited heavily. Needless to say the difficulty isn’t frustrating enough to keep you from plowing through the game in a short amount of time.
The weapons consist of your standard pistol with a shotgun and semi-automatic weapon thrown in for good measure. While weapons are always welcome when dealing with repeating thugs, the problems arise when you realize the aiming is sluggish giving foes a chance to get the drop on you before you get a bead on them. This detracts from the shooting a bit and makes handling enemies with your fists a more viable option. Blocking is also sluggish, which in turn is what forced me to figure out that throwing enemies and remaining invincible was the best route for success. Loopholes in game design are not something that I prefer to exploit, but when a majority of the core mechanics feel broken sacrifices must be made.
Thankfully what it lacks in substance it makes up for in style. Each level is an exercise in repetition, but one that will have old-school fans tickled with delight. The boss battles are heavy on learning patterns and repeating enemies will have you reminiscing about that “blue dude with a Mohawk” from Streets of Rage. Needless to say if you are not a fan of these types of games then Tokyo Beat Down is not likely to impress you much. My only gripe is that even though I enjoyed what it had to offer, it felt way too long for the type of game that it is. This is a fine line between getting your money’s worth, and running something into the ground. At six hours the game stands to annoy some, and if you trim it down it becomes a matter of cost versus worth. The team obviously opted to give gamers enough bang for their buck, but in the end it quickly becomes tedious and most will call it quits before the credits roll.
Visually the game is chock full of splendor bringing the imaginative characters to life. This is easily one of the highlights of the game, as it manages to give each of the three protagonists’ personality beyond their identical control schemes. The background look fantastic, but you will grow tired of them quickly. Each level repeats itself far too often, and textures are repeated frequently. Music is forgettable at best and terrible at worst, but you can opt to turn it off. The voices are decent enough and even humorous the first few times you hear them. However, after hearing them over and over you will likely slide the volume dial down to avoid annoyance.
Tokyo Beat Down is the definition of quirky. The narrow appeal of both the outlandish storyline and repetitive gameplay will appeal to such a limited audience it is no wonder that Atlus is the one publishing it. I have always had major respect for a company that delivers true fan service despite what sells, and it has paid dividends for the company. If you are a fan of beat ’em ups and have been clamoring for some classic ridiculousness then look no further. Tokyo Beat Down is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnate market of “me-too” titles on the DS.