|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Success||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 31, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Tokyo Beat Down is a classic beat-'em-up in the vein of Double Dragon, Bad Dudes, and Streets of Rage. In fact, if it weren't for the dual-screen presentation and the single-player-only gameplay, I would have sworn I was popping quarters into a boardwalk arcade from my early teenage years. Of course, such nostalgic gameplay is both a good and bad thing.
I loved getting transported back to the button-mashing days of my youth. Success, the developer, did a masterful job of capturing the feeling of the beat-'em-up genre. Also, the 70s cop show vibe and the slapstick writing had me grinning the whole game long. However, the punch-kick-jump mechanics and the extremely repetitive bad-guy-swarms have not aged well. In the end, Tokyo Beat Down is incredibly derivative, not adding anything significant to the well-worn formula. Thankfully, the fairly engaging, zany story and over-the-top characters do their best to keep players hooked. Still, the game's multiple endings and three playable characters are not enough to save the title from mediocrity. As such, this is a niche game for true fans of the genre.
What do you get when you cross Shaft with Bruce Lee? The appropriately named protagonist of Tokyo Beat Down, Lewis Cannon. Playing as Cannon and a couple other members of the "Beast Cops," players will fight their way through the mean streets of Tokyo, shooting first and asking questions later. The story in Tokyo Beat Down is not particularly meaningful, but the 70s style and witty, often random dialog is enough to keep players from skipping through the story boards (though players are always given the option to skip through the chatter). Thank goodness the plot is entertaining, because these interludes to the action make up the majority of the game. Truly, players will more often than not be wading through a barrage of text bubbles rather than waves of baddies. While this is likely to turn off most who play the game, the patient handful that actually read through the story will be treated to a lot of amusing banter, genuinely endearing them to the exaggerated characters.
Of course, most players will play the game looking for an action title not the next Hotel Dusk. Disappointingly, the gameplay mechanics in Tokyo Beat Down are sorely lacking. Players will be able to take on the seedy underbelly of Tokyo with a series of underwhelming punches and kicks and inadequate gunplay. Bashing barrels and finding weapon drops throughout the game will give you access to manual use of firearms by holding down on the L button and firing with either Y or X. However, players are hamstrung by very limited ammo reserves and slow reaction time, squarely placing the emphasis on the brawling. Combining punches with kicks is also extremely restricted, but if done so correctly, players will be treated to a bonus firearm animation that does extra damage and doesn't tap your ammo pool.
In addition to standard punch-kick combos, players can also initiate charged attacks by tapping the D-pad twice in the desired direction and executing an attack. Likewise, players will also learn to dodge incoming bullets by tapping twice up or down. Though the mechanics exist, blocking and evading are not very well implemented. Graciously, each character has its own special grab attack, initiated by holding B and Y together. These grab attacks are fun and effective, I especially liked Takeshi Bando's atomic pile driver - it just looks like it really hurts. Adding the R button before pressing on Y and B will give you access to Heroic Kicks and Slams. These energy bursts are helpful at clearing a little space around you.
That's really all there is to fighting in this game. It ends up coming off as terribly monotonous. You'll be beset by wave after wave of humdrum baddies that become increasingly difficult over time. Although, getting through levels is rarely challenging, as health drops in the form of burgers, pie slices, etc. are prevalent. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this game is simply reaching down to pick up these goodie drops; for some reason, the game is very unforgiving in terms of collecting ammo and health. As a result, you'll typically have to clear out the horde and then go back and pick up items.