|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Spike||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
If there's one thing that every school has, it's bullies. We've all had run-ins with these types, whether they were trying to steal someone's lunch money or just attempting to prove that they're stronger than everyone else. Now imagine how much better schools across the country would be if bullies, rather than preying on their fellow classmates, just fought it out amongst themselves in a battle to become the ultimate bully. This is the world that the characters in Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble have the privilege of living in. Well, at least for seven days.
This title puts you in the shoes of Takashi, a brash tough guy who only cares about fighting and winning his brawls. When he's sent on a school trip to Kyoto, he's understandably not too enthused. That is, at least until he finds out that there will be plenty of extracurricular activities to keep him occupied. Before arriving in Kyoto, he learns that every year around this time Banchos (bullies) come in from tons of other school districts and do battle to try to become the dominant Bancho in Japan. This gives Takashi the length of his field trip (seven days) to find, fight, and defeat every Bancho in Kyoto in order to prove that he is indeed the strongest Bancho in Japan.
While Kenka Bancho involves some city exploration, item usage, RPG elements, and time management, at its core the gameplay is that of a brawler. Takashi mainly uses two buttons for combat with one performing a strong and the other a weak attack. These two attacks can be strung together to create combos, which are usually pretty effective if the blows land on your enemy. Aside from these two forms of attack, Takashi can also perform throws or grapple moves using the L button or special moves using a combination of buttons.
Grapple maneuvers wind up playing a major part in combat, especially when confronted by multiple foes at a time. As Takashi swings, he'll continue to exert energy, becoming tired and eventually hunching over for a breather if you don't slow down. This can become rather annoying while outnumbered in the middle of a hectic fight, but intelligent use of the block button and grapple attacks can sometimes help to take the edge off of it. An on-screen heart will indicate just how close you are to breaking down; beating faster and eventually turning purple when you're in desperate need of a respite. Grappling someone or holding the block button can theoretically buy you some time in order to cool down enough so that you can continue your assault without losing your ability to defend yourself during an unwanted breather.
Unfortunately, besides constantly trying to balance Takashi's heart sensor while combating foes, you'll also have to do battle with this game's most difficult and irritating opponent: its camera. The camera in Kenka Bancho does very little to help you during combat. Instead, it will continue to point in whichever direction it is currently placed until you decide you wish to manually move it to a better position. Since the camera is controlled with the D-pad and Takashi with the analog nub, moving the camera means you're going to take a beating from all those enemies behind you that you cannot see until you're done repositioning it. This gets incredibly frustrating when outnumbered and enemies continue to maneuver around you.
With the camera and heart meter not helping it out any, the combat itself also isn't quite as responsive or accurate as it should be. Throwing punches and kicks is extremely sluggish, feeling almost like you're fighting under water. Trying to line up your character with your intended target can also be difficult while using the analog nub, leaving you to frequently throw attacks that often manage to miss their marks. The combat winds up feeling almost broken when you combine the bad camera, iffy aiming, sluggish attacks, and always-present heart meter together.
Since combat is at the core of everything you do in Kenka Bancho, it is really unfortunate that it doesn't work as well as it should. This is especially true considering how many other interesting ideas and good concepts the game has going for it. One of the best is the limited time frame in which you have to complete your goal of defeating all of the other Banchos. This keeps you constantly moving through the game and aware of how long it is taking you to do everything. You don't want to spend a ton of time traveling around the somewhat open city of Kyoto because travel and exploration take time that you just don't have to spare.