Tokyo Beat Down Review for Nintendo DS

Tokyo Let Down

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.

Tokyo Beat Down screenshot

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.

Tokyo Beat Down screenshot

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.

Tokyo Beat Down screenshot

After beating your way through a group of thugs, you’ll be prompted to move to the right. Yes, this game has players ever-progressing toward the right side of the screen, making levels nothing but linear. After progressing through a few mundane segments, you’ll be faced with more challenging boss battles. Regrettably, new ways of dispatching these enemies are not introduced. So, fighting these opponents is not any more interesting, just a bit more frustrating. All this button-mashing adds up to a lackluster gameplay experience that is more yawn-inducing than awe-inspiring.

Tokyo Beat Down screenshot

Also, this game severely suffers from single-player-only gameplay, a narrow camera perspective, and poor graphics. For starters, arcade titles such as Double Dragon were so fun because you could play side-by-side with a buddy. Not being able to play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, or at the very least, through local Nintendo DS Wireless Play is inexcusable. Although, even if multiplayer was included, it would have been thwarted by the restricted perspective. Players can only see about five to ten feet in font or behind them. Also, the game only allows you to run around in a very limited amount of space. Though there is a bit of depth, you’re essentially confined to a single plane. Other than hopping on car hoods and taking a step or two up or down, there’s nowhere to go in Tokyo Beat Down except to the right. Finally, the graphics are poor not only by Nintendo DS standards but also by beat-’em-ups. The blocky, blurry characters and their stiff animations have nothing on the pixelated sprites of the 8, 16, and 32 bit era. Fortunately, the 70s cop show vibe is nicely picked up on by the theme music. I just missed the wah-chicka-wah-chicka guitar riffs from similar, contemporary American series.

When all is said and done, Tokyo Beat Down is a charming tale that’s probably not worth playing through. The dated gameplay and stiff controls just don’t do the tongue-in-cheek storytelling justice. Most players will become quickly bored with this title, though there may be enough allure in the setting for genre veterans to suffer through the action.

The poor visuals are bad for both the DS and the beat-’em-up genre as a whole. 2.5 Control
The game works fine, but there’s not enough variation and complexity to keep you interested. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The theme music is a pleasant mix of genre-appropriate beats and loops. 2.5

Play Value
Despite multiple endings and distinct, enjoyable playable characters, Tokyo Beat Down greatly suffers from repetitive gameplay, unremarkable enemies, a lack of multiplayer support, and a restrictive camera perspective.

2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Beat ’em up that lets you shoot ’em up: When fisticuffs aren’t enough, add guns to deliver a whole new brand of justice to the mean streets of Tokyo. Pick up a variety of weapons, ranging from handguns to rocket launchers, for intense action on each level.
  • Badass 70’s cop show vibe: Outrageous style, over-the-top substance, and no holds barred, hardboiled police action mix with madcap humor and sharply-written dialogue. Dishing out justice to the seamy underbelly of Tokyo has never been this satisfying.
  • Multiple characters & endings: This sordid tale of Tokyo’s criminal set unfolds through the eyes of three different cops with unique play styles. Story branches lead to multiple endings that determine whether you’ll get your shot to beat down the ultimate crime boss.

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