So I was planning for my first real review to be a big Sailor Moon thing but I have a ways to go yet until I get there; I still need to play a few other games in the series, one of which is actually an RPG.
So let’s talk about at title many of you have likely never heard of, or heard of, as I did, through the Game Grumps.
Well, this looks fucking epic. Let’s pop it in the Retron 2 and see what awesome adventures await!
I think the contrast speaks for itself.
Now before you all pull out your own kendo sticks and beat the shit out of me, I’m not writing this game off by a long shot. But oh dear, is there a lot of inconsistency. So I did some digging into its origins.
Kendo Rage, or as it’s known in Japan, Makeruna! Makendō (“Do Not Lose! Kendo Magic”), has two very different plotlines depending on which version you’re following. I find it more fascinating than annoying about how different the two are; localization, as any gamer knows, can be a very, very tricky thing. Phoenix Wright this is not (in every way, but mostly in how they managed to insert pop culture references and still keep it true to the original story). “All your base are belong to us,” this is closer to.
In the original Japanese version, Jo’s name is Mai Tsurugino. Osaka “Bob” Yorimoto is actually a spirit detective named Doro. Doro finds Mai and asks her to help him defeat monsters and evil spirits that have been plaguing the area, including Mai’s school.
If you couldn’t really gather what the hell was going on from the intro in the English version, a girl named Josephine (“YUK!”), or Jo, was sent to Japan by her parents to study the fighting art of kendo under a green-haired teacher named Osaka Yorimoto, or, as he likes to refer to himself, “Bob.” Bob is a kendo teacher who just happens to have this ancient artifact he received from another master on his 400th birthday party, and he gifts it to Jo, as he wants her to help him rid the world of evildoers, starting by the ridiculous amount that have suddenly appeared between her and her school.
So, different plotlines aside, the gameplay is still the same. Nothing was removed or added. The artifact given by Doro/Bob allows Mai/Jo to transform into a magical girl with rad kendo powers.
So let’s talk about the technical stuff.
You know anime?
You know early 90s anime?
This game is ripe with it, from the way Mai/Jo flails around when she gets hurt in a very chibi style, to how she holds her skirt down when she’s making a particularly long fall. Also her legs are a mile long, a la Sailor Moon. The enemies are also very cartoonish depictions of mythological and folktale creatures, like the ghosts:
And there’s an abundance of Engrish puns ahoy. There’s just a bunch of puns in general in this game, and Dad-jokes, so I hope you find those amusing.
Kroakie — Karaoke — Engrish — maybe they suck at singing??
The graphics are very bright and colorful. It, combined with the chipper, pretty mediocre but very peppy music, give you a feeling of zany fun, like a Saturday morning cartoon show. That said, it is a bit blurry and nondescript, especially for a system like the SNES which could be a graphical powerhouse when used correctly. Super Mario World this is not, but that’s also an unfair comparison. The strength in the graphics really does lie in the unique presentation.
I have to add I love the detail in the background, here. The way the waves are drawn and stylized is very reminiscent of the distinct style of ukiyo-e that we know from old Japanese art. I do think that’s very clever, and it looks really nice in the stage, giving it a bit more oomph. And that is the second boss in the game, Kroakie Kate.
While we’re on this screenshot, I’ll explain the UI.
- H.P. is pretty self-explanatory; hit points. That’s your health. You can regain health with two powerups; a bowl of rice, and dango (the Japanese dumplings, usually portrayed as three skewered on a stick).
- PSY. This is your attack meter. The higher it is, the more crazy things you do, like shoot lightning from your kendo stick (yes really), or have it briefly transform into a three-pronged kendo stick that shoot energy blasts, depending on the combo you’re doing. Each swipe takes up PSY, so if your PSY is lower, then you do simple hack and slash attacks, which you’ll be doing a lot more in later stages, where there are enemies abound and you’re just trying to move forward and avoid getting hit. It recharges pretty quickly, and I didn’t discover any powerups to help further it along. It isn’t necessary to have them, really.
- I honestly have zero clue what the green and yellow orbs do. You can collect them from an enemy that carries them around in a bubble, but there was no way to activate or use them, as far as I could tell, and no final score counter.
- The timestamp in the upper left is not the remaining time you have left. In fact, it increases the further you go, starting at 4:00. Perhaps this is telling time? Or it’s like how Japan has timestamps on the upper left corner of their television shows so you know what time it is, either to give this more of the Saturday-morning-cartoon feel, or just a way for you to keep track of how long Jo/Mai is taking to get to school.
- The kendo swords are your lives. Simple as that. You get four continues that start you off at the beginning of the stage you’re on.
There are only three buttons to really use, and you can configure them any way you want in the options menu at the title screen. You have an Attack button, a Jump button, and a Dash button. The Dash also uses PSY, and is a power-charged attack, but I honestly didn’t find it that useful, except in one stage where it looks like Jo/Mai accidentally wandered onto a Megaman set being built:
the hills have eyes
Gameplay wise, it’s zany but it is quite fun. There weren’t a lot of problems with the controls, and it handled really well. The enemies are creative, and some are exclusive only to certain stages. There’s one part where you’re running down a hill, but wide-eyed snakes keep popping out of the ground. So as much as you’d love to just run down the hill with reckless schoolgirl abandon, you have to be quite careful, and keep an eye just ahead of Jo/Mai for the telltale googly eyes. Another fun mechanic I really liked was the underwater level — jumping multiple times allowed you to swim. There was no swimming animation, but it added another dimension to the level, and let you avoid enemies easier. There’s a problem that’s present in virtually every old game, and that’s the hit point on the pixels; I’ve fallen through platforms quite a few times even though I landed on the damn thing. It can be very picky in certain parts, but thankfully it’s not enough to be unplayable. Just a few minor parts of irritation here and there.
The game is pretty short; there’s only seven levels, and they don’t take too long to get through. Each one is very unique both in setting, background art, and enemies. How it relates to the “plot” is beyond me, since there really isn’t one, but it’s fun nevertheless. I was able to beat it when I first sat down to play it last night in about an hour and a half.
The music isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t up there in terms of videogame classics, hence why I previously described it as mediocre. Nothing to write home about, but you’ll jam a bit on some stages; the base line in the not-Megaman stage is really fun.
Overall? It’s a fun little game to pop in and play when you’re in the mood for some zany fun beat-em up.
Is it worth buying?
If you can get it for a cheap price, sure. There aren’t a lot of copies floating around, and it’s a bit of a anime-cult game, so it does end to go anywhere from 20 to 40 bucks cart only. It’s absolutely not worth dropping 40 bucks on, unless you just have money to blow and this sounds amazing. I paid about $30 for it, but I also should have been more patient. I’d say see if you can find it for about $20 if you absolutely have to have it but you’re short on cash. Otherwise? It’s a great emulation game, since it’s so short and hard to find.
Overall, it’s definitely a more unique game in the SNES library, and really weird, but by no means is it bad.
And remember, kids: