Once upon a time there was a game called River City Ransom. On the surface this Technos game looked like any other 8-bit brawler, however it didn't take long to discover that this action game was incredibly ambitious. Instead of making you fight through levels that are straight out of a big budget action movie, this game took place around your home town. You were a bunch of teenagers exploring a series of inter-connecting areas, fighting gang members and saving the day.
River City Ransom is one of my favorite NES games, a cartridge I still go back to at least once a year. This is a game with a great sense of humor, adventure elements and enough depth to make me want to explore every nook and cranny of the city. For years I have wished for a 3D update to this classic game, something that incorporated the modern day sensibilities, all while mixing in a lot of the old school fun of River City Ransom. At long last I have found that game, and its name is Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble.
As the name suggests, Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a wacky Japanese street brawler that doesn't take itself too seriously. You play Takashi, a street-wise high school student on a class trip to Kyouto. While the intent is for you to learn from the beautiful locations, you have bigger aspirations. Your plan is to prove how tough you are by beating up the rest of the banchos in town. As luck would have it, banchos from around the country are here for exactly the same reason. It's up to you to beat up the 46 bonchos and prove to everybody that you are the toughest boncho of them all.
Okay, so the story is admittedly stupid. It's really just a set up for a kick-butt action game where you travel around a giant open world picking fights and beating up other district leaders. The game is split up into a bunch of different smaller districts, each with their own gangs, historical landmarks and commercial establishments. The idea is to go around and beat up as many district leaders as possible before time runs out. Unfortunately you only have a few days to travel around Kyouto and do as much damage as you can. What's more, you have to abide by the strict 9 pm curfew, which means that you only have twelve hours in each day to get into street fights.
All this is complicated even further when you realize that much of the game requires you to pay attention to where each gang is going to show up and when they frequent each location. Thankfully you can beat up random goons to find the lists of times and places where each bancho will be, but even with this invaluable information you're still racing against the clock to do and see everything. Because you are always aware that the clock is counting down, there's a great sense of urgency to locate every last bancho in town. And if you don't do it the first time, you're going to be just as committed to go in and try it over and over again until you finally are the king of Kyouto.
The combat is pretty good, for the most part. At first the combat feels a little clunky and sluggish. However, as my character leveled up and learned new moves, I realized the potential for the game. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble never achieves the level of control it should for being a 3D brawler, but it manages to get the job done without getting in the way. The level of depth and customizability is impressive, fans of micromanaging everything will get a kick out of how many moves you can choose. Even more impressive is how all of this is done with only a couple of buttons.
On top of having the standard punches and kicks, your character also has a series of throws, grabs, combos and special moves. You can also pick up weapons and cause even more damage. Unlike most traditional brawlers, the weapons (including baseball bats, metal pipes, pieces of wood, etc.) don't disappear after you've used them a few times. You can continue to use the same weapon day after day, which definitely comes in handy when you're going up against some of the harder boss characters.
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