Demon Chaos (PlayStation 2) review
"Holy. Fucking. Shit. "
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
That's what you'll be saying the first time you start a level, watching as the camera pans up to reveal a battlefield with literally THOUSANDS of characters on screen at once with not a bit of pop in. Seriously, if there's one thing you need to know about Ikusa Gami, it's that the game engine can put a completely unheard of number of characters on screen at once. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest, one level in particular had so many friends/foes on screen that I couldn't even see the ground textures; it was just a sea of characters and then the backgrounds far off in the distance.
In fact even after putting countless hours into the game, I’m still amazed by what Genki managed to get the PS2 to do. There are some sacrifices made for sure, such as low poly count enemies and the game appears to be pretty low res, but these shortcomings are hidden nicely by awesome design choices. For example, your troops all wear armor that covers up most of what would require curved edges like faces and limbs and such, while the enemies are all spider looking demons with sharp skull like features. Impressively enough the horses used by your generals look MUCH better than the horses in Dynasty Warriors, and all this while you have two armies of 500-1000 characters apiece shooting glowing arrows back and forth on screen at once! There isn’t a hint of pop in, hell I even tried to get enemies to pop in by running into hordes of them and just rotating the camera and moving erratically, but I never saw anything. The game also never resorts to using the cheap as fuck “fog” gimmick to hide pop in, if you get on a high enough point you can see pretty much the entire map most of the time along with the battles going on in the distance. It’s an amazing achievement and I only wish Koei would take note.
Once you get over the stunning graphics, you're left with a very nice button masher in the vein of Dynasty Warriors, only pumped up about 1000 times til it's muscles look like rocks shoved under it's skin. Everything is over the top in the this game, from the amount of kills you can get per stage (over 65,000 on some) to the berserker barrage your main character can unleash whenever your gauge is even slightly filled. Hell, there's even an item you can get on the battlefield that will let you just mash square for about 15 seconds while your warrior does H-bomb level attacks over and over, clearing the immediate area so thoroughly you can actually watch huge swathes of red dots (enemies) on your map disappear. “Fun as fuck” doesn't EVEN begin to describe it.
To some people this all might sound graphically impressive yet ultimately repetitive and boring in the long run, but there is a bit of strategy involved to mix it up. You can build different types of altars to help your troops out, from upping attack power to giving everyone in the vicinity more health. There are also giant crystals that generate endless streams of enemies that you will need to destroy, but the catch is that your character can’t destroy them himself; you need to guide your troops to them. You can issue a basic “hold” or “follow” command to your troops which is helpful when you’re trying to clear a path for them through the enemy. More than once I failed a stage simply because I got too greedy with the kills and didn’t stop to help my troops to a target or build them some altars. You also need to keep your generals alive on most stages, which isn’t hard at all since they are pretty badass themselves, but it’s still something you need to keep your eye on incase you’re off in one corner hunting for new weapons and they just got surrounded in the other corner by some of the HUGE spider bosses that sometimes appear.
The premise for all this carnage and button mashing nirvana is that you’re some sort of demon wolf warrior or something that travels around with a girl helping out Japan while it’s being invaded by a flood of spider looking demons. You’ll meet famous historical figures like Nobunaga and such, but honestly I skipped most of the cut scenes so that’s about as much as I can tell you. The action is where it’s at, and you won’t be disappointed in the slightest. You have 3 main attacks; hitting square will make you do a short combo, X usually blocks but if you hit it after your combos you can link more combos together almost infinitely, and finally triangle will do one of a few different area clearing attacks (depending on at what point in your combo you use it) that take up a small amount of your special meter. You can also hit the L1 button to start what I call a berserker mode where you just mash square and steer the wolf guy into the enemy, he’ll swing his weapon in huge screen-filling arcs that will kill anything in his path, basically all you have to do is watch your map and point him towards where the most enemies are. It never gets old seeing a few thousand enemies thrust up out of the ground around you like Mexicans in a strawberry field after someone yells “BOYO SI YI YI!”, then mowing them down with your berserker rage.
In between levels you can check out what new weapons you might have unlocked during a stage. There are swords, giant swords, axes, GIANT axes, and even staffs and ranged weapons. Every weapon affects your stats in different ways, and since you never level your character up this is how you make him buffer. There are 99 total weapons to find; some can be found in crates and barrels on the battlefield, while others are only unlocked after achieving a really high score during the stage. There’s also a free battle mode where you can just pick a map and try to kill 65535 enemies in 10 minutes, it’s fucking insane.
This game is so nicely polished that it’s hard to find any faults with it. Even the intro is amazing, with hand drawn art accompanied by a badass metal song to get you pumped up. My only complaint is that the actual in game cinemas don’t look as good, you get either still character art with text boxes or some fairly old looking CG sequences that just don’t match the level of graphical excellence found in the rest of the game. But like I said, I usually button through them anyway and unless you can understand Japanese there’s really no point in watching them, so it’s no big deal. Also I wished that the weapons all had different looking combos, they all look too similar and it kind of negates the coolness of using a huge sword the size of an airplane wing if it has the same combos as a tiny katana. Weapons also have attributes that I couldn’t read which probably affect gameplay greatly, mostly I just went with whatever weapon upped my attack and speed the most so there could be some pretty interesting weapons that I just didn’t know what to do with.
Ikusa Gami is probably one of the best imports you will ever blow $60 on, and it’s a shame that it’s not scheduled for a US release. Here’s hoping that some publisher picks up the rights to this amazing game and decides that Americans are burly enough to appreciate this, the burliest of all burly brawlers (seriously this game is so burly that when I opened the case a huge ball sack covered in the thickest of pipe cleaner pubes fell out).
Community review by guts (December 14, 2005)
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