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Kendo Rage (SNES) artwork

Kendo Rage (SNES) review

"Kendo Rage began life as a Japanese adventure starring a young girl who fights monsters with the aid of a spirit detective. For the US release, things were changed slightly..."

“Hi! I’m Jo. (short for Josephine… YUK!)

“I just love martial arts, especially Kendo.

“So it was, like, TOTALLY cool when my parents decided to send me to Japan for my Summer vacation…”

Kendo Rage began life as a Japanese adventure starring a young girl who fights monsters with the aid of a spirit detective. For the US release, things were altered to better suit the tastes of a Western audience, hence the foreign exchange plot and liberal use of Valley Girl slang. Some of you may consider this more alienating than the original story, but never mind. Jo’s goal is to get to school, which sounds straight-forward, but proves very tricky because her route takes her through forests, underwater, across an ice world and into a factory filled with killer robots. Fortunately, she’s given guidance by Osaki Yoritomo, Japan’s greatest Kendo master, or Bob for short, because obviously Japanese names are too weird for us Western folk to remember.

For a game that would appear to invite little but sarcasm and cynicism, Kendo Rage is surprisingly endearing. The dialogue between Jo, Bob and the game’s bosses is super cheesy but this actually makes the story more entertaining than your average generic 16-bit side-scroller.

Right at the start Jo is given a mystical talisman that will imbue her with magic powers (and make her skirt super short). She is visibily excited by this, saying “OOH, it’s SOO CUTE!” before proceeding to ask Bob where the batteries go and whether it comes in blue. Bob does not look impressed by this. Perhaps he needs to take a chill pill. His attitude changes slightly when you defeat the first boss, an oversized squat anime imposter version of Jo, although his words still come with caution.

Kendo Rage (SNES) image

The game itself is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash adventure that is considerably more formulaic than its odd plot. The dominant enemy type is that old early-90s video game favourite, the aggressive blob. There are blobs with top hats, underwater blobs, blobs with faces and robot blobs. There are blobs that float around, blobs that dart towards the player and blobs that are stuck on the ground. You do meet some other enemies, such as bears (!) and Japanese men in suits (!!) but most of your time is spent bursting blobs. The best thing that can be said about this is that it keeps the action quick, although Jo has very long legs and moves a bit slowly so it can be a bit of a pain trying to hit some of the more lively blobs.

Kendo Rage (SNES) image

Jo is armed with a kendo stick that is given magical power by the mystical talisman that is presented to her by Bob. Pushing the attack button when the PSY meter is fully charged unleashes a triple shot of energy that is useful for dealing with floating blobs. A half-charged attack sends a stream of fiery energy towards your opponent while a depleted meter leaves you with just a basic kendo stick strike. Jo does possess a special charge attack that sends her dashing towards her enemy in a blaze of white energy. It’s particularly effective on bosses but costs health, which is a cheap way to restrict use of a special attack.

At the end of every stage a school bus arrives to take Jo to the next location. Her journey takes her through a forest, an ice world, a factory, underwater, the mean city streets; all the standard stops. The levels are bright and colourful and the music is full of energy but it’s hard to get excited about stages that you’ve seen a thousand times before. Sometimes the game threatens to get a bit more interesting but these moments aren’t fully developed. I was intrigued by the prospect of descending a mountain aboard a funicular railway but, after a few seconds spent fighting off killer monkeys, the trip was over and the opportunity for something a bit different had been missed.

The bosses are a little more imaginative than the stages. Their attack patterns are pretty routine for the genre, but the design and dialogue is at least unique and amusing. I don’t think I’ve ever fought an owl on a moving train before. His name is Dr. Who. When you fight one late game boss, a pink-haired girl with an even shorter skirt, the background changes to a surreal blizzard of roses. I think this is solely to justify her pun, as she promptly declares that “evil will LOVE to be SERVED a ROSY victory!” However, the cheesiest pun comes from the transforming mech you fight mid-way through the game.

Kendo Rage (SNES) image

Despite its zany villains, the game runs out of steam towards the end. Clearly fearing it to be a little on the short side with only six brief stages, the developers resorted to another genre staple, the boss rush. Yawn.

Kendo Rage is a very very ordinary side-scroller that is redeemed slightly by its unusual humour, but you’re going to have to put up with a lot of blandness for the few fleeting moments of imagination. The levels are timed, because Jo has to get to school ASAP, so it might be worth it for those who absolutely love action games and want to race against the clock, but unless you’re really bored of replaying the genre’s classics I’d recommend you avoid Kendo Rage. It’s a shame really, because I was hoping to be able to finish this review by praising Kendo Rage as a gnarly adventure that is like so totally tubular. Oh well.

Kendo Rage (SNES) image

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Community review by JANUS2 (March 31, 2015)

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