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Kabuki Warriors (Xbox) artwork

Kabuki Warriors (Xbox) review

"The mere mention of Genki/Lightweight's samurai arcade brawlin' fighter Kabuki Warriors leads many gamers to sort of slink away and hardly murmur anything about it beyond that they heard from a guy who heard from a guy who heard from somebody that actually subscribes to IGNsider read that it sucks. Its the one game, Xbox or PS2 or GCN, that has managed to create this weird eerie mystery wrapped in an enigma around it. Its like when you ask your dad about your great uncle who fought in the batt..."

The mere mention of Genki/Lightweight's samurai arcade brawlin' fighter Kabuki Warriors leads many gamers to sort of slink away and hardly murmur anything about it beyond that they heard from a guy who heard from a guy who heard from somebody that actually subscribes to IGNsider read that it sucks. Its the one game, Xbox or PS2 or GCN, that has managed to create this weird eerie mystery wrapped in an enigma around it. Its like when you ask your dad about your great uncle who fought in the battle of Okinawa: you don't get any word of it other than it was bad.

Kabuki Warriors, in all its dancing moaning psuedo-realitstic-to-a-t glory, was my first experience on the Xbox. Working as I do now, a minimum wage slave monkey/yard ape for Electronics Boutique's bid for the Funcoland cash cow that is EB Gameworld, Kabuki Warriors was the first game I and a staffer, who remains indifferent and distance to the experience, ever tried on Microsoft's lumbering super console. And I must say I sort of kind of like it in an indifferent sort of way.

Kabuki Warriors comes out of a contractual obligation Genki more or less had with Crave concerning a suped up Xbox version of Kengo. Instead of a top-flight samurai epic fighter they provided a very bare-bone, simple arcade beat-em up. The game's sparse title screen actually has the same music that can be found in Kengo, itself the best PS2 game no one ever bought or played.

Kabuki Warriors' controls and gameplay are VERY simple. X blocks. Y sweeps. B jumps. A attacks. Moves are performed strictly with the A button and are done with a mix fowards, backs, AAA combos and such. X and A performs throws, and one can drive a sword down on a foe by jumping in the air and hitting B. The black and white buttons are tied to special moves. Battles are set in a theater in front of a pixel-flat audience. Pulling off dynamic moves and combos leads the crowd to throw money at the master ninja kabuki thespian, which serves as both the player's score and traveling money for one's merry troop in story mode (which will be explained later). The white button prompts your Kabuki Warrior/actor to perform a dance or threatening stance which roars up the crowd and fills a meter at the bottom of the screen shard by you and your opponent. While it is fairly easy to build that meter up by some sweeping sword moves and jump combos the most effective way is to do the character's dance which riles up the crowd and gives said Kabuki Warrior control of the audience as well as the opportunity to unleash a super move, the only super move one has, by hitting the black button. Character super moves vary wildly. Boy-dressed-as-girl-in-binding Kikunosuke drops smoke bombs that sets off plumes of smoke which bounce the opponent, and him if he's in the way, for significant damage. Stereotypical Kabuki actor Ukon turns invisible, which gains back health: if one's good they can be beaten to a pulp, use the super move, and still pull a perfect. Sadakuro unleashes a tornado, Tadnobu pulls the devastating ''Thousand Stab Fury,'' and Goro simply spits fire.

The game sports three modes: story is the real meat of the game as the player assembles a theater troop to tour Japan and eventually advance to Kyo, home to the greatest of the Kabuki Warriors. The game has one picking three characters for best-of-3 matches with rival theater troops. Initially, one is allowed just one character: Shinto-priestesque Shiroko. As a Kabuki Warrior wins best-of-3 matches at theaters the player is allowed to ''swap out'' actors from the losing side to be included in the troop. For instance if Joe ''Xbox Gamer that didn't want Shrek and got this game because he had to get the package deal at launch'' one 2-0 in rounds with Shiroko against the first troop that has Kikunosuke and Goro in it, Joe can swap Shiroko for either other character. Say he takes Kikunosuke from the second round and gives the troop Shiroko. Next match he can have Shiroko first round, Kikunosuke second round, then Shiroko again for the third. The player swapping is the way to unlock character for Vs play and Time attack. There are 12 stock characters with palate swaps for each making a total of 24. The palate swap characters- Ukon for instance is white haired and dressed in black while Sakon is the same character model but with red hair and blue clothes- all have the same moves sort of defeating the purpose of unlocking characters. The more warrior actors one encounters at theaters the more that are unlocked in the game's other 2 play modes.

Accumulating money in matches, as mentioned above, is to be used for travel expenses to another theater. The farther away a theater the more money must be spent to go there. One can go through every theater, I can't remember how many there are exactly other than the fact there are a whole damn lot of them, in order to accumulate a ton of money and unlock new character or one can play leap frog to get to the end of the game and beat it. There is no in-game save in story mode which can make story VERY long. Once the game is beaten auto save kicks in.

The game's other two modes are pretty generic. Two player mode is just that. Two people wail on each other in a host of levels that aren't available in story mode. The levels are all still theater based but the Vs. mode's levels sport 3-D backdrops of traditional 15th-18th century Japan. Bridges. Imperial gardens. That jazz. Time attack basically pits one player against endless droves of fellow Kabuki Warriors. The game tallies the number of enemies one has defeated and the total time it takes to defeat said foes. Time attack, from what I've played, is more or less endless. Once defeated one can enter their initials in a score table if they're good enough to make it.

Visually Kabuki Warrior's fairly mediocre. Nothing comes off as really pretty other than the impressive looking hair on Ukon/Sakon and some of the robes of the more samurai like characters. Poses and animation seem vary for each character except for their dance. They're all the same. The boards on each stage looks good for wood and the silk screen backgrounds of story mode are particularly nice. The only thing that comes off bad really is the crowd: a mostly just a first row of flat pixel people with their arms perpetually up in the air. The capture animations of the characters were, according the end game credits, taken from actors in some imperial Kabuki troop. There is not animation in any of the character's faces. Which is kind of creepy. Basically Kabuki Warriors comes off as a decent DC game. Nothing amazing but nothing eyebleeding either.

I have a hard time recommending Kabuki Warriors. It isn't as amazingly bad as everyone seems to think. It can actually be mindless fun with multiple people. Shrek, New Legends, and Cel Damage jump to mind as worst games. The story mode is, arguably, better here than in DOA3 which involves mostly beating the game with every character to get an end movie. Story mode in Kabuki Warriors can last several hours and lead to unlocking more stuff than anything in DOA3. Still DOA3 is a must have over this. At $20 or less I say give it a whirl. It won't emotionally scar or turn you, or lead to you being ostracized by your friends.

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Community review by pestes (June 20, 2002)

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