Tokyo Beat Down (DS) review
"What Tokyo Beat Down does right is all in its script. Developer Success and localizer Atlus know they’re working in a genre filled with clichés and Lewis Cannon’s every word and interaction with NPCs reflects this. They go so far as to name the NPCs things like "Cop who is providing back story" and "guy who is about to get beat up.” There are even multiple endings, and it's to the writer's credit that I'm curious to see what they are and what plot elements they reveal. Unfortunately, you couldn't pay me to play through again."
I have to admit, I've been a little depressed in the gaming world lately. A lot of people are riding high off of Resident Evil 5, but not me so much. The things I look for in a game (good level design, decent writing, and entertaining gameplay) so rarely come together these days that I've found myself desperately revisiting the classics (Half Life 2, Metal Gear Solid, Alundra) in the same way that I occasionally call my ex to "see how she's doing."
Then I played Tokyo Beat Down and... well, no, I'm still desperately looking.
I was momentarily excited. The game introduced me to its main character, Lewis Cannon of the Beast Cops (sadly not a sadomasochist group, but just a really violent police force) and I instantly fell in love with him. Lewis Cannon is a man of little brains, but he makes up for it with a terrible grasp of reality and huge cajones. “You have no evidence!” one criminal shouts at Lewis during a confrontation. "Have is my middle name!" Lewis retorts, to the confusion of all. Another time, after felling a villain, Lewis is told to put handcuffs on the man. "You do it," he says. "This is the moment when the hero stares dramatically off camera."
Unfortunately, Lewis’ flair for the theatrical can’t make up for his lackluster fighting abilities. Oh, he tries. He comes to a fight equipped with extensive training in the art of “kicking guys in the face” which, if he’s feeling smarmy, he can easily combine with the slightly more subtle art of “punching bad guys repeatedly in the head.” If this somehow doesn’t prove to be enough, he can pull out all the stops and unleash his two signature special attacks: Screaming Really Loud and the flashy Spinning Kick. Or he can grab his enemies by the throat and pound them into submission before tossing them at friends. Or he can just pull out a gun and shoot everything.
Yes, Lewis has many options for dealing with the everyday thug. But Lewis has issues. Though his punches and kicks are very deadly, his aim is terrible and more often than not he ends up kicking air instead of the throats of evil-doers. His special attacks leave much to be desired, too, as he has a habit of hurting himself when he attempts them. Even his gun is pretty useless, as it’s filled with Nerf darts, making it about as deadly as a pair of middle schoolers at a Hannah Montana concert.
Maybe that’s why he brought along his two Beast Cop buddies, sexy Rika Hyoda and brick shit house Captain Bando. After all, repeatedly punching air and getting kicked in the groin by terrorists is a difficult job, and one does tire eventually. Unfortunately, though Rika is a little faster and Bando a little slower, both of them have the same exact issues as their pal, and neither likes to spend long in the spotlight before giving the mic back to Lewis.
With all that, it’s understandable that Lewis wouldn’t want to spend much of the game fighting, and instead opts to run around malls talking to people. Oh sure, occasionally this leads to a fight anyway, but then this is supposedly a beat 'em up title, so a small amount of fighting was to be expected.
Not all is hopeless. Though his aim sucks and his gun is ineffectual, if Lewis can just get his enemies up against a wall he can spam his limp wrist punch and after about fifty hits his opponent will take pity on him and pass out. Then he can get back to his usual routine of walking through the same location a thousand times until the game is over.
In a word, Tokyo Beat Down is boring. In two words, it’s excessively boring.
Now, I know beat 'em ups by their very nature are repetitive. There's not a whole lot of complexity to beating someone up with two buttons. Developers of yester-year were very aware of this fact, and did their damnedest to compensate by throwing in awesome things like women on flame-throwing hover crafts or levels where you surf on trash can lids inside a volcano while chasing a space ship.
Not here. Here you'll be lucky to fight a fat terrorist outside of a shopping district. And that just doesn’t cut it.
What Tokyo Beat Down does right is all in its script. Developer Success and localizer Atlus know they’re working in a genre filled with clichés and Lewis Cannon’s every word and interaction with NPCs reflects this. They go so far as to name the NPCs things like "Cop who is providing back story" and "guy who is about to get beat up.” There are even multiple endings, and it's to the writer's credit that I'm curious to see what they are and what plot elements they reveal. Unfortunately, you couldn't pay me to play through again. So I suppose I'll never know the true ending, or whether Lewis ends up dating Rika. And you know? That hurts a little.
But just a little.
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (April 16, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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