Kengo Zero Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Bushido Blade and Kengo Zero may not share the same title, but nonetheless the two games have a fair bit in common. Both feature flamboyant sword wielding samurai’s and the chance to cut down your opponent with a single mighty blow.

Kengo Zero (again developed by the blacksmiths behind Bushido Blade, ah so that explains that family resemblance then) is much more of a simulation than your Dead or Alive’s, Tekken’s or Soul Calibur’s, all of which offer flashy skirmishes and some impossible flurries of moves.

The main mode (that’s actually its name) isn’t simply just a sequence of one-on-one encounters with likeminded samurai (they all want to kill each other) only interrupted by the occasional and often nonsensical and brief story interludes that you’d find in about 98% of fighting games.

Here it’s more like one of those ancient scrolling fighting games, where you take on lots of people and then take on a harder enemy at the end of every level. Each of the nine characters have their own storyline, most of which are reasonably enjoyable at the very least and involve lots of men (and a lady) scowling at each other and sounding mad in Japanese (yes, gladly we don’t have to put up with terrible American voices that would ruin the atmosphere and authenticity of the game). It’s just a shame that the mode itself is a bit dull and repetitive.

In between levels you’re able to spend experience points earned in the previous battle, to buff up your chosen Samurai, allowing you to improve his or her abilities in a number of categories as well as to learn new moves. Many of these moves aren’t really required, but having the choice is always nice and the RPG esque elements do liven up the mode somewhat.

The challenge mode is also a pretty substantial single player mode, which tasks you with achieving a variety of objectives ranging from simple kill all the enemies within an allotted time limit to protection missions. Rather nice is the fact that your score can be uploaded to see just how you measure up against the superhuman skills of the Japanese (of which make up the majority of the top half of each leaderboard).

Which brings us as smoothly as a flowing river to the online play, or lack of. Indeed, Kengo Zero doesn’t feature online play, well certainly not of the traditional kind anyway. In the single player, you’ll gain AI traits which essentially reflect your tactics used throughout the mode. Completing the story of any of the characters, allows you to sign them up for the Xbox Live Nationwide Contest, where you can witness your AI samurai going to work against your similarly AI opponents, who too were brought into the world by real people. It’s a nice idea, but is no substitute for true online play and is ultimately a bit of a novelty.

It’s the two player combat mode that offers the most long term appeal of the lot. Here you’ll see the true colours of the combat system, which is deeper than first impressions may suggest and proves that you don’t need ten string combos, quarter circle commands and as mere mortals might say, more than ten fingers to offer a relatively deep fighting game.

Such facets as Kumiatchi, where you and your opponent lock swords and try and over power one another and the stamina bar which when emptied can result in satisfying one hit kills, become a bit more prevalent when you’re facing a fellow human being and can result in some beautifully tense encounters.

The graphics though aren’t very beautiful and give you the sense that it was built on a small budget, perhaps an understatement as there are better looking games on the humble PS2. For every pretty sunset and its impressive lighting effects, there are thousands of other problems, such as poorly detailed character models (not bad design wise though) and environments. In the more closed in battlegrounds, the camera is horrific and in such areas it wasn’t uncommon for the silly camera man to lose both warriors and focus on a wall instead and not even a very well textured one at that.

Kengo Zero was certainly deserving of a bigger budget for the developer to craft a more technically accomplished game as there is a lot to like here, though it certainly doesn’t have the staying power of the best that the genre has to offer. It’s at the very least worthy of a rental or to be picked up when it inevitably drops in price soon.