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Kendo Rage

Seta Corporation 1993

Super Nintnedo


Back in the day platforming games were huge. Many, many companies out there tried to emulate the success of the Mario and Sonic games with their own cutesy character, most of them without much success. The result for us was a deluge of crappy platforming games, starring everything from flying squirrels to super heroes that attacked with boogers.

This particular game follows the basic platforming mold, the difference here being that the game is done in a distinct anime style. Thing is this was released at a time when anime was still pretty underground, back when you had little choice on TV beyond Voltron or Robotech. All you could get at the video store were badly dubbed, cropped VHS tapes that sometimes changed around the entire premise of the show. Good quality, subtitled anime was unheard of, and the only way to get it was via bootlegs at conventions or through a network of geeky friends. This was reflected in game releases, many games had content changes to downplay their "ethnic-ness" for the American market. In some games (a famous case being Ranma 1/2) the entire thing would be changed so much that it wouldn't even be recognizable. Thus this particular game is a gem in the fact that very little content seems to have been altered from the Japanese release.

The game is set up almost exactly like one of those cutesy schoolgirl type shows like Sailor Moon or something (although to my knowledge it's not based on a show) and as such it has a lot of the Japanese humor that people just didn't understand back then, stuff like Chibi or SD characters, wacky facial expressions, etc. I'm sure some people bought this game based on the box art thinking it was going to be a "serious" action platformer and were probably surprised (or disappointed.)

The game follows a schoolgirl named JO who is studying Kendo under a samurai master who is green and has a mowhawk, and on her way to school has to kill a bunch of monsters. Yeah, that makes sense.. it's obvious it doesn't take itself too seriously. The game plays as a very generic platformer, run, duck, jump on floating platforms, and beat stuff up with your Kendo training sword. You can charge the sword to give it extra power and thus shoot an energy wave (like we've never seen that one before) and you get the usual health and weapon powerups, etc. The levels look good with lots of detail and colors, but they do follow the standard platforming conventions that have become so dated nowadays (ice blocks that you slide on for instance, does every platformer need an ice level?) Overall the levels are generally well laid out without very many blind jumps or cheap hits.

Jo's animations are pretty funny (like when she gets hit, or how she struggles to keep her skirt down as she falls off a ledge or something,) also most of the enemy types are somewhat wacky as well. The first boss is someone wearing a badly done, oversized JO suit in an attempt to kill and impersonate her - you didn't see this kind of stuff in games back then. All this cutesyness is pretty misleading though as the game is unnecessarily hard. You get four hits, even on the easy difficulty level. And as this is one of those games where bad guys regenerate as you scroll forwards and backwards it can get a bit frustrating.

As I understand it the game didn't get much in the way of sales but has become sort of a cult classic in recent years (I guess that's one good thing about emulation, exposing people to sleepers they may never have heard of otherwise.) Thing is today Anime conventions that the game uses are more widespread in American pop culture, and if such a game were released today it would probably do a lot better. So you anime fans out there today be thankful you have the receptive climate we live in.

Graphics: Very clean and colorful, with some good, detailed backgrounds with a nice amount of parallax. Characters are large and detailed and quite funny (and weird) looking. Jo could use a few more frames of animation for her walk and attack cycles.

Sound: Happy tunes go well with the game's lighthearted atmosphere. There isn't much in the way of special effects or voice, what sound effects are there are appropriate.

Gameplay: Standard platforming fare, which can get a bit grueling at times (such as areas where you miss a critical jump and have to do a whole section of the level over again.) A small health meter and regenerating enemies get annoying, but for the most part the game could probably be completed after a few tries.

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