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If there is one type of game that the Playstation suffers a severe shortage from it must be the beat-em-up where more than two human controlled characters battle it out in a single arena. In fact this is possibly the most eagerly anticipated promise that the Playstation 2 could offer. But why wait?
If my memory serves me right this has already been attempted with moderate success in Wu-Tang and Thrill Kill. Now Infogrames have entered the arena with a fighting game that includes both a single player story mode and intense multiplayer action.
The Year is 2011. The Pegasus Corporation's mysterious new virus-hunting program has malfunctioned beyond repair. It has adapted and mutated into a humanoid form. Its mind has evolved at a rate beyond calculation. Its strength has been harnessed and primed. Its power and influence ready to be unleashed.
Aware of the situation and realizing the implication of such forces, the United Government has sent in a crack team of coverts, a specialist group of combat hackers and technological experts to investigate and exterminate with extreme prejudice.
Sound and Vision:
Gekido is a 3D beat-em-up that attempts to cover two modes of play within one single title. There is the usual enclosed 3D arena where one Vs one and multi-player team battles take place, while the story mode is a side scrolling barrage of non-stop action. This was recently attempted with moderate success in Tekken 3 when Force Mode was offered in addition to the standard Arcade game. Personally I don't believe the two go together and the best fighting games are those that throw all resources into one or the other. Combinations always seem to end up with two half games, or in Tekken's case one classic and another inferior also-ran.
The graphical presentation within the side scrolling mode may not be the best we have seen on Playstation, but what's on show is certainly functional. The flat backgrounds contain a fair amount of detail and regularly changes to suit the theme. However, it's in front of these scenic drops where things begin to get interesting, as each section is jam packed with interactive objects. Pick up barrels and smash them down upon groups of enemies to seriously damage their lifeline. If you don't act quickly then your opponents will surely use them first. Similar to the Fighting Force game vending machines and cars can be demolished, subway trains fought on top of and rampaging bikers must be avoided.
Now this all sounds like great fun... and it would be had this been a 3D action game. But it's not! It's a side scroll'er and true to form the depth of the play area proves to be the main problem. It's far too shallow, especially when up to six enemies are squeezed on screen at one time. Most enemies must be taken out by blindly thrashing any combination on the joypad because it's often impossible to see where your character is within the crowded screen. This shouldn't pose a problem in the Arena mode... but it does. There's barely enough room for a two player head to head, never mind squeezing four contestants into such a confined space.
Individually the large polygon characters look fine with each attack providing a visual extravaganza. Once again it is only when four characters get into the same arena that a combination of these effects reduces the whole screen to something resembling a Chinese Fireworks display. To help ease the congestion unmovable objects become transparent when close by, but removing them completely would perhaps have been the better solution. Overall a lot of effort has been put into the graphical side of Gekido but there is just too much going on in such a small space to appreciate it.
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