Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Seigi no Mikata (PS2)

Most tokusatsu-themed games, whether they're based on actual shows, or just inspired by the genre's aesthetic and concepts, are fighting games or beat em ups. That's what I was expecting from Seigi no Mikata, but it turned out to be something completely different: an adventure game that attempts to simulate the entire role of a main character in a tokusatsu show, not just the parts where they're transformed and fighting enemies. In fact, the game emulates the structure of a tokusatsu TV show in general: there are episodes rather than stages, and each episode had opening and closing sequences and an ad break in the middle! Furthermore, your goal isn't necessarily to win every instance of combat, but to achieve a minimum percentage of the TV ratings each week.

Before you get to doing any of that, though, you do get to choose the look of your hero's transformed state. It's not a super in-depth character creator, since you can just mix and match parts for arms, legs, torso and head, but it interesting in another way. All the parts you can pick are blatant homages to classic tokusatsu and anime shows like Gatchaman, Kikaider, and even going all the way back to the likes of Gekkou Kamen, the first Japanese TV superhero from all the way back in 1958.

So, if it's not all combat, what does this game actually entail? Mostly, wandering around a small Japanese town (as a side note, if you like low-poly renditions of small Japanese towns, and I know some of you do, this is a pretty good one), talking to people and sometimes helping them with small problems, like herding their cats, finding their dropped contact lenses, and so on. Talking to people and solving their problems gives very tiny ratings boosts, while standing still doing nothing causes them to plummet. Every few minutes, though, there'll be an event, which means you have to go to the right location before it starts. (Amazingly, for the entire first episode, I managed to do this every time, entirely by chance. After that though, I went and found a guide, just in case). An event might be just a conversation with the other characters on the show, a battle with some mooks or a villain, or sometimes both. During the conversations, there are usually multiple choices, that can affect the ratings, though they'll slowly rise all the time an event is happening no matter what you do.

As for the combat, it's a disappointment. It starts with a little button-mashing minigame to do decide who goes first, then whoever does go first gets to pick their ten attacks (they can be punches, kicks or throws). After that, the other side tries to guess which ten attacks the attacker chose so they can defend. The whole thing then plays out, and if both sides are still standing, it starts again, but with the roles of attacker and defender reversed, until one side falls. It's not exciting at all, but since this isn't an action game generally, I guess they didn't want any difficulty walls for the adventure game fans that were probably going to buy it. But even Shenmue's branching path-style QTBs were better than this.

Seigi no Mikata is a game that I really wanted to like, as it's clear a lot of love went into its creation, and it is of a very high quality and full of ideas. The problem is that it's just so boring to play! A lot of your time is spent wandering around waiting for the next event to happen, and the events themselves aren't particularly exciting, either. You might level the same criticisms at Shenmue, but I'd say the difference is that in Shenmue, you have to actually investigate to make the events happen, plus its depictions of 1980s Japan and Hong Kong are so richly textured and full of life that it can get by pretty well on its atmosphere alone. In summary, play Shenmue instead of this, sorry.

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