Friday, 11 July 2014

Kakutou Bijin Wulong (PS2)

I'll apologise in advance for the quality of the screenshots accompanying this post. PS2 screenshots tend to look pretty bad at the best of times, but for some reason this game was particularly unphotogenic.

Kakutou Bijin Wulong is a beat em up developed by Dream Factory, though unfortunately there isn't much trace of their trademark roguelike elements in there, other than a stamina bar that can be used to partially restore the player's health by resting. It does use their typical control method, though, with a face button each for low, medium and high attacks, and shoulder buttons for jumping, guarding and grappling.

It's also based on a comic of the same name (or sometimes known as "Fighting Beauty Wulong"), and though I haven't read that comic and the game is entirely in Japanese, from what I can work out, the game's about a teenage girl (who might be an immigrant to Japan from China?) being taught to fight by an old man (her grandad?), who uses a very on-the-job approach to martial arts tutelage, forcing the girl to repeatedly prove herself by fighting in various situations. And these situations are the stages of this game. Oddly, though the game has its origins in a comic, there's something about the aesthetic and the way the game feels that reminds me more of those slightly seedy low budget tokusatsu heroine movies and series that companies like Zen Pictures put out.

Because the game is really, brutally hard, I've only been able to get a few stages in, and so far I've been on the seedy backstreets fighting criminal goons, in a dojo fighting trainee wrestlers, out in the woods fighting wild bears and then in a wrestling ring in a flashy stadium, fighting pro wrestlers.

The stages are laid out in a typical beat em up fashion: you start in an area and beat up everyone there before moving on to the next area. After a few areas, you'll fight a boss, and then go onto the next stage. An interesting and unique element the game has is that for each area, the player is randomly given five items, which are selected by pressing left and right on the d-pad, and used with up on the d-pad (movement is done using the left analogue stick, of course). These items will be a mix (different every time) of any of five things: health-restoring melons, stamina-restoring cheese wedges, and red, blue or green cards. The cards are the most interesting ones, as each one represents a different special move: blue is a powerful strike straight ahead on one target, green is a hurricane kick-type maneuver that will hit anyone near the player, and best of all, red picks up the nearest enemy for a giant swing, which then damages any enemies that get in the way of it.

This is an interesting alternative to more common systems, like specials limited by a power bar or performed via input commands. Interesting and original, but not necessarily good. Like always with random elements, the "five items" mean the player sometimes has to rely on luck more than skill to proceed, and unlike in some games, such as roguelikes and even Dream Factory's trademark roguelike/beat em up hybrids, rather than feeling like an extra little challenge that forces players to be resourceful and cunning, it just feels cheap, and like the player would be better off resetting and trying again on receipt of a bad hand.

That said though, Kakutou Bijin Wulong isn't a bad game, it's not a chore to play or anything, and though it's on a console with more than a generous helping of beat em ups, it could still be worth a look if you've played a fair few of them already and still want more.

No comments:

Post a comment