Hands-On Preview: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (Sony PSP)

While it certainly has its repercussions, who wouldn’t want to be a badass? Power, money, respect and some attraction from the opposite sex go hand in hand with the label if we are to believe Steven Seagal movies, however, Atlus’s upcoming Kenka Bancho shows us that the times of a badass can also be fun. Kenka Bancho finally rears its head in the United States after a handful of Japan-only releases and when Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble releases stateside on November 11th, American gamers will finally get a first-hand taste of banchosity, originally crafted by the minds at development studio Spike.

A bancho is the term given to a person that represents the strongest fighter in a district or school and kenka is used to describe a fight, which is very fitting as the title is filled to the brim with both flavors. The title is actually called Kenka Bancho 3 in Japan and the themes definitely aren’t abandoned for this U.S. version – the player enters the game while on a bus taking the main character’s school class on its “senior trip.” The player quickly learns they are at the helm of a delinquent with the default name Takashi Sakamoto (the name can be changed) who couldn’t care less about school, most of his classmates or the trip he is on. However, he plans on making the most of it by recalling the training given to him by his father before leaving for the trip (which serves as the hands-on tutorial that guides players through the basic controls and fighting techniques) and looking forward to flexing his fighting prowess while in the fictional city of Kyouto (the game jokes a few times about the city not being the actual Japanese city of Kyoto).

Fresh off of transit, it doesn’t even take a minute or two for the player to get into their first scrap, coincidentally with the local bancho. At this point, Takashi becomes the local bancho and he slowly learns of an annual school trip tradition where with so many schools visiting the area in the same week, a sort of “competition” has developed where 47 different territories are represented with banchos. Thus, the player is given one week to take down the other 46 banchos and leave their mark as the supreme badass in Kyouto. In order to locate each bancho, though, players will have to shake up some of the visiting schools’ thugs and wrestle an itinerary away from them. These itineraries show the player where that school’s students are required to be at certain times of the week, so once a player has the school’s itinerary, they can locate that school’s bancho on the playfield.

Much like other Spike titles, Kenka Bancho forces time management on the player, making their choices and efficiency a key factor in how successful they are in the game. Banchos only appear at certain locations during specific times of the day and if players miss their chance to dominate, they may potentially lose out on the opportunity for good on that particular trip. Luckily, there is a rule instated in which a bancho that defeats another bancho gains any territory they have under their control, so defeating one bancho may put a number of territories under your control (along with peons that you can call at almost any time to join you in battle). However, the game isn’t purely about running around wherever you want and whenever you want as, being a student, you’ll have to avoid trouble whenever possible. The player will be required to partake in scheduled events dictated by the school itinerary, players can be arrested if caught fighting in public within the sight of an officer or detective, the player has a curfew at which time they have to return to the hotel for the night, the player has to be at the station to leave Kyouto at a certain time on the final day and the player will also have to make choices to determine their relationship with some of the other key characters in the game. While the title is huge on action, the player also has to wisely plot their course of action, injecting some strategy and planning in this interesting title.

Atlus was eager to show off the title in a presentation in which Aram Jabbari of Atlus showcased a day in the life of a bancho, checking out what is being offered in stores, clothing outlets and barbers, detailing the game’s robust and customizable fighting moves, explaining the time structure and, most importantly, punching in faces. On top of that, the company has allowed us some hands-on time with the title, so here is what you can expect once this portable punchfest drops in early November.

Being a fan of the Way of the Samurai series, I am all too familiar with the feel of a title such as Kenka Bancho – the game is deceptively shallow on its surface, but once you realize the scores of options and paths available to you, Kenka Bancho becomes a whole new game. So far Badass Rumble is proving to be perfect for gaming on the go: You can plow through a day in the game in about half an hour and come back later to where you left off or tackle the Night Out mode if you want some quick gaming or you can kill a few hours at home or on a long trip by playing through the in-game week outright. Being able to get into a portable game for short and long periods of time serves the format well and Badass Rumble has the tools to accomplish both. Just like in Spike’s Way of the Samurai series, players are able to keep what they earned in a playthrough for a new game+ variant of the gameplay and multiple endings and scenarios are available to the player depending on their choices and actions, meaning Badass Rumble is a shorter game that you will want to play over and over.

Once players check into their hotel, they can customize not only their appearance with different clothing and hairstyle options, but also their movesets. Players can learn new moves in two different ways – through the tried-but-true method of gaining experience points to level up and earn new standard attacks and taking down a bancho to learn their signature special move. From the hotel or while on one of the game’s various modes of public transportation, players can change their movesets which give them a string of three moves that end with a combo finisher, jumping attacks, running attacks, grapple moves, charge moves, special moves and more, giving players a decent arsenal to pull from while in battle. Not only does leveling up grant moves, but also bancho souls that raise the player’s level in strength, endurance, speed, defense and hit points, giving the game a distinct RPG feel. For clothing and hairstyles, players will need to visit Kyouto’s shopping district where they can purchase items with their hard-earned Yen. There are number of bancho-style items, casual items and even silly items to find as you progress, but players will also have to keep the number of pockets the clothing article has into account. Players can have up to eight pockets on their person and certain clothes contain more or less pockets than others, forcing players to be wise with their appearance as well.

While out in the streets of Kyouto, players will find they have a lot to accomplish in a meager seven days among the living city. Pedestrians and thugs will mingle in the environments as the player tries to enjoy their class trip and it will be up to players to weed out the thugs and pound them into submission. School thugs will stand out though as they walk around like they own the city with a cocky demeanor or by forming groups and loitering outside of buildings (the fact some carry weapons is a bit of a giveaway as well). While Kenka Bancho might seem like a senseless affair of just running around and punching anything the player wants to, fighting in the title is more of a display of respect. If a player wishes to engage a thug, they will hold the right trigger which fires a “menchi beam” from the eyes of their character. This gaze of physical challenge will lock onto the thugs eyes’ and if they wish to engage, they will fire a menchi beam back, starting off a staredown. During this time, players will have a chance to smash talk the opponent to make them look cool and get in a first attack. A phrase will pop up on the screen and players will have to repeat it back by pressing the face or shoulder buttons when prompted. Some hilarious conversations can occur if players mess up the sentences and there are also hidden sentence combinations that deal more damage for your first strike. By taking down thugs, the player’s bancho ranking increases, detailing how bancho their actions are, however, the game’s opinion of you will go down if you harm innocent people, destroy environments, get arrested and more.

Not only does the player only have seven days to accomplish all of their tasks, but they are also under time constraints as players wake up at 10 a.m. daily and must be back at the hotel by 9 p.m. At 1 p.m., the morning officially ends and enters the second period of the day, not giving players much time to run across the vast sections of Kyouto. Thankfully, players can use buses, subways and taxis to quickly transport across the city, which is where players will most likely use the most of their Yen. If the player has the district’s itinerary, that bancho’s location will show up on the map, making travel all that much easier with the use of public transportation. Events and banchos will show up on the district’s mini-map as circular icons and entering these areas further the game’s story – banchos will challenge you or send peons after you while events usually feature interactions with your classmates or key people you meet on your trip. But, ultimately, it is purely up to the player on how they want to spend their seven days in Kyouto – will you kick back and enjoy the trip or will you kick ass and be the ultimate bancho?

So far with my hands-on time with the title, Kenka Bancho I’ve found it to be a unique title filled with humor and tight gameplay. Badass Rumble is definitely one of the more noticeable titles on the format this year thanks to its in-your-face attitude and it has been able to back that up with fresh gameplay that is perfect for the portable format. We’re going to be able to publish a full review of Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble on Tuesday, so be sure to check back and get our full impression of the title.



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