Inuyasha - Ougi-Ranbu (Feudal Combat)
Japan (Japanese language only), US (English Language only)
ESRB RATING (US): T (Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence)
June 16, 2005 - This review is for the Japanese version. I don't plan on getting the English version to make specific comparisons, but the English game has the same features for the most part... ^_^;;
THE JIST: So what do you get when you have the cast of Inuyasha characters, wind them up with a little caffeine, throw them into a fighting arena, and let them loose? You get the basic premise of Ougi-Ranbu. Being a fighting game, this incarnation of the Inuyasha series is obviously not going to boast a complex storyline or character interactions. In fact, the storyline and interactions pretty much go, "Hey look, there's <insert opponent's name here> and he/she is in my way! I WILL KICK HIS/HER BUTT!!1"
You get a choice of several different modes:
Doesn't that sound like fun? :P Believe me, it really is a blast. When I first got the game, I think a lot of it had to do with just enjoying sparkly new Inuyasha product and seeing everyone in action again, but it didn't take long before I really was hooked. Hours spent trying to smash my way through several missions and having my fun putting various pairings into the battle ring and getting them to beat up on other pairings... when they said this game "relieves stress," they were right!!
THE FIGHT SYSTEM: I'm actually more of an RPG gamer, but if there's a genre that I fall back on when I'm tired of roleplaying games, it's the fighters. Mortal Kombat, anyone? Haha. So while it doesn't take all that much to impress me in the gameplay department when fighters are concerned, I still know fun when I have it. :P And this game does involve a little more than just button-mashing and running around on screen. Although, yeah, for the first few experimental rounds, that's pretty much what I did. I teamed up Inuyasha/Kikyou and let them go at Sesshoumaru/Kagura in an un-timed free-battle round. XD It was beautiful.
The fighting system is pretty simple in practice, and harder to explain in words. You control one character (who may or may not be paired with another depending on the mode of gameplay), and mashing the buttons in certain combinations makes your character perform attack moves, and all the standard fighting game stuff. Each character also has an "ougi" move, which is basically their top-level strike. But when you're paired with another character, part of the fight involves working and cooperating with your partner. You look and listen for cues about how you and your partner are interacting and how you two are working with each other. Building your pairing's cooperation level will allow the two of you use spiffykeen combination attacks that will do some serious pwnage, and look damn beautiful on screen.
According to the manual, certain parings are also a tad "predisposed" to get along or not get along with each other easily. The examples given were:
Which made me giggle. I haven't mastered the game enough to actually say how well certain pairings really do work out, but I suppose it makes some sense.
There are also several "battle formations" you can select for your team. "Wind Formation" involves the two characters to cooperatively use attacks and defense in order to create continuous/fluid strikes. "Forest Formation" attempts to divide the opposing team up. "Fire Formation" has both team members focus their strikes on one opponent. "Mountain Formation" has your partner defending/supporting while you attack.
The number of players and the choice of characters and opponents in battle also depends on the mode you're playing.
So all in all, it was a fun fighting system that was challenging enough to definitely keep me playing and trying to master to a certain degree. The initial learning curve wasn't too high for any of the characters, either.
THE CHARACTERS: In battle mode, you can take your pick out of 10 characters from the Inuyasha cast: Inuyasha, Kagome, Miroku, Sango, Shippou, Kikyou, Sesshoumaru, Kagura, Kouga, or Kohaku, . There are also four unlockable secret characters who, unlike Sengoku O-Togi Gassen, aren't made painfully obvious in the manual. :P (Although, Naraku and Bankotsu were revealed as two of the unlockables in Japanese ads long ago).
In the story mode, each character has a "chapter" in which you go through a short storyline which takes you through several battles (the number of battles per chapter varies, depending on the character). Don't expect the stories or character interactions to be all that involving, though. I think my favorite thus far is Sesshoumaru's chapter.
Basically the characters are as we know them by the end of the anime, personality-wise. However, for the sake of the game, don't expect Sesshoumaru to be outrageously more powerful than his hanyou brother, or for Shippou to be hopelessly weak against Naraku. XD I have to admit that it was incredibly gratifying in a strange way to have my Shippou/Kagome team take down both Sesshoumaru AND Naraku. THAT'S RIGHT! WHO DA SHIPPOU!?! WHO DA SHIPPOU?!?! Who's "kukuku-ing" now, beeyotch??!
THE MUSIC & VOICES: Voicework was... hehe, well, what can I say? I always love hearing these seiyuu in their roles as the Inuyasha characters, and this is certainly no exception. Lots and lots of screaming, yelling, "UGH!" "GYAH!" "DYAHH!" "GAH!" and "HYAAHHH!!!" going on in this game. Being still so very fond of Kappei's battlescreaming, I found myself often choosing Inuyasha as my fighter just so I could get some random "BAKURYUUHA!!" and "KONGOUSOUHA!!" out of him.
Oh yeah, big handsdownage and thumbs up to the wonderful people who decided that Kongousouha would be one of Inuyasha's attacks in this game. That made me beyond giddy.
Not as big a cast this time around. I think the particular standouts were: Kappei Yamaguchi's Inuyasha (of course... :P) Toshiyuki Morikawa's Naraku (if nothing else, for that evil laugh), and Taiki Matsuno's Kouga. Like I said, plenty of screaming and yelling and battlecries all around in this game, but for some reason these guys seem to excel when they bring across the the feelings of "OH, THE PAIN! THE ANGUISH!" when they're hit, and the "YOUR ASS IS DEAD TAKE THIS RAAAAHHH!" when they attack. XD
A pleasant surprise in this game was the fun music. For some reason I really liked the "choose your mode" music because it was just so damn cute. XD But other than that, the music played in-game during the battles, and the additional scores for the animated sequences and menu screens was also surprisingly rich. The music played in-battle does become mere background music for the most part, although when I played a few rounds with it off, I did notice that the music did seem to add just a little more excitement to things like the characters' ougi cutscenes. Other sound effects like the explosions, attack sounds, and effects, were also spot-on, and had a lot of subtlety, like the "TWONG" of bowstrings, and the rustling of cloth.
THE ARTWORK: And yes, another wonderful thing about this game is that it looked very, VERY good! Much different than each of the games before.
The characters themselves are modeled more akin to the style of the anime with cel-sylte outlining (which I'm sure a lot of people will be happy with). Their animation was dynamic and fluid as well, and I think I will probably end up spending many, many hours with this game trying to unlock all of the ougi cutscenes...
In battle there can be a four-character melee on screen. When everyone is in close quarters and start whacking away at each other, or when characters like Naraku decide they're going to let loose with a really rancid gas attack, sometimes I just found myself lost in the visual cacophony of arms, legs, swords, and tenticular appendages. But I tend to find that more fun than anything.
One thing I also kind of found really cute was the character selection screen. When you choose the characters, each one is represented by a swatch with a colorful Japanese pattern on it. Nothing incredibly important to the game in the long run, but it was just darn pretty...
The fighting environments are also very well-rendered and wonderfully animated, although a lot of times they make me wish there was more room to run around in. XD Each set has a different type of personality to it, from the sombering stage of the Goshinboku at night, to a dilapidated old temple (that has pillars you can smash, causing the roof to collapse onto everyone below... ahahaha), and others. One of the fun things is that the backgrounds are also somewhat interactive, so you can blow things up and smash things, too.
THE GOOD: Duking it out with your favorite Inuyasha characters in the center ring has got to be enjoyable for any fan of the series. With awesome visuals, a nice fighting system, and several different modes to choose from, this game can be both fun and somewhat challenging. It definitely started racking up HOURS of gameplay (I'd say almost 14 hours) in the first two days I had it... and I enjoyed it enough so that I could already try to write a non-spoiler review, at least. I'm sure many Inuyasha fans will also enjoy this one. ;) I also think that this game does have a little potential to impress non-Inuyasha fans as a fighting game, but wouldn't bank on that entirely.
THE BAD: Not a lot bad I could think of right off the bat. One thing was the load times between screens. There is a lot of loading screenage in this game. Eventually it gets to just be a necessary evil, though. And I started to just not pay attention. While I was impressed with and enjoyed working to master the fighting system, it may be something that some people might be "meh" about. Some players might be looking for more of a challenge than this game has to offer, as well.
THE UGLY: Getting thrown off of Inu-papa's skeleton isn't that pretty... XD Naturally there's some things in this game that don't go along with the "real" characters in the series (ie. no way in hell Naraku and Inuyasha would team up to beat up Kagome and Kikyou), but that's entirely to be expected in this type of game.
BOTTOM LINE: Bringing the characters back into animated action through this video game is really something that I think Inuyasha fans will really like playing, and might even have enough of an edge to provide some fun gameplay for non-Inuyasha fans as well. I don't think I'll be putting down this game anytime soon.
Inuyasha characters & story © 1996-2005 Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan
Inuyasha: Ougi-Ranbu © 2005 BANDAI
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