Kamen Rider (仮面ライダー, Masked Rider) has been around for more than four decades. Created by Shotaro Ishinomori, it gave the Tokusatsu genre the bug-eyed (Rider) kick it needs, as if the world isn’t big enough for the legendary giants Godzilla or Ultraman and the prismatic Super Sentai series.
There are TONS of Kamen Rider video games, most being action brawlers/fighting games. Classics like The Great Battle series, pit characters from the Ultraman, Kamen Rider & Gundam universes together in an action platformer. This game, Kamen Rider Battride War for the Playstation 3 is the first time the series utilizes a Musou-style (無双, unmatched/unparalleled) gameplay.
Musou games are typically Tecmo-Koei’s signature prized masterpieces, notably in their Dynasty Warriors games, with the latest being ONE PIECE Kaizoku Musou (ワンピース海賊無双) or ONE PIECE Pirate Warriors in the West.
Kamen Rider Battride War sadly only features Heisei period (contemporary era) Kamen Riders, so you can only use Kuuga all the way up to this year’s Wizard. Filipino fans of Kamen Rider Black are out of luck, because he’s a Showa period Kamen Rider, the second to the last in fact, so he missed being in this game by a sliver of a few years.
Despite this game’s unfortunate namesake (no more butt jokes please, it gets old VERY fast), is a button-mashing action game, with motorcycles/bikes, the standard of Kamen Rider transportation. The name “Battride” is a portmanteau of the words “battle” and “ride”, and the game makes it a point that you actually use your bikes, so let’s get on with it:
Despite incorporating bike-riding in its core gameplay, mounting your 2-wheeled machines of doom is relegated down to… just for moving around quick on the rather large maps. You can’t kill enemies by running them over with your bike (boooo), but you can see them fall down flat on their faces.
Although there are plenty of ramps around the maps and glowing yellow rings to ram your bikes into to get additional points to level up at the end of each map clear, but I was expecting too much. I hoped that because it’s called “Battride”, there would actually be bike fights or using your bike to smite down ugly evil-doers, but I was sorely mistaken.
Now for the gameplay. A Musou-style game is basically just repeatedly pressing buttons until the hordes of dumb grunts (moving around and rarely attacking) die. Press the square button to use normal attacks, occasionally press the triangle or circle buttons to trigger a powerful AoE move to clean up the mess, or press triangle and circle together to unleash a signature finisher, usually Rider Kick, an action required to perform at the end of each boss battle.
Almost all Kamen Riders have different “forms”, which you can transform into by holding the R1 button, and when the power gauge is full (below the HP gauge), press R2 to trigger their ultimate form to quickly take out opponents with devastating attacks (this is especially useful against bosses).
Each Kamen Rider has his own set of moves and combos, even if the buttons you press are usually the same. They even have their own ups and downs in terms of stats. Kiba has skills related to jumping and flying, Kabuto has an ultra-powerful Rider Kick but requires the triangle-circle combo pressed four times in a row, Blade can’t change forms, but has access to a plethora of finishing moves provided you have the points (think MP gauge) to spend. One of my favorites, Decade, can transform into any other Kamen Rider, complete with access to their combos, and varied super finishers.
The game has 3 modes: Chronicle, the “story mode” where you unlock playable Kamen Riders, the Rider Road where the challenging/difficult missions are, and the Free Mission where you get the opportunity to play Chronicle Mode using any Kamen Rider of your choice. There is no easy mode, and on first playthrough you start with only Normal and Hard difficulty.
Chronicle is very short, and unlocking all the Kamen Riders already give it a 58% completion. Rider Road maps are single challenge campaigns where you use a Kamen Rider to clear 3 maps in a row, with the first 2 being stages and the third usually as a boss fight. Free Mission is nothing too special, but it gives the game a small form of flexibility.
Items are in the forms of “figures” (action figures), purchased using points collected at the end of each mission or by completing Rider Road challenges. Kamen Riders have 3 skill slots and you “equip” them with said figures, giving them menial or special stat boosts. Figures start from rank D with ordinary buffs, and may go as high as A or S, which cost more. Some rank D figures boost experience by a small margin, while some forfeit abilities in exchange for powerful effects (one of Decade’s figures disallows healing from life globes, but in exchange highly boosts attack power).
The game’s best features are actually the graphics and the sound. Bandai-Namco (Bamco) made sure to put a LOT of effort to make this game flashy. All Kamen Rider looks and movements are smooth and intricately detailed, even the enemies, grunts and the environment. In fact, all visual effects unique to each Kamen Rider, especially on finishing moves like their Rider Kicks, transformation to other forms and the light coming from their belts are all present and accounted for, including the SOUND EFFECTS.
Speaking of sound effects, the game has a special, more expensive “Premium TV Sound Edition” where the game uses the actual songs used in the shows, especially the iconic opening themes. You may also use the in-game tracks, but they are not as epic as the songs themselves. Kamen Rider fans will find themselves singing, not humming, to the tracks as they beat the crap out of anything, effectively amping up the ass-kicking experience, it feels like you’re “playing” the show.
So after all that lengthy commentary, let’s sublime them into these finer, easier to read bullet points:
- Premium TV Sound Edition uses the actual songs in BGMs. YOU WILL END UP SINGING AS YOU PLAY.
- The graphics are really good. A lot of effort is put into the flashy effects, even the movements and sound effects of finishing moves.
- Kamen Riders have different moves and systems, despite having similar button combo patterns. There is variety.
- Most, if not all of the original actors reprise their roles in voicing their characters.
- Contains only Heisei era Kamen Riders. Old school Showa era Kamen Riders not included.
- The game is too repetitive, despite the gimmicks and add-ons… a disadvantage of playing a Musou-style game.
- Bike riding needs to be expanded on, instead of just a means of transportation. Should have bike fights or special moves while riding in bikes, but that’s probably asking too much.
- Premium TV Sound Edition is bloody expensive, but it’s expected, to pay royalties for the artists.
THINGS THAT COULD SWING EITHER WAY:
- May appeal only exclusively to Kamen Rider fans. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. This game can be used to initiate people into liking the Kamen Rider series.
- The Musou-style gameplay is a good stress reliever, but can bore you to death.
- You may or may not need to have some background on Kamen Riders to play the game, but having some knowledge is good.
- You may not need to know Japanese to finish the missions (map markers are enough to tell you where to go), but will need knowledge on using/equipping items (figures) to strengthen your characters.i>
Despite the obvious flaws, Kamen Rider Battride War is an objectively enjoyable game to play and is a golden treat to Kamen Rider fans. If you have the cash, it’s advised to get the Premium TV Sound Edition instead for a more genuine experience; a significant parallel to the shows. If Bamco decides to make a sequel to this, I would definitely buy it, but for non-Kamen Rider fans you may opt to borrow a copy or buy it discounted.
The game is now out in Japan! Luckily, they’re readily available online as you may purchase the ordinary version and the Premium TV Sound Edition at Play-Asia.com. For those who are unwilling to procure online, try requesting it from Greattoysonline.com at their many toyshops across the metro, preferably at their Shoppesville branch at Greenhills.