There’s nothing like a new title from Platinum Games to make me feel like the least skilled gamer of all time and love every minute of my deserved trouncings.
Anarchy Reigns is a busy, busy game. It invokes cult classics such as MadWorld, Bayonetta and even a little God Hand. It strives to take the familiar hardcore Japanese brawler, douse it with online multiplayer and ignite it with as much chaos as possible. Anarchy, indeed.
As fans of Platinum Games are well aware, Sega not only haphazardly delayed the game, but also launched it at a surprisingly-low price point of 30 dollars. With that in mind, you should more or less know what to expect before popping this bad boy in: a crazy experiment of a game destined for the niche crowd that, while riddled with flaws, is not without some great examples of maverick game design that you won’t find anything else.
I mentioned God Hand before, and am happy to say that fans of that will feel right at home. The combat, in comparison, is simpler and more streamlined, but it attends the same school of thought: taking the classic 2D brawler and turning it into a hardcore, over-the-shoulder third-person action game.
The mechanics, as should be expected from Platinum Games, stand out more than any other aspect of Anarchy Reigns. Everything feels deliberate and works exactly as it should; messing up is never the game’s fault, so you just need some more time in the lab. The game boasts a roster of 16 characters, and while their movesets are mostly identical, thanks to some serious dedication on the part of the creators, every character feels unique thanks to their variety of crazy weapons and fighting styles. Cybernetic enhancement is the name of the game in this world, and the sky’s the limit.
While multiplayer is Anarchy‘s primary focus, a single-player campaign is present, and oddly mandatory (due to unlockables). You can choose to play the story from the perspective of MadWorld‘s Jack or newcomer Leo, which seems disappointingly limited at first, but you do get to play as other characters over the course of the story, so those of us (probably just me) who have no hope of competing online can still enjoy the robust cast.
The campaign closely resembles an old-school brawler, but with an interesting open-world twist. You’re constantly under attack by groups of enemies, rampaging vehicles and aerial bombings, among other craziness, and racking up kills nets you more and more points. Points, a hardly relevant construct in today’s gaming climate, serve as a progress function. Reaching point thresholds unlocks new missions for you to fight your way toward.
Missions can vary from the standard to the ridiculous, going from fighting hoards of enemies or escorting a helpless bar robot to a goofy post-apocalyptic kart race. It isn’t the most amazing reluctant single-player mode in a game built for multiplayer, but it is a great intro to the gameplay and an interesting counterpoint to the Dynasty Warriors style of 3D beat-‘em ups that is a bit more accessible than its spiritual predecessor.
The online play is crazy. (You could even say that it’s a little… anarchic.) It takes a bunch of ridiculous, overpowered characters designed to take on multiple attackers at once and pit them against each other in FPS-style game modes. Multiplayer gets so wild, an onlooker seeing the game for the first time could watch an entire match and be totally lost for the duration.
The tight, deliberate combat makes for absolute chaos when pitted against itself, and it is glorious to behold. It is also incredibly demanding. It may not have the long-term skill level increases as something like Street Fighter, but the initial hurdles are huge. The challenge is welcome, however, and the game gives you plenty of incentive to stick with it, as well as plenty of different game types to explore (including a wacky version of football).
The presentation has its fair share of ups and downs. The character designs are all radical and inventive; the characters are flamboyant, have awesome weapons and are huge. (All good points for a third-person action game.) The textures, however, are murky, and the environments aren’t terribly interesting. The camera struggles enough to keep up with the action, so the mundane, generic post-apocalyptic wasteland arenas are probably an unfortunate necessity.
The soundtrack, however, is awesome. Similar to that of MadWorld, Anarchy Reigns brings in underground DJs and rap artists that nobody has ever heard of, but they sure can drop a mean beat. Over thirty tracks comprise the soundtrack, and Sega even had the sense to make it available for purchase in most digital marketplaces right on time. It’s definitely a collection you’ll want to come back to outside of playing the game itself.
Anarchy Reigns very much deserves its name. This is one of the most insanely kinetic multiplayer brawlers since Power Stone. If you’re one of the hardcore that isn’t afraid to try new things and face daunting entry barriers in the process, this is the game for you. For everyone else, you might end up walking away in shame, but Anarchy Reigns is a true spectacle of a game that should be explored at least once.
Pros: Superbly fine-tuned mechanics, rad soundtrack, unique cast of characters
Cons: Huge initial difficulty barrier might chase away the casual, lackluster campaign