We decided to catch up with some older current generation games, starting with this.
By Cori Graham
Ah yes, Kakuto Chojin, at first you were no more than a mere tech demo to showcase the Xbox's graphical prowess. And what a tech demo it was too! Textures and lighting effects that went far beyond DOA3. Unbelievably detailed environments that would put Virtua Fighter to shame, and some of the most fluid animation this side of running water. And then you were turned into a real game...
But you know, nothing wrong with that. You still had the eyes of Xbox owners gleaming. You, my man, were a star. And we drooled at every possible screenshot we could get. Then, something happened.... Screenshots were coming few and far between. And you went unseen from gaming event to gaming event. It was almost as if you were trying to hide something from us. Soon, all the hype was gone for poor Kakuto Chojin.
But to break from my sarcastic meanderings, the hype that Kakuto Chojin lost it lost with good reason. When gamers finally got a chance to check out Kakuto Chojin on their handy dandy Official Xbox Magazine demo, they got their first glimpse at how "blah" Kakuto Chojin really was. Choppy animation, poor character designs, and uninspiring environments pushed Kakuto Chojin far down on everyone's "Must Have" list.
Then a crackle of hope came when we learned that Kakuto Chojin supposedly wouldn't make a 2003 launch. So imagine everyone's surprise when the game suddenly popped into stores. Professional reviewers, forum goers, internet trolls... everyone took their turn to give Kakuto Chojin a good tongue lashing. But years later, I ask myself, was it really that bad?
With the game in hand I decided to take it upon myself to find out. Honestly, I was expecting this to be more of a joke than anything. After all, Dream Publishing may have created the excellent Tobal/Ehrgeiz series. But most of their core developers have long since left. And the last game they made was - The Bouncer... So excuse me if I didn't have hope for ol' Kakuto Chojin. But I was quite surprised when I finally got a chance to sit and play the game. If by any chance you're still awake, read on and I'll tell you all about it.
To be quite honest, the gameplay department isn't where Kakuto Chojin loses the most points. Instead it's the total game that knocks it down some. But don't get me wrong though; Kakuto Chojin is indeed a very shallow game. But it's a shallow game with a decent fighting engine and moves cool enough to keep you busy. The problem is that the game comes up short in just about every category imaginable. But lets stick to what matters most at the moment, the fighting.
The fighting engine is both its strong point and its weak point. Kakuto Chojin plays a lot like a mix between Tobal and Tekken because of the dial-a-combo system and massive juggles you can do. But while the game obviously has more depth than Tobal, it doesn't compare to other deep games out there. At best the game probably has as much depth as the original Soul Blade on the Playstation. But finding that depth is vastly overcomplicated in this game.
To get the basics out the way first, you have four different attack buttons. You have a Low Attack, a Medium Attack, a High Attack, a Special Attack that is unblockable, and by doing a hold guard plus a Special Attack you enter boost mode. The Right Trigger is used to block and the Left Trigger as a free run. By combining buttons you can throw and perform various other moves. You know, the usual. This of course brings about the first problem with Kakuto Chojin, the movelist.
As stated (a lot) thus far, Kakuto Chojin isn't too deep. Many so-called "separate" moves involve hitting one different button during a dial-a-combo. Now, this wouldn't be a big problem if the combo system itself weren't so simple. Merely hitting Y over and over again can pull off many moves in the game. And when you have a small movelist to start off with you're going to fall victim to button smashing pretty soon.
With Dead or Alive 3's ability to develop your own combos it goes far beyond Kakuto Chojin. True, you can attempt to make your own combos in Kakuto Chojin (actual combos and not juggles), but nearly the entire combo system in Kakuto Chojin is based around dial-a-combo. So developing your own combos become tedious, and quite frankly, unnecessary. You can "stun" your opponents, but fighters have very few stun moves, and in turn, fighters also have very few stun animations. So stun moves are often followed with dial-a-combos. No choice but to start a juggle (i.e. smash smash smash).
In Dead or Alive 3, you could stun your opponent, attack, perform another stun attack, knock them into the air, and then juggle. And you're always faced with the danger of a reversal coming. In Kakuto Chojin its pretty much juggle to your hearts contempt. There simply isn't enough attack options in Kakuto Chojin, and ultimately that's the biggest letdown. Example: You're in "caged" arenas, okay? You'd expect some sort of wall attacks wouldn't you? Well, keep expecting.
The game does add a lot of standard elements found in other fighting games though. Things such as sidestepping, reversals, free run, dashing, and even the ability to hop over low attacks (plus a few more things I didn't list). But nearly each one of them is flawed.
Sidestepping is far too complicated. Made even worse by the fact that Kakuto Chojin is such a fast paced game too (even faster than DOA3). Hopping is cool, but it's basically worthless because of the game's pace. Sure you can hop, but while you're in the air your opponent is going to get off another 2-3 free attacks. Not only that, but you pretty much have to guess when a person is going to sweep. The ability to hop is cool, but you can't attack while up there (there are actual jumping attacks though), and more often than not you're just leaving yourself open for more punishment.
In order to sidestep, you have to first hold the guard trigger, push forward, and then up/down to sidestep... I shouldn't have to tell you how asinine that is for a fighting game! So if someone is coming at you with a flurry of Y attacks, and you want to sidestep, just don't. You'll be much better off. Now, the benefit of sidestepping is that you can perform some extra attacks. But the sole purpose of having a sidestep is to avoid attacks. And Kakuto Chojin just fails to do so with its sidestep feature. It's still possible to sidestep attacks, but usually it's not in your best interest.
The ability to free run is very cool. And doesn't offer up immediate danger like some of the other mobility options in the game. Because while you're free running, you can perform even more attacks as well. Everything from sliding to jumping attacks. You can even free step and just walk 360 degrees around your opponent. However, after getting knocked down, you find you have very few options when it comes to getting up. You could either perform a quick get up, but (and this is another flaw I will address in a moment) you're never told exactly how to do it. You can also roll, but have very limited roll options. But aside from a few hiccups, maneuvering around in Kakuto Chojin isn't too hard.
Now to that flaw I was just talking about. And frankly, this drives me crazy. Kakuto Chojin has absolute the worst training mode and manual to every grace a 3D fighter. Aside from the basic move list, NOTHING about the game is explained. Not in the manual or in training mode. In DOA3, everything you needed to know was explained to you. Throws, reversals, stun attacks, computer controlled opponents, human controlled opponents, positions to place your training dummy... The tools you needed to train with where there. You could even go through their entire movelist in consequential order. It was simple to figure out what worked and what didn't. Not in Kakuto Chojin...
Reversals? Good luck finding out how to do them. Throws? You realize you only have ONE direction to use them, right? Front throws only. No back throws or side throws. And most fighters only have one throw (a second is sometimes useable in conjunction with Boost). Dummy options? You can make them guard. Stun attacks? Good luck finding them. Special Moves? Adds little to nothing to the depth of the game. Movelist in sequential order? Oh buddy does this piss me off!
First off, the movelist menu itself is very poor. White and blue text improperly placed on the screen that is just murder on your eyes. A lot of times you can't even tell what move you're looking at. The text itself is way to big, made worse because each move has its own funky Japanese name that takes up too much screen space. Then, as you're making your way through the moves, you eventually reach a part where you have to scroll back up to see how to connect various dial-a-combos. But since nothing is numbered (you have to go by name) you will lose your place time and time again. That is annoying... Extremely annoying! But this... this is beautiful.
After beating the game with any character, you then open up their "Chojin" mode where you supposedly get a few new moves to try out. But when you actually go to the training menu, and click on movelist, it tells you to BUY a strategy guide!!! That crosses the line between just annoy and into morally wrong in my opinion.
Not only did Microsoft flat out rush this game out the door (and lets not forget to sprinkle a little blame on Dream Publishing too), they then tell you to buy the other half of the game! That's pretty low - period. And it's not as if you get a lot of gameplay options either. For single player you have Story Mode, Practice Mode, and Survival. In multiplayer you get Capture the Crown, two-player VS, and a four-player mode. The four-player is kind of cool, and lets everyone join in, but good luck trying to find three more friends willing to play Kakuto Chojin.
Now, despite how negative I've been, I'm still willing to admit that there is some fun to be had in Kakuto Chojin. The game is shallow, but it's that fun shallow were you can just find some cool moves and absorb yourself in them. And the game definitely IS NOT as bad as everyone has been making it out to be. But as a hardcore fighting fan, I can't dismiss how half-done Kakuto Chojin is. And when you're stacked up against phenomenal games like Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, and Tekken, half-done doesn't cut it.
Looking for a game to visually blow your friends away? Stick with Dead or Alive 3 or Soul Calibur. Despite Kakuto Chojin being technically superior to both, there are a couple reasons why it still can't match up.
For starters, the lighting effects, and textures in this game are flat out amazing. They are easily well beyond those found in other Xbox fighters, and the characters definitely look more "flesh" like in Kakuto Chojin. The skin textures are definitely a sight to behold. I've always wondered how a game would look if everything was self-shadowing, and Kakuto Chojin proves that it can look spectacular. Whether the characters are casting shadows on themselves, casting shadows on their opponents, or having the environment effortlessly cast shadows on them, the lighting stays beautiful. But this is where some problems start
Yes, the game has amazing lighting effects and great textures. But more than just textures and lighting do great graphics make. There's also a little thing called creative design many people seem to forget about. And most fighters stump all over Kakuto Chojin when it comes to creative design.
While the characters all look great on a pure technically level, they're just stupid looking designs. Khan (the big fat one seen in the demo) is a joke. J.D. Stone? A joke. Crusher Ramirez? A bigger joke. The fact is that a lot of the characters designs are just dumb. And you're not going to impress your friends with just technical graphics. Because once they see some of the character designs in Kakuto Chojin they're going to laugh their tails off.
To top it off, the backgrounds are very poor as well. Flat 2D textures from an elder age that died a long time ago. Even the endings date back to a pre-historic era. No CG or real-time ending here, just mere words scrolling across a black screen.
Some of the animation in the game is very choppy also. Lips don't actually move while the characters talk. And some of the stances are really bad and awkward looking. Shadow supposedly practices ninjitsu, but has a fighting style and stance that doesn't resemble ninjitsu at all. And watching Reiji stand is just a laugh a minute.
No lie, Kakuto Chojin has flat out one of the best rock themed soundtracks out there. Almost ever sound has some sort of redeemable quality to it. Even cooler is that no song will start until the first attack has landed. So while it a start off all soft and easy, after the first hit the music quickly ramps up. It's a really cool effect I hope they use again.
Sadly, nothing else is really impressive about the sound. The daily sounds of combat are about as generic as they come. The music menu is poor as well. And don't get me started on the end poses. During each pose every fighter lets out a the standard one-liner, but this is some of the most horrendous voice acting I've seen.
So while Kakuto Chojin does provide some nice beats to listen to while you're beating down your foe, that's about it. But can I really say I'm surprised? Not really. Most every other aspect of the game is half-done. I shouldn't have expected anything less from the sound..
There's simply no denying that Kakuto Chojin was rushed to store shelves. The options in the game are extremely limited. The characters movelist feel as if they're missing another thirty or so moves. And there just isn't enough to warrant paying full price. But I will admit that the game is fun enough that if I found a used copy at like 20 bucks I'd buy it (mainly just to see Roxy ^_^).
Microsoft and Dream-Publishing may have had high hopes for this game, but those hopes have long since crashed and burned. It's sad really, the fighting engine itself really isn't that bad. And can provide some fun. But when you put together the whole puzzle, Kakuto Chojin is outclassed by nearly every other fighter on the market.