With the PSP launching with a solid if unspectacular
action-RPG in Untold Legends, it's amazing that we actually had to wait this long
for Rengoku. This is an unequivocal disaster of a video game, containing nothing
but bad game design, unresponsive controls, and miserable gameplay. It's not just a
disappointment; it's as unplayable as you can make a video game and still call it a video
It doesn't take long to figure out just how wrong this game is. You're thrust into
gameplay after a brief video tutorial that explains very little (and can't be paused if
you're confused) and then tossed into a room after a loading period. There's nothing in
this room other than your horribly designed character and a portal to the next floor. Upon
entering that, it loads again. The question is, why even bother starting a player off in a
room like this in the first place?
That's the type of design the entire game hinges on. Played from a third person
perspective, you'll enter into a small selection of same looking rooms, kill a few
enemies, then move to the next. Once you've cleared the entire floor (which requires a
ridiculous amount of backtracking), you'll need to go all the way the back to the
beginning of the stage to reach the boss. It doesn't seem like such a journey in the
earlier levels, when they're still small and regenerating enemies weak. In later stages,
it's an absurd nuisance.
Combat is a mess, suffering from controls that never work, a shoddy camera, and far too
much reliance on quick movements, your only defense. Once locked on, you can perform your
attack, but not move. You're always stuck in a sedentary position as you fire bullets or
hack away. When the counter attack is made, you must begin a spastic dance that's
considered defense in this game, rolling uncontrollably around the screen, as the camera
fails to keep a decent eye on your opponent. Even when locked on with the trigger button
that only seems to work when it wants to, you'll be lost.
All of this is controlled with the d-pad. The only thing the analog stick does is let you
see a little to your sides. There's no need to look up and down; the entire game is
nothing but a collection drab, flat corridors. Running requires a double tap to get going
and this begins either when you don't want it to or won't start when you need it.
Leveling up is usually the big pull from this style of game, but Rengoku is so
lost, it fails miserably here. Even if you can get past the unnecessarily cluttered and
far too complicated menus, you can only equip items at a terminal. There's one at the
beginning of the stage. Want to use that new Gatling gun? You'd better start moving in the
opposite direction, following the same path you just came from. It's obvious this adds
even more backtracking, none of which should be necessary if the game was designed with
It does offer up a few ideas to make it unique, especially since weapons can be added to
various body parts. This allows long and short-range weapons to be equipped at the same
time. You can rarely use them together in a combo unless you've matched them properly, and
there's nothing to tell you if you've done so. Mismatching will cause problems, more
specifically like overheating.
There's not much to look at here, as the already mentioned level design is beyond ugly.
The walking animation of the main character is unintentionally hilarious, while the
attacks are stiff and make it even harder to control. Blood splatters freely, earning the
game an "M" rating. However, even that can be hard to see against the dark,
under-lit backgrounds early on.
While the music could be taken from any generic action game, the sound effects attempt to
be a little bit different. There's an odd mix of metallic grinding and flesh ripping when
a hit lands as it's supposed to. Unfortunately, it doesn't really convey impact like it
needs to (or should). When your life is drained to near death, there's an aggravating,
frustrating chime that simply doesn't go away until you're powered-up again or die. It
overwhelms everything, including the soundtrack.
Even with local ad hoc play, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this title. It is
undoubtedly the worst and most unplayable game for the console to date, and a company is
going to have to try hard to strip of its title. It seems to have no direction and though
there are some ideas that at least show some effort was made, all of that is lost in
quickly crumbling experience that fails to draw you in.