By Aung (DrakosAmatras) . August 21, 2011 . 4:31pm
Aung goes by the username “DrakosAmastras” in the comments.
As big of a Kamen Rider fan as I am, I’m not as enthusiastic when it comes to the franchise’s video game renditions, the reason being that most of them up to this point have been hasty and unpolished. Not that they’re absolutely horrid, but they never went beyond replicating elements from the series in game form. With that said, I picked up All Kamen Rider: Rider Generations, partly skeptical and partly interested.
All Kamen Rider is a sprite-based 2D side-scrolling brawler, which makes it one of the few Kamen Rider games in the last decade that isn’t a fighting game. The game’s premise takes a few ideas from the recent movie OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let’s Go Kamen Riders, but they’re not related. True to the title, every major Kamen Rider is in the game, even those from one-shot movies like Shin, ZO and J.
There are 28 Riders you can play as from across the franchise history. If it’s a main character, it’s there. There are three "Second Riders" in the midst too (who are not main Riders in their series, but still major characters). I’m sure long-time fans can guess who they are. But of course, you don’t have all of them from the start. You start with Den-O (2007), W (2009) and OOO (2010) (all pictured) and unlock the rest as you play.
When you start a new game, you’re given the option to choose between "Easy Mode" and "Normal Mode". This is not difficulty. Easy mode just adds even more control simplicity for young children, kind of like the one-button mode from Climax Heroes OOO. You can change the mode later. The actual three difficulties are: Easy, Normal and Hard. Easy is extremely easy in the beginning, but in the last world, it can be reasonably challenging.
The only real difference between difficulties is the enemies’ damage output. They don’t get more complex.
All Kamen Rider’s controls are fairly straightforward. D-Pad moves the player on left-right and "inward-outward" axes. B is the Jump button. How long you press the button adjusts how far/high you jump. Y for Light Attacks (press repeatedly for combos). X for a 1-hit heavy attack. It’s used mostly to cap off Y-combos.
A is for Specials. They generally comes in Normal, Directional and Aerial (usually the Rider Kick) varieties. There’s no limit or penalty, so use them as much as you want. You can hold L to guard, and hold A while guarding to perform a Finisher, which hits every enemy on the screen. Finally, R activates special abilities on some Riders. You can check each Rider’s status screen to see which ones apply.
All Kamen Rider is split into "Worlds", and further into "Stages", presented on a map screen. As you scroll through each Stage, beating up enemies, you gain experience and "Coins"; at the end of each Stage, you’ll get a crystal you can break for more of the same stuff. Clear a Stage, and you unlock the next one, plus usually a new Rider. Each Stage also has an optional objective called "Missions". Common objectives include "Clear the stage with this Rider", "Defeat this many enemies with Specials" and "Don’t let your HP go lower than 50%". They can be done in any difficulty, and you only need to complete them once. Complete all Missions in a world to unlock a bonus stage, which means another Rider to unlock and one more Mission.
Before you begin a stage, you can select a two-man team of any Rider you’ve unlocked, called "Player" and "Partner". You can rearrange the duo as often as you want on the Map, but you can’t swap your control to the Partner mid-stage, meaning your Partner is AI-controlled. You lose the Stage when either of you are knocked out. Instead of lives, you’re given a few "Life Charges", which fully recovers a Rider’s HP. To use them, touch the picture of the Rider you want to heal. When you do die, though, it’s not a loss, as you get to keep anything you’ve gained. It only means you have to restart the Stage, and they’re not long to begin with.
Each World has a "Shop Stage", hosted by Naomi (a minor character from Kamen Rider Den-O, but one of the main cast). There, you can spend your Coins for healing items, special items for each Rider (always something iconic from their own series, and unlocks something special for them), and later, stat boosts.
As your Riders defeat enemies and gain experience, they level up. This affects their attack and defense, as well as unlocking a few more moves (Uppercut, Backstep, etc.), and even Specials (Hissatsu Waza) and Finishers (Chō Hissatsu Waza) all taken directly from their respective series. Each Rider also has one unique ability (Nōryoku).
Some can change forms or powers (W, OOO), some can trigger a special effect or attack (Ryuki, 555), and some are passive abilities (Blade, Den-O). All of them have their abilities from the get-go, but they only start with one Special and unlock a few more as they level up. In this regard, you could say All Kamen Rider is like a 2D brawler analogue to Dynasty Warriors with a Kamen Rider coating.
Stages are a mix of 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites, and both parts are colorful and detailed. What especially took me by surprise is 2D sprite-work quality, and how fluid and smooth every movement is — even the idle animations like the signature floating scarf on Showa-era Riders.
A lot of effort has gone into presentation, and it shows.
The music tracks tracks fit the stages they play for — upbeat tunes for urban stages, and slow subdued beats for dark forests or icy caverns — although, none of them are very catchy. Many sound clips from various series are re-used as sound effects for Riders’ Specials, which fans will certainly like. What they’d be disappointed about, though, is the lack of songs from any series. I find it odd, since even Climax Heroes OOO had short remixes from each respective series when you execute a finisher.
All Kamen Rider also has a few odd quirks. The first is that sprites can overlap, sometimes leading to a situation where you and an enemy are in the same spot and you can’t hit them. More dangerously, enemy sprites can overlap as well, leading to a situation where a whole group of them unleash their punches at the same time from the same position, taking a huge chunk off your HP bar, if not killing you outright.
Secondly, the AI is very simple, both in the case of enemies and your Partner. All enemies follow the same attack pattern, such as always counter-attacking as soon as they recover from your attacks, or Bosses rushing towards you when you knock them down with a projectile. Your partner, on the other hand, lounges around for the most part, hitting enemies now and then when their paths cross (although, I feel like Partners become slightly more active after leveling up quite a bit, but that might be just me). Considering you still have to keep him alive to clear the stage despite this means that your Partner amounts to a liability, rather than an actual partner. As a compensation, though, Partners can take much more punishment than the Player, even if they’re of a lower level.
As far as Kamen Rider games go, this is one of the best Bandai has ever released. Unfortunately, it’s also a short game. I completed the game in about 5 hours, and after another hour, completed every stage, mission and unlocked the whole roster.
Food for thought:
1. Good news for importers with a basic knowledge of Japanese: All text in the game is entirely in Hiragana and Katakana, so you won’t run into any Kanji-recognition issues.
2. After you beat the game, you unlock two more difficulties.
3. Bandai was generous enough to include a "teaser" character as well, which you can unlock through the Password option. You can also unlock 10 more stages the same way.