Masked Rider 555 (Kamen Rider 555)

A game that plays like an episode of the TV show


The Lowdown

Pros: Stays true to the series, nice looking graphics

Cons: Lack of a fighting system, repetitive animations, listening to the theme song over and over

Purchase at Play-Asia
Remember the whole Power Rangers craze in America? Remember the show named the "Masked Rider" that had a bug eyed martial arts expert crime fighter? He was dressed all in green, he had cool laser weapons, and a giant bike that turned in to a robot, ring any bells yet? Well even if you're one on the many who doesn't remember the adventures of Masked Rider, better known as Kamen Rider in Japan, he did debut in the states. However, his popularity is greater, much greater in Asia, where the Kamen Rider series continues in its latest incarnation Kamen Rider 555.

For what its worth Kamen Rider 555 stays true to its series. One thing that amazed me from the start were the in game graphics. If you look briefly at the characters on screen they look just like the TV show. For a little while I was trying to figure out if they used stop motion to capture images from the show or if they made some awesome 3D models. It seems that Bandai pulled all the stops on the visuals and made some models that represent the characters in their entirety. The fight sequences feel right out of the show, too. Every character has jagged movement, which is unlike most fighting games, but perfect for this game. If you've ever watched an episode of the show or even an episode of Power Rangers you know that they don't do the most fluid movements. Instead the characters have slow and overly emphasized movements. When you're attacking the movements are over emphasized and the your fighter may even "pose" for a few seconds after unleashing an attack. While this is a little annoying, its how a fight in the TV show would be. All of the characters even do those ridiculous movements when they get hit where they flail their arms around and jump backwards.

While a fan of the series would enjoy the style and presentation of the game, that's pretty much all there is to enjoy. The fighting system is rather sparse. You can unleash a limited amount of basic kicks and punches by hitting the "x" and "circle" buttons. If you press buttons in some order you can create a small combo. The selection of moves is very limited you have a few kicks, a sweep and a couple of punches. Attacking an enemy or being hit charges your special weapon meter. The special meter has three levels, however not all characters have an ability for each of their levels. Normally, the first or second level allows you to use your weapon. When you press "triangle" the game will pause and the camera will turn to your character showing him or her drawn a weapon. When you have a weapon you'll get to use one or two new basic attacks and do a little more damage. If you wait a bit longer for your bar to completely charge up you can use your super attack. The super attacks are cinematic moves captured directly from the show. Some of the super attacks include the Red Rider's thrust kick and the Yellow Rider's dashing sword attack. When you do a super move the opponent has a chance to counter your attack. On the screen will be an icon of one of the controller buttons (circle, x, triangle or square) that both players need to mash. If the attacking player hits the button more times than the defending player the attack goes through, if not the other player dodges the attack. The super attacks are where most of the damage occurs, you can easily wipe out a character by using your super move. Besides your super move you are granted a one time in a round use desperation move, that can be used whenever your life is half full. The desperation move is where the real action is. This is where you can call out your bike to shoot a hail of missiles or summon a giant robot to battle your foes. The desperation move can also be countered the same way a super move is by mashing the appropriate button. That's pretty much it for the entire fighting system. There isn't really anything to learn, there is barely anything there to master. Which makes this game already dull for even the most die hard fighting fans.

To make matters worse you start the game with a measly four characters (two riders and two monsters) unlocked. This means if you want to play versus mode with a friend you start out having only four characters. To unlock characters you need to complete story mode, where you'll get points for beating. These points can be used in the game's slot machine, which is responsible for all of the game's unlockables. To successfully unlock a character you need to collect pieces of a picture representing him or her. These pieces are obtained by random in the slot machine. So if you want to unlock even a single extra character you're forced to spend some time with the slot machine "mini game". Thankfully, the slot machine gives rewards rather quickly, but you have no control of what character you unlock. Which means you'll be playing the machine a lot and playing the game a lot to get enough points to unlock characters. The whole ordeal is frustrating and asinine. Bandai could have opted for a shop system or another unlocking method for extra characters. If they really waned to use the slot system, at least give us more than four characters to play with when we unwrap the game.

However, the biggest nuisance in the game is the music. For the most part the music is pretty darn good. Most of the battling music feels like its from an episode of the show. The music is fast paced, which is great for a fighting game. Even the sound effects are nice and clear when smacking an opponent. Sadly, there aren't to many sound effects present. There are about five different hit sounds, which you'll be hearing over and over again. The game would have benefit greatly from just a little more effect variety. The effects aren't the main problem with the sound, the main problem is one of the songs that plays when fill your super meter. In a dramatic twist, when your super meter gets filled a vocal theme of the series gets played. While the song is well done and cool to hear the first few times you hear it way too much. Just when you're getting into the groove of the general fighting music your super meter charges up and the tune switches to the vocal theme. It becomes so annoying that you try to avoid charging your super meter so you don't have to hear it. Sadly, it inevitable even when you don't try to charge your theme the song pops up and annoys once again.

Kamen Rider 555 is for the most die hard fans of the series, even some of them may get sick of the game. It's easy to beat, has little to master and enough annoying quirks to put it on the black list of gaming. If it wasn't for its slick presentation and stylish graphics it would be on it.

Import Friendly?

All of the menus and text are in Japanese, but the game is simple enough to figure out without understanding any.

US Bound?

Doesn't look like this one will reach North America due to licensing issues and the fact that the series isn't released in America.

Overall

Unless you grew up with Masked Rider or have been following the latest series there really is no reason to pick this up. The lack of gameplay and repetitiveness of the game will make even the biggest fans question this game.