Cowboy Bebop is legendary among connoisseurs of anime. A nearly perfect blend of action, story and jazz music it is a modern classic. When the series was brought into the video game world, a sloppy 3D shooter was the result. Fans were disappointed, but since the series wasn’t shown on Cartoon Network only Japan was left with a bittersweet PSX game. Now that the series has been run endlessly on adult swim and the movie even made an appearance on cable movie channels the PS2 game, Cowboy Bebop: Tsuitou no Yakyouku is getting some attention around the globe.

In the game you’ll take control of Spike, Jet and Faye who mercilessly track down bounties. Each level starts out with a segment from “Big Shot”, the bounty hunter show who introduce the bounty of the day. After that you take on the task of tracking the hunted down at all costs. When you’re in control you walk around a 3D landscape. You’re already armed with your most important weapon, your hands. You’ll get full use of Spike’s Jeet Kun Do when you mix up punches and kicks. In hand to hand combat Spike and Jet are effective fighters. Players will like how you can set up long strings of combos just by fluidly connecting one punch to the next. To further mix up fighting you can tap the shoulder buttons for a burst of attacks. If you end up getting surrounded your common thug you can switch targets by tapping the analog stick while pressing square or X. Attacking charges up the orange colored Hot meter, that lets you perform a jumping spin kick and a stylized jump kick. The other meter you have is the Cool meter, which gets charged up by dodging attacks. By pressing the dodge button you can effortlessly evade fists in style. The whole fighting system feels a lot like the anime looks.

What we haven’t touched on yet is the gun system. It wouldn’t be Cowboy Bebop with out guns right? Well for some reason the PS2 game thinks so. The gun system could have had visual flair like Gungrave or at the very least pull off something similar to Red Dead Revolver. Instead you have twitchy targeting with the right analog stick. Aiming your weapon is already problematic, now imagine doing this while standing behind a wall. The whole thing doesn’t represent the frenzied gun battles seen in the anime. Instead it’s more like playing Duck Hunt without the light gun. Even the designers discourage players from whipping out a pistol, you lose points if you use your gun.

There’s a bit more to the game than fighting and shooting. What else can you add? Puzzles! Cowboy Bebop takes a clue from Bandai’s Detective Conan game for a “detective” mechanic. Certain areas, that are clearly marked “search”, have players run up to the area where a little circle appears on the screen. You need to guide this circle around to search for clues. Sometimes they’re pretty obvious, like the only writing on a wall. Other times you’ll go through the tedious process of slowly moving the red dot waiting for it to change to green. After you read the clue, Ed will pop up with a hint on how it can be used as a password. An example of how this works out is early on you’ll find Merry Christmas written on a wall. This is the clue for the numeric keypad code a few feet up and if you haven’t guessed yet the code is 1225.

Ok the game might not play great, but it’s got eye candy. Like a lot of other anime games Cowboy Bebop goes straight for the cel-shaded look and it looks good. Spike has a cool demenor and Ed has that spaced out look. You do have a lot of nameless foes appearing over and over. There’s a guy with a mohawk and another dude with a yellow hoodie that seem to have a million identical twins. No problems though because the cel-shaded cutscenes make up for it. The original Japanese cast does the voices for the game, which is some quality work. It fits well with the game’s presentation. The soundtrack also compliments the game. Jazzy background beats keeps feel of Cowboy Bebop.

It will come to little surprise that Cowboy Bebop: Tsuitou no Yakyoku is made for fans of the series. It does trump the PS1 game in all departments, but it also pales in comparison to a bunch of other action games out there. Since Cowboy Bebop is known for style gamers would hope for fluid controls and plenty of action. You’ve got one, but not the other.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2

For the most part you’ll be able to play the game and jump right into the action. Important indicators like “search” and “action” are all in English. Importers may run into problems when scanning areas and trying to figure out what Ed is hinting.

US Bound?

It’s on Bandai’s US release calendar for 2005, but with no set date.

+ Pros: Kickin’ soundtrack and style that matches the series.

– Cons: Actual gameplay isn’t exciting at all.

Overall: Some fans may appreciate Cowboy Bebop for the PS2 over the awful PSX game, but even the PS2 game is not nearly as spectacular as it first looked.

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