Anarchy Reigns | Gaming reviews, news & interviews
Is this the vanguard of a bloodthirsty beat-'em-up resurgence?
Once upon a time (in the Nineties), Japanese game developers ruled the world. Now, with the notable exception of Nintendo, gamers seem to look more to the west for the most exciting and innovative interactive entertainment.
Happily, the setting sun hasn't stopped Platinum Games, a collective of Japanese superstar developers, mounting a last-ditch effort to create new twists on traditional game styles. Platinum people have been responsible for Viewtiful Joe (side-scrolling platforming), Vanquish (shoot-'em-up speed meets over-the-shoulder Gears of War-style combat) and Bayonetta (Devil May Cry with a lady). Now they've turned their hands to the venerable beat-'em-up.
The result, while wildly uneven, is an intriguing take on button-hammering melee that could point to a viable future for the genre. While Tekken, Dead Or Alive and SoulCalibur have pursued ever-better graphics and body physics (specifically in the female chest area), Anarchy Reigns has gone back to the multi-level chaos of series such as Power Stone for inspiration. It looks scrappier, but it's a lot more fun.
Controls are classic brawler simple – two types of attack, grab, block, jump and two power-ups earned through pulling off combat moves. Working these together, though, makes for a versatile range of attacks and counter-attacks. Plus each of 18 playable characters, while sharing the same move set, has radically different styles of melee, weaponry and timing to master.
Timing is everything in Anarchy Reigns – it's the key to landing successful combination blows or dodging out of others' grasp. The single-player mode, sparse and unfinished-feeling, is merely a training ground where you learn button timings and best fighting technique for two key characters. The real anarchy happens online.
In multi-player, up to 16 combatants simultaneously fight it out in arenas littered with weaponry to pick up, objects to jump off or smash opponents against amid interactive events (a plane crashes into the middle of one). To maximise anarchy, game modes don't just include standard all-against-all death matches, but also bloody variants on tag-team fights, Capture the Flag and even American Football.
With innovative modes based on modern online play also comes a levelling-up system of perks and prizes, stolen from first-person shooters like Call of Duty. Those perks, handed to persistent players, add to the desire to keep fighting, but do mean you'll be starting on an uneven playing field, full of battle-hardened brawlers.
The learning curve will be too steep for most people who didn't grow up with fighting games, and there's little to help even experienced players through the first few hours of being someone else's punchbag. This, combined with the tacked-on single player mode, is a serious problem. As is the simultaneous arrival of the more westernised, slicker and story-led DmC Devil May Cry reboot. Still, the cheap price and unusual approach may yet see Anarchy Reigns act as the vanguard for a new bloodthirsty and online beat-'em-up resurgence.
Anarchy Reigns is out now. Developed by Platinum Games and published by Sega. Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
The sky is not the limit in this open-universe adventure
The experimental narrative takes to the water with mixed results
Game or viral phenomenon? Who cares - let's go hunting
Lego returns to 'Star Wars' and creates a new summer blockbuster
This fun take on the dungeon crawler is a blast in short bursts
Home isn’t where the heart is in this overly ambitious shooter
Chaotic, cartoony, co-operative carnage
A clever card game that benefits from a digital makeover
Spit and polish trumps bodge it and scarper
Nintendo makes a surprising choice for its first mobile app
Snap defeat from the jaws of victory in this hardcore RPG action adventure
Open world means open season in this massive online apocalyptic shooter