Monthly Archives: January 2013

Quick Impressions: Anarchy Reigns

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In the history of beat’em up titles, a number of companies have come and gone. Only a select few survived the move to the third dimension, and mostly due to their diversity. Of these we still have Sega, who were known for arcade-style beat’em ups such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, though their biggest claims to fame being the Sonic the Hedgehog games, Virtua Fighter, and arcade racing titles. This past week they revisited the beat’em up genre with their newest release, Anarchy Reigns. Is it a herald of the new age of brawlers, or another footnote in Sega’s struggling franchise.

Anarchy Reigns is clearly Sega’s take on the modern beat’em or hack-and-slash genre. Taking control cues from other modern titles like Dynasty Warriors or God of War, it adds it own twist by giving it’s cast a set of Deadly Weapons, which when activated deal significantly more damage, but cost energy to use. It also places an emphasis on player versus player multiplayer combat, something most modern beat’em ups have steered clear of.

The game is set in the cyber-punk world featured in Madworld, and does feature some of the cast from that game. This is somewhat ironic considering Madworld was a Wii exclusive title, and it’s successor released on the PS 3 and Xbox 360. Having not played Madworld myself, I can’t say exactly how baring it has on the plot, though I suspect very little.

Speaking of plot,The story follows Jack and Leo as they track the fugitive Max Cayman, each for their own reasons. The general rule with beat’em ups is that they’ll either have too much emphasis on the story or not enough. Anarchy Reigns tends to be more the former than the later. The campaign tends to focus heavily on the story. This would be forgivable if the story was engaging, but the typical tropes and stereotypes combined with relatively pointless detours within the main story arc drag it down. This too might be forgivable given an engaging presentation, however aside from the periodic pre-rendered cut scenes they rely on dry vignettes for most of the character interaction. This makes much of the campaign mode a slog to get through.

The campaign’s redeeming quality is it’s enemy and objective variety. While most of the time you’ll be just trying to kill all the things, it throws in some changes to the mix. For instance, in one stage alone I had a mission to defeat all enemies within a time limit, shoot down enemies using a helicopter, and defeat a giant squid. While not every stage is this varied, the mixing of the formula really helps an otherwise disposable campaign mode.

Strangely, however, it’s not the campaign mode that is the most engaging here, but the multiplayer. Multiplayer features a variety of game modes, each with their own set of rules. For instance, Deathball pits two teams of 4 against each other in a more violent version of soccer. Survival throws a variety of enemies at a three person team, until they can’t take anymore or time runs out. And of course there is the standard 16-man free-for-all match.

Multiplayer matches can get pretty chaotic, so one might think playing this mode online would be a chore. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case so far. Aside from the occasional hiccup, I was able to play perfectly fine, even with players located in Europe. The worst connection issue I’ve had was when the host dropped out of a match, but after a few seconds finding a new host, everyone was able to pick up where we left off.

No, the biggest issue I’ve found in multiplayer is getting into matches. This could be a match-making issue, but I think it’s a lack of players to blame really, as there’s usually only a few games open at a time. The plethora of game types doesn’t help much, as most of the time you will need to create a new game yourself if you want to play in a particular mode, or don’t want to play a particular mode. It also means that filling up a full 16 man free-for-all is incredibly difficult, making the modes with fewer required players more enticing.

It’s a shame that fewer players aren’t jumping in, as there’s still much to like about the title. While I’m not particularly fond of hip-hop, the songs used for the game fit the setting as well the wild action going on during the fighting. The controls are easy to learn, but learning what techniques to use with each character to create more powerful and inescapable combos is challenging.

Throughout the experience it feels challenging but never feels overwhelmingly so, giving you just enough to help you progress forward. Thusly, Anarchy Reigns manages to capture the feel of the old school coin-up beat’em ups but in a more modern feel. The game’s lack of polish, violent chaotic style, and modern hip hop sound will likely make this an incredibly polarizing title amongst players and critics. However, I would recommend at least giving it a chance, and at a $30 price point, it’s certainly inviting gamers to do so.

Musou Missives Episode 3: Hanbei Takenaka

Welcome to Musou Missives, where I will take an in depth look at a character from the game Warriors Orochi 3 and give them an analysis of their strengths and weakness. The goal is to give a thorough understanding of the character and how one can expect them to perform at high level difficulty play, as well as provide thoughts on synergy with other characters in the game.

Today we will be looking at the prodigious strategist, Hanbei Takenaka.

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Hanbei Takenaka is very different from most of the characters we covered here on Musou Missives before. For starters, he comes from the Samurai Warriors series — Samurai Warriors 3 specifically — which makes him control a bit different from the Dynasty Warriors characters we’ve encountered so far.

Historically, he’s a tad different as well, as he is otherwise known as Shigeharu Takenaka, and has only a limited amount of information on his past. Aside from being a strategist under the Saito clan and later Hideyoshi Toyotomi, there isn’t a whole lot of information on him — or at least readily available in the English language.

He’s also the first character we have that is using an unconvential weapon — a bladed sundial of all things. He’s the first character we have that is depicted as a child — and there are more. He’s the first character we have that belongs to the Wonder class — the newest character class in the game.

As far as his depiction, he is very similar to Sima Zhao in many respects. He is depicted as very laid back, but deceptively intelligent and easy to underestimate — especially due to his age.

In Warriors Orochi 3, he is the third of the games three heroes. He is a commander that used a stratagem that struck a blow to the demons, but cost him many of his comrades, and many powerful and intelligent officers. Missing their abilities when the Hydra attacked, proved fatal. Therefore, Hanbei uses the aid of Kaguya to rectify this mistake, and change history.

So, now that we’ve gotten to know the man, let’s take a look and his powers, abilities, and skills, and break down how best to use Toyotomi’s expert strategist.

Normal and Charge Attacks

To begin, we should first discuss the difference between the characters originating from the Dynasty Warriors series and those from the Samurai Warriors series. While the majority of the Dynasty Warriors cast follows a similar pattern of six attacks in a combo, with charge attack changing the combo, many of the Samurai Warriors break this pattern. Hanbei is no exception.

Unlike Sima Zhao or Ma Chao, Hanbei Takenaka does not have a 6 charge, or a combo with five normal attacks and a charge attack. Instead, Hanbei’s normal combo involves 9 normal attacks, but his five charge combos can be extended using the charge attack button.

That being said, Hanbei Takenaka’s abilities are a bit of a mixed bag. His normal, charge attack, and charge 2 combo all suffer from very limited range, tending only to hit enemies nearby, and directly in front. His charge attack and its follow-up in fact leave Hanbei open to attack from most angles. These moves can be used for fighting officers, but most of the time they aren’t worth the risk.

This leaves his charge 3, charge 4, and charge 5 combos. The difference in these attacks is that Hanbei will swing his sundial like a giant yo-yo during these moves rather than using it as a bladed shield — making it far more effective. His charge 3 combo swings the device downward, slamming into the ground. The follow-up attack will repeat but in a much farther attack. This will daze opponents caught in it, allowing for some follow-up.

His charge 4 and charge 5 are both very similar. Both end in an area of effect attack that knocks enemies away. The difference is that the charge 5 combo will send Hanbei into a charge first. This can dish out more damage, but the attack is harder to time a switch combo out of — something that is very important when playing Hanbei.

Overall, his Moveset feels weak, with only a few standout attacks to benefit from. All of these can be switch cancelled however, which brings me to the first important point to discuss with Hanbei.

Officer Ability

Hanbei Takenaka’s officer ability is Fellowship, which is one of the hardest abilities to build around I’ve found. Fellowship increases the strength of switch combos. Switch combos are performed by switching characters out in the middle of a combo, and continuing to add hits to the combo. The only way to do this is by switch-cancelling, which I have mentioned in previous installments, but have yet to elaborate on it.

A switch-cancel is done by hitting the left or right triggers (L2 and R2 on a PS3 controller) with the correct timing during a combo, so that the incoming character will interrupt the combo with their dash attack. You can then hit the normal attack button to cancel out of a dash to continue a combo. Although most parts of a combo can be cancelled in this fashion, there are some that are not. It’s also important to know how the cancelled attack will interact with the incoming character’s follow-up. For instance, Ginchiyo Tachibana is a terrible choice for Hanbei, as most of Habei’s attacks will knock enemies too far out of Ginchiyo’s dash attack range for her to follow-up. Gracia, however, switches more easily into Ginchiyo, as Gracia can knock opponents upward more easily, so that Ginchiyo can hit them on the way back down.

That is the curse and blessing of the Fellowship ability, as it will increase the power of combos only when another character is cancelled in, requiring a knowledge of your team’s abilities and their move sets to build a decent team. But we’ll get to them momentarily, as we still need to look at what else Hanbei has to offer.

Musou and Special Attack

While Hanbei Takenaka’s normals may leave something to be desired, he becomes much more versatile with some Musou to spend.

His special attack has Hanbei use his bladed sundial as a helicopter prop, lifting him into the air. He can then fly into enemies, knocking them upward and juggling them for a limited time. This works well enough to tear through large hordes better than many of his other combos. However, it suffers from a slow start-up, making it good for going into a group of enemies, but activating it while surrounded will have unfortunate consequences.

His Musou attack works differently from the Dynasty Warriors cast as well, but is incredibly effective. Hitting the Musou button activates his Musou mode, which empowers his attacks and slows enemies down around him. More importantly, though holding the Musou attack button performs a repeating attack. In this case, Hanbei fires off his weapon and let’s it spin in place in front of him. Hanbei can be redirected during this to attack other enemies, or use it quite effective to tear apart an enemy officer or two.

Considering these two abilities, Hanbei becomes much more useful in multiple situations. He has one other ability which we shall discuss, next.

Class

Hanbei Takenaka is your first Wonder class character, the newest character class in the series. Wonder characters come with a variety of skills, but all possess the ability to launch a guard breaking attack. This is performed just like a Speed character’s jump cancel ability — pressing the jump button during a combo. This ability will stun any enemies in Hanbei’s immediate vicinity, guard break any blocking opponent’s, and moves Habei’s forward, allowing for easy follow-ups. The only draw back of this ability is that it drains Musou gauge to use, so it can only be used sparingly. That is unless you have a good setup for it.

Recommended Weapon Fusion Abilities

Given Hanbei Takenaka’s limited strengths, there are only a few weapon fusion abilities I can recommend for him. If you decide to focus on his Musou abilities and special attack, then Frenzy and Destruction are a must. While abilities like Brawn and Agility aren’t as useful with Hanbei, he can still take advantage of elemental abilities such as Wind and Ice. Might will also increase the power of his charge attacks, which work well to swap in other characters.

In addition, it’s worthwhile to invest in Reach for Hanbei so that his attacks are more likely to connect to opponents, as his base reach is dismal. Also, Osmosis is very useful, as it will allow him to regenerate some of his Musou bar from attacking enemies.

Team Recommendations

As stated before, Hanbei Takenaka’s Fellowship ability is more difficult to build around as you have to consider how the team interacts when switching. So, for this one, I had a much harder time finding teams that I felt I could easily recommend for Hanbei Takenaka. However, there were some good teams to be had.

Kanbei Koroda and Gou Haui

Possibly one of the more obvious combinations, Kanbei and Hanbei’s unusual style allows them to swap between each other fairly well, and the range on Gou Haui’s arm cannon allows him to pick up after swapping from either. Both Kanbei and Hanbei have abilities that can help Gou Haui setup his EX attack, or a launching attack, setting up for some brutal juggles. Their abilities, Regeneration and Focus, help keep Hanbei and Kanbei’s Musou bar high, allowing Kanbei to keep all four of his orbs out at once, and allow Hanbei to use his sundial-helicopter attack, or save it up so Hanbei can tear officers apart with a full Musou attack. Gou Haui benefits the least from a high Musou bar, as his special and Musou attack aren’t as useful, but he can tear enemies apart without it, making him a good standby when Hanbei and Kanbei need to recharge.

Zhuge Liang and Yue Ying

When looking at the officer skills, this is almost the exact same team as the previous one, but it does have some notable differences. Much like before, Yue Ying is the brute of this team, having better range and stronger attacks over all. Her Musou and special attack though are still formidable. Zhuge Liang, however, offers better options in his normal combos and charge attacks. However, his special attack isn’t as significant as Kanbei’s. If you’re looking for a team that’s a little more versatile, this is a pretty good option.

Xiahou Yuan and Lui Bei

This team is a little trickier to use, but works well under the proper conditions. It focuses primarily on swapping your team out at the right time. Xiahou Yuan being used when enemies are at a distance so he can peck them off at a distance and rack up combos, and Lui Bei handling enemies when their at a shorter distance. Hanbei gets less mileage here, but can setup a good swap for Liu Bei to dash into a horde of enemies, or for Xiahou Yuan to pick up some enemies Hanbei sent flying after a charge attack. Xiahou Yuan’s Vigor ability increases the team’s damage even if they aren’t switching out in combos all the time, while Liu Bei’s Wonder ability increases the whole team’s stats in general. If nothing else, this is a good team to use while you’re getting used to the concept of switch canceling.

Cai Wenji and Sanzang

At first this seems like a fairly odd team, but it actually works extremely well. Cai Wenji’s harp attacks as well as Sanzang’s attacks tend to put enemies in the perfect distance for switch cancel for Hanbei to connect. What’s more, Cai Wenji’s dash will hit ahead as well as behind her, giving her much more leeway for a switch combo.

Their abilities help each other as well, though not in the way one might think. Sanzang has the Impact ability, similar to Sima Zhao, allowing the team to regenerate Musou. Cai Wenji has the Wonder ability, similar to Lui Bei above. I should mention though that neither Cai Wenji or Sanzhang’s special attacks are not terribly powerful. Much like Kanbei, however, their Musou attacks are incredibly powerful. Therefore, the best strategy is to take advantage of their synergy against minions, and then use up their Musou attacks once officers are in play. It’s a team that takes a little getting used to, but is incredibly fun to play when you find their rhythm.

Playing as Hanbei Takenaka has been an adventure. I’ve tried and thrown out more teams for him because of the slightest issue with his team, and actually learned a great deal about other members of the cast in the process. While I can’t recommend Hanbei to everyone, he is a character worth investigating if you want to get deep into the mechanics if the game, and certainly deserving of his place as the third hero of the Orochi world.

As we continue the series, let me know if there are any characters, abilities, or concepts you wish to touch on.  I so far have only one more character planned for this series, and it’s actually the most significant one to the story.

Until next time!