Kengo: Legend of the 9 Review
Kengo: Legend of the 9 box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Genki 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Majestico 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sep. 11, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Live by the sword!

by Amanda L. Kondolojy

I'll admit the idea of playing a historically-based game on nine of the most famous samurai was a pretty exciting concept. What the game seemed to promise early on was a rich historical experience in which you could get to know some of these important historical figures and interact with them in a way that no history book could ever hope to. The idea held a great amount of intrigue, but I'm sorry to say that when it was put in practice, Kengo: Legend of the Nine just didn't deliver the experience I was looking for.

Kengo: Legend of the 9 screenshot

First of all, there's the story mode. Dubbed main mode in the game, this initial arena of play puts you in the shoes of one of the nine samurai. You then get a screen of text with some general information about his life. Then you are put in a stage with forty-some baddies that you have to beat. Then there will be a flash of light, and one ultra baddie, who will be one of the other nine samurai featured in the game, will appear. Then you have to fight him, and then do it all again. Every stage in every level of main mode is exactly the same.

And the part that really bothers me about this ultra-formulaic approach to the story-based gameplay is it undermines any real historical credibility that this game could have had. Most of the samurai in this game not only lived in completely different provinces in Japan, but also lived at very different times. The idea of them all meeting up in a Soul-Caliber type fashion is completely unrealistic. The only solid history you can really get from this game is in the form of scrolling text before you face the forty-something baddies that open every level. And that's not interacting with history, that's reading.

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The same old formula of the two-pronged levels gets old really fast. The environments may change, but the basic "kill a group, then kill a boss" structure remains intact throughout every level of the game, no matter which samurai you choose to be. Now those who like the Soul Caliber or Tekken series may see nothing wrong with this type of thing, and for the most part I really don't find much wrong with it; I just expected more. If this game was supposed to be an arcade style fighter that just featured notable historical names, then I wouldn't feel so disappointed. But it promised the total package, and I am sorry to say that it didn't deliver.

Kengo: Legend of the 9 screenshot

After main mode, there is combat mode, which is basically a two-player mode where you can either play against your friends or the CPU in different battle environments. The next mode is mission mode, and this mode is probably the only real interesting part of the game. You are presented with several distinct missions to perform, and depending on how well you perform them, you'll get a ranking. This ranking is posted on a worldwide leaderboard and, depending on your skill, you may qualify for special matches and items via Xbox Live. Now, the key to the mission mode is really how distinct the different missions are. The monotony of the main mode may drive you crazy, but the mission mode makes use of your samurai skill and challenges you to defend damsels in distress, perform special moves, and survive certain clashes without receiving a single blow. A far cry from the "beat the posse beat the boss" grind hammered out by the main mode.

Control for this game is really simple to start off with, but grows with time. You use the left control stick to move around, the right control stick to adjust the camera. You use the Y and B buttons for forward-slash and side swiping moves respectively. You use the A button to block, and the X button to initiate special attacks. You start off in main mode with only the generic forward slash and side swipe, but the game awards player's experience which can be "spent" on acquiring new combo moves.

Kengo: Legend of the 9 screenshot

The only real problems with the controls have to do with the manual camera and the x-button special attack trigger. First of all, the manual camera has several issues. Namely the fact that it doesn't follow the action at all, and you'll find yourself stepping out of frame quite often. And when you're hammering away at badguys and you step out of frame, you're only left with two options: Stop your button-mashing to adjust the camera and risk getting that crucial hit or keep hitting the buttons in the hope that you're hitting a target. Needless to say, neither of these are very appealing.

The second problem with the control scheme revolves around the x-button "special attack" system. Although these attacks are supposedly designed to use the environment to completely devastate an opponent, in practice, they don't work as often as they should and rely too heavily on guessing where a position is for an environmental attack and then luring enemies into the suspected environmental attack. Unfortunately, this type of guess-and-check special attack scheme just doesn't work well in the gameplay.

Screenshots / Images
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