Review: Tokyo Beat Down

tokyobeatdown_boxart.jpg The DS game library is loaded with games across a broad range of genres, however Atlus USA’s new game Tokyo Beat Down has made me notice that the beat-‘em-up genre really hasn’t received much love on Nintendo’s money-printing portable. So there’s clearly a comfy niche for a game like Tokyo Beat Down to fulfill. But is it a good game?

Well… yes and no. Overall, Tokyo Beat Down is a no-frills side-scrolling brawler no different than classics like Final Fight, Golden Axe, Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, beyond the obvious difference in settings of course. You move left and right through warehouses, shopping malls, evildoer headquarters, and the mean streets of Tokyo, beat down terrorists with a fury of punches, kicks, throws and special attacks, nab the occasional health and/or weapon pick-up, and rinse and repeat the process over six in-game day’s worth of action (in real time I’d say it’s around 4-6 hours long). It’s very, very straightforward, but like the aforementioned beat-‘em-ups of yore the simplicity is part of what makes it so much fun.

That said, however, the game is terribly flawed in key areas. Some of the controls are extremely sluggish, for one. By holding down the left shoulder button you can whip out your currently equipped gun (handguns, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and Molotov cocktails are available) to fire on enemy combatants, but there’s this odd delay between pressing the button and the character actually aiming the weapon that you’ll often be interrupted before you can get a shot off. More disturbing is the similar sluggishness to blocking with the right shoulder button. The responsiveness is so slow you’ll find it’s easier to just give up trying. It’s more frustrating to incur damage while trying to block and having the mechanic fail than taking a few hits while attacking.

The enemy AI is also poorly balanced. Enemies are generally either way too easy or infuriatingly cheap. Most of the time it’s easy to keep baddies in front of you with combos and grabs, but when they inevitably sneak a hit in and knock you to the ground they’ll often stand over you and take you down again (and again, and again…) before you even have a chance to stand up and move out of the way.

But Tokyo Beat Down rises above these quirks in large part because of its hilariously over the top B action movie style. The plot is typical “terrorists have taken over the city” fodder, but the cornball characters and campy writing elevate the game into “so cheesy it’s awesome” status. Surprisingly, the production values are also quite impressive, with sharp 2D imagery serving as “cut scenes,” appropriately overly-emphatic music and sound effects thickening the cheese factor, and detailed 3D in-game graphics.

While you do get to play as two other characters in the infamous Beast Cops squad – a big dude in a trench coat and the resident “hot-chick cop who’s even hotter because she can kick your ass” – Lewis Cannon (an obvious play on the term ‘loose cannon’) is the star. He is the team’s renegade, smooth-talking leader who punches first and asks questions later. He’s sort of like a Japanese PG-13 take on Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs from the Lethal Weapon movies. Just look at some of his lines from the game:

“That’s the thorn of justice lodged in your side, baby!”

“Sorry, but justice doesn’t own a white flag, baby. Her flag is stained red… with blood and tears.”

“Second floor: appliances, kitchenware, and CRIME!”

“Third floor: clearance sale on lingerie… and justice!”

I mean come on, writing doesn’t get much better than that. And it doesn’t stop there either. Some of the generic characters you’ll come across in the game have silly names too, like Stock Policeman, Man Following His Destiny, Hard-of-Hearing Lady, Boy Who Hates Police, and Blame-Seeking Insomniac, to name but a few.

Tokyo Beat Down is very much an Atlus game, and that’s both good and bad. Faithful Atlus followers will surely be able to forgive its flaws and enjoy the game for what it is – a rudimentary brawler slathered with cheesy humor — but the regular Joe consumer only looking for a great pure beat-‘em-up for their DS likely won’t care to look past the ho-hum gameplay long enough to enjoy the whole of the experience.

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Pros:
+ Absurdly cheesy characters and dialogue
+ Nice production values
+ Simple beat-’em-up fun

Cons:
+ Some sluggish controls
+ Enemy AI is either too easy or too cheap

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Success / Tamsoft
Release Date: 3/31/09
Genre: Beat-’em-up
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!