A Pleasant Surprise
Taking a note or two from the Final Fight series, Gekido Advance is a solid action beat’em up game. You’ll love the fast paced fighting but the story may leave you a little lost.
Gekido Advance plays similarly to the popular Final Fight series or Streets of Rage. Fighting is the main game play element. Players take control of a character who knows a thing or two about kicking ass. I can’t help but be reminded of the anime movie, Ninja Scroll, when playing this game. The story is centered on a wave of zombie-like undead creatures that are wreaking havoc on neighboring villages.
Unlike the Final Fight series, Gekido gives the player a heavier story. Cut scenes are plentiful and explain the story through dialog and narration. Having an unfolding storyline in a fighting game helps keeps the player involved and prevents boredom.
This game is built around combat. Fighting each wave of monsters can prove to be a fluid show of graceful but powerful fighting moves. The game only has two attack buttons, punch and kick, but each can be combined to form combos. Normally it would be safe to assume that having only two combat buttons would dry out combat. However, because the game contains a solid and fluid fighting engine, combos just seem to come naturally as the game anticipates your needs. The punch button can be pressed several times in a row to form a simple punching combo. The same goes for kicking. But you can start a combo by punching a few times, the switch over for a kick, then finish off enemies with a flaming Ryu type Dragon Punch. Each fighting move links nonchalantly to whatever the next move is.
To incorporate a little more exploration into the game, the main player can jump. Holes, traps, and even enemies can all be jumped over. Games like Final Fight usually only make a jump feature to allow player to jump kick. Gekido must jump to cross over traps and get from one place to another. Besides from a slight sense of platforming, jumping can also be used for combat. Jump kicking can offer another type of hit to add to a combo move and it is a good way to utilize hit and run tactics.
Gekido Advance is based around fighting, but exploration and backtracking are also important elements of the game. This gives the game its story mode kind of feel. Players will move left or right through the screen and travel into doors or climb down ladders. Keys will be found to unlock new passages. Besides from keys, other items will be found. Enemies will often drop small circles with a significant letter and color on them. However, not all of these tempting items are healthy for the player. Some items will give a boost in strength while others might reverse the directional controls or stun the player. These items help spice up game play, but I would have liked to see useable weapons. Double Dragon had whips, chains, and pipes that could be used to help destroy your foes. Gekido Advance does not contain any combat items however. Bummer.
In order to have a smooth fighting engine in any beat’em up game, the graphics must look fluid. Animations have to flow from one move to another and back again. Gekido has some of the best sprite based art I’ve seen on GBA. If the character models were not as detailed and motionfilled, then fighting would not feel normal. Enemies, character models, and backgrounds all look great and never blend into each other. Occasionally, the story will unfold through a short cut scene. These usually involve characters talking to one another but each picture is strikingly detailed. There are no voiceovers but character’s mouths and head movements look very animated and detailed.
The music keeps the tempo of the game. The game has a mysterious but frightening atmosphere because the undead are coming back to life. When there are no enemies on screen, a slower, haunting theme plays. The music kicks into high gear as quickly as enemies appear. Even though there are only a handful of songs in the game, each are well developed and are used at the appropriate time.
Unfortunately, there are few drawbacks about this game. The game is kind of short. Most gamers will probably finish it in about three hours. Once beaten, there really isn’t a good reason to go back and play it through again. Because the game is on the shorter side, a password system will allow players to start at any level. Each password is only five characters long and it is a fairly easy to remember a made up word like “Sacco.” The password system might even help players. In the later levels in the game, the difficulty dramatically increases. Not only are boss battles more difficult, the normal bad guys turn into merciless killers. The increasing difficultly might force a player to turn off the GBA, but the proper password can unlock a level that normally could not be reached.
Gekido Advance is a solid fighter that deserves some recognition. The game is only for one player but the story mode and fluid fighting will keep the player involved. The animation matches the fluidity of the combat and the music makes a positive contribution to the atmosphere of the game. The game is somewhat short, but the journey is still enjoyable. The AI will significantly increase in difficultly so some gamers might be turned away. If you cannot play two player linking Double Dragon Advance, or if you can’t wait for the remake of River City Ransom, then Gekido can effectively fill your time properly. Plus, I have recently seen this game for the low price of $15.