As Sarumarine noted in his blog, Platinum Games has pushed back the global release of Anarchy Reigns. However, Platinum Games also mentioned that a demo for the game was available on PSN in Japan and encouraged people to download it. Not being one to argue, I slapped together a Japanese account and downloaded the demo yesterday.
The demo consists of a tutorial mode, a story mode, and online multiplayer. The tutorial does a pretty good job of orienting you to the game mechanics. The story mode consisted of only three missions, but it is pretty obvious how this mode will flow in the final game. You choose between the Black or White side and either beat up hordes of smaller enemies or face one strong enemy. The singular strong enemies will likely be all of the characters that you can play in the online multiplayer. The interstitial scenes between missions range from "talking heads" dialogue to full-on, crazy cutscenes. This mode seems like fun, but it seems structured to prepare you for the online experience.
Before each match, you choose your character (I tended to go with the Baron) and, for the four-on-four matches, an ability. Other items are available within each match type and are indicated clearly. You can also pick up a number of background weapons like tires, sign posts, and cars. You can use them as melee weapons or throw them to incapacitate or knock back an opponent. The basic combat consists of two attack buttons, a grab button, a block button that can also be used to dodge, and a power-up button (i.e.- use Jack's saw, Baron's fire fists, etc.). You can power up further by pressing down the two sticks at certain times. The camera controls are generally pretty good with some soft lock-on options and the ability to re-center the camera by pushing down the right stick. However, it is really hard to see the action when you grab a tire or car. Those weapons become slightly transparent when you pick them up, but it doesn't make viewing the action much easier. It was also hard to tell where the weapons will go when thrown. These difficulties may just be part of the balance for the weapons, but I found it frustrating on occasion. My other big combat issue had to do with grabbing people online. The hit detection on the grabs seemed very squirrelly, especially if the person you meant to grab had a poor connection speed. The animation for the throws could also not be interrupted, which meant that a person being assaulted by three opponents could grab at one and stall for time until someone else arrives. It didn't become an issue when I played though and it was more of an annoyance than some dire error.
The online multiplayer has two different options: four-player death match and four-on-four team death match. The four-player death match takes place in much closer quarters than the four-on-four battles and doesn't involve randomly-generated events. The result is that you get back into the action much quicker, but the environment you play in is far less interesting. The real fun, and the reason I will be going back to the demo, is in the four-on-four battle.
Only one arena is available for the four-on-four matches, but it is large and made of a number of different tiers on which to battle. In addition to roughhousing in this large playfield, random events will occur that interrupt play. The events ranged from air strikes, a rampaging truck crashing through the field, or the introduction of a giant robot boss named Cthulu. It did not seem possible to damage Cthulu, so defeating it might require leveling up or some other strategy. Sometimes, these events come with a cutscene that interrupts play. I got frustrated a bit by the abrupt return to play as I would have to reorient myself and was open to attack at that time.
Generally though, the atmosphere of team death match was chaotic joy. The feeling of mobbing together and double- or triple-teaming an opponent feels great, but so does hunting around and picking fights. Make no mistake though, if you meet three opponents and you have no back-up, you are going to be gutted. You have the option of springing a knock-back attack on them at the cost of a little life, but it won't do much damage and is mainly useful for getaways and "resetting" a fight when something goes bad. The game seems fair about attack priority other than the grab issue that I previously mentioned. It can be a little hard to tell whether your opponent is being hit, is blocking, or starting the animation for a knockback move. I imagine that understanding will come with playing the game for longer stretches. It would be nice to test this stuff in a training mode, but I don't know if such a thing will be added. Some videos on Platinum Games' Youtube indicate it may.
Overall, I enjoyed the general presentation of the game and its various modes. The demo did exactly what it was supposed to: it made me excited to play the final game. I hope a final release date is announced soon or I might be making a trip to Ami Ami.