Hey guys, I think Anarchy Reigns is pretty good.
I realize my last few blog posts have been nothing but information or talk about this game after I imported it, so I think I'll make this my last entry on the subject and sum up as many thoughts as I can. I will admit up front that my opinion may be colored by my feelings for the developer. Platinum Games (formerly Clover Studios) has always struck me as a group that never caught a break despite all the great work they do in terms of style, characters, and creative weirdness. They ship complete games that aren't loaded down with excessive DLC that leave people feeling burned or cheated. If you're looking for something new or different, they're not a bad place to start.
And yet their latest game has been delayed by SEGA to 2013 just in time to be snowed under all the heavy releases in that window even though it's fully localized and ready to go. I'm not privy to the business side of things that made that decision happen, but Platinum's run of luck sure hasn't gotten any better.
So on that note, I wanted to express how much I enjoy this game. If it ever does get released outside Japan, I'd gladly buy it again.
Anarchy Reigns (or Max Anarchy)
For a game that has "Anarchy" in the title (Japanese or English) it sure does a pretty good job coming close to the sentiment. This is especially true in multiplayer where numerous randomized events and roaming enemies make sure player on player combat is anything but routine. I played one game where four teams of two players battled it out in the street while a giant killer robot (appropriately named Cthulhu) appeared and took shots at us with a huge death ray. Then an airstrike came along and littered the area with bombs at the same time. Between the robot, the airstrike, and the eight players it was delightfully hectic and ridiculous. I got blown up in the process, but the kind of shit that happens in a normal game more than makes up for the average stress of winning or losing. Taking part in it is almost a reward all on its own.
One time I fought a guy until he got hit by a semi-truck Uncharted 3 style. On the top of a skyscraper. It was hilarious.
Anarchy Reigns is a brawler more in line with Smash Bros. than Street Fighter. It's not strictly about fighting fair. Combat deals with a light attack, a heavy attack, a throw, jumping (usually for launchers and juggling along with stage navigation) and each character's killer weapon special ability. Combos are pretty simplistic via button combinations. People who have played MadWorld on the Wii might find the set up familiar as Anarchy Reigns is a spiritual sequel with many of the same characters from that game. The killer weapon (arguably the spice of this game) lets player deal out some heavy damage with some awesome looking weapons and great looking character effects. You can't use it all the time as it's dictated by a meter that refills through damage dealt out and received. Obviously you want to work it in at the right time at the end of combos to ruin people's day. Not to mention the various items sitting around each stage like tires and street signs you can use to incapacitate targets. That's not even including the sniper rifles, satellite targeting, and firebombs you can equip and use. Death can get pretty creative in this game.
There's also something called rampage mode that you build up after taking and dishing out damage that makes you invincible and lets you tear into enemies like something out of God Hand. I imagine this might make or break some people on the experience as the only way to counter this mode is to run and hide, carefully time rolls to avoid getting caught the animation, or with your own rampage mode. I've never been able to escape or avoid it online and against bots, but some people have gotten good at dodging it. Two players who clash in rampage mode have to mash face buttons randomly decided by a prompt. The winner tears through the loser (almost always killing them in the process) and is allowed to continue wrecking shit up. To me it mostly seems like a form of rubberbanding, as you can make quite a comeback if you use it right. It doesn't last too long so it doesn't strike me as a game breaker. It is insanely useful in survival mode though.
The Story (Like the Wild West with Mutants and Cyborgs)
If you're interested in the setting and story, the campaign mode will make a decent introduction. The world of Anarchy Reigns is pretty messed up. War has littered the globe with chemical and biological weapons, pollution, and rampaging mutants. Cybernetics and nano-machines are popular ways to stay alive without turning into twisted creatures. Countries don't seem to matter that much anymore as civilization has been reduced to somewhat clean future cities where "normal" life happens and the mutated wasteland outside where guys like Edgar Oinkie and Durga prey on everyone they come across. Think of it like the Wild West with mutants where main characters Jack Cayman (pro bounty hunter and chainsaw enthusiast) and Leo (future cop with limb mounted laser blades) hunt a wanted man through the unforgiving frontier for different reasons. Also questioning the definition of justice in a world just a few shades away from the apocalypse.
Overall the story mode is pretty enjoyable. You'll play as both Jack and Leo through four stages taking on various missions where you meet, greet, and fight your way from start to finish. I don't want to say it's open world, but for the most part you'll be let loose in a large area where you find beacons to take on the different missions. It runs hot and cold. Main missions have most of the narrative meat where you run into the multiplayer cast and beat them up. But there are also free missions that have no bearing on the plot which range from funny, to frustrating, to dull depending on the objective. They're somewhat mandatory as your point score unlocks the story missions as you go. You could just hang out and fight the roaming enemies in the hub, but that will take awhile if you're that stubborn. On medium it's pretty enjoyable and will test you in some cases. But on Hard, the game will routinely crush you, even going as far as stooping low enough to use a seemingly infinite combo to see if you remembered how to break free of something like that.
For the most part, the voice acting is fine. You'll get a solid performance from Steve Blum as Jack. The other characters are nice as well with the exception of Edgar Oinkie (by Yuri Lowenthal) who is either the worst character in this game or the greatest character in this game. My personal favorite is Robert Pine who does a memorable job voicing Maximilian Caxton. I'll say they're certainly well designed characters. Whether they're good characters is probably up for debate. Anyone with an animal motif leans a little too hard into associated puns, especially Oinkie who chants 'bacon' over and over as he runs within the game. Expect Big Bull to mention his horns more than a few times and Durga to play up his tiger "in it for the hunt" routine. It certainly carries over into multiplayer.
The Black Baron is there too (voiced by Arif Kinchen) still caught somewhere between offensive characture, comic relief, and oddly endearing despite all that. I almost want to say he's toned down the pimp talk considerably from MadWorld. You probably know where you stand on that. And as a last point, things are tied up quite nicely with an ending I felt pretty good about. Which is refreshing. Not to say the story is full of plot twists but I was pleasantly surprised how it worked out.
The Main Event (Multiplayer)
As you could probably guess, a big reason why you would buy Anarchy Reigns is for the delightfully ridiculous multiplayer. And I have to say, they didn't skimp on the various modes. I have a tough time deciding where to start, but besides the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch of varying sizes, they have modes where players get handed out class skills, special team up abilities, and other weird rules. They also have a free-for-all Battle Royale up to 16 players and a soccer-like game called Deathball, capture the flag and more. Most of it is detailed in the honest-to-God instruction booklet included with the game (full of pages with color and everything!). But since I can't read Japanese the finer points are lost on me. Most of my favorite multiplayer sessions include the Horde-like Survival Mode, the insanity of Battle Royale, and four player Deathmatch.
You can also do 1 vs. 1 cage matches but I would say that's not where this game's strength are. The chaos of other modes are far more entertaining.
It has a Call of Duty style persistence like you could probably guess, but this mostly unlocks emblems for identification and multiplayer characters if you didn't get them through the story mode. A few perks for select modes can be earned this way, such as increasing how fast you can run, your speed when carrying large objects like cars and signposts, and other things. I haven't seen anything that breaks the game, most of it is a matter of play style or leaning heavily on something you're good at. Since it's a primarily point based game and kills aren't the be-all-end-all, some perks increase bonuses from winning duels and other factors. And you can only equip one at a time.
Since I imported it, most of my games have been spanning the Pacific with players from Japan. But despite the difference with lag, I've still had a lot of fun. Finding games have been a little difficult here and there, but it's never skipped or melted down to the point where a game suddenly crashed and ended. Once I've gotten in, it's held stable and I've had a blast. It's worth mentioning that multiplayer can be done with bots through the "Training Mode" in the menu if you have internet issues or reasons against playing with people. You can simulate any game from Survival to Deathball with the appropriate number of bots for each mode. They know how to use items and avoid the stage hazards, but they can be a little on the easy side and sometimes get caught up on geometry jumping at walls.
A Few of My Personal Favorites (Characters and Soundtrack)
Two things I love most about Anarchy Reigns involve the cast of playable psychopaths and the soundtrack. The detail spent on the animations of characters activating and putting away their killer weapons I find damn impressive, not to mention their various animations involving throws and landing particularly hard hits. Durga, probably my favorite character overall, has an execution on the big green mutants where he jumps in their face, shoves his gun leg down their throat and pulls the trigger until his revolver cannon goes click. Almost every character has something to offer and they're all pretty fun to play. Most of the online games I've played have been dominated by Rin Rin, her sisters, and Bayonetta (pre-order bonus), but it's great that they have sixteen plus characters all crazy in their own way. While I might not be able to stand Oinkie's bacon jokes, I do appreciate his killer weapon as he hits really, really hard.
The second thing I love most about this game is the soundtrack, which continues the trend started by MadWorld to accompany fights to the death with rap and hip-hop. The nice thing is that profanity is few and far in between, as most artists use their words when it comes to exposition songs that talk about the state of the Anarchy Reigns world or detail a particular quirk about the cast, albeit in their own way. It probably won't change your opinion on the genre if you're decidedly against, but I find it adds something unique to the experience. The posturing and bragging associated with that kind of music works well considering how confident or brutal characters try to be within the game. The 32 songs with lyrics have some variety with them as some are fast paced and relentless like "Venom" by muzeOne, some much slower like "This is Madness" by Dilated Peoples, "Lights Out" by Ox, and some decidedly goofy like "They Came From Underground" by Rushden and Diamonds or "We All Soldiers" by Skitz the Samurida. Not to mention standouts like "Play My Ass Off" by Josh Clemons which has become the unofficial anthem for the game as far as I can tell.
Some of my personal favorites include "Soon Enough" by Sick YG, "Jaw" by muzeOne, and "Find You" by Doujah Raze. If you have the time, I would recommend heading on over to YouTube to give a listen. At the moment I'd have to say it's the soundtrack of the year for me even if it technically wasn't released in North American or Europe yet.
Ending the Anarchy
As for the question of importing, I think that depends on what you're willing to spend for one game, and if you really enjoy Platinum Games' style. I've heard talk that Anarchy Reigns might get a North American and Europe release sometime in March 2013. If you can wait that long (assuming it doesn't get delayed yet again or canceled) I think it's worth checking out. Platinum is pretty good at ridiculous spectacle and Anarchy Reigns certainly delivers.