luvcraft's Rakugaki Showtime (PlayStation) review

My roommate describes this game as Nickelodeon's Pinwheel on PCP.

(This is a reprint of a review I wrote 9 years ago for a site that no longer exists and that I can't even remember the name of any more. Also note that this is a review of a Japan-only game.)

Where can I begin to review a game about which I can gleefully tell friends that I threw the smiley face at the space-dog before he could throw the ICBM at me, thus detonating the missile and erasing the space-dog AND the ninja standing next to him?

Ahhh... Treasure's done it again.

The game's actually pretty simple. Run around the square ring, picking up things to throw at your enemies (including other enemies) before they throw them at you. Things include grenades, rockets, boulders, ICBMs, gravity-bombs, and the coveted smileys. Everything has a different effect when thrown at an enemy (and there are three different ways to throw each thing: normal, fast-ball, and lob), and the smileys get steadily angrier the more you hit enemies with them, until they eventually turn into "Glory Balls" and allow you to pull of a super move (three for each character). Fortunately, you'll never run out of things to throw, because a giant hand (labelled "God Hand") is constantly flying around the ring, drawing more things as fast as you can throw them. More Treasure-style enemies than you can shake a stick at put in appearances (Treasure is famous for their incredibly bizarre characters), including space-dogs who summon UFOs, cute little girls who turn into big ugly women, a kung-fu hawk, a tiny guy with a big sword, and the ubiquitous big purple boss with a red cape.

All the characters are drawn in "Rakugaki" style (hence the name) which means they're all 2D characters who look like they were drawn by incredibly smart and mentally-unstable toddlers.

This is an incredibly fun game. It has modes for up to 4 players (with multi-tap) and every time you beat the game in one-player mode you unlock a new character to add to the initial four (a blue-haired guy, a red-haired girl, a baby-thing, and a strange, drunk little old man with a super-long reach and vomit-related attacks). I've played through the game countless times and still haven't gotten sick of it.

This ain't no real-time-lit, nurbs-only, so-realistic-the-characters-blink-and-sneeze-and-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom-every-three-hours game. And thank God it's not. The mix of 2D rakugaki characters with a 3D environment is pulled off perfectly, and the camera always focusses on everything you need to see, with little arrows pointing off the screen showing you where things are that you don't need to see but need to know the locations of. There are also a really long, awesome anime intro, and two long, awesome anime endings (depending on how well you do against the final, secret boss). Despite their 2D-ness, or perhaps because of it, the characters are extremely well detailed, and you can always tell exactly what's going on even if you don't know any Japanese.

The music is toe-tappingly good, and the sound-fx and character voices are perfect, but none of the music really stands out as something I'd want to own on CD.

This game works great solo or with multiple players. Controls are very smooth and responsive. As stated above, the camera movement is great, and you can always keep track of everything you need. The game also adjusts the difficulty for you by lowering the number of enemies or changing their types depending on how you're doing. If you lose the same level twice, the game will automatically decrease the number of enemies or change them to an easier type. In the long-run, I think this affects what kind of character you unlock when you beat the game, but doesn't affect anything else.

If you know absolutely no Japanese, you can still play this game almost perfectly. The first option is the normal game. The second option is the vs. game. The third option is another one-player game, and the fourth option is the options. Press X to jump. Press square to pick something up and throw it at the enemy. Press triangle to pick something up and throw it at something else. Press O to block. Press a direction and O to attack. Press toward an enemy and square to throw something "fast-ball". Press away from the enemy and square to "lob" something. Press toward, away, or just square with the "Glory Ball" to do one of you three supers. If you still have questions, watch the tutorial (just leave the game on the title screen long enough).

Overall this is an awesome game. It works great as a party game, it works great alone, it works great with people watching you and getting really confused. This is definitely a must-have for any Playstation library.

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