Kengo is set in the Edo period of Japan, after the days of the warring clans ended and the Tokugawa shogun unified the land. In which warriors would travel the land looking for duals in order to prove their skill. In the single player you can choose from about sixteen different swordsman, all with their own unique style specials, and swords.
The single player portion of the game is divided into two parts, the preset arcade mode where you can select from all 16 warriors and the campaign mode. The Arcade mode plays much like any other arcade style fighter, wherein the player fights through several different dojo's facing the students of each samurai master before eventually facing the head of the dojo and progressing. You battle your way through the dojos and eventually fight yourself in a shadow match at the arcade modes end. Multiple characters are also available for unlock upon defeat of the corresponding character in arcade mode. The characters you unlock throughout the game are also available in the campaign mode.
Single Player Campaign.
This portion of the game is definitly its most interesting aspect. The player can select from three different fighters in the begining. After selecting a fighter you choose which dojo to start at. In this mode however you only fight with bokkens, aka the traditional Japanese training wooden katana. As you approach each Dojo master before facing their students they do warn you "Death may still come by the wooden sword." If you accept these consequences (of which are none because you cannot actually die in the game) you begin fighting the dojos students, after completing a dojo you are awadred the leaders sword and some new moves. At your place of rest you are able to choose from any moves available in the game (after unlocking them/ learning them from fighting at the dojo's) you can create your own combos. There are many differnt styles and moves to choose from, and every sword you win from the respective dojos also has a unique special move, which can be excecuted by pressing triangle after your Ki meter is in flames, this usually unleashes an unstoppable move that will most likely devastate your opponent. The only times these moves really fail is if your too far away from your enemies. Some moves or combos can only be linked with other moves and combos which also adds to the depth of the customization, it makes sense that you would not be able to perform a proper lunge after an upward slashing counter attack, so in essence the moves you create must flow like that of an actual swordsmen.
There is also a training mode in which you are able to boost the attributes of your character much like an RPG. The different forms of training range from waterfall meditation, and helmet splitting, to cutting down fields of bamboo to sharpen and perfect your sword skills. Each training session will afford you more points in specific areas such as character strength, insight, stamina, so on and so forth.
After competing at the multiple dojos learning new moves acquiring new swords and training you fame stat will also rise and fall pending on how you do in each area. After your fame reaches a certain point you receive letters of invitation to Royal Tournaments held at the Palace Grounds level. If you accept the invitation you are sent off to fight in the tournament with the style and sword you have selected, you are however given a few days of in game time to do some final preparatory training, so any areas you may need to improve in you are able to catch up before the tournament begins. The better you do in the tournament the more stat increase points you will procure. This is especially helpful because it is the area of the game in which tme most stat ponts can be obtained if you do well enough, or even end up winning the tournament. It is however very difficult to win the first few invitations around though because generally by the time you receive the first one your stats are nowhere near where they need to be in order to win the tournament, and pending on how many dojos you have defeated you may not have the best sword or style.combos in order to effectively win. In the Tournaments you do in fact fight with real katanas and the end result is two warriors walk in and only one leaves, a classic battle to the death. The blood effects in game and in the tournaments are also noteworthy, as they are mostly fanatical spurts and sprays of that which you might see in an animated Japanese cartoon, a little over the top.
If you cut someone in a tournament or in the single player arcade mode but do not kill them immediately they will lose blood over time and many battles end due to opponents bleeding out from a wound they received during the fight though it may not have been initially fatal.
The versus mode offers the ability to fight against another player controlled opponent. Here you are able to select from the original fighter roster for the arcade mode and any characters that may be unlocked on the 1st players profile. The more interesting portion however allows you to load your characters from the single player campaign mode. This becomes especially fun when two people spend some time training their characters and improving their stats as well as creating their own prefferd combos and styles. This mode also offers a little better competition than the computer controlled AI for obvious reasons. The AI in Kengo isn't bad but it certainly is not to be praised by any means. So the versus mode can often offer much better competition against an opponent who has invested a little time into their character.
A lot of people may have over looked this game at first due to its simple button layout, the attack button is only the O button and up to 4 differnt 3 move combinations can be selected by tapping R1 L1 and R2 L2. Usually after doing so your character will switch their stance to the appropriate style and or combination often lowering the blade to the side or holding it high above the head depending on and corresponding to where the first move of the combination starts. The block button is also only one button which in this case is X. Moves can also be parried leaving the opponent open to a counter strike by tapping either forward or away in either direction as an attack is incoming a pressing square. Other than that the blocking is pretty standard except for the fact that if you block to often your stamina will fall to zero in which case your opponent can perform a guard break to which you will have no more defense due to being out of ki/stamina. Also to be noted that excessively blocking will lead to your ki bar never filling completely up which means you cannot execute a
special. The button to perform your special is triangle. As previsouly stated you can only perform your special after filling your Ki meter, and each sword and character have their own unique special attacks.