Sept 28, 2007
Kengo: Legend of the 9 (Kengo Zero in the UK) is one of those games gets worse the more you know about videogames. For instance, if you don't know your history, you'll play this samurai hack and slasher and think it's pretty horrid. But if you realize that this is actually the great, great, great grandson of the original Bushido Blade, a beloved one-on-one sword fighting game for the original PlayStation, this isn't just a crapheap, it's a freaking tragedy.
The graphics are almost Xbox - as in the original Xbox console Microsoft released before the Xbox 360 - in quality. The nine playable characters are all supposedly plucked from Japanese history, but with none of their historical details intact other than the fact that they're handy with a sword. Thus, the near-legendary swordsmen of Japan are rendered dull and personality-less. And despite the fact that you're supposedly living out pivotal events in each of their lives, all you ever seem to do is gash holes in one slack-jawed dumbass after another.
Even this no-nonsense gameplay style could still be fun if your character's controls didn't feel so clumsy and sluggish. A big part of the combat is pushing your opponent around when your swords have clashed, typically to put them in position for an environmental kill (like stabbing them into a wall, or knocking them into the river), but it doesn't work well and the kills get old quickly even when it does.
There are also design issues such as lousy camera angles and imperfect hit detection - it kinda blows when that expert sword slash goes right through someone instead of cutting them so hard the stone lantern behind them is sliced in two.
There is a one-on-one fighting mode that recalls the series' origins fondly, and it isn't bad when you've got another human brain to fight against. But overall, this is what happens when games go bad... then worse... then are given to another developer to do a sequel in half the time and with a fourth of the budget. This one should have committed the ol' seppuku long ago.