Zatch Bell!: Mamodo Fury - hands-on

Self-aware, crossdressing marionettes are usually the stuff of taco-fueled nightmares, but they're all too real in the crazy, bizarre world of Zatch Bell! (exclamation theirs). The popular anime series pairs up these pseudo-demonic dummies, known as Mamodo, with like-minded humans, forming symbiotic partnerships that then struggle for control of the Mamodo World. Heady stuff, and this madness is coming to the PS2 and GameCube once more thanks to Zatch Bell!: Mamodo Fury.

Whereas the previous Zatch Bell! game was a straightforward fighting game (well, as straightforward as you can get with these characters), Mamodo Fury feels like a weird cross between Power Stone and Dragon Ball Z. Fights take place in free-roaming 3D environments, with obstacles to hide behind and the occasional interactive element - that's the Power Stone. The Dragon Ball Z comes in the fact that most of your attacks are energy-based beams and the like.

Since each character is actually a team of two, you can switch between your human and Mamodo characters with a press of R2. You'll typically want to play as the human, as they hold the spellbook which can command the Mamodo's attacks. All spells are cast with a single button, and the spell that results simply depends on how long the button is held. Zatch, a dress-wearing Mamodo accompanied by pants-wearing teenager Kiyo, can fire off lighting, throw up shields, slow down the opposing Mamodo and do a few other things. You can also control your Mamodo directly, which seems to be useful for more precise aiming and quicker recovery of special move energy.