Review by MrMikeMa

"The evolution of the beat-em-up is finally here!"

Max Anarchy (Anarchy Reigns in the soon to released EU and US versions) is the spiritual successor of the Wii exclusive Madworld – a game that was one of Nintendo's attempts to add some M rated games to the library to draw in the hardcore crowd. It was typical Platinum fare in that was received well but didn't sell very well. Bayonetta seems to be the only Platinum game to break that mold to date. This game is destined to be another cult hit, and as such I can see why Sega EU and US is hesitant to release this because, alas, it just won't be a big seller. But, I am getting ahead of myself. So, what is this game about?

Story: The game takes place in a typical dystopian future where pollution has taken its toll on society and resulted in either the impoverishment and/or mutation of the general populace. In addition, to compensate for limbs rotting off, there are those who use the cybrid arts and fuse powerful machinery to their bodies to aid them in survival and battle. The story mode of the game tasks you to play from two sides: The Black side and the White side. Two separate groups are tracking down a rouge agent named Max, suspected of going on a murder rampage, to have him answer from his crimes. The black side features the main cast of Madworld – Jack Cayman is hired by the Max's daughter to bring him. He is trailed by none other than the Black Baron and his sadistic, sultry partner Mathilda. The white side puts the main focus on Leo, the youngest member of Max's elite team, and his squad mates Sasha and Nikolai. I leave a lot of the details out to avoid spoilers, but the main story is far better than I expected in this type of game. Lots of back story are filled in as you play with very nice FMV cut scenes, and the story will have its share of twists and turns. It is also filled with a lot of silly filler, but these moments are here specifically to introduce you to the large roster of characters. These story moments treat you to some cheesy old-school pop-up windows showing two mostly static pictures of characters engaging in conversation, whose lips move way out of synch with the actual dialog. Since the cut scenes are done so well, I would argue that these scenes are intentionally cheesy.

Game play: This game is, naturally, all about the game play itself. Each character has a standard light and heavy punch/kick attack, a jump, and a throw move. There is a lock on that is extremely useful on boss and large enemies, a 360 degree attack useful when surrounded, and you can parry or just evade attacks. As you land successful attacks, you can fill up two meters. The special attack meter allows you to modify the light and heavy attacks to use your cybrid arts weapon for some gruesome attacks. The rage meter, when full, causes the character will glow, and pressing in the analog sticks activates rage, which will largely increase your speed and damage dealt for a limited time. Each character also has a unique execution move to perform on certain enemies. There are some combos here based on the timing of the light and heavy attacks, and while not extremely deep, there is enough variety to keep it fresh. Lastly, you can find and carry 2 items and equip them with for some long range attacks. Items range from sniper rifles to homing rockets and stun grenades. The action itself is fast and fluid and functions just fine. It's not perfect and could use a little polish, but nothing to really complain about.

Game structure: Each side of the campaign plays out over 4 levels, which are free roam, open world maps. These maps are not huge but broken up in sections, accessed via jump points, platforms or ropes that will bring you back and forth between them with no load times. Each campaign features different sections of the maps to mix it up, although it would have been nice to see a few more maps. The goal of each level is similar to Madworld. You need to earn enough points to continue. Enemies endlessly spawn at various points all over the map. You rack up points defeating enemies until missions appear. There are two types of missions: free and story. Free missions task you with simple objective such as defeat a certain number of enemies within a time limit, survive for a period of time, and some other surprises I won't spoil. The story missions trigger the story moments and then a battle with a specific character that becomes unlocked upon defeat. Some of these missions even allow you to choose another character to play. Beating missions earns you points and a medal based on how well you performed. You can replay all free and story missions as many times as you want except for the final story mission, which ends the level and gives you an overall rank when completed. There are 5 or 6 missions per level, and the missions are not the same on each side of the campaign. The longer you stay on the map, the more dangerous the waves of enemies become , and random events occur to mess with you even more. There are not that many of them, but you might have some planes fly over and drop bombs on the map, for example. Some of them are really bizarre to say the least, so I won't spoil the rest. The enemy variety in this game is impressive. Each map has different variations of the generic grunts, called killseekers, but they are at least not just palette swaps. There are also some monsters and a few more surprise appearances.

Graphics/Sound:The main criticism of the game can be found with the graphics. The character models are all very well done, but the graphics themselves are nothing special. The level design is ok, nothing spectacular, and they have sort of a blurry, washed out look. Lots of clipping and other hiccups tend to pop up. Enemy waves pop into the environment in strange ways and I am not a fan of the slowdown effect that occurs when a new enemy wave appears. It does not bother me, but the graphics lovers out there will probably take issue. The sounds effects are great and what I expect from a beat em up, and for the most part the voice acting gets the job done. The real hero of the sound department is the soundtrack. Just like with Madworld, the hip hop really suits this style of game, I cannot stress this enough. This original soundtrack is quality music you can add to your iPod or MP3 player. It's that good, and not even the kind of music I normally like. And the developers really know how use this music at just the right game moments.

Replay Value: The game has tons of content. There are 3 difficulty levels to play and get medals, and when you beat the game, you unlock not only level select, but you can now play any level with any character. With 18 characters, including Bayonetta herself, that's a lot of people to play with. Next to each medal is a picture of the character you get the high score with so you know who got the high score, which is a nice touch. What's great is that you can enter a level, try to platinum a mission, then save and exit. You don't have to play the entire level to work on a particular mission. Each level has 5 hidden vaults with concept art, each unique enemy you defeat has a 3d model added, and there is a cut scene viewer. Beating the game also unlock the music player. You also have a standard training level and practice mode. Best of all, practice mode features the simulator, which lets you take any of the 16 multiplayer modes and play them offline with bots. And the bots are not pushovers in battles, and hold their own in survival mode.

Multiplayer: This game was intended to be a multiplayer game, and it shows. There are 16 modes which range from a 16 player free for all right down to a 1 on 1 cage match. Then there is the standard capture the flag and team death matches. The survival mode pits you with 2 other players and you have to survive 10 waves of increasingly difficult enemies on a set time limit. I like this mode the best so far because there are different waves of enemies for each map, and there are some nice surprises. The last mode to mention is deathball, which is a watered down version of an Xbox game called Deathrow where two teams fight over a football and try to score goals in the process. Each of these games nets you points to level up. Some games allow you to equip perks you unlock in single player, and you can also unlock emblems to assign to your characters. There is also a character to unlock when you reach a certain level. However, it is far from being competitive due to the unbalanced nature of the melee combat and a lot of infinite exploits already discovered. There is not a lot of strategy to employ here and the modes seem to be meant to as play for fun factor only. You will take hits from everywhere making blocking useless, and it's easy to just juggle a person to their death. It plays like a he who hits first hits always type game. These flaws make it frustrating for those looking for competitive action. It's a shame this game does not feature local co-op, because I feel that's where the multiplayer for this belongs, since the online community is going to be small and who knows how long active.

Final verdict: I have to give this game a solid “A”. Honestly, any fan of the beat-em-up, a dying genre, is going to love this game, and I applaud Platinum games for putting it out there. I also hope that this review contains the information that can serve to maybe convince a few of those on the fence who are looking for something different from the norm. I clearly love this game, but am not going to call it perfect. However, without a doubt the pure, fun, old school beat-em-up game play found here outweighs any negative by a large margin. This is the exact same EU and US should be getting in early 2013, and already has full English language support, so if you don't mind spending a few extra dollars, just import it today.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/17/12

Game Release: Max Anarchy (JP, 07/05/12)

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