Review by Bach_741

"You want a more 'involved' fighter? Go play laggy DOAU. You want to have fun? Step on in..."

As much as I've played this title since its release, it's astonishing that I haven't written a review about it yet. Well, here we go… and keep in mind, this is being composed by someone who has adored the series since the original was released, well over a decade ago. (I still remember piling into a friends' car, rushing to the convenience store to buy pre-cooked chimichangas, and spending the rest of our high-school lunch period at the local arcade throwing quarters into the MK1 machine.)

Deception is marvelous in many respects. The number of available combatants is an impressive 24 (while the GC version boasts two extra, as you should already know), and I found the number of possible special moves and attack combos for each fell within an acceptable range. The degree of this acceptance, of course, varies from person to person, depending on how much of a fighter fan you are, and how deep any individual title should be to offer you the optimal strategic experience. This is where MK:D falters. A fanatic brawler will quickly become uninterested in the basic, straightforward rock/scissors/paper style of attacking and blocking, as well as the infamous black-and-white 50/50 routine, spurred on by a fairly shady wake-up game. The engine, in fact, really hasn't been upgraded that much beyond the one from Deadly Alliance, with the exception of breakers (instant combo stoppers) and throws. However, if you're like me, and don't want to spend an eon-and-a-half learning an intricate fighting system, this may be the game for you. If you think Tekken and Virtua Fighter are the greatest things since sliced cheese… move along.

Now that I've scared away the people that can't enjoy the simpler pleasures of life, let me assure you Deception is not entirely about fighting. The Chess and Puzzle Kombat modes are here to offer you some varied styles of gameplay. Chess Kombat is based loosely around the rules of actual chess, having you create a team of five fighters (all but your leader represented by at least two pieces each) and engaging in actual combat once two pieces meet on the board. In your quest to topple the leader of the opposing team, you'll need to occupy power squares (which give your pieces, each with pre-determined amounts of health based on the pieces title, a boost during combat), cast spells (sorcerers must be alive to do this) and lay traps for your enemies. Puzzle Kombat doesn't require any kind of fighting, but instead presents you with a ‘Columns-esque' challenge of falling blocks. The purpose is to have similar-colored blocks touching each other when the dragon block of that color falls. Touch the dragon block to the connected colored blocks, and voila – all touching blocks disappear. Puzzle mode is accentuated with miniature characters dueling - a progression of the match in dramatic form - along the bottom of the screen, with the loser being knocked into varying deathtraps; cute, but merely eye candy. Each character (only 12 of 24 from regular Kombat and Chess are available in Puzzle) comes with their own super-move, which helps you to gain an advantage over your opponent, if used at the right time.

To unlock the characters used in Kombat and Chess (you begin with only 12 available), alternate outfits, videos and other goodies, you must first play through the Konquest mode, learning the moves and combos of each different fighter along the way by visiting different ‘realms' and training with these characters as Shujinko – geriatric hero of the bunch. In other words, if you want to be able to play as anyone you like, be prepared to do a little hunting in these realms. For most characters, a chest must first be found, which contains a key, which must then be taken to the Krypt and used to open a coffin… which is where your new character lies. Yes, somewhat convoluted and awry, but the training sequences in Konquest really will help to give you a firm grasp on the playing mechanics. My suggestion is find a website that offers walkthroughs and the like (this one, or any other), print out where each chest will be in each realm (and at what time they'll be there… yes, time of day and day of week will make a difference for some of them… I told you it was convoluted), blast your way through and get them all at once. Otherwise, you'll be revisiting realms over and over, trying to ‘pick up the pieces' just so you can enjoy the other unlockables.

The practice mode leaves something to be desired, as there are no preset defensive/offensive positions you can have the dummy CPU execute for reaction training of your own. (Oooh, but Tekken has… SHUT UP!) If you're lacking a second party to supply you with good competition, online play is simply where it's at. You can play the CPU all you want, and if you're into storylines (which I am not) you'll at least gain some reward from beating the massively obnoxious final boss. Just don't beat yourself up when you have the difficulty set on maximum, and you can't figure out why the computer knows every single move you do as you do it, and reacts instantaneously to it. (Psst… it's a computer… it's good at that.) Online play for Deception, on the average, is fluid and lag free. You may run across a bad connection every once in a while, but it's mostly a really fun time. I could probably write a thesis surrounding the various broken combos and glitches that provide certain characters with some unfair advantages over others, but I will at least say these issues are not enough to deem the game unworthy of playing. If you run across some schmo who chooses to abuse the glitch, take no hesitation in moving on, or retaliating with glitches of your own. Last I checked, the online Deception community was hovering in the upper tens-of-thousands, so you never have to wait that long for a challenge, during peak hours at least.

I think that about does it. The game has dropped in price since its initial release, and in my opinion anyone with XBOX Live who enjoys an entertaining brawler should not hesitate to pick it up. I would give it an 8, based on the fighting game play and mechanics alone, however I only RECENTLY started playing Puzzle Kombat online, and easily see myself spending at least a few more months attempting to gain wins over a completely different set of opponents than the ones I've been playing in Chess or normal Kombat. (Different strokes for different folks) So, after having the replay value upped even more, this bad boy's getting a 9.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/19/05

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