Played on: Playstation 2
Devil Kings is Capcom’s take on the samurai/Chinese warrior fighting genre currently monopolized by Koei with its Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises. This one operates on the same gameplay as these games – one button for a standard weapon attack, one button for a special weapon attack, and one button for a special art attack while the remaining button is for jump. The R1 or L1 button, depending on the player, is for defending against enemy’s attacks. For each character, weapons and attack-boosting items are found randomly, though this time around, players have to collect treasure boxes that are obtained whenever enemy commanders are killed to get these items. Also, a new aspect of the game system is that characters learn unique special skills as they level up, these skills activated by pressing R1 or L1 (the player can decide on this upon accessing the Options menu) and S or T button simultaneously.
The characters and the setting are more fantasy than historical. This game can be either fantastically camp or unbearably cheesy. Fantastically camp is in the form of the character Lady Butterfly, a kimono-clad lady who uses all sorts of firearms to blast her way through the enemy’s ranks, while the unbearably cheesy has to be the androgynous warrior Frost and his paramour the ridiculously scantily-clad Venus in their G-rated foreplay session cutscenes. And it’s so adorable, the way our main character Scorpio runs with his butt thrust up in the air like he’s applying for a job in a gay cruise line. Then again, the cut scene where Scorpio and his mentor the Minotaur King cry each other’s name aloud like they’re enjoying some mutual forms of amusement should dispel any notion about these two.
Apart from Lady Butterfly, the other characters are standard characters that hack and slash their way through the crowds of enemies with varying levels of efficiency (Scorpio, his butt-thrust animation aside, is a very effective crowd-clearer while Frost has a limited set of moves that are ridiculously effective and broken nonetheless; with an ice-element weapon, every hit Frost makes freezes the enemy and prevents him or her from attacking back!) – there’s nothing here that players familiar with Koei games won’t be surprised at. Lady Butterfly is unique because at low level, she is a very difficult character to play since she has very low health bar and she doesn’t have a dizzying array of combos – she just shoots so the player spends more time moving her around and blasting her opponents from a distance. I find this character a unique change from the usual Lu Bu wannabes populating this game. And when Lady Butterfly gets higher-level weapons and a wider array of skills, she becomes a terrifying keep-away character that can clear crowds and kill generals with little effort. Getting there, however, is a lot of work.
While Devil Kings could have been a fun game, this game doesn’t feel like a finished product. For one, the story mode is too short – six stages are not enough to be satisfying, not when each stage is small and there is nothing to do in each stage other than to monotonously kill enemies. There’s no need to defend a main camp or anything, there’s no side-missions within a stage, just kill, kill, kill until I meet the general, kill that loser, and the stage is cleared. There are some “secret points” that can be earned but until now at the time of writing, no one seems to know what the conditions to discovering these “secrets” are. But with the stage map being so small, I can’t imagine how challenging discovering these “secrets” can be. Most likely it’s killing a number of enemies within a time limit. What I do like is the story aspects of this game, which is equally cheesy and amusing, and the romantic aspects of the story are gloriously over-the-top, such as the lovelorn couple of Lark and Bramble who desperately try to unite while everyone around them is at war. Don’t laugh at these two though – at hard difficulty they heal each other so often that it’s as painful as hammering nails with my bare fists to take them out.
Maybe when the second installment comes out, the game will feel more complete. As it is, Devil Kings is more of a potentially great game than an actually great one.
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