Every once in a while, a person with enormous amounts of badass-itude is born. Obviously, that man is me. Unfortunately, the maaaan has deemed my badass-itude too much for the world to handle, and so here I am today, writing about old video games.
This time, however, I’m here to tell you of the greatest game series in the PS2/PSP/Vita/grey area emulator library. It’s a series of games so mighty, that only a single one of them came West from Japan, lest it be deemed too hardcore for even the manliest of Western gamers to handle. I am here to tell you why Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for the PSP is the manliest game that you never played.
It has a manly story.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble begins its story with a train ride to Kyouto. It’s your senior year of high school, and the time has come to learn about the scenery and temples of the city. We’ve all been there. Accompanying you on this trip will is your energetic and loyal buddy Yohei, a number of authority figures that have had it with your shenanigans, your rival Kagenuma, and your possible love interest Fujisawa, who wants nothing more than for you to leave your badass fighting past behind and enjoy your last year of school.
It’s on this train ride that I intervene, name my main badass avatar, and give him an initial prefecture to rule. Unfortunately, my powerful and wise mind cannot think of any other name that could better represent pure, raw, almost offensive power and manliness than Butt Flame Sakamoto.
Sensing that this train ride is too mellow for a hard heart like his, Butt Flame Sakamoto decides to doze off and flash back to his father’s latest amazing lecture on manliness. We can’t forget the basics at times like this.
“Hey, Butt Flame!”
“You have the stare of your mother!”
“You’d better start thanking me!”
The lesson is a success, and soon you wake up in Kyouto. You were reminded of the way of manliness and what it means to be a badass Bancho (also known as “banchosity”) and how shameful Shabazos are (don’t worry, it will all make sense soon enough). Over the course of the game’s seven days, you will have to choose between following Fujisawa’s advice and ditch the school trips in favor of following your family’s tradition, or just spending all your time and money on souvenirs and stupid t-shirts. Hard decisions.
It has manly origins.
Have you heard of a little game called River City Ransom? What are you, some kind of an idiot? River City Ransom is only the hottest game of 1989, made by the creators of Double Dragon and Renegade, ditching those games’ linear approach of “punch more dudes to progress right” in favor of innovative “punch more dudes to progress any way you want” gameplay. It adds an RPG progression system to the scrolling beat ’em up by letting you move around town looking for fights and using the money you earn to level up your stats by eating whole plates of sushi, reading books (who’da thunk?), purchasing new moves, and showing your butt in saunas.
The game’s two action buttons (it’s an NES game, after all) pack more moves and satisfaction than you can shake a Final Fight at, and both the dialogue and characters are full of personality. If your fetish is gangsters (literally) barfing coins and hilarious dialogue after being beaten up, then PLAY THIS GAME NOW.
The manly Kenka Bancho series takes after is papa River City Ransom (and some might say its manly mother Cromartie High School). While the combat isn’t quite up to par, the personality is definitely there, as evidenced by the fact that…
It has manly dialogue.
Have you ever heard of Atlus? You know, the creators and publishers of Persona and Catherine? You know, the games known for their awesome (though not manly) dialogue and fantastic translations? No? Well, how about Spike? Creators of similarly praised Danganronpa, which also features funny dialogue and another awesome translation? Eh?
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is, whaddya know, published by Atlus and created by Spike. I would have never have imagined…
In any case, Kenka Bancho throws enough badass-itude (actual dialogue) and Japanese stereotypes (which I love, see: Cromartie High School) in your general direction to keep you laughing throughout, earning its honorable place alongside the might of River City Ransom.
It has manly gameplay options.
And speaking of dialogue, you’ll be making good use of it throughout the game. You see, the difference between an honorable Bancho and a lowly Shabazo is in the approach. Beating people up is the constant here, but a Bancho knows to fight fair and always approaches a rival for a duel by shooting manly lasers out if his eyes. Should you lock eyes with an enemy, you’ll enter a state of manly staredown (called ”Smashtalk!”), where you’ll be tasked with coming up with a smart and devastating response to your opponent’s (hopefully) dumbass statements, or even repeating their own words for maximum intimidation. If you win, you get a free first attack, but if you come up with something like “Bow down to your butt,” “Your love is mine,” or “Come to my shower,” you lose, and get smacked in the head for being stupid. Fair enough.
Shabazo, on the other hand, is a title given only to those fond of cheap attacks, ambushes, weapons, or terrorizing innocents. You don’t want to be a Shabazo (unless you really want to), at which point you’ll receive a specific title like “Shabazo King” that fits your actions better. You’ll also receive complimentary titles if you perform certain actions enough times, like “Fistful of Yen,” “Cougar Hunter,” “Gerontophobe,” or “Eyes of Doom.” I’ll let you guess where those come from!
Of course, the mere six and a half days of game time won’t be enough to explore every nook and cranny of Kyouto and complete every side quest or even the main portions of the game. Not only that, but certain Banchos and opportunities only show up in certain areas and at specific times and day. It’s up to you to decide what path to follow in each playthrough — not a big problem since the game is fairly short, and you’re incentivized to replay your senior high school trip and do things differently each time.
Should your young heart decide to take on the reigning King Bancho of the region, you’ll have to defeat the Banchos of each prefecture first. You can do this by beating up delinquents in each area of the city and collecting itineraries that will clue you in to where to find the remaining Banchos. But don’t worry, you won’t be alone on your honorable quest. Not only is your buddy Yohei along for the ride, but you can also call defeated Banchos to follow you around and provide assistance. Each Bancho has his/her own personality, moves, and special abilities, and will devote their lives to defend you in an attempt to restore their lost honor. Boom.
And, of course, just like River City, Kyouto is full of mom ‘n pop shops where you’ll be able to buy souvenirs, food to heal yourself, or
idiotic badass costumes from frightened old ladies. Catch a bus, train, or taxi (for when time is of the essence — you don’t want to get caught after curfew!) or go back to your room at the inn, and you will also be able to edit combos with the moves you earned beating up Banchos.
It has a not-so-manly control scheme.
Of course, developer Spike knew that Kenka Bancho was too great. Too perfect. And because of that, they deliberately spoiled the battle system. It’s not bad per se, but it does feel annoyingly stiff for what is otherwise a decent mechanic. You’d think it would feel at least as good as a game released in 1989, but alas, it does not.
That shouldn’t keep you from trying the game, however. Play it for the PSP, or play it for the Vita — just play it. Spread the good word of Kenka Bancho. Make some new friends! Then beat them up! Date girls! Then don’t date them! Ignore authority! Then defy authority! And for the love of banchosity, enjoy the great dialogue and dumbass cutscenes.