It seems to me that the Nintendo Switch is fast becoming the first ‘port’ of call when it comes to revitalising, or re-releasing, video games from a bygone age. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as many retro games have a unique style to them that is long-buried within the depths of our memories. Gekido Kintaro’s Revenge, originally released in 2002 for the Gameboy Advance, is the latest title to do so. Developed and published by Na.p.s. Team, this updated version makes a round house kick onto Nintendo’s flagship console, boasting a whole host of extras to bring its retro style bang up-to-date.
The story follows a lone protagonist, Tetsuo, who, upon his return to his old sensei and adopted father, Ushi, learns of a strange happening in a faraway farming village that needs to be investigated. Disciplined within the ancient art of Shin-Ken, Tetsuo soon discovers that an evil force has overrun the old temple, causing the dead to rise from their graves and attack the village. Upon his return, Tetsuo also learns that the “…ravens…” are responsible and that all of the children from the village have disappeared. It’s then left up to you to investigate the evil cult and return peace to the once, tranquil setting of the village.
Kintaro’s Revenge is essentially a retro 2D beat-em-up that bears influences from previous titles such as Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Double Dragon. Whereas these titles bore an arcade style of gameplay, Gekido contains many more elements to its mechanics which produces a hybrid style of play that blends both retro and modern gaming into one neat package. As well as incorporating the original gameplay values in the story of its previous release, this new version of the game also boasts extra modes such as survival and relic hunting as well as a myriad of extra options to further enhance the look and feel of its retro-inspired roots.
Covering five, but rather expansive levels, you guide Tetsuo on a side scrolling mission to uncover the truths that now haunt the village. With an arsenal of martial arts moves, that sees you jumping, punching and kicking, you can investigate the areas to your left, right, above and, sometimes, below. To hamper your progress, various demons and villains leap from the skies or burst from the ground to torment you with their variety of skilful fighting moves and lethal weaponry. In the usual setting of a beat-em-up, Tetsuo’s well-being comes in the form of a health bar that slowly depletes with each form of damage he receives. As well as this meter, a special move bar also regenerates over time, allowing Tetsuo to perform a masterful attack that sends any nearby foe crashing to the ground; thus opening up a window of opportunity for attack. There’s nothing particularly new here within these elements of the usual beat-em-up mechanics, however, there are other factors that enhance the overall experience of the title’s gameplay.
As well as offering the mechanics of a retro-style arcade beat-em-up, Gekido also incorporates a story element that is told through some impressive looking anime-styled cut-scenes and character interactions. This also leads onto an exploration mechanic as you seek out various items that are needed in order to advance through the game. This certainly beefs out the gameplay available to you here, and offers a satisfying change to the boundaries often associated within its genre. However, as you progress through the levels, it becomes increasingly easier to find yourself getting lost, especially with the need to backtrack at times, with no inclusion of any style of mapping your locations, which is a shame.
Combat can be very satisfying, however, with a huge variety of enemies and sometimes, so much going on on-screen, the game can be very unforgiving in its difficulty and challenge. Tetsuo does have the luxury of five lives, or continues, as well as an automatic save at the beginning of each chapter, but against such diversity within each of the levels designs, this can seem a bit sparse overall. As well as his basic and special moves, some enemies can drop power-ups and food items that can both enhance or hinder your character’s abilities. However, the frequency in which they drop, particularly with the food items that increase your health, can be a bit too few and far between.
The new modes on offer can add to the longevity of the title and add some variety in its gameplay; albeit a rather limited variation on its themes. Survival is just that. Playing more like a retro arcade game, this mode sees you pitted against a variety of increasingly difficult opponents as you fight for the honour of a high score. It’s a fun inclusion but, ultimately, offers you a lot less than the games main story mode. Relic Hunting, however, does manage to bring something a little different to the table. This mode sees you exploring different locales as you seek out various treasures that are scattered throughout the levels. It uses the same mechanics as the main game, however, this mode also includes a map to help guide you, which makes the decision not to incorporate this into the story a strange one indeed.
As well as the new game modes on offer, the game also boasts some rather neat additions to the options that can create some very nifty effects to the game. Antialiasing, TV mode and Scale all change the aesthetics of the screen and can produce some very satisfying results. For the retro enthusiasts out there, these options can produce a look that mimics the Gameboy Advance, Arcade Cabinets and even old-fashioned TV’s. It’s definitely worth tinkering with these options as you’ll easily find various styles that can change the look of the game to a point that is pleasing to you. The soundtrack has been given a boost too, with haunting tunes that add to the atmospherics and really create an ambience of horror, particularly to the story element of the game.
Overall, this updated version of Gekido Kintaro’s Revenge offers a nice little package with its extra modes and options, as well as the originality of its previous release. However, despite its enhancements, it still contains many flaws that can make the whole experience a little frustrating. The collision detection, especially around holes in the ground or near flames, seems to be very unforgiving and may even be a bit off. I am aware that there are bugs within this review copy of the game which will be fixed with a day one patch, I just hope that this is one of them. I also feel that its level of difficulty, is maybe a bit too harsh with so much action going on at any one time. With skill and practice, you can overcome this, however, I also feel that this may be something that puts people off from investing themselves within the game. Also worth noting, is the games ability to now have one or two players. This greatly enhances the experience, especially within the survival mode, and adds a whole new dimension to the fun that can be had within this title, although the flaws still remain. Despite the extra elements incorporated into the gameplay, its variety is quite limited and you can’t escape from the basic mechanics of its gameplay, saying that though, this is an enjoyable example of retro gaming and does have a lot to offer in its hybrid styles of genre. The combat is generally satisfying, as is the story and atmosphere and with its, quite frankly, remarkable options in the aesthetics of the game, is a title that I am sure many retro enthusiasts will get a satisfying kick out of.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.