Rengoku II: Stairway to H.E.A.V.E.N. Review

The scene is Earth,s distant future. The good news is that all war has been obliterated with the use of humanity,s ultimate robot weapon-the A.D.A.M., or the Autonomous Dueling Armed Machine. Since everyone is now at peace in the world, the A.D.A.M. devices are now obsolete; there are no more conflicts to battle. The solution? Place all of the robot warriors in giant Rengoku towers, and let them roam within these confines, never to be released again. Here, these machines of destruction can have at it with each other, and do what they were programmed to do: fight to the death. But one robot is not entirely satisfied with this prospect, and his memory banks start to awaken to what his past really was…

And so starts the story line of the adventure-action game for the PSP, Rengoku II: Stairway to H.E.A.V.E.N., Last year,s offering, Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory, received rather bleak reviews. This second installment of the game hoped to gain favor by addressing various issues and problems associated with the previous title. Will Rengoku II really make it up the stairs to heaven, or will it fall down the steps and plunge into the depths of gaming hell? Read on and find out.

What exactly is Rengoku, you may ask? The game is a third person dungeon crawler-shooter. Your character explores a large expanse of rooms within the Rengoku towe,r and encounters other A.D.A.M. units to do battle with. The artwork to this game, rendered by Jun Suemi, helps to establish the futuristic sci-fi atmosphere of the game.

R2: STH wastes no time on trivialities as it drops you immediately into the action of the game. You are presented with a short tutorial, in which you acquaint yourself with the various controls and aspects of gameplay. Text pop-ups occur during important moments, and help guide you through the fine art of combat, power-ups and upgrades. The beginning levels are rather easy, but serve as a good way to get comfortable with how the game works.

Battle is straightforward and is accomplished by the tried and true method of using button combos to deal out beatings to the other robots and bosses. Each button-triangle, x, square and circle-corresponds to a body part of your robot. Press the appropriate button, and you,ll be able to fight with your arms, legs, torso or head. There is a status screen at the bottom that alerts you of the condition of your parts at any given moment, so be sure to pay attention to that.

Anyone who has picked up the original game (and even those who haven,t) should be able get up to speed in a matter of minutes. The gameplay is not very difficult, and the game draws from elements of other titles in the genre. Think of this game as the third person version of Unreal Tournament or Metroid Prime, and you,ll understand how this game works.

The storyline in R2: STH is intriguing, and I was ready and rearing to explore and explode my adversaries. As mentioned before, the game is a dungeon crawler-you enter rooms and encounter the baddies, and that’s pretty much it. If you successfully defeat everyone in the room, you can unlock other floors and rooms, so you can defeat more baddies, so you can unlock more rooms…well, I think you get the idea. I dispatched my first opponents into the netherworld with a series of right and left arm blows. When you defeat opponents, you get to pick up the weapons or objects they leave behind. These weapons or items can be equipped on your robot, increaseing your robot’s efficiency. Each floor has a Terminal, and this is where you can save game progress, upgrade/arm weapons, use "Elixir" skins to power-up your abilities, and do general maintenance on your robot. The setup screen is fully featured, and you,ll be able to modify many of your character,s attributes. The game sports over 300 weapons, so finding the right combination for maximum fighting power should be quite a challenge in itself.

Going from room to room was intriguing at first, due to the anticipation that I would see new things, have more of the plot revealed to me, or encounter novel aspects of the game. But it became painstakingly clear that this is as good as it gets-you defeat enemies in order to open new areas, etc. While there are boss battles and a smattering of dialogue and plot revelations during gameplay, the whole experience boils down to this simple game formula, and there’s little more. The plot remains undeveloped, and the game gets repetitive. Fast.

There’s a radar present in R2: STH , which identifies where you are relative to the bad guys; it also shows the health of each of your body parts. When you are defeated on any level, you,ll immediately be transported to the floor below, and you’re punished for your failings by having to restart your mission once again. This becomes annoying after a while, and you,ll soon find that it,s better to make sure you save at crucial moments in the game, rather than risk being bumped back down to the start of a level.

Game control of your A.D.A.M robot is somewhat clunky and never really feels tight. You can use the d-pad or analog stick to maneuver, but the movement is awkward and you can easily misdirect your character. Using the right shoulder button allows you to strafe right or left, and pushing the left shoulder button automatically locks on to your opponent. This aspect of the game made fighting almost too easy. When a bad guy is locked on, this condition remains even after you let go of the left shoulder button. With this element out of the way, you can run circles around the enemy and duck and dodge attacks while you strike back. Repetition is-once again-the name of the game, and the constant actions of pure button mashing will wear thin in less than an hour, if not minutes.

The graphics in R2: STH aren,t necessarily stunning, but the way the artwork is presented by Jun Suemi gives the game a nice sci-fi feeling. Some levels reminded me of the old school Sega Genesis game Zero Tolerance, and the stark imaging of Rengoku really had me feeling that I was, indeed, captured within a tower with no way out. But this is taken to the extreme as I really did start to feel a little claustrophobic, because no matter where I went it never seemed that I was making any progress in the game. After defeating an opponent, I was rewarded with the task of opening another door to get out, only to discover that my plight was repeated again and again with never ending rooms. It felt as if I were in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

The sound is adequate with the perfunctory explosion effects and weapons sounds, but the annoying soundtrack that plays over the action is about as likable as hearing fingernails screeching upon a blackboard. Thankfully, the developers saw fit to allow the music volume to be adjusted in the options screen. Thank goodness for life,s little pleasures.

I can,t really see any replay value in this game, because quite honestly, I don,t believe anyone will be able to complete the game all the way through. The game numbs your senses and makes you grouchy because there doesn,t seem to be a point to the game except defeating enemies to open rooms, but I already told you that.

As a game for young kids, it might hold some entertainment value, but ironically enough this game is rated "T" for teen, so that segment of the population is excluded if mommy and daddy are doing their job in screening their children,s video game consumption.

Rengoku II: The Stairway to Heaven seems to be an anachronism in the video game world. If this game had been released in the 90,s, it would have garnered its share of kudos and praise for being innovative and fun. However, the issues with the game lie in the fact that everything in the title has already been done. The title is further weakened due to the lack of inspiration and depth. It constantly plods along, and raises no interest for the player to continue which is very unfortunate, as the premise of the game,s storyline captures the imagination. Perhaps with better level design, Rengoku II could have been a contender, but as it stands right now the game fails to deliver the goods. Maybe the third time will be a charm.

There are those who enjoy this franchise, but for all others the staircase doesn,t lead to heaven, but quite the opposite-it,s going in the other direction.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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