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Nick Burgess
21 Feb, 2006

Devil Kings Review

PS2 Review | Carve your way to victory.
These days you can’t talk about the hack-‘n’-slash genre without the obligatory mention of Dynasty Warriors – the series to which all hack-‘n’-slash titles are compared to. Instead of exploring the comparisons and contrasts Devil Kings shares with it’s contemporaries, we shall focus on the game at hand. Devil Kings is what you could dub as the first step into the hack-‘n’-slash genre. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, nor does it last very long – what it does manage to accomplish is being a simplistic, easy to play action title. Funky characters wielding nifty weapons in large scale environments with nothing much else on the objectives list other than to hack your way through the hordes of enemies may sound like fun, but is it?

Devil Kings takes place in a Japanese-style land, where warriors reign and only those with true valour and power will prevail – which hopefully will be your character. Traverse through the various terrain which all carry the similar ancient-warrior layout – meaning lots of open land for large scale battles – and design, referring to the style of buildings and temples that can be found in every level. The concept is quite basic, run here, kill this guy and proceed to next area - repeat until the boss is in your sights. Yes it is very repetitive, but so goes the story of the hack-‘n’-slash genre. What really livens up the experience are the quirky characters there are to play with.

Pick your poison – Red Minotaur with his massive battle axe or Puff, the young artic girl who sports a giant hammer. If oversized weaponry doesn’t tickle your fancy, then maybe Lady Butterfly with her revolvers or Azure Dragon with his samurai sword? Whatever you’re style, Devil Kings will have it – which inadvertently is Devil Kings’s strongest point. Each character is oozing with charisma and style, so much so that you’ll find yourself wanting to test every one out – players should too, to find out which character suits you the best. Each of the six starting characters unlocks another and depending on how much you like the game’s design will affect the amount of characters you unlock, as it is a fairly bittersweet process.

It’s amazing what some women can fit under their dresses.

It’s amazing what some women can fit under their dresses.
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There really isn’t much strategy, just hack away at whichever enemies you want. Logically, take out the ones that pose the biggest threat to you first (eg. the ones shooting arrows at you) and periodically take out the ‘Commander’ or whichever higher ranking enemy is around in order open a gate and proceed to the next area. Otherwise, just get button-happy and keep moving forward. Really if you can press two buttons and move the analog stick, you’re in business. It’s just a case of alternating between the square and triangle button. The triangle button unleashes a stun attack and the square button is the basic attack, using them in tandem will create combos and such, but there isn’t much more to it than that. Of course, if you get completely sick of defeating wave after wave of enemies, you can just jump over them and continue on your merry way to the boss battle. Why not just continuously dodge your enemies and run straight to the boss battle, you say? Well, for the two simple facts that players won’t be able to level up and take full advantage of your items or have boss battles a little more in your favour. If gamers feel confident enough in your button mashing abilities and you get bored easily – just head straight for the boss battles where a fairly-worthy adversary awaits.

Boss battles are obviously a little more intense that regular battles. When gamers have located the boss, he or she will usually be surrounded by a myriad of minions. Engaging the boss immediately will just make life more difficult, because then you not only have the boss to take care of, but the generic minions as well. Therefore, picking off the minion-myriad first, without venturing into the radius around the boss that will initiate the boss battle, makes it a whole lot easier. Each general-boss battle will take around one to four minutes, usually around the two minute mark. Sometimes there will be other generals that players will need to overcome on the way to the final boss battle of that particular level, which are on par with the actually final battle’s difficulty, but as long as players watch their health gauge, it won’t be too hard to overcome even the most eclectic warrior.

The entire conquest mode (the main game) will take around an hour to complete. Rather than the usual, choose your character, go through the game and experience his/her trials and tribulations and the perils of the unrelenting storyline, it’s all about experiencing the different styles of characters and weapons and looking mighty slick while doing it. While working your chosen general through the 14 surrounding territories (that as you go along, become acquired by other generals, so really, there are around 8 armies to defeat) players will find being surrounded by fifty to one hundred enemies and being able to rip through them without so much as batting an eye-lid very satisfying. That satisfaction soon turns into déjà vu five hundred enemies later.

Nothing says warrior like skin-tight latex.

Nothing says warrior like skin-tight latex.
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After battling wave after wave of repeated enemies – one will begin to notice that there are around ten different enemies you can encounter, but after a couple of hundred they all start to look the same. Although, that is what to expect in a game where you can accumulate upwards of one thousand slain enemies – themed enemies to match the boss of each territory would have been nice addition. The under-useage of the characters is quite unfortunate. Sure the characters are featured in the cut scenes, but they only scrape the surface of what each character is like and why they are who they are. The appeal of the characters doesn’t just spawn from the way they look, but also from the spot-on voice overs.

Each general sounds exactly like they should. From the young, poutiness of Puff to the booming and all around scary Devil King himself, to the eccentric, Cirque du Soleil look-a-like, Murl. The soundtrack is fairly average on the other hand, with everything sounding like a cross between ancient, valiant warrior music crossed with something out of a Worms game. The audio always suits, but it isn’t anything to appreciate with the in-game sound effects very stock-standard, except the generals always have funkier sounding weapons. Maybe that’s why all the generals are so charming – because everything else is so basic.

What little character and story development there is comes through the beautifully rendered cut scenes and anime sequences. Preceding some of the battles will be one or the other, with the anime sequences generally lasting longer than the CG ones. These are easily the high point of the visuals as each are pulled off superbly, the only downside is understanding what the heck is going on. Whilst being bewitched by their beauty, a series of question marks will plague your mind – “Who is that guy?”, “Where are we?” and generally “What on earth is going on?” These really don’t help with tell the story or portray any of the characters properly because they are so confusing, but then, a game that takes an hour to complete never really was about character and story progression – so just sit back and enjoy the eye candy.

The in game graphics are another story, where the main characters look great; all the other character models are so… Generic. There is practically no detail in any of the other characters or surrounding buildings but on the upside, there is no slowdown when there are one hundred plus enemies surrounding you. Another visual problem is the drawing distance. Good luck trying to anticipate how many rows of enemies there are to penetrate, because at times you’ll find from one angle you’ll be surrounded by foes and from another you’re not. Buildings, rivals and trees all just magically pop up all around you, which can come as a very unpleasant surprise, especially if you’re trying to run away from, oh let’s say a crazed opponent with a live bomb strapped to his back who is chasing after you.

Haven’t I seen you guys somewhere before? Oh yes, on every other level in the game.

Haven’t I seen you guys somewhere before? Oh yes, on every other level in the game.
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Furthermore, there are in game cut scenes just before a boss battle takes place, which use slightly better looking in-game graphics to produce the five to ten second boss introductions. What is disappointing is that either the characters mouths don’t even come close to match what they’re saying (ie. moving when they aren’t speaking) or they just aren’t moving at all. It’s not much too ask for as we near the end of this generation, that characters mouths form the words they are speaking, instead of random pursing - during the in-game cut scenes it can be very distracting. Another horrible annoyance is the unintuitive camera. It follows you around, but it doesn’t stay behind you, effectively blinding players from seeing where their enemies are located. Pressing the right analog stick down will reposition the camera behind the character, (ala We Love Katamari, except one analog stick instead of both) which wouldn’t be a problem, except the franticness of the battles doesn’t allow players enough time to take their thumb off of the attacking buttons and press the right analog stick without getting injured, which isn’t such a big deal as it is an inconvenience.

The last remaining criticisms of the game come from three different areas. Firstly, the load times can be fairly off-putting at ten to twenty seconds each load – after a great cut scene, who wants to be looking at a blank screen for twenty seconds? Secondly, when deep in the throws of battle, random characters will have something to say and when they speak, whatever they say will be subtitled on the screen via a very obtrusive message that blocks part of the screen and causes gamers to become distracted (it’s hard not to read something that shoots up right in your line of sight). Lastly, there is no multiplayer. Any kind of multiplayer mode would have benefited the title greatly, as it spawns another excuse to not only muck around with the characters, but pit them against each other with a mate on the receiving end of the killer, yet stylish blows.

Whether this game is for you really comes down to is what type of gamer you are. This is very much a pick and put down button masher, first and foremost. Instead of going for a lengthy, character and story driven adventure, Capcom have opted for a short and sweet campaign mode, laced together with gorgeous, yet very hard to follow cut scenes where gamer can slice, smash and shoot their way through hordes of enemies over and over again with different characters – designed for maximum replayability. So if you’re not into mindless button mashing – this probably isn’t for you, but if you’re interested in taking baby steps in the hack-‘n’-slash genre to see what it’s all about or you’re looking for bit of a hack-‘n’-slash fun, then Devil Kings should be right up your alley.
The Score
Devil Kings is the title gamers can use to take baby steps into the hack-‘n’-slash world. Not much in the way of advancing any genre, although, as mentioned it does contain some of the most charismatic and slick characters in recent times. Something to rent when there’s nothing else.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
8 years ago
I can tell you why the plots suck and make no sense, the Japanese release of this game was filled with historical Japanese figures with established rivalries etc. For the western release someone decided to rip all that out, rename everyone and slip in a shitty plot.

I want my psuedo-historical characters back!

By the sounds of it the game wouldn't be worth buying even with a plot though...
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Capcom Entertainment
Developer:
  Capcom Entertainment
Players:
  1

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