Anarchy Reigns (Import)
Sega went and said Anarchy Reigns would be coming out nine months (nine) later in Europe and the US than it would in its native Japan.
Rather than admit defeat, we went out and bought ourselves a copy of the game – despite the initial confusion when we were sent Max Anarchy, we soon remembered that’s what it’s called. And on popping it on for the first time, we were met with screen upon screen of information in perfect English – the language Max Anarchy defaults to. Someone, somewhere, was trying to tell us they wanted the game released in a timely fashion in the west, and that they were quite happy for you to import it.
But should you? In short: yes. In a bit longer: yes, but only if you’re of a certain gamesplaying mindset and are a person of patience. The sort of mindset that has a deep-seated love for all things Platinum Games. The sort of mindset that doesn’t expect instant, all-out gratification and is instead happy to work for its rewards. The sort of mindset that is okay with having to work – hard – to not get its ass regularly handed to it online.
See, Max Anarchy is clearly made for the market of online pugilism, slotting in as a modern incarnation of the likes of PowerStone and Virtual On as one of those once-forgotten arena-based batter-‘em’ups. But you’ll want to make a stop off in the six-hour single-player campaign if only to learn what the hell you’re doing in a far more friendly environment.
And while there are fair comparisons to God Hand to be thrown at Max Anarchy, it’s nowhere near as difficult, technical or unforgiving as the Capcom classic.
It aims for a more welcoming style of fighting, but one at the same time that feels slower and more shallow as a result – it’s not on Bayonetta’s level, though with online being as frantic as it is you can see this is an intentional design decision. Even so, this imprecise feel to controls, while forgivable, isn’t exactly a great point to have to make, especially when dodging just feels like it only works when it wants to, and you have no idea when it wants to.
There’s a story, for some reason: it’s silly and, at times, quite funny, but it attempts something serious at times and that’s where our brains went into hibernation. It’s unimportant. Basically, you play as Jack Cayman from the massively overlooked MadWorld (you didn’t play it; it was on Wii) or Leo Victorion, who looks like a male version of the PN03 lead character (you didn’t play it; it was on GameCube). That’s all that really matters, alongside the fact you get to play as other characters as the game progresses, should you so choose.
It’s a handful of levels for each character, split up into six missions – three non-repeatable story missions and three grindable side missions. And grindable, made up as it is, is the key word here. For Max Anarchy operates a strange system of unlocks – missions aren’t available from the get-go, you have to earn them.
What this leads to is, initially, battering as many lackeys as you can to earn the points to unlock the first mission. From there you play the mission – maybe multiple times – to unlock the story mission. Rinse and repeat. It feels oddly archaic and counter-productive, forcing players to jump through irritating hoops just to earn their progression. But you get used to it. And the medal system of awards will keep you coming back to replay missions – if you’re of that mindset. Mmm, delicious platinum medals…
What takes you a hell of a lot longer to get used to, though, is online. It’s hard. Initially far too hard, and sure to be the sort of experience that instantly puts a lot of people off. We were level one for around 15 matches before hitting the XP required to get to the second stage. Of 50. And it’s not like other players – or the game, which docks points depending on how you’re killed – are going to help you find your feet.
This is a baptism of fire the likes of which we have not seen in online gaming. Did we mention it’s hard? Because it’s hard. Perks help a bit and team-based events make for more controlled anarchy (pun!), but generally speaking it’s not a game for those afraid of challenge. Particularly those afraid of what is sometimes unfair challenge, based on the amount of times we were subjected to throws.
Max Anarchy is good and, for those who have the patience and skill, possibly great. But a possibly great game is not a great game – and Max Anarchy is not in the same league as God Hand, Bayonetta or even PowerStone. It’s fun, it’s not fun enough.