Just yesterday, we got a chance to play the domestic version of Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory at a Konami press event. Today, we got the game in the mail--the newly released Japanese version of the game, anyway. Playing it helped shed some insight into this unusual game, although the box art alone would've made it worth the import. The game itself does seem pretty cool, though, as you should be able to glean from our new gameplay movies.
Rengoku resembles a third-person-perspective action game, but it's basically a Diablo-style action role-playing game under the hood. You play as an android trying to fight his way to the top of the tower in question. To do so, you'll run around in mazelike corridors, fighting other androids and blowing some other stuff up while trying to reach the next elevator. The game's action actually feels pretty clunky at first, as your character is only capable of dishing out some basic punches, pulling off simple evasive maneuvers, and locking onto a single enemy at a time. But it wasn't long before things picked up...when we picked up our first weapon (from a defeated foe): a sledgehammer.
You don't just swing weapons in this game; you have them grafted onto your body. Weapons can replace any of your extremities...including your head. So, yeah, Rengoku brings new meaning to the word "hammerhead," or at least that's what we thought as we started running around head-butting all our enemies with our new hammer attachment. We later found a sword as well as a basic gun, and again, we were able to fit these onto either our arms or our head. We didn't find any leg or chest attachments, but those portions of the android may be upgraded as well. Different attachments have clear strengths and weaknesses, and using them too frequently may cause them to overheat. Clearly there's a strategic element to the combat. As you fight, you'll also earn points with which you can upgrade a variety of different stats and other characteristics. All in all, Rengoku's character-customization system seems to be the game's main attraction--it's intriguing and appears to be quite deep without being overwhelmingly complicated.
The game seems pretty tough right from the get-go. As a matter of fact, we had a lot of trouble getting past the first boss opponent, a fiendish android with swords sticking out of his arms and head, and packing a gun for good measure. This guy chopped us up pretty badly, but we fortunately discovered that defeat apparently only means a trip back to the last checkpoint, rather than a "game over" screen. Like most action RPGs, it does seem as though Rengoku's gameplay is focused on a fundamentally repetitive system of corridor-crawling, leveling, and hoping for your enemies to drop good loot. But as we've seen in many previous cases, such a formula can be very addictive...and indeed, even though we weren't initially thrilled by Rengoku's combat, we definitely started to feel the urge to press on, just to see what weird, new weapons we could find around the next corner.
Rengoku features a driving techno soundtrack and some pretty good, smooth visuals, as well as some decidedly inspired--and creepy--character designs by Japanese sci-fi illustrator Jun Suemi. The game's randomly generated levels and four-player wireless multiplayer features also seem like they could make for a great deal of longevity. Since Rengoku is already out in Japan, we figure it'll be primed and ready for release on these shores around the same time that the PSP is set to ship. It should make for a distinctive title among the PSP's lineup this year. Take a look at our new movies to get a sense of how the game plays out.