Kabuki Warriors is a horrible fighting game from Genki and Lightweight, the companies responsible for games like Kengo and Bushido Blade. This Xbox fighter may feature just as much swordplay as those games, but a lack of variety, poor gameplay, and an awful presentation keep this mildly interesting concept from achieving anything beyond establishing a new low.
The main mode in Kabuki Warriors is its tour mode, in which you take a team of three Kabuki characters from city to city, "performing" by fighting opposing Kabuki teams. A successful performance on your part--which is accomplished by hammering on the game's attack button while occasionally stopping to hit your special attack button--lets you trade one of your fighters for one of the three you just faced. The object is to have a badass team of Kabuki warriors by the time you get to the final city, Kyoto. Fighting earns money, which is used to travel. The more money you earn in a fight, the farther you can travel in one turn. You can choose to save all your money by only progressing one stop at a time, or you can spend it all to get from place to place and traverse the Japanese countryside much, much faster. Money is earned by winning a bout, but you can also earn extra cash by performing combos and taunting. The twist here is that the money comes from your audience, and you'll actually see coins flying at your character when you've done something to warrant some change.
Kabuki Warriors is a 2D fighter that makes poor use of its buttons. You have one attack button, which can be combined with directions on the D-pad to execute different attacks. A block button lets you block high, medium, and low, but a medium block will stop almost every attack. The jump button lets you jump, and you can execute attacks while in the air. Finally, a roll button lets you roll away from opponents, and buttons are reserved for taunting and unleashing a special attack when your popularity meter is full. The combo system, which revolves around that one attack button, is poor and essentially consists of slamming the A button repeatedly to execute multiple attacks. Holding down and forward while attacking executes a launcher attack with most characters, allowing you to juggle opponents for two or three extra slashes. While there are a few different-looking characters, the game is rife with palette swaps, and most of the characters play extremely similarly.
The game has a certain sharpness to it, but everything it's showing onscreen is so bad that crisp corners on the fighters and backgrounds really don't help. As all your fights take place on a wooden stage, every level is essentially identical. The only thing that changes is the painted backdrop behind your fighters, which is occasionally replaced by an actual 3D scene on some levels. The character models are blocky and have horrible animation. Things like arms and legs look unattached to their torsos on some fighters, and the faces of the fighters are laughably bad. The soundtrack is a mix of traditional Japanese music and gaudy guitar rock or electronic drums. Rounding out the "painful to look at, painful to listen to" package is a generic sword clash noise, the sound of feet stomping on wood, and a superannoying scream that is played anytime you select anything on a menu.
One could easily go on for another thousand words detailing the shallow fighting system, ugly characters, and general laziness involved in not bothering to translate the tour mode's map screen or at least subtitle the win speeches. But it should suffice to say that Kabuki Warriors is one of the worst games to be released this year or any year, on the Xbox or any other platform. The fact that Microsoft's supposedly rigid approval process allowed this game to see the light of day is simply disgusting.