As is apt to happen in 2011, an antivirus has evolved into a self-aware killing machine. As a government operative, it's up to you to scour the city, rough up some hackers, and find the virus. Thus is the basis for Gekido, Interplay's 3D side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Hyped as the second coming of Streets of Rage, Interplay's Gekido actually borrows from a variety of successful fighting romps such as Renegade, Final Fight, Guardian Heroes, and the aforementioned Streets of Rage series.
Playing as either Ushi, Tetsuo, Michelle, or Travis, it's up to you, plus or minus a friend, to tackle level after level of battling brawlers, rabid dogs, knife-wielding thugs, and a whole host of genetically altered humans. Each character has its own fighting style and unique route through the game's ten levels, meaning that you'll have to beat the game with everyone to fully complete it. There are a few bonus levels, some hidden characters, and a four-player arena mode as well. The control is simple, with the D-pad for movement, the L-buttons for jump and crouch, and the main buttons for punches and kicks. Spicing things up, the circle button can activate a short-term rage boost, allowing a brief period of triple damage. Combos are both fun and easy to execute, allowing you to unleash a Jet Li-style onslaught of flashy acrobatics with only a few button presses. As the game progresses from the streets through the marina, into the subway and toward town, the game rewards diligent gamers with extra combos, increasingly creative bosses, stunning scenery, and a whole host of natural disasters. But as exciting as this all sounds, Gekido can become stale if you're not a fan of the genre. It is, after all, an action-fighting game and possesses all the pros and cons that delineate the genre.
Visually, the game is as gorgeous as a PlayStation game is going to get. Levels are highly detailed, replete with benches, barrels, streetlights, cars, tourists, and a list of other items too numerous to list, all of which you can interact with. Each level, while linear, is large and allows a great degree of movement, with only minor slowdown here and there. Much of the time the action is on the street, but it also jaunts onto rooftops and scaffolding, providing some level of visual variety. The battle on a moving subway train in which you face a duo of human infernos is merely one example of the game's many visual goodies. Top it off with a believable amount of character animation, and Gekido is nearly the PlayStation equivalent of a Hong Kong action film.
For beat-'em-up vets, background music and sound effects can either elevate or bury a game. Gekido is a mixed bag in this respect. The music, contributed by artists such as Fatboy Slim and Apartment 26, offers a techno/jungle backbeat that usually fits the setting, but there are times when the music feels pasted in. For those new to the genre, the music ought to be sufficient, but those brought up with the masterworks of Yuzo Koshiro are going to find a degree of letdown. Furthermore, Gekido's audio effects, while comedic, are simply a standard array of punches, kicks, grunts, explosions, and various wisecracks. There is a lot of personality within each character's utterances, but nothing overly original or inspiring.
As a single-player fighting romp, Gekido is amusing, fun, and replayable. But with one or more friends, the game becomes a multiplayer glee-fest worthy of a spot in every socialite's game collection. With inviting gameplay and an abundance of hidden characters, Gekido is worthy of the acclaim given to Streets of Rage 2, Guardian Heroes, or Die Hard Arcade, provided you're a fan of the genre.