Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
Gekido was one of the last games I bought for Playstation 1 back in the day, a solid brawler that was featured in some gaming magazine I used to read. I’ll admit that the only reason I checked it out was because of the awesome cover and character art by Marvel Comics artist Joe Madureira, he made the characters look so cool and pop so much that I had to see what it was about.
The game debuted in 2000, and was created by developers Naps Team and Gremlin Interactive Limited, and was a multi-path brawler with a solid and smooth combo system, and characters that each had their own strengths and weaknesses, so that nobody ever felt too similar in play style. Basically, it had the foundation set in place for future brawlers.
Playing it again for the review, the different paths you could take in the game was one of the things that really impressed me, not many side-scrollers from both back in their 16-bit glory days, featured different stages and levels that would change based on where you chose to go, or what character you picked. Another PS1-era brawler that had this aspect was Fighting Force, which could definitely be seen as a contemporary to this game.
You have a rage meter that builds up with 3 different levels of use during combat, so that you can either power-up your normal moves, release a devastating super-combo, or just release a power burst that clears the enemies on-screen. I like the fact that this meter is based on game skill and how well your combos are executed, instead of just building up for no reason over time, and then penalizing you with a bit of health depletion.
Another interesting aspect of the game is the up-to 4 players versus mode you can fight your friends in, which allows you to unlock enemies from the game to play in, as well as get costumes for the main characters you can’t use in the normal gameplay (which I find frustrating and odd, but the alternate designs are cool). The versus mode is a nice touch, and I always enjoy when a game tries to up it’s replay value and diversify what it offers, however the side-scrolling free combo nature of the combat system allows you to all too often lock in your opponent into a combo they really can’t get out of, the defensive mechanics make the versus matches more a game of chance than skill.
One of the other major gripes I have with Gekido is that despite a detailed and varied moves for each character, and the ability to unlock more combos as you progress through the game, a feature I love, there is no move-list, and no way to check or remind yourself of the combos for each character. Since some of the commands for the really cool moves can get pretty complex, you’re often stuck using the same moves over and over, knowing that the variety you want is there, it’s just that unless you have a guide or computer-like memory, you probably won’t be able to access them.
The game also features segments where, if you’re on a certain path, you have to run or move away from an oncoming obstacle like a tidal wave or successive explosions and get to safety. In concept, it’s a cool way to add variety to all the beatings you’re giving out, and give you something else to do. A few other brawlers have used this device before to good effect. The problem in Gekido is that due to the camera not always effectively showing you where to go next, and the movement system being designed for combat and not obstacle negotiation, it can get awkward and hard to get past something in your way.
Despite those issues, Gekido is an under-rated, probably forgotten game on PS1. It’s fun and engaging if you like beat em-ups, the combat is smooth til this day, and there’s a decent variety of enemies you face in the game as well. There was a Gameboy Advance spin-off and an announced but never released sequel for PSP, which is too bad, because I definitely would’ve re-visited the Gekido world, and would’ve liked to see it aided by newer technology.
Gekido: Urban Fighters Gets
Out of Five
+Branched out Stages
-Cheaply designed obstacles
-Lack of a move list