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Platform

PlayStation 2

 

Genre

Action-Adventure

 

Developer

BottleRocket Entertainment, Inc.

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2005

 

 

- Artistically beautiful graphics, particularly during cut-scenes, are
amazing
- Lots of satisfyingly destructive and lethal weapon action
- Targeting system helps make mincemeat of your enemies without much problem

 

 

- Introduction of more stealth and other characters somewhat detracts from
the game more than add to it
- Levels and enemies don't delve into a newer direction than most
action-adventure titles
- Online play that was supposed to be here isn't

 

 

Review: The Mark of Kri (PlayStation 2)

Review: Gungrave Overdose (PlayStation 2)

Review: Nightshade (PlayStation 2)

 

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Rise of the Kasai

Score: 8.5/10

 

My affection for the action-adventure game with a heavy emphasis on weapon usage goes way, way back to my quarter-feeding days playing Rastan at the local deli each and every day. Action-adventure games have come a long way since then, but one tie that binds Rastan and Sony's Rise of the Kasai, one of the newest weapon-wielding action-adventure titles, is the satisfaction of a good old decapitation or infliction of other bodily harm to an enemy via a large and powerful handheld instrument of death.

 

rise of the kasai preview          rise of the kasai preview

 

As a sequel to 2002's popular The Mark of Kri, Rise of the Kasai follows similar footsteps of action-adventure as the original, with the return of the exploits of the huge barbarian hero, Rau. But while it has the same original gameplay elements that made The Mark of Kri a pleasant surprise for PS2 gamers, including the button-based targeting system and using your feathered friend Kuzo to scout and solve puzzles, Rise of the Kasai takes a slightly different path by providing more playable characters.

 

While this may seem to be a welcome addition at first, the initial excitement over additional characters to play wears off and the attempt to incorporate more stealth into the game doesn't seem to be totally necessary. Worse, the planned online co-op play was dropped from the final release, making Rise of the Kasai a game that fails to completely hit the Mark of its predecessor.

 

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One area that definitely hits the bull's-eye is the unbelievable and art museum-worthy visuals, especially in the gorgeous cut-scenes that must be seen to truly be fully appreciated. The graphics during these wonderful cut-scenes are so good, they belong in a full-length animated movie shown on the big screen. I'd be more than willing to pay to see the Rise of the Kasai animated flick. It's one of the best uses of unique and original animation in a game that I've ever seen. The in-game visuals, while not a direct

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use of the animation of the cut-scenes, is nearly identical, and this is definitely one of the better looking PS2 titles I've played, showing that late in the PS2's life, developers have really found the best way to exploit the system for all its graphical processing power.

 

The story follows the adventures of not just Rau and his spirit guide Kuzo as they adventure through a land of kings and warriors, rife with dark magic, which has cursed many in the world, but a few friendly fellow warriors: Baumusu, Griz, and Tati. The new characters all have different abilities, strengths and personalities, and use different styles of fighting to defeat opponents. While it's not a bad feature to have more characters, it does somehow takes away from the whole solo adventurer story that charmed gamers in The Mark of Kri. The enemies you face in the game are a generic bunch, but they are so exceptionally rendered, you won't notice for long.

 

rise of the kasai preview          rise of the kasai preview

 

One big reason that more characters are around is that, as mentioned earlier, the game was originally scheduled to have co-op and online play. Sony nixed both from the final release, although there are one-player co-op missions that require gamers to work a team of two characters to complete them. These missions can be annoying at times because you're A.I. teammate operates under their own A.I. stubborn will, and can cause sometimes sticky
situations by running into battle when stealthier attacks would have been the better approach.

 

It's a shame, because a two-player co-op mode could have really brought a whole new level of gameplay to the Rise of the Kasai, but instead the game is merely just another good action-adventure title that Sony has become extremely efficient at producing on a regular basis.

 

Controls in the game are overall very good, especially the focus beam that allows players to select multiple enemies to battle at once. The beam can highlight more than one enemy at a time, assigning a PS2 controller button to each enemy. If you want to fight the enemy assigned to the "X", you hit the "X" button, and the same is true for each controller button. It helps you keep a tight grip on your battle plan while slicing and dicing enemies. Rise of the Kasai also has a fighting game combo attack set-up, that allows combo moves to be used, making it easier to use powerful weapon attacks to more easily vanquish enemies.

 

Controlling Kuzo presents the most aggravating aspect of the entire control schematic. Maybe it's me that's just a birdbrain, but I never really got the whole hang of controlling him and sending him where I really wanted without having to attempt it multiple times, and basically just gave up on using his scouting abilities altogether, using Kuzo only when he was required to solve a puzzle.

 

Stealth potentially plays a bigger role in Rise of the Kasai. Because you can be noticed by NPCs if you make too much noise such as by rustling up a flock of birds if you run through them, the game has many points where using stealth to creep up behind enemy sentinels or along rooftops or walls is the preferred and less stressful way to defeat enemies. But even if you're a run-in-with-all-weapons-flying kind of player, defeating enemies isn't too difficult, rendering stealth tactics to a lesser importance. The game doesn't present the toughest challenge from most enemies, although some, like archers, are more deadly. Most of the challenge comes in trying to solve some vague puzzles that require a lot of searching for, finding and hitting switches to open doors.

 

But using stealth or not, Rise of the Kasai's kills are some of the most enjoyable I've had in a game. The gory animations that depict the decapitations, slicing bodies in half horizontally, and backstabbing finishing moves are incredibly fluid, and again lend to the whole animated
movie feel and look of the game. Needless to say, Rise of the Kasai will completely satiate your bloodlust.

 

Great music floats through the game, having a heavy Eastern tribal flavor, and really helps create a great game environment, although there aren't many of the rather generic level designs that will wow you at all.

 

A hack-and-slash with plenty of action-adventure gameplay, Rise of the Kasai is a good game for the gamer who loves the blood-spilling with huge and heavy weapons. But the newer characters don't bring much to the game, and tired action-adventure conventions like solving relatively easy puzzles and the too-familiar level design don't add up to the same fun quotient of The Mark of Kri. Still, Rise of the Kasai is definitely worth the time you'll spend slinging swords, axes, bows and arrows, and other handheld weaponry, slaying away with beautiful cut-scenes as your reward for completing the killing task at hand.

 

-Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(June 20, 2005)

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