Welcome to Tales From the Bargain Bin, a new semi-regular-ish feature wherein our intrepid explorer Tim journeys into the depth of clearance sales, used bins, and Steam Sales all over this great land of ours to find cheap games and determine if they deserve that sort of treatment. Got a suggestion for a cheap game to cover? Tweet us @GIZORAMA or hit up Tim directly @PrinceOfBrains!
THE GAME: Anarchy Reigns (PS3 reviewed, 2013, SEGA/Platinum Games)
THE BIN: GameStop “Used Games $10 And Under!” box
THE PRICE: $4.99
Sorry I haven’t done one of these in a bit, everyone – hopefully your GIZORAMA Fun Times haven’t been disrupted too much.
I’m going to keep pretending you noticed my absensce and get right down to business. Platinum Games, the eccentric Japanese developer behind titles such as Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and The Wonderful 101 exist in kind of a strange space for a Japanese niche studio: better-regarded than Grasshopper but not quite as beloved as Atlus (the guys behind those Persona games your RPG friends won’t shut up about), with the majority of their games existing in this sort of “yeah, that was pretty good” space. A new Platinum game comes out, the Internet gets pretty excited, it gets a lot of 6/10-7/10 scores (except Bayonetta 2, weirdly), and it winds up being pretty cheap after a few months so GameStop can make room for more used copies of Destiny. Or at least that’s how it worked when I used to work at video game stores. Perfectly into that little bucket fell poor Anarchy Reigns.
Try and follow me for a second: Anarchy Reigns, released in America in 2013, is the Xbox 360 and PS3 sequel to hyperviolent Wii action title MadWorld, the game you might remember for “looking totally like Sin City” and/or “having running commentary from the guy who plays Bender and the not-Ryan Stiles guy from Whose Line Is It Anyway,” was actually pretty fun, if not a bit too juvenile and mock-edgy, even for Platinum. (Of course, with as few good Wii games as there were at the time, I could be a little biased.) Yes, a four-years-late sequel, on what were then considered the ‘real’ consoles, to a Wii-exclusive game. What a time to be alive!
In keeping with Platinum’s go-to genre of third-person character-based action games not unlike Devil May Cry, Anarchy Reigns is at its core a large-scale evolution of classic arcade beat ’em ups. Set in a particularly John Carpenter-esque dystopian future world, you pick one of two sides (I chose Black Side so I could play as Jack, the hero of MadWorld, as he’s really the only reason most people including myself ever cared about this game) and set about wandering from mission to mission, thrashing any number of awesomely ’80s street gangs along the way, earning new moves and dealing with the seemingly-intentionally atrocious soundtrack.
Games of its ilk tend to live and die by their combat, and Anarchy Reigns pulls it off very well – which should surprise nobody who’s ever played a Platinum game. However, Anarchy Reigns (and by extension, MadWorld) has a much more different feel than many of their titles. While Raiden and Bayonetta tend to rely more on acrobatic nonsense and spectacle, Jack handles in a much slower and beefier fashion. You have to either attack first or block to avoid a lot of damage, as you don’t move too quick and your aerial attacks aren’t anything special, but every punch carries a ton of weight with it and your various attack animations convey the force behind your hits while still maintaining that over-the-top anime ridiculousness that Platinum tends to love. Even if I wasn’t in a mission, wandering around and smashing fools was always satisfying in a way the best games of this genre can manage, and it made the awful music more tolerable.
I also really liked how the game itself was set up. As opposed to the more level-to-level structure MadWorld and most other Japanese action games prefer, Anarchy Reigns is set in an open world of sorts. You walk through a number of large arenas, finding missions of varying natures to complete – sometimes you just beat up a lot of guys in a set time limit, sometimes you escort a robot bartender back to his place of employment…you know, video game stuff – and totally ruining the lives of random gangsters who attempt to oppose you along the way. Yeah, the areas get a little samey, but the inclusion of random events such as black holes and runaway semi trucks helps to liven things up while you search aimlessly for your next mission. And you will – the minimap is no help, so you just have to rely on the mostly-distinct looking areas to find where you’re going. Otherwise, the ‘open-world brawler’ concept is pretty fun.
You may have heard this game had multiplayer. It probably does, but I couldn’t get it to work. The one game I tried creating sat on the lobby screen for twenty minutes while one guy from Japan kept joining and leaving, and then it booted me back to the menu. It’s probably for the best – for as much as I’ve already expressed a dislike for multiplayer, it goes doubly so for anything remotely approaching a fighting game. People have told me the multiplayer was pretty okay back when people played it, so I’m afraid this is all we have to go on.
Overall, I certainly can’t act surprised to find that Anarchy Reigns is a bargain bin title, although I don’t exactly feel like it deserves the reputation that might bring. The game itself is fun and engaging, with the open-world beat-em-up idea almost calling to mind a cross between Escape From New York and River City Ransom, which should really be enough to interest you right then and there. It doesn’t ALWAYS work, but honestly you’re hard pressed to find a Platinum game that does, and I’ll come out and say I liked this a heck of a lot better than I did The Wonderful 101. If you enjoy games with punching, hyperviolent Japanese takes on how men and women should be shaped and act, or just have five dollars you need to lose because of reasons, then you should absolutely go find Anarchy Reigns.
For reals, though: the soundtrack is awful. If Sonic Adventure 2 taught us anything, it’s that constantly looping background music becomes basically intolerable when vocals are added. And that’s really the least of what we should have learned from Sonic Adventure 2.