The Basics: When we talked with G.rev president Hiroyuki Maruyama, he made it clear that his company was actively shopping Senko no Ronde Rev. X to international publishers. It should come as no surprise, then, that Ubisoft has picked the title up for a purported May release. And yet, somehow it is surprising. With every reason to be optimistic, I still couldn't be confident that a game so unique and experimental would be given a chance.
There's no way to really define WarTech (as its domestic port has been called) without an asterisk attached. You could think of it as a competitive shooter of sorts, in which two players fire and dodge curtains of glowing bullets. It would be equally correct to call it a fighting game with a focus on over-the top elaborate projectile attacks. The truth lies somewhere in between.
What do we think? The concept is pretty out-there, but this project is the brainchild of G.rev, an independent developer trained in the trenches of Taito's arcade division. They've already earned themselves a devoted fan base with refined arcade shooters like Border Down and Under Defeat, but Senko marks the first time one of their games will see a domestic release.
G.rev's Taito influence is often transparent, and it shows here, too. Senko's closes cousin seems to be Psychic Force, a unique fighting series game Taito put out in the late 90s. Players could fly on a 2D plane, free from gravity or inertia, and most of the fighting centered on ranged projectile attacks, with some simple close-combat punches and kicks to mix it up. Senko shifts the perspective from profile to bird's-eye, but the shift is superficial, since the game has no gravity, and the resemblance is still there.
But as soon as the action starts, it becomes quickly apparent that this set up is just a launching point for something new, and makes the blasts in Psychic Force look like spit wads. Players have a main weapon, a sub weapon, and a barrage button to launch projectiles at their opponents. There's a dash button to scoot around, and players can get in close for some robotic hand-to-hand. But a Street Fighter style swirl of the joystick yields the kind of gunfire pyrotechnics you could only see in an arcade shoot 'em up, and each of the game's eight characters packs a unique set of firing patterns.
And so Senko becomes more a game of dodge and shoot that punch and block, and the dynamic isn't unlike what you'd find in your favorite manic shootie, but with the visceral competitive edge of a fighting game. But things really heat up just when you think you've bested your opponent. When a player's health is low he can trigger "B.O.S.S. Mode", and summon a fearsome, screen-filling form to unleash waves of punishment to do any shooter boss proud. This gives the player on the ropes a chance for a truly stunning comeback, and let's face it: It's just an image sure to make any shooter fan smile.
You can probably find deeper fighting games, and more intense shooters out there, but in a crowded market, Senko no Ronde offers something even more important: something genuinely new. With glossy graphics remade for the 360, and full Live support, Senko no Rondo could be the cure for the hardcore gamer's ennui.