Yakiniku Bugyou & Rapid Angel – The PS3 Attitude Review
The PlayStation Store has been a very nice avenue for prospective retro gamers to access older titles with a selection of roughly 160 games that can be downloaded at a moment’s notice. Recently I had the chance to try out a couple of games which to my knowledge did knot exist before they hit the store. Two PSone era Japanese imports which may not have stood the test of time but whose gameplay mechanics we still see today.
When you sit down with a retro game it is with the understanding that it will inevitably be lacking in some way.
Gamers that intend to rekindle past obsessions will often find that their tastes and expectations have evolved to the point that the derivation of previous enjoyment may not even be possible. Whereas past marathons with a particular title came with ease a short revisit may sufficient to satiate one’s appetite. We do not game in a vacuum so much of this is a function of the time that has past. The game has not changed although we have.
That being the case however retro gaming can be more than a quick spin with a favorite childhood game, it affords us the opportunity to gain further appreciation for the gaming industry in its current state. Much of the time clear parallels can be drawn between games which are separated by years if not decades.
Previously released exclusively in Japan, Yakiniku Bugyou is a unique puzzle game which tasks players with the juggling the palates and social statistics of throngs of customers as a yakiniku (grilled meat) chef.
Conceptually Yakiniku Bugyou is based on your ability to internalize information given to you and keep minor flubs and lapses in concentration from snowballing into complete disaster.
At the outset of each grilling round a set of three customers sits down at which time each’s pertinent information is given. All of which can be disseminated into a given customer’s expected mood (bear in mind that all of this information is provided in Japanese so you’ll have to engage in a fair share of profiling). A young college girl will have more relaxed disposition than a middle-aged business man or finicky child.
The game itself consists of a 3×4 grid represented by a yakinku grill. As the chef you are able to arrange and distribute the meat and vegetables as they’re cooked but are tied to the random sequence of upcoming food à la Tetris. With time you will begin to pick up on the various cues the game provides to let you know how well cooked your meat/veggies are. One of the many unfortunate drawbacks to playing a direct import comes up here as non Japanese speaking gamers will not be able to knowingly tailor their grilling a patron’s specific taste. I’m sure the game tells me whether 34-year old father would like his steak rare or well-done but I’ll never know for sure.
The goal of each round is to keep the satisfaction level of each customer hovering beyond the dividing line when the time limit is exhausted. The most manageable way to accomplish this is by way of chaining together sets of pleasing bites which increase a customer’s satisfaction level far more effectively than piecemeal service. There’s a slight learning curve to be tackled at the beginning but eventually frustration gives way to rhythm.
Beyond the main gameplay mode, which consists of six rounds of increasingly difficult customer bundles culminating in a showdown with the master chef’s meticulous palate, players can have a go at an endless survival mode or engage in a local competitive game.
The gameplay mechanics of Yakiniku Bugyou are solid and have been the inspiration of many games that we see today. Contemporary gaming has typically relegated like puzzle games to a more casual/portable market with similarities to Yakiniku Bugyou seen most prominently in games like Diner Dash and Cake Mania.
Despite Yakiniku Bugyou’s obvious role in the shaping of today’s dish serving puzzler the game itself is fairly shallow and doesn’t inspire much reason for continuous play. Upon besting the master chef there isn’t anything left to strive for. This is where the addition of online play and leaderboards, typically not seen in a PSone download, would have given the game a second life.
Considering the vast selection of relatively inexpensive and more polished casual games of Yakiniku Bugyou’s ilk, a $5.99 price tag is more than a bit steep to recommend it for anyone whose interests extend beyond nostalgia.
Whether it be reality or perception, the stagnation of Japanese game development during the current console cycle has been a popular topic of discussion among video game fans.
The reason for this has to do with the amount of innovative Japanese content which dominated the video game landscape for most of the PlayStation brand’s existence.
Rapid Angel is a throwback. A two-dimensional, platform brawler that hearkens back to the glory of far east game design. It’s a creative and surprisingly deep experience that proved to be memorable.
Billed as a ‘High Tension Comical Action Game’, Rapid Angel combines classic platforming with beat-em-up gameplay and wraps it all in a distinctly anime package.
Players can choose from one of three heroines each with their own individual story. Despite the fact that the cut scene animations are very well done and provide reasonable frameworks for each character’s history I found myself skipping them more often than not simply because I didn’t know what was happening.
The game presents you with a host of sundry terrains teaming with faceless henchmen, robots, maids, monsters, mechs, butlers etc.
The combat is actually quite a bit more diverse than one might would expect assuming you choose the right character. Two of the three are generally what you would expect from a beat-em-up game, one being a martial arts expert and the other toting a sword. The third (let’s call her the magician) however is dramatically more dynamic making her a vastly more entertaining choice. Unlike the other two, the magician’s default attack is a long range projectile making her a safer choice but where she really separates herself is in her use of magic (surprise). The magician bears multiple attacks of which her compatriots do not share an equivalent like lighting the ground on fire or summoning a giant blue deity. The unbalanced nature of the default characters is puzzling and ultimately disappointing considering that the other two fighters feel so vanilla in comparison.
One of the most unique characteristics of Rapid Angel is the institution of in-game dialogue choices which can directly affect the way the game is played. While I’m not crazy enough to believe this to be a direct predecessor to gameplay mechanics seen in today’s action RPGs, the use of such a mechanic in an action game struck me as rather innovative for the time and may well have inspired a handful of contemporary developers.
Although the language barrier inevitably makes Rapid Angel less enjoyable than it was intended to be it is still very much a fun retro title that is a solid upgrade over similar titles available for download on the PlayStation Store. If you’re looking for a different, refreshing beat-em-up experience Rapid Angel is absolutely worth a look.