Anarchy Reigns is a beat em’ up action game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Platinum Games developed the game and Sega served as publisher (as the two have done several times in the past). The game serves as a sequel to Platinum’s Madworld for the Wii with the main character Jack returning, as well as others from the game. Anarchy Reigns features a story mode and multiplayer with over a dozen playable characters. The game stands as the first of several Platinum titles releasing in 2013. It released on January 8 at a value price of $29.99.
The world of Anarchy Reigns is in disarray due to wars, terrorist acts and mass pollution. Because of these things the population at large faces birth defects and mutations. However, through the resilience humanity is known for, a solution was found for these mutations. It came in the form of nanomachines, which can compensate for lost limbs and damaged DNA. Yet it could not stop the anarchy. It was too late to restore order and personal avarice became law. Now two men, Jack and Leo, find themselves in Altambra chasing after the same man, but for different reasons.
The path for Max is fraught with obstacles and missed opportunities as each man tries to capture him. In pursuing the fugitive, both Jack and Leo have allies to help them. The Black side sees Jack teaming up with Blacker Baron, Mathilda and Rin Rin (all returning characters from MadWorld), while the White side has Leo teaming up with fellow BPS agents Sasha and Nikolai (Anarchy Reigns’ Ivan Drago). It becomes clear as the story progresses that not everything is as it seems and a larger mystery unfolds as Jack and Leo track down Max.
The writing in Anarchy Reigns is not going to blow anyone away. It features plenty of Platinum Games’ typical over-the-top-ness and broad strokes. The characters are crazy and in plenty of ways ridiculous with many of them reveling in stereotypes (Blacker Baron, especially). Yet the story is actually pretty good with Jack and Leo being compelling. There is a moment in the game when the ninja, Zero, shows up and Blacker Baron says, “Token ninja character is big money walking, and this token black guy ain’t losing that paper, baby!” Baron’s awareness of the tropes happening in Anarchy Reigns and actively commenting on it, effectively breaking the fourth wall, means that the game may in some ways be conscious of the tired gaming conventions despite utilizing them. It adds dimension to this beat em’ up.
Anarchy Reigns’ gameplay is broken up between stages that function as mini-overworld/hubs. Random enemies spawn while players wander around stages, and by killing them and earning points, new missions will become available to play. The missions are broken into two different types. In each stage, three main missions advance the story. Then there are three free missions that help to increase point total that unlock remaining main missions. Main missions can only be played once while free missions can be played multiple times to earn more points. When a mission is completed it is graded based on different criteria and the score determined rank (silver, gold, platinum). By completing the three main missions, the next stage will open up and the story will continue. At the end of each stage, the player is ranked based on each mission medal. The main missions feature fun boss fights and battles with fellow cyborgs that often be very challenging, while free missions end up being a fun bit of beat em’ up action facing a range of lesser enemies.
The combat in Anarchy Reigns features both normal and heavy attacks with various combos that can be strung together using various combinations of the two. Players can block and evade enemies and doing so is necessary to manage high scores and stave off death. By using a normal attack and jump, characters can use a 360-degree move that helps create space when multiple enemies get too close. There is a grab that allows the player to open up a moment to unleash a combo on an enemy. Of course, the coolest part of combat is using the killer weapon attacks (each character has its own unique killer weapon). Like the regular moves, there is a weak and strong killer weapon attacks and using either will eat up the players killer weapon gauge. The gauge will refill by using combos on enemies. There are also items to utilize in the game that can help change up the flow of fighting in the game. Lastly, as with all action games there is an ultimate state called “Rage mode” that once activated makes the player invincible for a short time while being able to unleash killer weapon attacks freely and normal/heavy moves turn into insane combos. Using all of these moves effectively allows players to rack up the points.
The graphics in Anarchy Reigns are impressive featuring a nice level of detail in the environments and character models. Even if the environments can feel a bit small at times and some tend to be a terrible muddled brown, they are designed in an interesting manner and contribute to the ruined/post-apocalyptic vibe of the game. The best of the stages is Hong Long, where color really pops breaking up the brown and grey color scheme. Each of the characters feels distinct and unique. There is a good eye toward differentiating while creating characters in the same group, so they each have their own style and quirks despite design similarities. There are some faults with the weird ratio of cut scenes and simple profile conversations to move the story along, which creates some odd transitions.
Anarchy Reigns features full voice acting (for the most part) in the game and it is solid. No one voice actor/actress really stands out as amazing, but they are serviceable and clearly contribute the tone the game aims for (even Rins, for the most part). There is an issue with lip-synching in the profile conversations, but since it is originally a Japanese developed game, it is a minor gripe. The soundtrack features plenty of odd hip-hop-esque tracks that composer Naoto Tanaka produced. Artists such as Dilated Peoples, Doujah Raze, Vstylez, muzeOne and more join Tanaka on the songs. The result of the mix is pretty successful, creating a high-energy soundscape that matches the verve of Anarchy Reigns’ gameplay. Some songs are easily better than others are, but overall, it is a good soundtrack. The solo Tanaka songs feature a more mellow and jazzier feel that permeate the menus giving a nice contrast to the game’s soundtrack.
Anarchy Reigns is a nice early year surprise before the madness of February/March begins. The story features crazy characters with an outlandish tone, yet the plight and struggles of Jack and Leo are engaging. With fresh and fast combat, Anarchy Reigns makes fighting through troves of enemies and bosses a treat. Graphically, it has some high points with a few complaints, but nothing that will hinder the visual experience. The voice acting is solid and works (for the most part), while the soundtrack works oddly well. If anything, Anarchy Reigns serves as a solid sequel to MadWorld and a great prologue to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The game is often times blithely offensive and naively self-aware, but also quite good.