Preview: Ketsui

June 10, 2002 9:22 PM PST

Ketsui is the latest from Cave, famous for the diabolical Dodonpachi series if nothing else. Itís actually something of a surprise to me that this game got completed. I suspected this when looking at the screens some months ago, but Ketsui is Dodonpachi with helicopters and homing attacks, when you boil it down to its essence. In 1989, post Gunhed series Ė Iíd not have been shocked in the least that the game was so average. Back then, shooters were the game of the era, and every damn company on the planet was making them. Shooters were almost all average, and only a few stood out even then. In this day and age, with so few peers against which to compare it, a mediocre title stands as a glaring eyesore, and almost a legitimation of the popular decay of the genre.

These days, shooters are differentiating themselves by their system and their visual style above all else. While the mechanical designs of Ketsui may differ from Dodonpachi, the basic look and feel of the graphical layout is very similar. The system is just as closely related to that of Ketsuiís better half. Continual tapping of the shoot button causes the ship to shoot itís normal vulcan bullets. Holding the button yields a fat laser which slows the ship down, and increases your blasting power by a bit. Thereís a bomb button as well (clears all bullets), and two helicopters to choose from, straight and spread shooters respectively.

The only significant difference between this and the Dodonpachi system is that in Ketsui, you have two companion pods that are always at your left and right. These are invincible of course, and shoot homing bullet streams. It makes the game much easier than Dodonpachi, because even when hovering in a corner trying to avoid bullets, youíre still pelting the enemies, even if your main blasters canít touch them.

Add wider-spaced bullet patterns to the mix and you get a game I can single-credit to stage three on my first sit-down at the console. And Iím no Alamone.

This system feels like something someone on the staff wanted to implement as an option into DDD, but was deemed too Ďsimpleí by the higher-ups. So they made it into a game of itís own. In a way, itís sort of like Dodonpachi for beginnersÖa training ground or something like this. But due to its ease, it sort of gives you a Ďfluff shooterí feeling. Sure itís fun, but itís not something youíll have to marry to master. And it wonít tax your brain much either, like an Ikaruga or Shikigami could potentially do. Dodonpachi itself beats this out, because it is a game defined by its difficulty. You must master the paths through the bullets, while trying to find ways to get your blaster back on the target. Itís much more immersive than this.

So while Iíd buy Ketsui if it came out for a console, itís more of a callback to the days when shooters sold. Itís a shooting game for casual gamers, but marketed to the dedicated gamer. But the game doesnít demand much dedication. It hurts me deep inside to say it, but this game should probably be passed over for console release. Were it aimed more at the casual audience, it could be something of a gateway. But as it currently is, those kids will leave it alone, and the bitter old cranks of the shooter world will scoff at itís existence. A decent game doomed from the start by virtue of the decline of the genre in which itís placed. Very depressing.

Brandon Sheffield

A word about the movie - that image at the top is supposed to be a movie of me playing. Henry Moriarty was taking the footage, but had the camera set on 'still', not 'movie'. So that's all it came to. The actual video is of the demo - I needed to save money for KOF. It stops so abruptly because I was asked to stop filming by the manager of the arcade. So now you know...the rest of the story.




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