Sony and BottleRocket Studios have released Rise of the Kasai, a follow-up to their cult favorite, The Mark of Kri, which offers a unique look and fighting system with on the PS2. The game is set both before and after the events in the first installment, allowing players to take control of several warriors. The game features the same unique targeting system, but adds cooperative play to create a unique feel, both online and off. With the involvement of Hollywood animators and game designers, Rise of the Kasai offers a uniquely oriental look, especially in the stylized cut-scenes in the story. The controls take some getting used to, but Rise of the Kasai is a solidly entertaining and original title that's definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something different.
The Mark of Kri was one of the more innovative and interesting titles to come out for the PS2. It offered a unique blend of targeted fighting moves, clever stealth mode and stylish visuals, it definitely made an impact amongst PS2 owners. Now, the developers at Bottle Rocket Studios have returned to the series with the release of Rise of the Kasai. Set a decade before and after the events of the first game, the new title offers many of the same gameplay mechanics as the original, but slightly refined this time around. The game is set before the events of Mark of Kri, and focuses on finding and killing those who betrayed Rau, and then the consequences two decades later after the evil spell has been unleashed. Players can take control of one of 4 different playable characters. Rau, the hero from the first game returns to battle the Kasai. He brings along his trusty spirit guide, a bird named Kuzo. During the game, he uses his strength and power to slice through enemies with a variety of weapons including his seord, and axe and bow and arrow. He can also use Kuzo to scout ahead and view areas ahead of time. During his quest, he's now joined with his sister, who can communicate with the dead and see through their eyes, fires projectile weapons and use her dual daggers and heavy blades to slice through foes. She's much more nimble and daring than her brother and can also blend into the backgrounds much easier. However, she isn't as skilled as her brother in combat, and these rough edges can leave her vulnerable as well. Along the way, these siblings will also encounter two additional Raku warriors, who share in the Kri's mark and have also protect the 'marked' innocents. Each of these characters brings a unique fighting style and set of abilites to the adventure, so you need to pick them wisely if you want to beat each level. .
At the start of each stage, players can choose one of two warriors to control during that level. The storyline is quite engaging as told in the cutscenes, dramatically illustrating the Kasai's reign of terror and how the waited for many generations to strike. This gives the player strong motivation during the game and goes deeper into the backstory of each character. Players can also find out the mystery behind Rau's death and who betrayed them. This helps you understand why you are fighting the evil Kasai warriors who are terrorizing the world once again. These evocative cut-scenes unfold on classic Japanese parchment, with thick black lines and stylish renderings giving them a distinct and very cool appearance that sets the tone for the adventure to come. Many of the first game's key elements remain, some of them have undergone some refinements, and upgrades that make the gameplay flow much smoother than the original. The biggest change this in the sequel is the addition of cooperative play in both single player and online modes. This changes the dynamics of the title substantially - affecting your combat strategy when you confront enemies. Instead of battling the hordes alone, as in The Mark of Kri, players now control one of the two characters, with the other character acting as your aid during battles. It definitely adds to the challenge of the gameplay, adding a new dimension to the battles and strategies. When you face off a large group of enemies, you now have an ally in the battle which can make a huge difference, in both the amount of damage you inflict and how much you take.
Rise of the Kasai's unique combat and fighting system remains largely unchanged. During the battles, you can use the right analog stick to target enemies, which are then mapped to the PS2 controller buttons. Once targeted, your character automatically targets these enemies with devastating attacks. You can also target multiple enemies at the same time and slice through them easily. In addition to standard attacks, players can perform combo moves by pressing a series of buttons quickly after their first strike, making quick work of any foes. For those who want to eliminate enemies with style, there are also several special finishing moves. When you perform finishing moves, the action switches to slow-motion, allowing you to see the ends of your enemies in grisly detail. Some of these are simple, such as plunging a sword into an opponent's body, while others see you ripping an opponent in half. These can be quite graphic, giving the game a bloody edge. Each character has several weapons to choose from with a range of swords and other items. These weapons have different levels of effectiveness but players can switch between them easily by calling up the menu screen depending on the opponents their facing. The game's levels are large and expansive, with many featuring multiple paths and sections to explore. Much of the game involves massive melees, with the player frequently surrounded by large numbers of foes. These battles can lead to many deaths for your characters, but it isn't frustrating. This is largely due to the frequent save points that make progression much easier. During each level, players will see different paths lighted up, which points them in the right direction. You can also call on your trusty bird friend Kuzo to scout out areas in advance, or use your other powers to see through the eyes of dead foes. This helps to locate clusters of enemies without alerting them to your presence.
Rise of the Kasai's gameplay flows at a fast clip, as you battle endless waves of Kasai. The level designs are straightforward with many large open areas that allow you to progress through the game relatively quickly without getting stuck in certain areas. As you get deeper into the game, you'll encounter puzzles, but most of these are fairly easy to beat. The downside to this is that the game's structure is fairly linear, with little in the way of alternating paths, aside from the different characters. The biggest problem with the game lies with the controls, which aren't as smooth as one would like them to be. While locking onto enemies and fighting them presents few problems when you are fighting them one-on-one, when they attack in groups problems occur. Since each enemy is targeted individually, and has their own icon, its sometimes difficult to keep track of which enemy has which icon. Since you can't attack enemies without icons effectively, they can sneak up on you and attack you, leaving you with little in the way of defense. It's annoying when an enemy is attacking you at close range to have to stop and target them before you can attack. This causes a slight lag in the action, which is also annoying. However, the icon-battle system does have a few advantages, such as the ability to target multiple foes and concentrate your attacks. Another problem lies with the camera, which doesn't do as good a job of keeping up with the action as you would like. You can recenter the camera for a behind the character viewpoint, but this is still a nagging issue. These problems seem to occur throughout the game, but players can compensate and adjust for these issues as they become accustomed to Rise of the Kasai's somewhat quirky controls and interface. Some players will probably find this approach to the combat highly annoying and frustrating. However, those who give up on the game because of this are missing out. The game's approach offers as a refreshing change of pace from most action/platformers on the market. It offers players the ability to pull of some cool moves while offering more dexterity when fighting multiple opponents, and is worth the trouble to learn.
However, the game more than makes up for these problems by creating a rich, immersive experience that succeeds in creating one of the most beautiful PS2 action/platformers to date. It mirrors the animated look of The Mark of Kri, so players who loved the feel of that game should feel right at home. The game's environments are lushly detailed and evocative, with beautiful light sourcing and texture mapping creating a stylish, animated look that's really quite impressive. The characters themselves are impressively designed and stylish as well, with beautifully animated moves and body language that effectively conveys their movements. The sound and music are also excellent, with an exotic drum and wind-instrument score with other Eastern-flavored music to create an atmosphere that fits the action and setting perfectly. The game also features extensive voice acting that effectively brings the characters to life. Rise of the Kasai's overall aesthetic look is quite pleasing to the eye, and the attention to detail really shows throughout the game with smoothly polished production values during the main adventure, and incredibly stylish hentai-style cut-scenes creating a beautiful world to explore. This is definitely one of the more unique-looking titles on the market and definitely worth checking out from an aesthetic standpoint alone.
The developers have done an excellent job with this highly entertaining sequel. It mirrors the original title's unique look and feel, with the innovative fighting system making a mostly welcome return. The controls largely work, and the game is enjoyable despite a few glitches and camera system. Rise of the Kasai's gameplay is solidly entertaining and challenging, with multiple characters helping to keep things fresh throughout. Since each has a unique set of abilities and weapons, it doesn't feel monotonous, like many other dull hack and slash titles. The game itself isn't terribly difficult, and offers an enjoyable storyline that keeps you engaged throughout. This is an innovative title that offers some innovative control mechanics, but the game's smooth aesthetic experience is fantastic and over-rides these technical problems and faults. Rise of the Kasai is a solid sequel that should please fans of the original game, but those who missed out will also want to experience this uniquely entertaining title.