Just over three weeks ago, the 18-year-old series Rurouni Kenshin made its return to the Japanese consciousness with the release of the series' first live action feature film. But not content to hit just one genre of popular media, a Kenshin fighting game was released that week as well, giving long-time fans more Kenshin at once than they've received in over a decade. But while Rurouni Kenshin Kansei is amazingly true to the series, the very fact that it is such a good adaptation plagues the game as much as it helps it.
Good — True to the Kenshin Story
Rurouni Kenshin Kansei is an excellent adaptation of the Rurouni Kenshin story. The game's story mode contains nearly every fight in the entire series, and lets you participate in all of them. All your favorite characters are there—and more than a few you probably won't even remember.
Before and after each round, there are mini-cutscenes which take stills from the anime or use the in-game engine to set up the story behind each fight. Moreover, the game even covers the third major story arc that was only in the manga (though it was briefly touched on in one of the OVAs).
Good — Optional Objectives
The best thing about how the fighting system works in Kansei is that each move or combo you perform nets you experience points. These experience points are then used to strengthen the attacks of your characters. The enemy characters level up in strength over the story campaign
as well so if you reach a battle you can't win, you are always able to farm experience points and level up your characters.
But combos are not the only way to gain exp. Each fight has a score of optional objectives—like "get a 10-hit combo" or "finish the enemy with a special move"—that provide fun and interesting reasons to fight in ways different from just punching your opponent until you win. Also, each stage has a special objective that tasks you with reenacting the Kenshin story. Completing these objectives unlocks new characters for versus and survival modes.
Mixed — A Slow Fighting Game Where Timing and Combos are Everything
In a day and age where Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Super Street Fight IV are the kings of the fighting genre, the speed of Kansei seems downright slow. However, the game seems designed
this way to allow even novice players the chance to make their own devastating combos. Moreover, three times per match, each fighter can slow down time for a few seconds to chain combos together for massive damage. To dissuade people from using the same move over and over, there are diminishing returns on most moves, preventing the simplest of juggles from being used repeatedly. However, it is possible with certain characters to create a combo that juggles your enemy for their entire life bar, making it effectively a one-combo-kill. This, of course, touches on the main problem of the game: it is horribly unbalanced.
Bad — Terrible Balance Issues
Above I mentioned that Kansei was very true to the Kenshin story and why that was a good thing. It is also the game's greatest weakness. By the very structure of the story, the farther you go in the game the stronger the enemies become—not only in raw power but also in moves and combos. As the main—and strongest—character, Kenshin starts with an amazing move set that can keep pace with the increasing strength of the enemies. Other characters are not so lucky.
Yahiko and Kaoru are just this side of useless. They have no long combos, they're terribly slow, and their moves are all painfully realistic (i.e. attacks straight out of the martial art of kendo). Meanwhile, the people they fight against are far superior characters, with crazy combos and far more powerful attacks. This is made all the worse since, in story mode, the enemy characters they face are leveled up. You must waste tons of your hard-won exp to boost Kaouru and Yahiko so that when their crappy attacks do hit, they cause enough damage to give you a chance at winning.
Rurouni Kenshin Kansei is really a game for die-hard Kenshin fans only. While it is very true to the franchise in story and style, balance issues make it useless as a fighter when it comes to any kind of competitive play.
Rurouni Kenshin Kansei was released on August 30, 2012, for the PlayStation Portable in Japan. There are no plans for an international release.