The first retail release for the two leading home console platforms this year is a title that has been a long time coming. Originally intended for release almost a year ago delays saw Anarchy Reigns pushed back to the summer, and then as the truth of SEGA’s financial turbulence was revealed a western release dropped out of sight altogether. Thankfully the publisher saw fit to bring the long-finished title to western territories, and in fact have done so in a commendable fashion.
Available to purchase for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 now, Anarchy Reigns is blessed with an incredibly low retail price point; just £19.99 GBP for a reasonably high budget production from a major developer should already be enough to ensure that the core gaming audience get behind the videogame, but also blessing the PAL edition with the added incentive of free downloadable content (DLC) within the package will surely create a breaking point. Fans of any of PlatinumGames’ previous titles should already have Anarchy Reigns spinning in their disc drive, and those who don’t should most certainly address that situation post-haste.
Taking its cues from a combination of PlatinumGames’ previous successes and the arena style combat of Power Stone, Anarchy Reigns is another attempt to modernise the classic scrolling beat-‘em-up formula. It tugs the action in a very different direction to the linear action experiences of Bayonetta and DmC: Devil May Cry, but is no less warranted in its delivery. Anarchy Reigns is another point-of-view, not necessarily a weaker one.
Now, Electronic Theatre did have the opportunity to engage in multiplayer warfare with Anarchy Reigns prior to launch and, at that time, the team wasn’t impressed. What was shown was a lukewarm attempt to bring a Power Stone style combat into the world of generic third-person action videogames and it wasn’t fine-tuned, to say the least. The result was a disappointing, muddled affair that Electronic Theatre thought would struggle in a market of rejuvenated beat-‘em-up experiences: perhaps SEGA were right to question it’s marketability outside of Japan? However, Anarchy Reigns just goes to show what a few extra months in the oven can do, for PlatinumGames has once again delivered the good.
While it’s still a muddled affair, it’s now only to the point at which it’s intended to be. The action in Anarchy Reigns can quickly become so hectic that there is little that inexperienced players can do to keep their head above water, but what seems like a pointless waste of energy to begin with could well be – and often is – a table-turning move for the aficionados. Players unlock new characters, special abilities and power-ups by playing through the single-player campaign, acting as a warm-up for the online tussle.
While Anarchy Reigns only features a single campaign, it offers players the chance to play on two different sides of the same story. Shortly after the story beings players can choose whether to play as Jack (of MADWORLD fame) or Leo, resulting in a reasonably lengthy campaign when both pieces are taken as one. However, this only comes with a considerable amount of padding: Anarchy Reigns uses a points system to unlock it’s missions which frequently results in the need to either redo previous missions (in order to obtain a higher score) or simply wander the open plan world beating continuous streams of generic enemies. Anarchy Reigns offers a perfectly enjoyable campaign; it’s just a little shapeless. On better form however is the multiplayer experience.
This is what Anarchy Reigns was built for: online warfare, player versus player, duelling to the death. Many modern scrolling beat-‘em-ups (and even some 2D ones) have featured a multiplayer mode, but have disappointed in adapting the structure of the parent single-player mode for the introduction of human opponents. Conversely, Anarchy Reigns is designed with multiplayer action at its heart. A host of different gameplay modes allow players to use their tactical combos in a variety of ways, and the complimentary map design is near-flawless for such intentions. The multiplayer mode features a ranking system which sees players unlock new abilities as they progress, arguably making it more difficult for newcomers to get a foothold, but it only takes a handful of matches to get to the point where your play style can be recognised and your character’s bonuses chosen to suit.
The visual quality of Anarchy Reigns is superior to that which many might be expecting given its budget pricing, but it does have its fair share of blemishes. The character models are generally incredible well presented – the main character significantly stronger than accompanying foes – and the environments are delivered with a noteworthy degree of detail. However, in that detail resides the biggest visual flaw: far too often will Anarchy Reigns refuse to load a gameplay-changing environmental object until it’s too late. A surface incline or an explosive object can be drawn with only seconds until impact (when sprinting) demanding the player rethink their strategy. It’s not a huge hindrance for existing players, but it remains an unfortunate, unsightly issue nonetheless.
While SEGA may have been concerned with the marketability of Anarchy Reigns in western territories, there’s nothing to suggest they had issues with the quality of the production. And rightfully so, as Anarchy Reigns is another PlatinumGames classic that is destined to be underrated. Joining the ranks of Bayonetta and Vanquish was never going to be an easy task, and while it may not redefine its parent genre in the same fashion it does present an argument for doing things differently, and for that it deserves far more attention than SEGA has generated thus far.