When Capcom closed the doors on Clover Studio, they opened the doors to Bayonetta and Vanquish.
Platinum's gone back to Jack, leading man of Wii-exclusive Madworld, but ditched the black and white and red all over style for a toxic wasteland of constant fighting. While players will find a lot of punching, ripping, cutting, and throwing in Anarchy Reigns from Sega and Platinum Games, I found instead a love letter from the always brash, always bloody Japanese developer.
You see, Platinum houses some of the best Japanese game development talent, bar none. The collective portfolio and development history of Platinum Games reads like a hardcore gamers Top 100 list. Still, the question remains: is Anarchy Reigns priced competitively or appropriately? Is the $30 budget price a warning shot or a steal?
In single-player mode, players take on the role of Jack Cayman or Leonhardt "Leo" Victorion. Both stories essentially cover the same beats, but it becomes quickly apparent that the available narrative makes little to no sense. There are street gangs, evil corporations, and a fugitive by the name of Maximillian Caxton. Here, the ridiculous plot serves the gameplay, not the other way around.
Players battle in medium-sized open arenas with different missions utilizing the space differently, perhaps needing to eliminate a fixed number of enemies, survive so many waves, or fight off a challenging boss in a limited amount of lives. One mission later in the campaign turns the arena into a racing circuit, complete with mutant-thug pedestrians.
It should be stated that if the gameplay doesn't hook you early, the plot will do nothing to encourage you to the end. The profane, nonsensical mess in the dialogue and cut-scenes is only forgivable thanks to the balanced, torrid gameplay. Even my high tolerance for horrible game scripts and love for Platinum wavered, but there are moments of purely foolish fun.
That's even truer when you get into multiplayer. Anarchy Reigns is built on a foundation of weak and strong attacks, defensive posturing, and timing. You can't pull off a grab from the start. You've got to talk your opponent around a bit. Two weak attacks cancel each other out. Long strings of combined attacks are impossible if you don't vary and measure your button inputs.
Multiplayer modes take everything you've learned in the campaigns and add the shrewd ingenuity of another human being... or 15 of them. Battles can consist of anywhere from 4- to 16-player brawls, the latter being so devilishly chaotic you'll like get killed without knowing exactly where that murderous pimp came from.
Larger team brawls will encourage players to divide and conquer. Ganking an opponent might make you an asshole, but everyone in Anarchy Reigns is an asshole. You're just playing your role, and not just in combat.
The cast on hand is varied and colorful, but all of the playable characters are brutish, full of themselves, and suitably standoffish. It makes total sense to go online, pick your favorite and proceed to beat the snot out of everyone you see.
That's Anarchy Reigns, and to an extent, that's Platinum. If you've ever enjoyed a Japanese action game, don't hesitate to pick this up at its launch price of $30. Multiplayer lobbies aren't likely to stay full for long and there's a lot to love online.
It's true that the plot is a mess and a few odd quirks keep Anarchy Reigns from being a polished AAA release, but despite that, there are tons of freaks to beat up, plenty of online combatants to choose from, and balanced gameplay that doesn't take itself too seriously. After the weight of Fall 2012's catalog, it's nice to reconnect with the abrasive-yet-endearing style Platinum Games is built on.