Review: Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle (3DS)

This game isn’t even worth the witty little tease that usually goes here.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 11/26/2014 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
The game technically functions in a manner that one would expect from a commercially available piece of software, and it has some cool tunes.
Poison Mushroom for...
The story is presented horribly, the graphics are simply bad, and the gameplay varies between various levels of boredom and frustration. An all around soul crushing experience.

For the uninitiated, which included myself before playing this game, Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is a 3DS game based on a joint Canadian/Japanese anime produced for the purpose of selling building block toys. This multimedia universe happens to be about robots, both good and evil, battling and building for the control of an alternate dimension whose fate is tied to our own. I’ve never seen the anime or played with the toys, so let’s see what kind of first impression the game can make.

Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle tells a story that is the same as the anime, as far as I can tell at least. After some shenanigans in an antique shop, a group of school age boys discover the means to travel to a planet in an alternate dimension, Quarton. In this world populated by robot like creatures, the kids take the form of the titular Tenkai Knights, a group of legendary warriors leading the valiant Corekai Army against the evil Lord Vilius and his Corrupted Army in a battle for the future of the planet.

In terms of gameplay, Tenkai Knights is a 2D action game mixing elements of platformers and fighting games. Each mission plays out in relatively small, symmetrical stages where the player is tasked with defeating a certain number of enemies, collecting objects dropped by defeated foes, taking out a main boss enemy, or surviving for a certain period of time. Between missions, you can use materials dropped by enemies to craft new weapons, boost packs, and shields to customize and upgrade each of the game’s playable characters.

All of the above is a general overview of what this game attempts to be; now let’s discuss how it fails miserably in just about every regard.

The general arc of the story can generally be extracted from the poorly presented fragments thrown at you, but there is no visible effort to weave a story for those not already deeply entrenched in the source material. Everything is presented through text and character portraits with the occasional low-res still image taken from the show thrown in. The dialogue and exposition is always incredibly short and serves only to establish the most base level of understanding of what is happening with no regard to actually establish why it is happening, or who the characters are beyond their names. The presentation is made all the worse by the sparse and erratic use of voice acting, which seems to occasionally pop up from time to time with no real rhyme or reason. Maybe one could argue that the presence of voice work at all is an indication of at least a little more effort being put forth, but its implementation is distracting to the point that I would highly suggest going into the options and completely turning it off.

Of course, a bad story told poorly can be redeemed by great gameplay, but once again all we have is a mess with little sign of effort, care, or originality. As I stated, the game attempts to mix platforming elements with simple fighting mechanics, so you can boost, jump, hover, and fight with light, strong, and special attacks. Unfortunately, none of this works well. The controls feel strangely inconsistent; at one moment simply moving about the stage will feel stiff and unresponsive, while at another you will be overshooting your landings by a mile. I think this issue comes down to two poor design choices: you cannot move side to side while jumping unless you were also moving along the ground, and boosting is performed by double tapping a direction, rather having its own dedicated button.

The basics of combat are simpler, but it ultimately feels limiting and falls victim to the poor movement controls and some of its own poor design decisions. The trifecta of standard attack options quickly grows stale, and the fact that enemies are given an overly generous window of invincibility after falling victim to one of your combos is incredibly frustrating because not only does this slow the pace of combat, but they are free to attack during this window as well. Fighting generally boils down to an endless cycle of attacking and then defending while you wait for your foe’s invincibility to wear off. The poor boss battle design is also worth mentioning. Some boil down to extended versions of standard combat, while others have you fighting in a giant form against normal sized enemies who are now too small to be hit by the bulk of your attacks. I should also point out that dealing with flying opponents forces you to combine the worst elements of movement with the worst elements of combat to create moments of pure awful.

The gameplay experience is made all the worse by the fact it isn’t even fun to look at. The character models look somewhat decent, but probably could have been pulled off just as well on the original DS, and the animations are stiff and overly robotic, even by robot standards. The stages look even worse. The fact they are small and symmetrical could have been fine if there was some measure of creativity in the overall aesthetic, but there is no indication of any real design aside from straight lines, simple textures, and muted colors. Now that I think about it, I’m curious to know if this game started as an original DS game and was moved to 3DS with no effort to take advantage of the additional processing power.

There are a few additional elements that had promise, but are otherwise ruined by the terrible core gameplay. The main story mode might not be much to write home about in terms of length or content, but the aforementioned ability to gather materials and craft new weapons, armor, and boosters could have been interesting. There is a legitimately impressive array of things to make, but the amount of materials needed to make everything is quite staggering and in order to get everything you would have to expose yourself to countless hours of the horrid gameplay. The game also features local competitive and cooperative modes, but this just means you would have to expose your friends to the painful experience of actually playing the game.

Now, in the interest of being completely honest and not wanting sound like a total jerk, I want to give this game a legitimate complement– I really liked the music. No, we have not discovered a lost Beethoven symphony, but the tone and energy is perfect for what you would expect for a young boy’s game/anime about robots beating each other up. I especially liked the so-cheesy-it’s-awesome guitar-driven rock of the title screen track.

Oh, and the game never crashed on me, which is more than I can say about some games. So, bravo… I guess.

Placing the soundtrack aside, we are left with a game that is wholly uninspired in just about every way imaginable: the story is presented poorly, the visuals are bland at best, and the core gameplay is incredibly limiting and frustrating. If Tenkai Knights at least played decently and delivered an iota of fun I might have been able to recommend it to the most diehard of fans, but it fails even at that. So, if all you are looking for in a game is a lack of game crashing bugs and at least a few good tunes, then Tenkai Knights might be worth taking a look at; otherwise there is no reason to give this game even the slightest bit of consideration.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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