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Old 08-05-2010, 05:16 PM   #6
Belt Scroll Game Supremacy
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: the Netherlands
Posts: 1,727

Title: Kabuki-Z
Genre: Belt Scroll Action Game
Year: 1988
Country of origin: Japan
Reviewed print: MAME

Developer: Taito

I thought I knew all the Belt Scroll Action Game (or Beat'em up as we know 'em in the west) titles available on MAME. Then I stumbled on this title, Kabuki-Z, which I've never heard of before.

It was released 1 year after Double Dragon and 1 year before Final Fight, so on first sight it doesn't look bad at all, the colour palette reminds me of Megadrive/Genesis titles but just look at those big sprites. Then you start to move, and you'll notice that there is barely any animation in the spritework. Your character just floats from right to left, ok there is some small animation in the in-game's avatar right foot which might suggest that foot is shuffeling the in-game avatars body forward. But it doesn't look natural at all, especially with the moving speed used in this game. Shuffeling forward at a natural pace might've been way to slow, but this just looks weird.

Control wise its a bit of a mess, but I can't tell for sure if that's the fault of the game or bad emulation. There's some weird block that prevents me to move diagonally in a smooth way, but I suspect that's an emulation problem. On to the fighting system: on the arcade instructions (which I included on top of the review, as a replacement for the flyer/cover) you can see that your avatar is capable of performing 3 stances; High, Mid, Low. These are performed by combining the block button and an direction with your stick.

At first switching stances seems unnecessary, your enemy grunts die in 1 hit and are barely a threat to your avatar. Then the mid-boss comes along and the difficulty level jumps quite a bit. Now the game pushes you to mix up stances, because the (mid)Bosses will block your attacks, a lot. Mix in a jump, performed by pushing the Attack and Block button at the same time, into your attack pattern and you might stand a chance. And that seems to be your whole arsenal against your enemies. If you die you'll start the stage over, so there's no way you'll be coin mashing yourself till the ending screen.

The stages are fairly short and contain a small lot of enemies before you face the mid boss and finally the boss (or a mid boss that transforms into the stage boss). So boss fights where probably meant to be the focus of the game, nothing wrong with that, Boss fights are my favorite part of games. The boss character designs are quite weird and fun. The first pair don't seem that interesting, a Kabuki who spits spirits at you and a Samurai (armor?). But when the next mid boss, a japanese swordsman, is defeated a skeleton scorpion-like creature pops up and transforms into an armor for the swordsman as he transforms into the stage's boss, pretty neat if you ask me. Next mid-boss continued on this trend as the mid-boss was an caveman looking man, when you killed him 2 kid swordsman (and women?) burst out of his back ready to fight you.

Some of the bosses and their little animation sequences

So is there anything that explain why the protagonist has to fight his way through all these bosses? Well... it seems the game is devoid of any storyline at all. No narration in the attract mode to tell you the background details and I couldn't find an arcade flyer which might tell us what the hell is going on in here? And WTF it is, especially halfway through out of the blue your in game avatar changes from Japanese swordsmen into a barbarian-like warrior.

I can only make a guess what's going on, in the title screen you'll see a samurai commit hara-kiri. My guess is that the game's avatar is the spirit of that samurai and has to fight a way through the underworld, or something in that direction. Not that story is important, especially for a Belt Scroll title.

Controls clumsy, lacks animation, lacks proper grunts to fight, not a whole lot of attacks... so It's not really a good game by all means. Some of the bosses are exotic and interesting stuff his happening in little animation sequences, but that's about it for this game.

What others have to say:
Seems this is the first write up about the game
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