Until this very week, I had no idea that the Tenkai Knights TV show and toy line even existed. That changed, though, when I went to pick up my mail and noticed that a large box from BANDAI NAMCO was somehow wedged into one of the package slots. Inside I found a boxed toy as well as a copy of a game I’d never heard of, that being Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle for the Nintendo 3DS.
What is Tenkai Knights? Well, it’s a new brand that targets children on multiple fronts, and borrows from both the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and Hasbro’s Transformers. The Knights themselves are robotic suits (from what I can gather), which are based on heroes who once saved planet Earth. Now, they’re controlled by new heroes who just so happen to be children, and we’re introduced to two of them at the very beginning of the game.
The gist is that, after returning to a store that they regularly visit, two boys decide to go exploring. “The owner isn’t home, so what could it hurt?” they say. Well, as it turns out, the friendly shopkeeper is hiding something in his basement, and it just so happens to be some sort of portal. By entering the basement and going close, the two kids end up being transported into a different dimension where they find themselves unable to move. It isn’t until the store owner finds them that they realize that they’re inside of giant mechs, which they’ve just become the new pilots of. It’s a job without a contract, so to speak, and they’re guilted into saving the world because someone needs to.
In total, there are four Tenkai Knights, and they’re forced to team up in order to stop a comically named bad guy called Vilius from taking over both Earth and its cube-shaped clone, Quarton. I assume that’s the main plot line of the show, but at the very least, it’s the overarching objective in Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle.
The story I probably butchered is told through static images and overlapping dialogue boxes. There’s a ton of talking, too, so be prepared to sit back and read for a while, or have your finger on the A button in advance.
Gameplay-wise, Brave Battle plays out like a flawed and creatively-lacking take on Super Smash Bros. You’re dropped into different arenas, which are made up of a background image and multiple platforms, and all you need to do is destroy a certain number of enemy robots. For the most part, that is, as there are occasionally varied objectives to accomplish, including timed survival and boss battles. Still, the gameplay rarely changes.
There are occasions where you’ll find yourself morphing into a larger robot, by putting all four suits together. However, they’re not overly prevalent. Most of the time, you’ll just be picking a character, choosing his weapons, armour and back plate, then setting out for battle. It’s repetitive in every sense of the word, and becomes boring very quickly. To say that variety is lacking would be a gross understatement.
The general idea is that you’re in a battle arena, and the game sticks to that formula far too much. It wants you to succeed and pick up materials that foes have dropped so that you can edit and upgrade your weapons, which is all fine and dandy. The editing is fine, albeit confusing and far too basic to be memorable, but having to sit through such tedious gameplay to get an opportunity to better an item is almost not worth it at all.
Things would’ve been better if this 2D brawler had better mechanics, but as it stands, it doesn’t control well at all. Forget that Mario exists, because his platforming is ten times better than what’s on offer here. At least he can jump properly. These robots often fail to move in the air, despite a direction being pushed on the circle pad. It’s not like the option isn’t available, either, because it works from time-to-time, but never perfectly. I often missed platforms by simply flying over top of them, despite my best efforts. There is a boost option, which allows limited in-air flight, but even it’s far from great.
Combat fares a bit better here, but it’s incredibly basic. Each of the three attack buttons does something different, be it a soft attack, a mid-level attack or a super-powered attack that uses energy, which can only be earned back by landing hits. Outside of that, there are power-ups to be found, a couple of which refill your health, while another allows your chosen character to do its unique superpower. Examples include a thrown, bladed circle being boomeranged across the screen, and a jet fighter that drops a ton of bombs and lights up the entire arena. They’re very helpful, to say the least.
You won’t need to move too much in order to find enemies, because they respawn rather quickly. As such, you can simply kill one, then stand pat and wait for it to reappear, before taking it on again. It’s a definite flaw, and one that makes the experience even less interesting.
One of Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle‘s biggest issues is its difficulty. It’s aimed at children ten years of age and up, but it’s likely going to end up being too challenging for those in the lower end of that age group. That is, if they’ll even find it interesting enough to play for more than ten minutes. I even found it difficult in spots, as the enemies I was facing would land some cheap and powerful hits. And don’t even try using the Knight with the most health, because his bow hardly even hurts enemies, and they tend to block the arrows a lot of the time.
Outside of the story mode — which can played in co-op if you end up being able to find another player via the Internet — there’s a battle mode. It’s more of the same, though, and just gives you the opportunity to pit four players/characters against each other. This mode also allows for online play, but as with the campaign, I was unable to find any games or players when I tried. I did test it while offline, though, and came away underwhelmed.
Presentation-wise, we get a serviceable but unspectacular-looking 3DS game. It does the job, and doesn’t look half bad, but it’s relatively bland and boring to look at. Little effort was put into creating animations or basic cutscenes, so you’re left looking at many static images and ugly dialogue boxes, not to mention boring stages. The 3D effect at least works as it should, but things look just fine in 2D. There wasn’t a noticeable benefit to using the extra dimension, so I left it off for most of my play time.
If you’re looking to buy a game for one of the younger gamers amongst us, Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle should not be a prime candidate. Unless the child in question really loves the show and/or the licensed toy line, then you’d be better off passing on this one altogether. It’s simply far too basic, uninspired and poorly-crafted to recommend.
This review is based on the 3DS title, which was provided to us.
Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is devoid of any engaging gameplay and is so repetitive that kids will likely bore of it quickly.