Bottlerocket’s Rise of the Kasai is the sequel to 2002’s Mark of Kri, a game I actually never played. I heard about the cool control system where you use the right analog stick to target up multiple opponents and then get rid of them via the button presses for the button above their heads. This would make you able to target 3 enemies at once (square, X and circle) and dispatch them via those keys. I also heard that Mark of Kri had a pretty good story connected to it as well.
Picking up Rise of the Kasai I found that the controls, which have evidently come over from Mark of Kri, to not be so outstanding and actually lend themselves to button mashing. I also found that the storyline and the cutscenes for them are excellent. In many ways Rise of the Kasai hurts itself by coming out on the heels of God of War (my review. Even after finishing Rise of the Kasai, I find that it doesn’t even touch on the heels of God of War and even falls short of the other great PS2 action game out there, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (my review). Let’s get to the scores.
Although Rise of the Kasai has better visuals in cutscenes than either God of War or Devil May Cry 3, it fails in all other respects. From my understanding, Bottlerocket is made up of former Disney animators and Don Bluth studio animators (Don Bluth is best known for Dragon’s Lair in the video game world). Just watching the cutscenes and seeing the game in action shows me that this game is inspired a lot by Disney movies like Mulan.
The cutscenes are hand drawn in a storyboard-like layout. The characters being drawn as is just a sight to behold and it makes you wish the rest of the game was animated like this. Granted, it would be hard to do, but the overall coolness factor would help this game a lot.
Once you get into actually playing the game the graphics fall pretty flat when compared to just about any other Sony first-party platform/action game. The camera also gives the player a ton of fits, including going so far as to go under the player. I never found the centering button to work very well on this game. Since this game is so action intensive you would think a better camera could have been used.
If there’s one plus I can give the in-game graphics, it is that they are well animated. I didn’t really see any problems with the characters or enemies, but I did see some environmental problems such as texture tearing and graphic hiccups in the outlying areas of the screen. I had always heard Mark of Kri was a pretty good looking game back in 2002, but the fact is that in 2005 the same sort of graphic presentation just doesn’t work because many games have surpassed it.
Pluses and minuses in this section as well. The pluses are the voiceover work by the two narrators, one from the past and Rau’s hawk. Also a plus is the music, which has a sort of tribal feel to it and seems to fit the general environment of the game. The minuses are the general sounds of the game. There doesn’t seem to be any power behind these weapons that the 4 playable characters have. When they make an audible sound you start to hear it over and over again. There really isn’t much in the way of voicework with the playable characters, but what is there does its job.
After hearing about Mark of Kri‘s innovative control mechanic I thought for sure this would be the best thing since sliced bread; however, I was wrong. The preponderance of using the right analog stick in order to set up targets is just outdated in my mind. In this case the camera works against you for the most part. You can do a 360 with your right analog stick and lock in your targets, but then you don’t know how far away enemies are that may be behind your character. This means they can get some good shots in on you. The other problem is that this game turns into a basic button mashing game without any strategy simply because there are only 5 combos available to each person. Chances are you won’t be pulling those combos and will just want to plow through the enemies though.
What really infuriates me about this game is that there is no jump button. An action game without a jump button…why? Sure, games like Zelda can get away with doing the auto jump, but the fact is this is an action game and Zelda is an adventure game. Without a jump button it can’t possibly stand up to God of War or Devil May Cry 3. This game could also use some more combos than the 5 given to each character. Once again Rise of Kasai gets leapfrogged by its contemporaries.
Bottlerocket’s Rise of Kasai is a bit of a weird game. From what I understand this game takes place both 10 years before and 10 years after the events of Mark of Kri. In the past you play as Griz or Baumusu (Kau’s mentor) and in the present you play as Kau (main character in Mark of Kri) or his sister Tati, who happens to bear one of the marks of Kri. Rise of Kasai is built around these teams and the whole teamwork philosophy, but it doesn’t quite reach the levels it could have.
In many cases the teamwork AI works well. In most of the sections of levels you end up splitting up and everything works fine. It’s a flip of a coin whether everything will work fine once you join back up with your teammate though. In most situations something is liable to go wrong. The computer AI teammate will either go blindly ahead to take on a bunch of enemies, it will decide it doesn’t want to do anything and get stuck in a particular place or it will work out as intended.
In the first case you end up facing more enemies than you want simply because the computer AI will alert one of the horn-blowing enemies, who in turn blows his horn so other enemies show up. Rise of Kasai has a stealth element in it, but it generally only works when you are split from your teammate. Once you join up you might as well throw the stealth element out because you could go sneaking up to an enemy and your teammate rushes right in as you are prepared to deliver a silent kill.
The second situation doesn’t present itself very often, but it could stop you from continuing on when you get to a point where you must have both characters in the era present in order to continue on (usually revolving around a boss battle). For some reason the computer AI will get stuck in one place from time to time, leaving you to take on the rest of the section alone and hope that you won’t need the other player around in order to continue to the next section of the level.
When the teamwork AI works well is when this game can get really fun. There’s nothing like having another character watching your back, although the AI likes to attack enemies that you are already honed in on, so all is not good when the teamwork AI is working correctly. I think if Bottlerocket had spent a bit more time on this the teamwork AI would have been better.
The story of Rise of Kasai is a little confusing when they start jumping from era to era. After the end of a level, one of the narrators will say, “X and Y continued on after Z, but that will continue to be told later on in your journey.” These jumps from time to time ruin the cohesiveness of the story and beautiful cutscenes. Eventually everything comes together and you start to understand why it was paced the way it was. In many ways it echos God of War with all the flashbacks, but that story was told a bit better and I didn’t feel as confused early on as I did here.
One last thing I would like to comment on is the loading for this game. Unlike God of War and the Jak and Ratchet games, Rise of Kasai does not load on the fly. In fact, the loading seems to take an unusual amount of time. I’m not sure why on the fly loading couldn’t have been put in this game simply because the graphics are on a far lower plane than any of the games I’ve talked about in this paragraph.
This game is supposedly 3 times as large area wise than Mark of Kri. It took me about 15 hours to beat, but much of that time was spent mashing buttons in order to continue on in the quest. I personally enjoyed the cutscenes the most and think they are some of the most stylized concepts this side of the Sly Cooper series.
There are unlockables that you can get by beating all the challenges and finding all the special items, but once I was through the game once there was no way I was going back to get everything in order to unlock all weapons or whatever.