Thunderbolt logo

Rave Master

Anime. It’s a word that can invoke the strongest emotions of the average person. Some people love the art, creating their own art and attending conventions dressed as their favorite character. Others despise it with a hatred that knows no bounds, stubbornly clinging to primetime television and American-made cartoons as they look on with disdain. Like it or not, anime has come to the forefront of Western entertainment, treating (or cursing) our generation with countless series, characters, and concepts. Yet while each new series attempts to push the envelope of animation and style, you can’t help but notice how some have become so formulaic that they’re old hat. How many buildings must undergo the wrath of a giant robot? How many spiky-haired heroes with big swords have latent super powers just waiting to surface in all their vividly depicted glory? The world may never know. In the meantime, an anime called Rave Master has found its way onto the Gamecube.

“Look what you did, you smashed the crate!”

It was just another day in this twisted version of reality. Heroes arose, grabbed their weapons and went about their business, and villains and thieves plotted new deeds of unmentionable evils. Yet unbeknownst to only a few of them, a massive power was building up, practically bursting at the seams. The Shadow Stones and the Rave Stones represent opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil, their unquestionable power inciting a war that would cost the lives of countless innocents. When the struggle for these mighty gems had reached its climax, a massive explosion scattered the Stones across the globe, taking out one tenth of the planet in the process. Skip ahead fifty years, and a young Rave Master named Haru is about to embark on the quest of his life. It’s his duty to find the missing Stones and restore peace to mankind, and you’ll be there to make sure he does.

Silfarion tries to teach his friends how to do the highland fling.

Haru and his band of merry heroes will venture forth to find the Stones, staring certain death in the face as they go. Madmen, bounty hunters, gangsters, and even a guy with a giant ass stand in their way of success. These dastardly and often hilarious villains are armed with knives, hammers, whips, and massive swords, and they intend to use them. Indeed, the life of a Rave Master is fraught with danger. Unfortunately, this game is so pathetically easy that Haru and his crew should have no trouble wiping the floor with the baddies you’ll encounter. You’ll have to face down your foe in a confined area, charging forth and swinging your sword with the kind of mad skills that only our heroes could ever achieve! Okay, so you can do a 3-hit combo of weak attacks, followed up by something a little fiercer. As you play as different characters, you’ll gain access to their spears, scimitars, tonfa guns, and even the surprising potency of their bare fists. Yet despite the wide variety, all of these weapons are so ridiculously overpowered that it makes winning a fight as easy as mashing the attack button and juggling your foes to kingdom come. Needless to say, it’s not exactly the stuff of legends.

Every game should have a generic manga boy and girl. Err, and a snowman.

The game tries to make up for this horribly bland combat system with a wide variety of items that you can pick up throughout the fight. Not only do you get to fight with the signature weapons of each character, but you’ll also be able to track down the Rave and Shadow Stones to aid your cause. Some stones will gradually refill your health meter, add elemental powers to your weapon, give you a coat of metallic shielding, bestow powerful special attacks, and plenty of other hidden advantages. It can change the shape and form of your equipped weapon, adding length, strength, and a few other surprises for you to find. Thus the game turns from a typical hack and slash fighter into a mad scramble for pickups, each item a small piece that makes up a multitude of potential combinations. Imagine being able to set your enemies on fire, be impervious to their attacks, and dual wield some swords at the same time. It’s up to you to find the perfect combinations to send your foes crying for their mommies.

I guess that told him.

Though this game is somewhat brief and easy, it’s presentation isn’t something to scoff at. Haru and the gang have been taken from their animated television counterparts and morphed into three-dimensional figures, complete with their corresponding outfits and arsenal. Plue is still irritatingly cute, running aimlessly through the battleground as he tries not to get smacked around. The Rave Master still sports a mass of spiky metallic blue hair, Musica looks like an angst-filled rock star, and Elie’s Tonfa Blasters are more lethal than ever. However, the characters could have been designed and animated with far better quality given the Gamecube’s graphical abilities. There’s something wooden, almost stale about these heroes. However, the voice acting is executed with remarkable tone and emotion, even if the lines don’t always mesh with the character’s lip movements. The dialogues are chock full of comedy, and even the cheesy (yet strangely catchy) television theme song plays in all its glory when the credits run. And if all else fails, Rear Admiral’s monstrous ass actually jiggles when he does his pre-fight taunt. Oh yeah, fans of the series are going to have fun with this game.

That snowman’s on the girl’s side, which is slightly unfair…

However, the fans aren’t the only ones to like this game. Many gamers will recognize this as a throwback to the golden days of Power Stone and a few other fighters that follow this style of gameplay. Rave Master faithfully follows the anime series, giving us the fights that highlighted Haru’s quest for salvation. The major characters are all here and in full action, giving a decent variety of fighters to choose from. However, the bland, uninspired combat system leaves something to be wished, no matter how many Rave and Shadow Stones materialize onscreen. Combine that simplistic and undemanding gameplay with a lack of difficulty, and you’ve got a game that has so much potential, but ends up falling short of true greatness. For what it offers, Rave Master isn’t a horrible game, but it could have been so much better. Thus Haru’s Quest for Glory continues, with anime fans and gamers enjoying every moment.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

You should follow us on Twitter.