Monday, June 1, 2009

Renny Blaster

NEC Avenue
Super CD-ROM

Following years of negotiations with my shrewd cousin Zigfriedenov, I was finally able to acquire Renny Blaster at the mere cost of six billion truckloads of moneybags. And do you know what other title this elusive, super-expensive collector's "grail" ended up reminding me most of? That would be Fist of the North Star, the forty-cent black-and-white Gameboy fighting game. Renny is an action game and not a fighter; but like Fist, it features stick-figure characters, charge-up techniques masquerading as "special moves," and weak-feeling attacks.

Actually, executing a quick sequence of moves while using the martial arts specialist (one of the two playable characters) can feel pretty good, but there's hardly any need to exert the required ounce of effort. Simple dash attacks get the job done against most of the scrawny, twigs-for-limbs villains, and even if said villains manage to strike you once or twice in retaliation, the damage they deal will be minuscule (and you can count on a health restorer lying in wait for you at a spot just beyond any confrontation where you might actually take a few shots). The game is laughably easy and becomes a complete joke if you use the magician character, who has a variety of long-range attack "spells" at his disposal. Platforming feels terrible, but there isn't much of it to do, and what's present is routine.

A good number of the bosses look cool but have no fight in them at all (a large chainsaw wielder, for instance, impresses at once only to drop his deadly weapon after taking a single hit). Disarm these bums if need be and then cheese 'em to death with dash attacks or trap them in a corner for an old-fashioned walloping.

Some of the stages are thematically compelling (Copenhagen sports cool gothic backdrops and is patrolled by tough-by-Renny-standards swordsmen), but others (like the dark, ugly clock tower) are both lame and derivative.

While there's something relatively positive to report about most of the elements that make up the game (even though many of those elements manage to self-destruct in some way or another), the one thing that's most distinctive and interesting about RB is its cinematic style, which represents quite a departure from the bright, colorful anime work that Duo intermissions usually employ. Unfortunately, while there are well-drawn images to admire here and there, the characters often end up looking goofy or unintentionally ugly.

So everything got mucked up, except for maybe the music, which is consistently listenable at worst. But Gameboy Fist of the North Star has better music as well as cooler characters... not that there's any shame in being outclassed by an ancient, colorless dud. In all seriousness, my conclusion that Renny Blaster is a way-too-easy but (barely) okay game, a severely flawed title that has its intriguing moments, is the same verdict I'd deliver if the disc could be acquired as cheaply and as easily as a Fist cartridge. We're all aware that people who plan to purchase RB don't expect it to be fantastic or worth its weight in cash. The only way such acquisitions can end up being downers is if the buyers in question absolutely hate the game instead of letting it off with a "mediocre" tag as I do. Sadly, there's a pretty good chance they will indeed loathe it.

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