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15th Anniversary review: Makeruna! Makendou Z

(The following review was made by a guest reviewer. This means that the N Masters staff has authorized this person's review and/or the person accepted sharing it with us.)

Kendo Rage for the Super NES is a pretty obscure game to begin with, but even among those who are familiar with it, not everyone knows that it's actually a different version of a Japanese game called Makeruna! Makendou. The gameplay is entirely the same, but the entire story and certain aesthetics have been changed for its North American release. While it's a standalone game here in the States, it's actually the first in a four-part franchise called Makeruna! Makendou, consisting of three games and an OAV between the first two games. The second game is a fighting game for the Super Famicom and Playstation, starring the main character's sister, Hikari, and I have no intention to play it because fighting games do not interest me to begin with. The OAV is pretty worthwhile, but this third game in the franchise, despite introducing the two girls' cousin, Saya, and having a much more intricate story... pretty much sucks in and of itself.

Well, our first problem, is not with the game itself, but with the disc. In romaji, it looks like it's spelt "MaKEPUVa MaKEVdOU Z". A normal-sized, yellow "Z" in front of a much larger, silver "Z" with what looks like the letters "OT" on the edge of the bottom part. The main part of the title makes it seem like the designers of the disc couldn't make up their minds as to whether to make it all-caps or regular. But, what the hell kind of font is that anyway? Whatever that is on the edge of the Z has no reason to be there.

Onto the actual game, save for FMV sequences and the main menu, the graphics are flat and primitive, and the audio is also lacking in texture. It's better than an 8-bit game, but most games for the Sega Genesis have better music quality than that. Visual effects are also pretty much non-existant. For example, when you defeat an enemy in battle, it just disappears, with a minimal sound effect and no special effect whatsoever. And no, none of this represents what the PC-FX is capable of. I've played Chip-chan Kick personally, and have also seen footage of certain other games such as Kishin Douji Zenki: Vajura Fight, and they are much, much better with everything than this game. 

As far as the gameplay goes, there is no equipment whatsoever. Each character can only up their attack and defensive power by leveling up, which means that they become stronger at an epically slower rate than anyone in any other RPG in existence. Furthermore, there is exactly one pickup in the entire game, which you can find only very late; not sure about regular enemies, but it is fucking useless against bosses!

The battle system sucks. Along with its random, turn-based nature, the way it works, is that multiple enemies of one or two species can appear at once, but with regular attacks, you can only attack the furthest left one still standing in either group. There are techniques to attack all enemies in a given group, or even in the entire battle, but as you’d expect, they consume MP. And you’ll want to preserve all the MP and MP-recovering items you can, because as you progress through the game, your regular attacks become increasingly useless against bosses. 

Hell, there are even regular enemies that might as well be bosses, because they have such insane defensive power that the only way to defeat them is with either critical hits or Makendou techniques; sometimes only the latter works, but of course, it’s really better to just run from them than to waste MP trying to kill them. And they come up a lot as the game progresses. (By comparison, there were such insanely powerful enemies in Grandia III for the Playstation 2, but they are much fewer and further between, appearing mostly at the end of the game.)

If there’s one potentially interesting thing about this game, it’s the youkai remnants that you get by defeating enemies. These can be combined into different kinds of items. Of course, as far as I know, there’s no player’s guide to show you what can be fused into what, so you just gotta experiment a bit. It doesn’t help either that there is no translated version of this game as of now, and the fact that some enemies are not worth fighting means that there are probably some kinds of remnants that you’re gonna miss out on. Of course, it’s not like I’m even gonna remember what I fused into what anyway, which is a given with pretty much any aspect of anygame.

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Now for certain specific points worth mentioning:

First, two at the bathhouse. The first of these is, while Mai is bickering with Makenro in the hot spring, Doro shows up and makes some kind of comment, and the girls beat him up in response. They just had to make him into a dirty old man, didn’t they? It’s not like he acted any bit perverted in the previous installments, even though Hikari does beat him up in the OAV for pestering Mai.

Then, inside the bathhouse, Makenro challenges Mai to a battle. She transforms, complete with an FMV sequence, and ends up wearing some kind of bikini. Not bad in and of itself, even though she did have a much more wholesome outfit in the previous games. But then, you battle her friends, Madonna de Swan and Matakka, one at a time, and then there’s no battle with Makenro herself. What was the point of her even transforming in the first place? Combining that with giving her such a skimpy new outfit, I’ll bet it was all for the sake of some fanservice. Though, maybe the developers actually did mean to have her battle you, and failed to write said battle into the game code.

Later on, you come across this girl in a crab suit, called Masakani, who tries to talk the party out of entering the jungle she resides in. Mai argues with her for a bit, and then Saya suggests that they ignore her and just move on. Masakani retaliates by shredding the girls’ clothes to bit, forcing them to summon their regular clothes back before they transform again. It’s good that they managed to get out of a jam right away, and that it wasn’t treated as okay (they proceed to fight her), but the fact that this is a girl stripping other girls naked does not appeal to me. I can at least tolerate it, but in situations like this, I would much rather the assailant be the opposite sex as their victims.

And then, there’s the end. The final dungeon does have appropriate music for an upcoming epic battle (or at least as appropriate as it can get with the kind of audio the game utilizes). But then, you face the final boss, and hear… the same song that played when you fought all the other bosses (yes, including the four demon queens). And there’s no special effect either when you defeat it; it just disappears with a half-assed sound effect and nothing more.

Back on the field screen, I should say that it would’ve been nice if the same song played for the end of things and the credits as had played at the very beginning (when the girls are eating breakfast and then going to school).

Oh, but that’s not it. There’s this five-minute sequence, of which screenshots were hosted on the original review. It’s the longest FMV sequence in the game, with all others except for the prologue and opening and ending sequences, not even lasting one. Even though it’s been shot in said review and has also appeared on YouTube, I was never able to find it within the actual game. I had to get it from someone online in order to view and upload it.

So, what is it actually about? Doro, spying on Mai throughout one of her typical schooldays. Much of it takes place in the gym locker room.

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Last thing worth commenting on are these two archives that you can access from the main menu, which list all the FMV sequences and still-shots that you’ve seen so far. They’re both somewhat of a mess, though, being out of order and all. The FMV list at least has some titles for each sequence, so you know what you’re looking for. Not so with the eyecatches; they’re all numbered, and if there’s any one you’d like to see again, you have to hunt around for it. You’d think that they’d at least be grouped together, but some of them aren’t. For example, the eyecatches that take place between chapters are mostly in one place, but there are a few that aren’t.

There are also plenty of shots that never do take place within the game. I would assume that most of them were planned for scenes that simply got dummied out. Thankfully, these, along with any you might have missed (which, for the most part, is impossible), will all be listed after you complete the game.

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So why did I play this whole game? Because, several years earlier, I once started a pseudo-novelization of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, which featured Mai and an original character of mine named Joe, instead of Yoshi himself. I wasn’t really interested in this game at the time, but I thought to myself that if I ever was able to play it, I’d be sure to. Then came a desire to fandub all the voice acting in the quadrilogy, for which I tried to play it on an emulator. And then, a year after I had already given up on the aforementioned fic, a friend of mine proposed his own version of it, and that’s what cued me to give up on trying to play the ISO version and just buy a PC-FX, specifically for this mediocre game!

This being an obvious beta, you can pretty much tell that the folks behind this game just didn't care. It was one of the last games released for the system, but really, they should’ve just scrapped it entirely. Would’ve saved me all the trouble of trying to find it on Ebay and writing down the whole main script for translation purposes. Isn’t that what people do with most games that they work on and deem unfit for the video game market? Instead, NEC continues to struggle to stay in the gaming industry by funding a game, which in the end, from what I was told, sold less than 100,000 copies.

Wait, that’s coming from someone who once lamented the cancellation of Sonic Xtreme for the Sega Saturn, mainly by the fact that its debut character, Tiara Boobowski, never would see the light of day herself. But, whose to say that there wasn’t more planned for the Makendou franchise if it had done a whole lot better, executive-enforced or otherwise?

McKnight

Gameplay 5 Singleplayer 5
Story 9 Multiplayer N/A
Graphics 7 Unlockables / Secrets 3
Sound 4 Replay Value 2
Overall Score
5