In Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle on the 3DS, you get to play as your favourite characters from the animated TV series to save the world from Vilius’ robotic wrath. Take parts from downed enemies to create unique equipment to suit your play style. Experience the action alone or with an ally – fight through story missions,or battle your mates in VS Mode.
Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle was developed by the team at Bandai Namco Games for the Nintendo 3DS. Released back in October of 2014, Tenkai Knights was probably initially planned with the hopes of launching a potential franchise. Nintend handhelds are particularly effective for launching fun and quirky titles based around interesting concepts. Unfortunately Tenkai Knights could not be described as any of those things. Bandai Namco Games has a sort of sketchy reputation in the world of video games due to the fact that the developers seem ready to just cash in as many junk titles as possible. While Tenkai Knights had some heart, and a few moments of great fun, they were overshadowed by serious issues. Let’s dive in, however, and see if this mech-action fighter can still find a way to your library.
Viz Media knows how to handle their children’s anime and the work that the company did with both Pokemon and Sailor Moon should have given us some hope that Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle would have been something more than a cash in opportunity. As it turns out, Tenkai Knights is a children’s morning cartoon developed by a Canadian-Japanese company. The mecha anime is very popular in Japan and so is the shoujen genre. Shoujen basically means 'adventurous kids' in Japanese. So we had some faith that the title itself would at least be interesting. We don’t get enough mecha games here in America and this had some lore to pull from.
When you cut away all of the trimmings and the fat you will see that Tenkai Knights is a fighter with some 2D platforming elements thrown into the bucket. The game focuses on mission modules in order for you to follow along with the story of the Tenkai Knights, as is pulled right from the semi-popular cartoon. Bandai has done some great work with anime related titles (.hack comes to mind) so we had faith that they’d be able to set the table with the story. That isn’t the case here. We have never watched the anime that the game is inspired from, but the story in the game is rather tepid. You basically follow along as Gurren Nash and Ceylan Jones (such bizarre names) purchase these odd blocks from a weird shop. The kids soon find out that the blocks can turn into mechs and, oh yeah, you are needed to save the planet so get to work fighting.
The story is played out through the mission mode, as we stated above, but there are some serious issues with the way that it is delivered. In traditional JRPGs and other story driven handheld games you will often see character dialogue replaced by portrait boxes and written text. In Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle that is the route that the devs chose to take but instead of leaving it as text they will occasionally throw in voice acting. The problem here is that they only give voices to roughly half of the text boxes, meaning that you will often have on character talking to a completely silent companion. It makes for a rough, odd, and slightly discomfiting experience. Yet in any event there is really minimal amounts of dialogue to pay attention to and even less substance to take notice of.
Imported games and titles based off of pre-existing IP are typically rife with issues but we were hopeful that Tenkai could come to the rescue with some solid action and gameplay. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen there. You start the game by being placed in a small box full of platforms and enemies. You have various missions but typically your goal is to destroy X amount of bad guys while looting them. Sometimes the game will throw a curveball and have you play 'tower defense' for X amount of time. In any event, the missions are uninspired.
Primarily during this time you will be jumping, dashing, and flying around trying to avoid death while dealing it out on your own. You can play any of the Knights from the cartoon (Bravenwolf, Tributon, Valron, Lydendor) and they each have their own special abilities. Each mech controls differently and has its own specific stats. As you progress in the game you are able to customize your mechs with different weapons or defensive add ons. This is where Tenkai is probably its most palatable. The ability to dress up your mech in between bouts of butt kicking is pretty much all that we wanted from the game, as sad as it sounds, provided that the butt kicking is actually enjoyable. Unfortunately, it is not.
The biggest issue with the title is that the controls don’t feel tight or responsive and they force us to use unnatural buttons to stay competitive. The circle pad on the 3DS is typically my preferred way to play games but it just doesn’t work well in Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle. So we move over to the DPad and things are a little bit better, but still uncomfortable. Your jumping and aiming systems aren’t as accurate as they should be and this is a huge problem in what is essentially a pseudo platforming RPG. So even the simplest parts of the game ended up being gigantic issues which causes huge frustration and prolonged disappointment. There were really only a few things that Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle needed to do well and responsive movement controls was on that list!
Still if you can work your way past the sluggish controls then you would hope that the game gets a bit more enjoyable. To be fair, it does become at least slightly palatable if you can somehow master moving in the game, but that doesn’t mean it is every truly fun. Enemies are dumbed down and easy to fight, opposing AI is borderline broken, and the lack of any sort of multiplayer makes us shake our head - there was definitely an opportunity for it here.
At the end of the day we would only suggest Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle to children who love the show.