• Gachitora Review Sony PlayStation Portable PSP

    Gachitora The Roughneck Teacher in High School, is a game from Spike and the team behind the Kenka Bancho series. As a result, its mechanics and visual style will be instantly familiar to anyone who played Badass Rumble on PSP, which was the only entry in the Kenka Bancho series to make it out of Japan. Failing that, anyone who has seen the Great Teacher Onizuka anime will find themselves in instantly recognisable territory.

    The story sees main character Kaji Torao inadvertently save a schoolgirl from throwing herself off the top of a building. As a result, the principal of her school, Ryugamine Academy, offers him a teaching job, obviously seeing potential in what he has just witnessed. So far so normal (for a Japanese title), except for the details of just how Kaji saved the girl. As he sees her perched on the edge of the roof, our thug with a heart of gold enters into a battle with her yes, a fist fight with a schoolgirl. This is where the 'normal' descriptor flies out of the window as the battle takes place in the mind of both characters. Yes, you read that right. Although it may be a little too madcap for some players, the way the story opens sets the tone for the rest of the game, giving the player a good idea of what to expect as they progress. Adding to the mayhem, the battle system is known as the Soul Nude Battle System and involves Kaji beating up students (and anyone else for that matter) in an attempt to get them to open their hearts and share what happens to be troubling them. In terms of mechanics, this takes the guise of a one-on-one fight played out in an enclosed arena and allowing the player to move freely in 3D in order to dodge and gain better opportunity to deal out damage. Stretching the limits of the 'being cruel to be kind' catchphrase, once Kaji has sufficiently dealt out enough damage, expending a life bar of his opponent, they then envelop themselves in a barrier meant to be a visual representation of the problem that is haunting them. At this time, they are able to perform stronger special attacks (projectiles or ground stomps for the most part) for a short period of time. Kaji must again take another life bar off the opponent, breaking the barrier, in turn freeing the opponent from their mental anguish. This aspect of the game sets it apart from similar games, most importantly the one from which it takes a lot of its cues - Kenka Bancho - helping it to feel even more like an advancement of that series, which is into its fifth entry.

    The fisticuffs themselves are handled well. A punch, kick, throw and block button and an attack that can be charged up for more damage are the basics, with predetermined specials (increased strength, health boost, special attack) able to be mapped to the D-pad for more options in battle. Targeting enemies is at times a little clunky, but for the most part it is a simple system which works well.
    Aside from the battles critical to the story mentioned previously, there are also NPC's who will run up to Kaji whilst exploring the city and these should be consideredthe games' random battles. These are a nice change of pace from the story related battles as they are generally a lot quicker to complete and also keep the player on their toes whilst exploring the various locations on the map, working in a similar way to how these sort of encounters are handled in the Yakuza series quick battles that earn the player cash and experience.
    On that note, Kaji earns experience through most of which he does, including the simple act of walking about. As well as increasing his overall health, it also unlocks more attacks, giving the player even more options whilst in battle.

    The game is divided up into chapters and allows for a degree of freedom. Whilst it's not a sandbox game, the player can explore select areas on a city map when they so choose in order to visit shops, engage in random battles or take part in one of the many mini-games scattered throughout the environments. There are a wide variety of these including fishing, baseball and even being able to visit a Maid Cafe and they are short enough that they are enjoyable without getting in the way of the story. Anyone who found themselves getting sidetracked by darts or pool in GTA IV be warned - these can also prove to be very addictive!

    The game is linear when the player is strictly following the story and triggering event scenes, and an added benefit to importers without a grasp of Japanese is that the area where the player must go to progress the story is always highlighted on the map, eliminating much of the frustration that can come with playing through a game in non-native tongue. Although this could be seen in a negative light, making the overall experience more linear, removing the guess work of where to go next is a welcome addition.

    Once certain conditions have been met in each chapter, the player will face a boss battle typically each chapter focuses on one character whose problems need to be solved and Kaji will face off against them at the end of it. These play out like extended version of regular battles, with the opponent having multiple health bars and stronger attacks. They get quite tough towards the end of the game but, in another example of the game being relatively import-friendly, if the player is defeated there is the option to retry with the boss having lower health and, if they should fail again, the option to completely skip over the fight becomes available.

    It may not be a game that most people (even those who would classify themselves as seasoned importers) will be familiar with, but anyone who has ever enjoyed a Kenka Bancho or Yakuza game, anyone who longs for the days of quirky and hugely enjoyable Japanese games or anyone who enjoys the output from the likes of Atlus owes it to themselves to at least give this game a thought.

    - Quirky, uniquely Japanese game.
    - Lots to see and do.
    - Regular importers will find it import-friendly.

    - Battle system is at times clunky.
    - Not as open as it may initially look.
    - Slim chance of localisation.

    Score: 7/10