Rave Master: Special Attack Force, Konami's newest offering from the manga-turned-Saturday morning cartoon venue, looks to piggyback on the show's popularity with this title. As Rave Master Haru (or your choice of a number of other characters), you are on a quest to find the Memory of the Stars. This may make more sense to people familiar with the Rave Master manga or cartoon, but doesn't seem to detract too much for those of us who aren't. The title offers several different modes of play: You can just choose a quick fight between two characters, enter the storyline as the character of your choice, or play in ranking mode, a method that uses points, a rank ladder, and your ability to control all different in-game avatars on a battlefield.
For anyone familiar with side scrolling fighter games, Rave Master is a no-brainer for the most part. There will be a slight learning curve; instead of beating your opponent until he or she is out of hit points, there's a tension meter at the top of the screen. If your color takes up 75% or more of the tension bar, you will be allowed to execute a 'power move'? to finish your opponent. Still, this aside, the learning curve on this particular title is relatively low, and your characters are quite easy to control and maneuver. Documentation with Rave Master is actually quite good, as well. Reading through how to control and execute specifics is well written, and a quick read-through will probably save you a half hour or so of frustration.
Whatever particular mode you decide to play, Rave Master does have pretty sweet graphics for a GBA game. Very anime-styled cut scenes and pretty well detailed characters make for some pretty good eye candy while playing. Audio wasn't too bad, either. While the music was a mixed bag, all voice scripting tended to be done very well, with individual character voices well fleshed out and giving a bit of life to the game.
After several hours of playing this title, I found it to be an interesting, yet uninspired game. A few things did catch my eye, though. Games of this sort usually include buff guys and toss in a few hot women for eye candy. This one added a couple of truly bizarre characters as well: a tag team combo of a squid-like critter and his pet snowman, and one avatar I could only describe as a reject cast member from the old Masters of the Universe cartoon series. Which, I might add, were my two (three?) favorite characters to play. Even with this, however, there's not much you can really do to spruce up the side-scrolling fighting genre that hasn't already been done. Rave Master only seems to make a token gesture at this, adding the ladder mode to extend replay value doesn't really do it for me. Also, after you get the hang of playing the game, even the different character' s signature moves and fighting styles won't add too much to your gaming experience.
Though it does add a few colorful characters, a few different modes of gameplay and some novel damage concepts, Rave Master shows itself to be just barely more than yet another Street Fighter-style knock-off. Though perfect for fans of the series and all side scroller die-hards, it's an entertaining though ultimately forgettable title for the rest of us. As a side note, though, you owe it to yourself to let time expire on at least one fight in Story Mode. The 'Big Butt Bandits'? are a work of art, in a twisted, bizarre fashion.