Sunday, March 22, 2015

BANZAI PECAN: The Last Shred of Dignity of This Century Review (Strong Langauge)


BANZAI PECAN: The Last Hope for the Young Century, or as I would like call it, BANZAI PECAN: The Last Shred of Dignity of This Century, is a half-baked 2D brawler that tries so hard to be like Capcom's God Hand (or not at all) that it falls flat on its face thanks to its poor execution and bottom of the barrel story. I wanted to give this game the benefit of the doubt after the ridicule it got when it first showed up on Steam Greenlight back in 2012 and all the "praise" this game gets, but after seeing this game for what it truly is, I have nothing but contempt for this game and its developers. I could just sum this up with "It has boobs" because attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, but BANZAI PECAN is a special case for me. It does so many things wrong that I can pick them apart like that fellow from Milton Bradley's Operation. I hope whoever is reading this have a LOT of time on their hands (and some popcorn), because this is going to be one HELL of a bitching session. Either that or just skip to the end where I sum up my thoughts about this game.

Before I go on ahead, since BrothaKyo (and this game's circle-jerking fans) apparently think I'm some kind of "know-it-all" and someone who doesn't know what a good parody is. I'm no game developer, not even a programmer, a literary expert, or even an tourney-level player; I've grew up on my fair share of good fictional works as well as the bad and the truly god awful. In short, I'm just a weeb gamer who likes video games. Oh, and don't let my playtime with on Steam have you thinking "You barely played it at all!", I've been playing this crap I got it at Indie Gala's Greenlight Bundle, so my playtime with game has been more than generous. With that out of the way, it's time for this game's retribution, starting with...

The Good

The game does deliver on bringing you a fast-paced 2D brawler, teeming with enemies to deal with. Admittedly a few of the jokes did give me a chuckle. There's also some unlockables and extra modes to play once you beaten the game or met certain conditions for added replay value. Well I've ran out of good things to say about this game, so it's time for...

EVERYTHING ELSE

After having played through this entire game, I winded up with a laundry list of problems, so let's start with out it all works.


Graphics: So system requirements are, earlier when this game was released on DESURA, it required at least a 1GHz processor, 2GB RAM, and DirectX 9 or better. When I first tried to play this on my brother's PC, which had an NVIDIA GTX 460 video card, an Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 2.5GHz, and 4GB of RAM. Behind the times? Probably, but that should be enough to play this game no problem, right? Well that's what I thought at first until half the time the game ran at a snail's pace, dipping into the low 20s, sometimes less in the middle of the action and when the cheap spark/rain effect kicks in. Again, I'm no programmer, but a good number of the other 2D PC games and some of the 3D games I threw at my brother's PC worked perfectly fine. It baffles me why BANZAI PECAN performed so poorly, especially when the graphics don't look anything that would require a high-end video card and/or processor. Well my suspicions were confirmed, as well as my jaw hitting the floor, because it turns out the requirements were flat-out lying when the recommended system requirements for its Steam release showed up. Apparently it has been altered but I've taken a screenshot of it in right here case something like this happens. Somehow it needed about 3GHz worth of processing power (or 1.5GHz because not even the Steam page for it at the time can't make up its mind), 3GB of RAM, and apparently DirectX 11.

How in blue balls would a game that looks like something out of half-assed Newgrounds flash game require DirectX 11, much less 3GHz worth of processing power and 3GB of RAM, to run properly? There are 2D games that look like porn compared to BANZAI PECAN, some of which were actually made by porn artists, and on top of running on lower-end systems without a hitch, their system requirements are nowhere near demanding as BANZAI PECAN's (yeah, I went there). It took like, what, three years and twenty-something updates after release for this game to run at reasonable level of performance, even though input response still feels naff. If that doesn't say "We don't care about optimizing our game properly as long as we make a quick buck out of it" (as the developer basically told me), then I don't know what will. This brings me to my next issue, the graphics themselves. Something about the character artwork seems jarring and it's not that most of the girls have big boobs (although that will speak for itself when I get to that), but the way they are drawn feels cheap. At least Flan Nouggat and Cinnamon "Mr. Sorry Excuse for a Plot Device" Basil look average aesthetically, but some characters like Pecan and Vanilla look like some shortcuts were taken in their anatomy. The in-game hand-drawn sprites don't look any better and the animations are pretty bad, which is also a detriment to gameplay because it feels stilted and doesn't flow naturally at all (more on that later), especially not with this game's "protagonist". An update apparently slowed some of the enemies' animations down just to make them even more jarring. However, I can probably hazard a guess where the most of the animation quality went to.

The backgrounds aren't much to look at either; sure there's a variety places our "heroine" goes through, such as Dullsville, a highway, some kind of refinery, a convention center, Dullsville during a chemical leak, an S&M dungeon, the rooftops of Dullsville, and even the villain's tower, but odd it's odd seeing these somewhat photo-realistic(?) and quickly slapped together on Photoshop backgrounds clash with the "meh"-quality character sprites. Not to mention the scenery to me isn't all that interesting and feels lifeless. Nothing feels "retro" at all as its Steam page claims, neither in presentation or gameplay (seriously, compare this game to something like Freedom Planet and the difference will be night and day). Other problems include a (now removed) V-Sync feature that was not only virtually useless in previous versions (I doubt even the developers know what V-Sync is supposed to) but at times made the performance even worse, even on my own gaming PC with v1.2.9. The V-Sync option was replaced with a fullscreen mode -- which, by the way, there's no shortcut to switch between windowed or fullscreen mode, so you're stuck with whatever you chose until quit the game and go back to the Options menu to change it -- but even that's gimped as well. Apparently this game runs at some kind of odd 1000x600 resolution, so I have no idea what kind of aspect-ratio is that supposed to be, but when you do enter fullscreen, it squishes the game to a 4:3 aspect-ratio. I wish I was kidding, but the in-game snapshots I took of it on Steam says otherwise. Now to be fair, which is a phrase I hate to use here considering this game, but I've seen Koumajou Densetsu II doing a similar thing, but that game was developed by a Japanese indie developer. A Western developer should have known this by now. Not only that, but sometimes switching between windowed and fullscreen with the Steam version online literally breaks the game, as in you can't see a damn thing.

Of course this is all subjective, so feel free to talk shit to me disagree with me. All that though is not even best part about the graphics. You want to know what's the best part the graphics? Now I didn't noticed this at first since I didn't play many fighting games from SNK, although my sixth sense was telling me there was something fishy about BANZAI PECAN's graphics and animation the more I looked at it, but thanks to Rednavi =[T$CElite]= on Steam, it appears that the developers took it upon themselves -- though my money is on Mr. 80's Guy BrothaKyo here -- to trace over animations from characters SNK's games rather than make their own. I've looked into Waku Waku 7 to see how Arina plays in her own game, and it's pretty cut-and-dry that our "heroine" stolen some of Arina's moves (such as her jump, uppercut, kicks, downed and recovery animations, et cetera) along with some others stolen from The King of Fighters and such. The thread that Rednavi =[T$CElite]= provided with the sources of the stolen animations was unfortunately deleted by the developers, but I've taken a screenshot of it (with Google's cache's help) just in case something like this happens, which you view here. It's one thing to reference someone's else work, but to outright trace them like some petty art thief from deviantART is just pathetic. I may be a terrible artist, but at least I have the decency not to trace over someone else's work. The developer claims that he didn't "directly" rip them off, but I'm not buying into his bullshit even for a second.

Oh, and there's some poorly-edited stock photos that were probably pulled out of Google image search, so there's that.

I thought indie developers where above Teen Titans GO's! standards of quality. I guess not...

Audio: Audio-wise, BANZAI PECAN is rather unspectacular and there isn't a whole lot to say about it. The music most consists of repetitive techno beats that loops constantly, while others don't really add anything to the game. As for the voice-acting, I can probably guess the actors are amateurs but it's poor even for amateur standards. The actors don't put much inflection or any weight to what they're saying, and at times feels wooden (e.g. Pecan, Flan, Lady Strawberry). A few times I can't make out some of the characters are saying, like Jalapina where it feels like she's saying random gibberish to sound Spanish, yet somehow manages to be worse than Butt-head's attempt at speaking Spanish. The only ones that feel like they're trying are Mistress Mocha's and maybe Bitter Almond despite sounding annoying at times, but their performance aren't enough to save the others from mediocrity. It also appears they stolen stuff other games with some of the sound effects; come to think of it, even the audience cheering whenever you do a Taco Popper against the Hunny Bunnies sounds like its ripped right out of God Hand.

Gameplay: In theory, this should be a fun brawler, but the more I play it, the more I notice the game's problems. Now it has the usual tropes you'd expect from a beat 'em up: punching dudes in the face (mostly chicks in this game's case), eating out of the garbage for health, pepper in some special attacks for added spice (optional), fight the big cheese at the end, repeat this sequence until the you finally punch a hole in the biggest cheese of them all, and roll credits. However, for every step it takes, it trips over a pebble and tumbles down a rock gorge as the gameplay stems from these major problems:

1) Repetitious gameplay that requires little skill to get through.
2) Poorly-designed mechanics.
3) Awful difficulty balance.

To elaborate: this game relies on mashing the Attack button a LOT, which gets about as repetitive as Bloody Roar 4 -- if not more -- by only using the same button over and over again. Sure there's some other moves you can use out of your stolen repertoire by pressing Up or Down, like "totally-not-Arina's" uppercut or a flare sweep, but the basic "mash Attack 1,000 times" move seems more useful than anything else. Even the Taunt button (that you can't rebind at all, by the way), which is supposed to help you set your enemies up for a counter-hit, is more of hindrance than it is useful. You also have a dodge move and the ability to roll, but thanks the terrible animation and less-than-stellar input response, being able to anticipate when your enemies (especially the bosses) are going to retaliate is problematic. After recovering from kissing the pavement the enemies will still try to slap your ass around thanks to sluggish response, and no matter how much you try to get up (which the mechanics also feels like it's poorly copied from Waku Waku 7), it's usually too late when the enemies start gang up on you without being able to put up a fair fight.

That isn't all you have in your toolbox of shoddy tools; you also have a Heat Meter for other special moves you can pull off. You can fire off a Spirit Gu--I mean Burning Star Shot on ground or mid-air, or create a barrier that can knock enemies away for breathing room. There has been other things added, such as and a ground pound that can be done while performing "totally-not-Arina's" jump, a shortcut to your combo finisher that doesn't always work thanks to less-than-stellar input response, and a barrage of rapid-fire punches as a combo finish. Despite having these moves, I don't feel like I have any incentive to use these moves other than the magic handgun, the barrier, and maybe the punch move since the basic "mash Attack 1,000 times" a lot of the time gets the job done. This also extends to the "super moves" you get after defeating certain bosses because their overall balance is broken. Collision detection also appears to be bollocks because sometimes the enemies can hit you in situations where it shouldn't.

Again, to elaborate on the "super moves": you get a beam attack that wipes out everything that's in front of Pecan after the second boss, another boss then gives the ability to nuke everything on screen dropping a stock image of a ice cream truck (poorly edited in Photoshop, but I'm guessing that's suppose be a joke or something) while Pecan does her worst Dio Brando impersonation, and finally the fourth boss gives you the ability to do some half-assed Michael Jackson dance move (no offense to the late King of Pop since I do like some of his music) that not only nukes everything, but also causes enemies to drop items. See problem here? If not, here's what's wrong with these super moves: the final one obsoletes the other two by substantial margin. Who needs Pecan's super beam or that stupid ice cream truck when your wannabe Michael Jackson moves nukes enemies as well as causing them to drop items or health pick-ups? This move alone breaks the game's balance wide open.

You also have a small set of finishing moves you can perform against the rejected Playboy bunnies (and them only), which range from kneeing them in the groin to ass-slamming them away. They're fun to use at first, but eventually it gets old faster than a leporad the finishers in the 2010 re-imagining of Splatterhouse. It wasn't until v1.3-something where the finishers actually gained some kind of purpose other adding insult to injury, as the game puts it. There isn't a whole lot to break the monotony either; in one of the earlier levels you're treated to shaved ice-eating mini-game that's pretty easy to win, and after the second level you're treated to one of most sorriest shoot 'em up sections in a non-shoot 'em up game I've ever seen. All you have to do is mash the Attack button and that's it -- there's no threat to you or your moped, the Hunny Bunnies are about as durable as a wet tissue, so there's no actual challenge found anywhere whatsoever. The game also tries to throw in stage hazards like fire traps and especially bottomless pits, but it feels they're there just to artificially elongate the game's levels and pad the difficulty. Not to mention the game has a bad habit of obscuring some of these obstacles, be it a conveniently placed foreground object or Flan telling you how "cool" you are, and unfortunately I've fell through some of these pits thanks to the latter.

Let's change gears for a bit and talk about the difficulty. Before you were stuck with one difficulty only, however more were eventually added but they're not very balanced. There's Green Zone (Easy), Yellow Zone (Normal), and Red Zone (Hard), each having its their set of annoyances and problems. Green Zone makes the game pitifully easy by removing some of the game's more aggravating enemies, giving you full Heat at the start of a level, and cutting bosses' HP by half at the expense of locking you out of the final boss and ending. Now there have been other games that done this sort of thing in the past, and while I'm not fond of this sort thing (it's a pet peeve of mine), but I think BANZAI PECAN does it worst because what you're being locked out of aren't worth it the trouble. Yellow Zone gives you full access to everything the game has to offer, but because of the problems I mentioned earlier, this can range from mind-numbingly boring, to unceasing tedium, and to yet another test in frustration. Then there's Red Zone where the game becomes even more trial-and-error than before, because trial-and-error appears to be the developers' idea of fun in a brawler. The enemies in Red Zone have all the efficiently of Marines, especially the grab-happy enemies that loves to set you up for a back alley beat-down. And before the 3-year-olds start throwing accusation at me like "You don't know how to play a hard video game", I up grew on brawlers from the likes of Golden Axe to Devil May Cry, I love Treasure not only because their games are fun but also challenging, I've played my fair share of shoot 'em ups (including the likes of CAVE) despite sucking at them, and I've dabbed into Demon's Soul from time-to-time and enjoying getting my ass handed from that game moreso than BANZAI PECAN's poorly conceived idea of "balance", but I digress.

Suggestion: Streets of Rage Remake, Noitu Love 2: Devolution, Aces Wild: Maniac Brawling Action... pretty much anything that's not this game will do.

There isn't much when it comes to enemy variety. You have the aforementioned Playboy bunny rejects, which they come in all kinds of flavors more than anything else in the game (you got strawberry, orange, lemon, licorice, et cetera) with somewhat different attacks; Jenny Jackrabbits, scantly-clad rabbit-girls as the hard-hitters; and Red Devilettes, flying devil girls that are about as annoying as flies but they do drop recovery items or sometimes Revive Gems (if you're lucky) for swatting them. A later update merely added two more enemies to the line-up: Kuro Onis (who, coincidentally, have nothing to do with the Korean fan game of Ao Oni), ninja demons with an annoying slide attack and spread shot; and Tartars, troll demon with a club as big as she is chatty and annoying. All this pales in comparison to the likes of Streets of Rage, which had a nice variety of enemies, ranging from street thugs, to dominatrices, fat guys that breathe fire, kick-boxers, and martial-artists to name a few. Sure one could argue that some of the older classics palette swapped their enemies, too, except in those games they didn't rely on Xeroxing the lowest level grunt a million times into fooling you there's variety. Not only that, they're not exactly the enemies I would consider "fun" or "charming", especially not the Hunny Bunnies, but who could blame them since they don't any kind of body language or really any kind of coherent language for that matter. Nevertheless, depending on what the game decides to throw at you is going be a deciding factor of how much of a chore getting through them will be.

Onto the bosses, whom I would barely consider as actual video game bosses. Typically in any kind of action game, bosses are meant to test the player's skill and what they've learn or acquired throughout the game, often having some kind of pattern that keeps you on your toes and the bosses themselves switches things up to keep the excitement going. That's not the case here; in the case of BANZAI PECAN, they're pretty much damage sponges where the battles drags on for a while as you chip away at their health and the challenge (again) comes from how fast you can hammer the Attack button and other times luck. Being able to anticipate when the bosses are going to fight back is next to impossible thanks to the terrible animation, since they come at you in a blink of an eye. Their A.I. is also laughable since the only thing they appear to know is to waltz up to the player (or in Lemon-Lime's case, flash-step) and attack; they have no real form of defense other than delivering cheap shots to the player. It's even funnier if you can pin them against the wall and go all Lady Legasus on them. Even the robots from Rise of the Robots have better A.I. than BANZAI PECAN's bosses (yeah, I went there). They only form of progression they have is introducing a new way to be a cheap-ass.

Once you do get them down to 2/3 of their health (on "Normal" or "Easy" at least), this is where they start breaking out their desperation move, which you "must" counter or they'll inflict a huge amount of pain on you or kill you outright; it's possible to not bother with the QTEs, but it saves you time (and possibly carpal tunnel syndrome) if you just mash the damn buttons or whatever the hell it wants you to do. The problem with this however in some boss battles (e.g. Bitter Almond), the game apparently needs to pause in the middle of the fight just so it can load the attack they'll try perform. This completely brings the already abysmal flow of combat to screeching halt, and in many cases, ruins my strategy. Great use of all that RAM... There's also another move called the "Dayasha Bomb" that you can perform only during boss battles and only if you have less than 25% of your health with a full Heat meter, where this DayashaThrists guy comes in and bombs the area with a meteor. Other than raising two very important questions (1. "Who the hell is he?" and 2. "Why should I care?"), this is more trouble than it's worth because not only does it hit the boss, but the blast will knock you back as well. A few times this attack actually killed me because of the knock-back. Good thing I won't be needing it after the fourth level.

Now let's pretend you trudge through the entire game on "Normal", fought through every bunny-girl under the color spectrum, dealt the laughable/cheap bosses, and kick Lady Strawberry's shins a hundred times. What was so important about playing through the whole game above "Easy" which ends the game prematurely after Lady Strawberry? Well Pecan activates her Mary Su--I mean awakens her hidden ancestral powers, Lady Strawberry does stero--becomes Onichigo (cleaver, by the way), and we're treated to a final boss battle that's about as intense as the Cyberdemon with all the patterns of an easy Zelda boss, if not less. If only I was kidding... So let me get this straight: you have a game with a horrendous difficulty curve for all the wrong reasons that puts some off into playing anything above "Easy", you lock them out of the "full experience" unless they play on "Normal" or "Hard", and when they do, they're treated to an anti-climatic final boss that's easier than the rest?


I've played some pretty bad games before, but none them were as insulting and misguided as this. Bloody Roar 4 had more complexity for being a slapped-together button-masher, Rise of the Robots (again) had better A.I. despite having all its development gone towards the graphics, and even Sonic '06 had better boss battles even though that game was rushed beyond playability. All of this is really BANZAI PECAN's ugliest sin next to the awful story. The combat system is extremely shallow where your skill is really based on how fast you can hammer the Attack button. Most of the tools the game provides are rubbish, there's no sense of impact anywhere in this game (ironic, considering the developer's company name), nothing feels satisfactory or rewarding, it's just one tedious button-mashing session after another, and by the fourth level my finger were getting sore from jackhammering the fucking Attack button! This game and its developer claim this game was inspired by old-school brawlers, but it's pretty clear that they've not learn a damn thing that makes them fun. I can probably hear the fantards crying out "Hey this game is getting patched to fix everything!", except this game more than just patches, it needs to go back on the drawing board and re-think itself (and maybe have some sense slapped into the developers)!

Alright now, gotta calm down, what else is there after the main game? Well you can replay the levels again in the Episode Select if you beat the game on "Normal" (except you can't replay them on "Easy" for whatever reason), and a Boss Rush mode, but it's not worth my patience for reasons stated earlier. There are also the unlockables I mentioned earlier found in Flan's Room, but in order to unlock stuff, you have to pick up the rare Saviour Jun figurines that occasionally appear in gachapon machines, as if the game wasn't luck-based enough as it is. Thankfully two of the unlockables are moot, while a few seem to broken in some way. For five figurines, you unlock the ability to change Pecan's color palette as "Cosplay Colors", which bears some resemblance to characters from other shows and games that I could be enjoying instead of BANZAI PECAN, and if you've BFG'd Lady Cyberdemon to death then you also get her Awakened Mode where she regains health and Heat over time. There's one teeny little problem with the palette swap feature for Pecan (except maybe for her Awakened Mode): it makes the game's load times even longer. Not once have I ever seen a game, especially on a computer of all things, where a game has to take precious time just to load a simple palette-swap for the player character but has no problem Xeroxing the lowest level enemy in a million different colors. Again, all the RAM this game needs is really getting its work cut it for it.

For ten and twenty figurines, you unlock a sound test and a gallery featuring some concept art for the game, respectively. However the sound test is moot because you can get the soundtrack for this game on Luminous Riot's Bandcamp page for any price (even for free), however I don't feel like having the game's soundtrack in my MP3 player, much less my computer, for reasons stated earlier. As for the gallery, you can find the concept art along with some others on the developers' Facebook page. Now I want to get back onto the graphics again because there's something that really bothers me with the concept art. If this game was supposed to be "retro" as its Steam page claims, then how come the concept art for the game does a better job of that than the artwork in the finished product? I'm no art expert, but some of the characters' concept art at least have that 80's/90's anime aesthetics going on, but instead the character art in the finished product looks like something out of a mediocre webcomic from the mid-2000's. There's even a few concept art for the gameplay showing what could have been a fun brawler (a sizeable moveset, basic moves that may have properties actually worth using, possibly a decent combat system) instead of a lousy button-masher.

Fifteen figurines lets you view the cutscenes of the game, though I'm not sure why you'd want to relive this game's story, and twenty-five unlocks the Saviour Jun mini-game, which plays like a shoot 'em up. However the mini-game in itself isn't very good since it has balance issues that just as bad as the main game and relies on you to "Saviour Up" to ram enemies to death. The funny thing about this mini-game however is that in the earlier versions, Saviour Jun performed better than the main game on my brother's computer and responds to inputs better. Then again, it's not like I have any good reason to play Saviour Jun, especially not when there are much more polished shoot 'em ups like out there, like I dunno--CRIMZON MOTHER FUCKIN' CLOVER. If your own forgettable mini-game within the (equally awful) main game is able to function better than the latter: you got problems. I also didn't touch on this earlier, but there's a scoring system in the game; you get points for beating up enemies like in many other beat 'em up, except it's nothing something be concerned about considering all how poorly-handled the gameplay is and the game occasionally crashing... Oh right, this game is tends to be glitchy, too. Some of them were probably fixed unless the developer somehow introduced some new ones (and in my case, has happened a few times). The kind of game-breaking bugs and glitches ranges from the game refusing you to advance to the next section after beating all the enemies, getting stuck in places, or the game outright crashing. Also if you try to play Saviour Jun with the Steam version offline (i.e. without running Steam), it crashes the game. Oops.

The issue with controller support could just Multi-media Fusion 2, the engine this game was made on, but it's really inconsiderate when the game recommends you use a controller but what they recommend are Logitech ones. If the only PC-compatible controller in your possession is, let's say an Xbox 360 pad, you're pretty much shit out of luck as it stands because you can't rebind the controls on a controller whatsoever unless you use third-party programs like Xpadder. Being this inconsiderate for those who want to use a controller is also a problem for the game because the special attacks requires you to press buttons 1 and 4 together, which would be the A and Y buttons on an Xbox 360 controller. Who thought this was a good idea? Martians? It'd have to be because it's awkward finger placement for a non-Logitech controller. If I wanted to use one of these special attacks, I have to use my index finger just to press both those buttons at the same time; contrast to something like Bayonetta where finishers and such that requires two simultaneous button presses are conveniently mapped to where your thumb can actually press those buttons at once while keeping your index finger free to use the lock-on or dodge button. The game also refuses to save your settings, despite being a game from 2012. Other Multi-media Fusion 2 games like Noitu Love 2 and Gunpoint are capable of saving settings (as well as having proper resolution settings), so there's no excuse for this game not to save your settings. If this is the developers idea of being retro, then they desperately need to keep up the times.

In case no one gets where I'm trying to come from with all this, there are games that don't do a whole lot, such as God Hand and the Earth Defense Force series, to even the simple stuff like Beat Hazard and Peggle, where those games focuses on one thing -- the gameplay -- and the rest thrives from it. Think of them as buildings, with the core gameplay as their foundation, and these buildings are in the middle of a very nasty hurricane. Between God Hand and BANZAI PECAN, God Hand is able to carry its own weight and stands strong against the storm because its foundation is very strong, whereas BANZAI PECAN on the other hand is weak and brittle, and the storm demolishes everything because its foundation was never able to hold its own weight. It's as simple as that.

"Don't give me that look, missie. You know something went wrong with this picture when it went fullscreen."

Story: Now why would I devote my time to criticize this game's story when beat 'em ups aren't generally known for good stories to begin with? The answer to that is simple: the story in BANZAI PECAN is terrible, even for beat 'em up standards. Like the gameplay, the more I play it, the more I notice things wrong with it. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, so let's take it from the top and work our way down the rabbit hole. Before I do, allow me to share some kind words BrothaKyo gave when I politely gave my issues with the story not long after I rescind my vote for this game on Greenlight and gave BANZAI PECAN a less-than-pleasing score on DESURA:

"As for the story: getting mad at a 'parody-like statement at a parody game that somewhat pokes at tropes', that's on you if this makes you mad. It was literally just meant a tongue in cheek statement that seems to be offensive to you. Welcome to the 80s."

You had this a long time coming. The kid gloves are coming off. P.S. Defending your idea of a "parody" like this is the reason why "shallow parody" exists.

The basic premise of the story focuses on Pecan trying to stop an evil group of succubi calling themselves "The Sexilcious Seven", who are out bring forth chaos unto world. You know, that old chestnut. It would have been fine if the game just left it at that, however the developers tries to give the tired "Good vs. Evil" story some actual narrative by presenting it with visual novel-like dialogues sequences (think BlazBlue without the branching paths, or interesting characters and story), as if they wanted you to give a damn about the story in a genre where story should normally take the backseat. The game's pre-v1.3 manual gives us some bit of backstory -- which is not brought up anywhere in the game proper, but I'm guessing that's supposed to be a joke -- where Pecan claims to have amnesia yet somehow was able to remember being adopted when she was a kid by some chick named Lavenda who's never seen anywhere in the game and happens be a "Banzaider", which is not unlike Super Sentai or Power Rangers for us American folks, and by the time Pecan got out of high school, Lavenda felt that she was getting too old for the job and passes the torch as well as the tools to Pecan. The later versions changes the manual's backstory here and there but doesn't make much of a difference for the follow-through.

Fast-forward to where the story actually takes off, we see Pecan with her friend Flan Nouggat hanging out at Dullsville. Flan wants her copy of Saviour Jun back, where Pecan justifies her forgetfulness by bring up an anime cliché only to hear Cinnamon Basil (referred as "Hot Guy" until he's properly introduced) screaming for help. We're treated to some half-assed economy joke as Pecan and Flan rushes to the scene where the find one of the members of the Sexilcious Seven, Spicy Jalapina, giving Cinnamon a hard time. Naturally our "heroine" won't have any of that and breaks out her Banzai Bracelets, only to forget what the magic words are, despite the manual claiming she broken-in her new Banzaider powers at least once before. Pecan then rips off some pre-transformation lines from a bunch of shows and video games that I could be enjoying instead of this while fumbling around with her bracelets, giving Jalapina enough time to pre-empted her, but somehow figured it out in the nick of time. Insert some transformation fanservice (it's really just her floating in magical space naked with hair turn red until the next scene), Pecan's in super magical girl mode, then Pecan gives us a deranged smile, and proceeds to take on her opponent. Pecan of course wins because video game logic, she and Cinnamon introduce themselves and brings the opening stage to a close. Oh, and if you're worried about Jalapina, you shouldn't; not even her succubi cohorts cares if she's alive or blasted off (again) to outer space.

Now we get to the part where the story really takes off and tumbles down a steep, rocky hill. Since the game never specified the amount of time that passed since Pecan wiped Jalapina from existence, I'm going to assume a day went by. Pecan and Cinnamon are on their first date (I'm assuming), and Pecan suggest they eat their local Mexican restaurant, but Cinnamon states he's not into the spicy stuff yet Pecan yanks his chain if wants to get laid. Already rushing into things... However their date doesn't last when the big cheese of the Sexilcious Seven, Lady Strawberry, pulls a Kool-Aid Man and takes Cinnamon hostage. She challenges Pecan to face her at the top some of newly built tower where she arranged her shotgun wedding with Cinnamon, followed by Pecan threatening him with denial of sex if he so much as kisses her. Now I would like to share this bit of useless trivia for those that didn't play this game when it first came out on DESURA, more specifically pre-v1.3 as far as I'm aware: Cinnamon's response to new "girlfriend's" threat is a zero-effort rape joke. Yeah... one of my waifus this to say about that. Back on topic, Lady Strawberry makes off with Cinnamon, the restaurant's employee Pepper Rika does Pecan's job of shoehorning a bunch of overused pop-culture references for her, then Pecan goes magical girl mode and springs into action.

...What is wrong with you?

In Stage 1 then get introduced to French Vanilla, along with some boob jokes here and a Pamela Anderson joke there (by the way, there are other real-life women with large breasts who aren't Pamela Anderson; just sayin'), following her defeat we're introduce to Bellbottom Shades, a.k.a. Hippie El Kabong, who distracts Vanilla just so Pecan pull Shadow the Hedgehog's kick to the head on Vanilla, then some chit-chat and suddenly Pecan is getting the hots for him. Remember that last bit for later since it's going to be on the SATs. In Stage 2, Pecan acts like snob towards the third-person talking Bitter Almond, and we learn that her alleged rival Sugoi Maple is in on the Sexilcious Seven's charade. After Almond's defeat, snob Pecan is still a snob, more innuendos while Pecan gives us the impression that's just saving Cinnamon just for sex, then Pecan tramples the girl. Pecan rings up Flan so she can get her moped for the boring moped shooter level. She seems concerned about Flan getting back home safely, but I'm not sure if she's actually worried about Flan's overall well-being or if Flan will give the Bunbunmaru Newspaper something to write about on the way back. Although Flan may have screwed me over a couple of times in Stage 5, I get the feeling she's on the same page as me by the way she use quotation marks when she referred Pecan as the "heroine". Despite Pecan saying "Hop on" before the level begins, yet Flan is nowhere to be seen on the moped...

Side Stage 1 and 2 aren't much to talk about, however Toraken Soy's blindness to Pecan's situation is somewhat amusing and while Ash Bunny from Side Stage 2 is an annoying prissy brat (he doesn't deserve to share the same name as Streets of Rage 3's Ash), I feel like he was on the same page as I am with Pecan when he called her a tramp. In Stage 3, Pecan gets nostalgic about Lavenda doing her heroics in Dullsville, despite mentioning having amnesia in the manual, then runs into Sister Spearmint. Pecan delivers another boob joke that at least has some thought into it (and admittedly, I'm a bit of a sucker for puns) only to ruin it with her smug sense of satisfaction (i.e. canned laughter) and pulls a wannabe-Dante one-liner. Also nice typo there for your post-mortem one-liner for Spearmint, Pecan. After Spearmint's defeat, Wannabe El Kabong shows to warn Pecan that the next area could be a trap, which Pecan disregards his warning and waltz right in anyway. Once she does, she finds herself in Mistress Mocha's dungeon who's giving the other two losers (Vanilla and Almond) some S&M punishment, along with Pecan bringing up a Madonna reference and a movie that's much better than the game she's in. When Pecan does confront Mocha, we're treated to yet another barrage of innuendos and Pecan being a sleaze who still probably hasn't had sex. After Mocha's defeat, the two losers from before as well as Spearmint show up to apprehend Pecan to tan her hide, which I'm guessing her parental figure didn't do enough of while raising Pecan.

After some off-screen disciplining, we see our hapless "hero" restrained and apparently figuring that the superhero she claims to be. Took long enough. The story suddenly tells us things now are getting serious as Pecan starts swearing Mocha out, followed by more off-screen disciplining. Isn't this supposed to be a parody? Oh never mind... Suddenly Tuxedo M--I mean Hippie El Kabong saves the day by delivering some off-screen disciplining of his own. With all this cut to black, I feel like somebody forgot to pay the electric bill again. On the rooftops of Dullsville, we get some chit-chat about the Sexilcious Seven's plans with Cinnamon and Pecan giving us yet another innu--WE GET IT! YOU'RE A VIRGIN! Ahem, excuse my outburst. After more typical chit-chatting, Pecan's so-called "rescue" mission is intervened by her alleged rival finally making some screen time. Maple drops us more things that we knew already, another innuendo involving Cinnamon, Hippie El Kabong breaks up their scuffle and holds Maple of while our "hero" continues looking for her invitation to Cinnamon's pants party.

Pecan then runs into Lemon-Lime, yet another member of the Sexilcious Seven who's just as much as a snob as Pecan. Thankfully their dialogue just cuts to the chase so I don't have to. After Pecan is done dealing with Snobby McSnooty Pants, Pecan just stands there gloating about her victory only to give Snobby here enough time to break free from her straight jacket and unleashes the beast on Pecan. What an idiot. So while Pecan's taking a dirt nap, we're treated to some kind of vision involving some demon chick who I'm guessing is Lady Strawberry years earlier (foreshadowing), and some nameless unseen guy that we'll assume is Punchy the Hawaiian Punch mascot for the sake of convenience. It seems the two are lovers but Lady Strawberry is getting all melodramatic about having half-breed kids and being a demon herself or some bollocks. When Punchy tries to remind her she has a soul, she basically tells him off, kills him in cold blood, laments murdering him mere seconds later, then has an episode about. Was killing Punchy necessary if she was lamenting about having half-bred kids? Again, isn't this supposed to be a parody?

Sorry, I needed a distraction from this schlock.

Now I'm going take a break picking apart the things the story does wrong for a moment and get to brass tasks with the game's writing. From my understanding, and what the game wants you to believe, that BANZAI PECAN is supposed to be a tongue-and-cheek story, but within the first few minutes in the older versions of the game, it uses something as messed-up and traumatic as rape as a joke. It was never funny when PewDiePie did it, so why you would do the same? A lot of the dialogue between Pecan and villains don't feel like it's being tongue-and-cheek, but rather it's being clichéd and contrived by forcing innuendos and/or pop-culture references; the game's manual is also guilty of doing the latter (as well as having typos). And if it's not shoehorning innuendos or some kind of pop-culture reference, then the tropes being used in this story are played bland. The exchanges with the "protagonist" and the villains feels trite, hardly even tries to be comedic or have fun with itself, and doesn't change from this formula. Hell, even the bullies from Jeff the Killer had more entertaining dialogue than the Sexilcious Seven. The characters are flatter than a piece of paper, despite what the game's website or manual tells you, without much of a personality to make them endearing or charming in any way. I get that character development or any kind of meaningful story is not the reason you come to play a brawler, but in a game like God Hand it knows it's a video game and runs with it by having characters and situations that are goofy, over-the-top, or just plain silly. But then again, what do I know? According to this jackass, I'm just another dumb 90's kid...

Anywho, back to our regularly-scheduled bitching session. So Pecan wakes up and finds herself on a pile of marshmallow bags, because this game's writing wasn't contrived enough already, and sets off into Sexilcious Seven's HQ to retrieve her boy-toy. By the time she gets to the top, the Sexilcious Seven begin arranging Lady Strawberry's shotgun wedding, Pecan sneaks in the little girls while Almond's in there and beats the tar out of her (that's even lower than hitting someone in the groin), then Pecan and Lady Strawberry starts ripping off a famous exchange between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, Vol. 1 almost word-for-word. Cinnamon gives his alleged "girlfriend" some word of confidence only to dragged away by Mocha, Pecan pulls some wannabe-Dante one-liners again, Hippie El Kabong shows up only to do nothing for the following button-mashing marathon. Pecan then confronts her rival Maple, which had little build-up and zero pay-off in said fight by the way, much like their dialogue. After the less-than-exciting or challenging battle with Maple, they both collapse but Jerk Sue here commits Ass Pull #1 by crapping a Chaos Emerald to bring her strength back. Well at least this is less offensive than a princess making out with a dead hedgehog to bring it back to life...

After that we get some more typical hostage and villain banter here, Lady Strawberry confronts Pecan at the alter, and the typical Jerk Sue vs. the Big Cheese banter there. After breaking Lady Strawberry's shin we got the typical "Oh, you're stronger than I thought" dialogue, Pecan the Jerk spouts how her Banzaider parental figure raise her to be a "hero" and she's going to stop her, then Lady Strawberry shanks her and makes up a blatantly obvious lie about making the world better. While the Sexilcious Seven resumes the shotgun wedding, and our "hero" bleeds to death, Hippie El Kabong only shows up to realise that he was too late in saving Pecan. Unfortunately, Pecan doesn't stay dead for long as her massive mind-loss new wellspring of power suddenly kicks in, Hippie El Kabong does nothing important and buggers off one last time, and Pecan uses her new powers to pursue Lady Strawberry. Also Ass Pull #2.


If only...

Jerk Sue interrupts the shotgun wedding, Lady Strawberry notices the zombie in the room, blah, blah, blah, and then everything comes full circle when Lady Strawberry starts ripping off the ever-so-famous plot twist from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back while Pecan goes along with it. What does this mean? It means that our "hero" is a demonic half-breed, so is Maple, and this game's writing is about as creative as Date Movie. Pecan drops some tasteless vulgarity, then we find out Hippie El Kabong is her future son (and Lady Strawberry somehow aware that he's in the present), which ends up creeping Maple, Cinnamon, and our "hero" upon the realization -- the only bit of shame we will ever see from Pecan. We're then greeted with a "And then John was a zombie" reference with Pecan the Shameless and Lady M. Night Seltzerberg, which is totally pointless and had no build-up because they just established that Pecan is a (half-)demon two seconds ago, and then Lady M. Night Seltzerberg justifies that little lie from earlier and all this plot-twist stupidity riddled with stale memes is supposed to be "fourth wall" humor. "Fourth wall humor" my ass. Lady M. Night Seltzerberg then hulks out to become Lady Cyberdemon and Pecan the Shameless reminds us we should buy Guilty Gear X2 to wash the taste out of our mouths. By the way, no one wanted to know about your ass-cereal fetish.

After taking a hundred BFG blasts to the face, Lady Cyberdemon preaches she's going to unleash Hell upon the world, Pecan the Shameless says this, they get into a beam struggle that's less exciting than anything out of Dragon Ball Z, then Maple shows up to pull a Goku by giving her mom a Full Nelson. While this happens, Pecan the Shameless hesitates on her using her sister's sacrifice to finish off Lady Cyberdemon, her mom slaps her grab-happy daughter around while Maple tells Pecan the Shameless she's the best she has ever fought (even though neither of them were particularly good fighters to begin with). Pecan the Shameless uses her Special Beam Cannon (because I'm too lazy to write the actual name of her attack at this point), finally taking down Lady Cyberdemon along with her sister, and Pecan the Shameless collapses from exhaustion after defeating the game's easiest boss. So does such an anti-climatic battle end on? Well it ends on a much more anti-climatic note where we see two days later (and the only time this game ever specifies any passage of time), our "lovebirds" finally having some time together only for--SURPRISE! Lady M. Night Seltzerberg (and Sugoi Maple) is alive and well, the two are obviously surprised, and Lady M. Night Seltzerberg basically says to Cinnamon "Hello my future son-in-law! Sorry about kidnapping you and forcing you to marry me against your will so I can unleash Hell on Earth even though I'm like twice maybe ten times your age. Hey you still wanna bone my sexually-frustrated disappointment of a daughter? :D" Pecan the Disappointment and Maple the Loser prepare themselves for a duel, Pecan makes up some nonsense about she's a "hero", they clash legs, THE END, roll credits to the people who don't deserve it.


*bangs head repeatedly against the wall* I speak no hyperbole as this has to be one of the most anti-climatic endings I've ever suffered through since Sonic '06. If the story and gameplay alone doesn't speak for itself how contrived, poorly-executed, and poorly thought-out this game is underneath the snarky observations, then I don't know what will. Why was any of this necessary if it meant virtually nothing or have next-to-no pay-off? What's the point of bring up any of this nonsense, like their non-existent personalities or Pecan's alleged amnesia if she can remember things clear as day, if it's never explored or properly fleshed out? As for the big ol' air quotes about Pecan being this game's hero, she's what some would call "the designated hero", as in a character who's claimed to be heroic but does nothing of the sort, often being an absolute jerkass at best and no better than the villains at worse. To me, Pecan Apple is one such character; she's claimed to be some kind of paragon of heroism, yet she acts like an asshole to the villains (some worse than others), calls them by derogatory words like "bitch" or "slut" when she's no better going by the innuendos she keeps throwing at us, and I get the feeling she really cares about herself. I can imagine the peanut gallery crying out "Hey, she's fighting the Sexilcious Seven to save Cinnamon!", but does she genuinely care him? She threatens him with denial of sex within the first few minutes of the game (and possibly on their first date), not too long after that she gets the hots for another guy who she knows even less, and intends to bone him if she can't have Cinnamon to herself (although to be fair she didn't know Hippie El Kabong would be her future son until the revelation pile-up but it's still creepy). If anything, it seems like she's trying to stop the villains from having their way with Cinnamon so she doesn't get sloppy seconds. She's a walking contradiction! Not only that, but she does no less than three idiotic things in this story: forgetting how to use her Banzaider powers despite the manual claiming she has broke them in at least once before, ignoring someone's caution to avoid falling to the enemy's trap, and stroking her ego over an opponent she just beaten only to give them enough time to retaliate. Maybe I'm over-thinking things, but when you put yourself through some of the worst pieces of writing ever conceived, maybe you'll learn a thing or two on how NOT to write a story, especially not a "parody" such as this piece of shit.

You want to know did a better job at being an actual hero than Pecan Apple? Rick Taylor from Splatterhouse! For a mime, his actions speaks much loader than Pecan's will ever be; he does what any caring boyfriend and loving father/husband would do and protects his loved ones. In the 2010 re-imagining of Splatterhouse, at one point the Terror Mask reminds him he'd love his girlfriend 'til the end of the world, that very thing was happening in that game and the Terror Mask wants Rick to prove that he is a man of his words. Even Dante, everyone's favorite demon-slayer that Pecan desperately want to be, went through a bit of actual character development in the third game, going from a cocky and arrogant thrill-seeker to taking after his father and fights for what's right. Also what is up with the villains' motivation, namely Lady Strawberry's? Is she really trying to wreak havoc upon the world, or is this some contrived, convoluted plot to keep her daughter from making the same mistake she made of killing her "lover"? And what is the point of Bellbottom Shades' existence? He literally comes out of nowhere and never literally does anything to change what's going on with the story. If he's supposed to be a parody of characters like Tuxedo Mask, then it's being done really poorly in this innuendo-, meme-ridden schlock-fest. You could take the hippie out of the equation and nothing would be different. BANZAI PECAN's story feels like an amateur anime fan-fic at best, and a Sailor Moon-Super Sentai parody directed by Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg at worst. I like how the one featured review on its Steam page is even describing BANZAI PECAN as "God Hand meets Kung Fu [Master]" because this game is nothing compared to God Hand (and I'm pretty sure that the "reviewer" never played a good brawler). I got much more accurate way to describe this game:

It's Kung-Fu Master meets Eiken by way of Sailor Moon!

I'm not sure what to blame here for BANZAI PECAN ended being the shallow (and haphazardly put together) beat 'em up as it is: the developers' lack of talent to handle such a task, or their general laziness. If God Hand's overall philosophy is "We know this game is silly, but we want you to have fun, too", then BANZAI PECAN's would be "We know this game is tritefully clichéd, and we want it to be as painful as possible". The developers may claim they've taken inspiration of old-school beat 'em ups, but it's pretty clear that they've learn not a damn thing about what made them fun. Am I being too harsh on this game? Maybe I am, but when you have been spoon-feed lies from other reviews that don't look at something from an objective standpoint, as well as dealing with the developer deleting comments for pointing out the game's problems, having the nerve to defend his own schlock writing like a certain crappypasta author, and actively trying to cover his ass with the plagiarism in this game, I have lost my all of my patience and respect for this thieving douchebag and the only way I can get the message across is through brutal honesty.


My Soapbox: The Other Beat 'em Ups I've Played vs. BANZAI PECAN

Before I conclude this review, I'm gonna talk about what makes the other beat 'em ups I've played actually fun and enjoyable compared to BANZAI PECAN. Here I'll use an example that I'm pretty sure many can relate to: Bayonetta. It stars female lead, features lots of over-the-top action, loads of references that doesn't come off "o hai gais remeber dis?", and a nice sense of style. However, above all else, Bayonetta has an incredibly satisfying combat system, and one that actually works. Each attack you and the enemies do has impact, giving it a very tactile feeling, which is complemented by its spot-on input response that you feel like your actions actually have significance in the heat of battle. Whenever I'm getting my ass handed to me, I know it's a lot of the times my fault because I made the mistake of not using the tools I've been given.

There's a very good reason why games like Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revenengeance, and Devil May Cry are called "spectacle fighters". Sure, the term may have been coined by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's review of MadWorld, but the cult-classic God Hand set a very good example of this. God Hand's not a technical achievement by any means and it's a brutally difficulty game, but you need don't feel like you're being cheated because the combat system works so very well. It's as if they're taking the classic beat 'em ups of old and refined what made them fun into the modern era (the same can be said for Bayonetta, MadWorld, and Viewtiful Joe). Games like this encourages you to fight smart, to learn what the telegraphs are, to find a weakness in their attack patterns, to learn the properties of your attacks, to employ crowd control tactics, and to take risks. As brutal as it is, it's not unreasonable as it adapts your skill level (unless you're on Hard mode where your bollocks are really put on the chopping block), so if you're not doing well it adjusts itself so you can learn the ropes of the game and ease yourself into the harder yet satisfying difficulty. It rewards you for your skill as a player, not just through in-game loot or goods, but through seeing the fruits of your labor, witnessing your ability to fight your adversaries with mastery and finesse, and making a spectacle of the enemies you are fighting. As someone who has gotten their hands dirty to try out God Hand, I can easily say it lives up to its reputation much moreso than BANZAI PECAN does with its false praises.

Now I'm not saying that every beat 'em up should be made by Platinum Games, but if you're going to make a brawler or any video game, especially if it's supposed to fun, then you better put your heart into your work or you'll end up with results such as this. I idolized developers like Joakim "Konjak" Sandberg, Lab Zero Games, Bomber Games, and Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya because the games they created are a labor of love, they put their heart and soul into their work. In BANZAI PECAN's case, it's plainly obvious that they developers too busy ogling their vapid, over-sexualized bimbos to even bother to try making a good video game.

The Final Verdict

In the end, BANZAI PECAN: The Last Shred of Dignity of This Century is another classic example of style with very little substance. I came here expecting a guilty pleasure, but in the end I feel guilty having played this. The story is a shallow, clichéd mess that tries that doesn't even try to have fun with itself and relies too much on stale memes and innuendoes to the point where comes off as just plain bad, while staring an unlikable protagonist and flat villains. The gameplay fails to get any of the fundamental aspects of beat 'em ups that makes them fun, as it relies on monotonous button-mashing, there's no sense of accomplishment, much less impact, and the bosses are damage sponges that are, at best, a war of attrition. Combine this with graphics are about as good as a Newgrounds flash game, boring music, mediocre voice-acting, gimped controls, questionable programming and system requirements, little replay value, along with some stuff stolen from other (objectively better) video games and you have a game's not very fun to play. It's about as heartless as it looks, sounds, written, and programmed. Four years of development and this is the best that you can come up with?

If there is anything this game manage to get right, it would be re-establishing my appreciation for games where the developers put their heart into their work unlike the guys at SERIOUS☆IMPACT WORKS. To those that bashed this game back in 2012 when this game showed up on Steam Greenlight: you have my permission to ridicule this game (and the developer) however you like. There's fair number of brawlers out there, some which that are actually low-spec, that you could be playing on PC and find more enjoyment out of those instead of BANZAI PECAN. However, if you're looking a game with some fanservice that actually have substance, then here's my recommendation to you: PLAY SKULLGIRLS INSTEAD!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to uninstall this game off my computer, then board up my house in case an angry mob comes knocking at my door.