When curiosity gets the better of them, classmates Guren Nash and Ceylan Jones accidentally activate a dormant Tenkai Generator hidden away in the basement of a local antique shop. This interdimensional portal transports them across the universe and within the lumbering armour of unknown mech warriors, where they unexpectedly find themselves thrust into an age old conflict between the Corekai and the Corrupted.
With cuboid planet Quarton’s surface as their battleground they are soon joined by Chooki Mason and Toxsa Dalton, with each youngster having been chosen by Boreas of the Guardians to assume the Tenkai Knights mantle. These four legendary Heroes of Corekai – Bravenwolf, Tributon, Lydendor and Valorn – are destined to inherit the will of the Tenkai Dragon, that is if Lord Vilius doesn’t awaken it first.
While Tenkai Knights is little-known to UK audiences, it has a built itself a favourable following in the US, Canada and Japan largely through a rip-roaring anime series that has raised awareness of the shape-shifting brick power of Spin Master’s toy line. Bandai Namco’s Nintendo 3DS exclusive is a faithful, if heavily abbreviated, rendition of the source material.
With Vilius seeking to revive the Tenkai Dragon for his own evil schemes, you must set out to recover the five Tenkai Dragon Cubes to beat him to it. With Earth’s existence under threat, this becomes a race against time as you wrestle them from the Corrupted. The story is told entirely through written dialogue scenes complete, and the witty script suits the scenario to a tee – even if the four teenagers seem alarmingly keen to put their lives at risk.
Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is described as a 2D robot combat game, seeing players charge around small arenas completing whichever objectives are thrown at them. Mission Mode has these in abundance, whether those attributed to the central narrative or on the side, which are broken down in such a way that is perfectly suited to portable play. More imagination was perhaps needed in cooking up the challenges laid before you, as these mostly revolve around defeating a certain number of enemies, protecting base structures and vanquishing bosses. Blast your way through the earlier missions, however, and you’ll soon find your skills put to the test as the difficulty begins to considerably ramp up.
Movement feels suitably weighty for the metallic behemoths that you’re steering, employing light, strong and special attacks to frazzle the circuits of marauding foes. The chance to dash and guard, alongside jumping and hovering, are evasive manoeuvres that similarly become a necessity to preserve your health. Whereas each Tenkai Knight wields their signature weaponry which opens up a variance in combat approach, be that using a sword, staff, lance, spear, blade, bow or chain knife. Their powered-up Titan Mode, Titan Fusion and Robofusion abilities are also periodically placed at your disposal, allowing you to gain the upper hand – the latter seeing all Knights combine to form mighty aerial vehicles to bombard your enemies with.
Customisation plays a key role to the experience, with tons of parts to unlock and upgrades to empower your favoured Tenkai Knight. You’ll debate which weapon you carry in your right arm, the shield you mount on your left, and the back unit that will burden your shoulders – each choice having an impact on character stats. Once you’ve settled on your preferred setup, you can use materials gathered in missions to strengthen your equipment even further – a necessity to help counter the difficulty increase later on.
While painstaking attention has been made to provide as much detail on the Tenkai Knight models, Brave Battle’s presentation regrettably falls down elsewhere. Level design is particularly dreary with randomly placed platforms merely placed against a static backdrop, barely even accentuated in stereoscopic 3D. Players will undoubtedly focus on combat, but more arresting environments to thunder across would have been welcomed. Especially considering the relative strength shown in all other areas.
Multiplayer opens everything up considerably, although limited to Local Play. Players can place a ‘Cooperation request’ when tackling Mission Mode to allow a second player to come to their aid, while Versus Mode lends the four-player Rumble Battle and one-on-one Versus Battle to proceedings. These frenetic duels of skill work well, and, while no Super Smash Bros. contender, is a fun diversion to the main event that can also be played solo against the CPU.
Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle won’t be the most striking game that you play this year, but it is one that has plenty to enjoy. Wade through the early missions and you’ll soon be hit with an experience that will all too happily push your skills to their limits, with a rewarding layer of customisation thrown in. Naturally, it will be fans that gain the most enjoyment for the game’s rampant and yet faithful direction, but there’s enough fun to be had for the rest of us – even if there’s a lack of visual diversity throughout.