Rumble Roses XX
Earlier, I looked at Rumble Roses for the first time in almost a decade since I last played and it was every bit as memorable now as it was in the past. I always considered the game to be severely underrated. Yes, there's enough fanservice to spend two articles writing about it (Kind of what I'm doing...now?) but underneath its core lay a very engaging, fun, and unique joshi puroresu wrestling experience. With the developer magic at Yuke's and the star power of Konami, it was a match made in a rose garden in Heaven. A sequel was greenlit shortly after and in 2006 we have Rumble Roses XX.
Initially, the plan was to create a game on the Xbox, according to an interview with producer Akari Uchida in 2005. There were two things that encouraged the team to focus on the Xbox 360 instead. One was the opportunity of getting their hands on new hardware that exceeded the capabilities of both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. The second, which is more of a tongue-in-cheek reason was that they would be in direct competition with the Dead or Alive series and it was something the team wanted to avoid. We're going to come back to the second bullet point soon because irony has a funny thing of working against someone's favor.
Most of what Uchida highlights during the interview is what would become of Rumble Roses XX. The game would focus far less on the story and groundwork of Rumble Roses, focusing more on the gameplay and aesthetics instead. The story doesn't just take a backseat, it's non-existent. Wanna know the history between Reiko Hinomoto and Dixie Clements? Or her sister? Or her cyborg mother? Play the first game. This game plays itself more like a wrestling game with a season mode rather than one with a fleshed-out story and I'm on the fence about whether or not this was a good decision.
As quirky as Rumble Roses was, it had an engaging story with each character oozing personality and purpose. While the "purpose" may be gone, the wrestler's personalities have intensified. Thanks to the power of the Xbox 360, character intros are as dynamic as ever, on par with Yuke's flagship WWE Smackdown vs Raw series. Once again, the game was developed around the same time as Smackdown vs Raw 2007, released mere months after Rumble Roses XX. Yuke's were churning out quality wrestling games like a food truck during lunch hour and if the lack of a story mode was the only compromise, I could get behind Rumble Roses XX.
Before the game begins, the player has to select a wrestler. Like the previous game, there are 10 wrestlers, with the exact same starting roster as the original. A new addition is the ability to "edit" a wrestler, using various preset faces, hair models, eye and skin tone colors, and outfits. Named "Lambda" by default, the wrestler can also choose between a set preset of moves based on existing wrestlers and unused moves. A "create-a-wrestler" mode was greatly missing so it's a welcome addition in Rumble Roses XX. There's nothing to gain from winning matches so it ends up being a way to use a much-requested feature that was already in the SvR titles.
Upon selecting a wrestler, the player is taken to the locker room where they can further edit their appearance, enter photo shoots, and enter the world map. One unique addition to the "edit" feature is the appearance of a player's wrestler in semi-real time. As the player uses their preferred wrestler, certain things about their physique change. A player who uses a wrestler's strikes enough times will develop muscle mass in their limbs. Relying on submission holds will increase the flexibility of a wrestler and using suplexes will increase their upper body limit. The more the wrestler focuses on a specific move, the more proficient they will become.
Throughout my playthrough, I used Aisha, a wrestler who uses a mix of shoot wrestling and submission holds. This means that Aisha is not shy to use her fists, or feet, or elbows, or knees, or just about anything that can be used to disable her opponent. Since Aisha is a highly physical fighter, her strikes and submissions were one of the first to increase past their maximum potency. Other things that were lacking, including reversals and grappling, were improved over time as well. While it's a basic system, it offers a level of closeness between the player and their wrestler. Watching your favorite improve over time was a rewarding experience.
Rumble Roses XX gameplay is exactly the same as Rumble Roses with a few key differences. The upgraded engine means that the wrestlers' animations are far more fluid and realistic looking. The UI change is also clean, giving enough space to see the action and not feel cluttered. One of the new modes in Rumble Roses XX is a tag mode that works similarly to other Yuke's games.
Depending on who the player's tag partner is, they will have either a positive or a negative reaction to their partner. Attacking your partner, whether by accident or on purpose for some reason, will lower the relationship with your wrestler until they become uncooperative. There are even special "Double XX" moves that serve as a combined tag "Killer" move.
While the UI is cleaner this time around, there are little nuances I miss, like the "heart" gauge representing the humiliation gauge. It's now replaced with a boring bar that sits under the player's meter. There are also new venues, including Death Valley and a Skyscraper level, that serve as venues. The Skyscraper one eliminates the wrestlers' intros with a basic generic one, as well as the Street Fight match. The Street Fight match is interesting as it plays more like a traditional fighting game.
This time, both wrestlers have a health gauge and the intent is to knock out the other wrestler in a best two out of three rounds. Each character has access to moves not featured in any other mode, including a rising uppercut that leads into juggle combos and wall combos as wrestlers Irish Whip each other into concrete. It's the most "non-wrestling wrestling" mode I've ever played in a wrestling game and with certain characters wearing certain costumes, they look like OTHER characters from other fighting games!
As the player wins, they will earn popularity points which upon reaching 80, will unlock their wrestler's "Superstar" mode. This is essentially a wrestler at their peak; On their "John Cena" and "Kenny Omega" status so to speak. They wear an alteration of their default costume, have a slightly different move set, and have several key aesthetic changes to show off their confidence as a wrestler. Each heel and face persona has a "SS" version and it feels cool to know you're the crowd favorite whether you're the one they cheer or boo.
So, there's no story in Rumble Roses XX. What is it that the player expects to do? Well, win matches of course. I wish I could say more about the game outside of its various game modes, including the Queen's Match where the loser is forced to do something humiliating to appease the winner. This is just an advanced "mud match" mode from the previous game so that hardly counts. What does count are your win records if you wish to earn a title bout.
Remember in Rumble Roses where it had the "Vow System" that not only determined if your character is face or heel but also if your wrestler is worthy of a title match? That system is completely gone this time around. Simply pick your favorite wrestler and win a bunch of single matches. At the time of the game's release, no one knew exactly what unlocked specific conditions to earn a title match, but thanks to the internet, there are specific...rules that a player must follow in order to earn that match.
The player must
- Win at least 15 Singles matches. It doesn't matter if it's a Queen's Match, Street Fight, or in any of the three wrestling venues. It just can't be a tag match or a match with more than one person (So no handicap, fatal four-ways, or triple threat matches)
- Fight at least everyone in the default roster once
- Win three consecutive matches in a row
After the conditions are met, a "title match" will be earned. The title holder isn't Evil Rose this time, but Lady X Substance... Yes, Reiko's mother-turned-cyborg is this game's version of a "final boss." Upon defeating her the credits play, but it's not the end, not by a long shot. Most players haven't made it this far, to begin with, if the 13% achievement rate is anything to go by. Rumble Roses XX is not a difficult game at all and it's made easy with save scumming, but man can it be an absolute slog of a drag to go through! I like seeing women wrestlers as much as the next person and Rumble Roses XX has loads of charm.
It means very little if you're constantly rerolling matches to fight that one elusive fighter, alone, and win enough of a streak to get the title match. If I were to keep playing, I would have eventually unlocked Sista-A, Aisha's alter ego. That would require me to take the title away from Aisha, by doing the exact same thing I was doing with Aisha, but with someone else. There's replayability and then there's doing the same thing over and over again with very few breaks in monotony. But you know, I didn't regret my purchase. Currently, Rumble Roses XX is on the Xbox marketplace for $14.99, which isn't a bad purchase for the content you receive.
I absolutely recommend playing the first game first, in order to appreciate the wrestlers, their stories, and their personalities. Reiko gets her own theme song and dynamic intro, showing her confidence have improved since Rumble Roses, but players wouldn't understand without playing it first. Since most of the assets from the original return here, Konami composers including Michiru Yamane, DJ TAKA, Akira Yamaoka, and Sota Fujimori to name a few returns in Rumble Roses XX. SADA, a contributor to the Bemani series, makes his debut in the Rumble Roses series as a composer for the Queen's Matches.
It's really weird to recommend this game. It is a tedious grind that is absolutely meant to be played in bursts. Achievement hunters may find the achievement list easy to gain as once you "beat the game" once, it's a matter of beating it 19 more times. Then there's purchasing everything. It can be quite a mess, but considering this was a 2006 game that was close to being a launch title, I understand most developers were treating the Xbox 360 as "shiny new hardware" and wondered what they could do with it.
Rumble Roses XX is just barely enough to be more than a tech demo, but there was a huge missed opportunity here that I wish Konami could capture again. What wound up becoming the final straw for the game was that it wound up being completion for Dead or Alive anyway. Dead or Alive 4 was released as a launch title for the Xbox 360 a few months ago, meaning that the reasons many would pick up Rumble Roses XX were already handled by Koei Tecmo complete with a story mode!
Maybe when Yuke's is finished with the new AEW: Fight Forever game they can reunite with Konami for old-time's sake? I'm not holding my breath for I am well aware there are MANY Konami IPs that people have been wanting a new title in for decades.