I have always been a big fan of Karous on the Dreamcast (the consoles’ last officially licensed title). I still have the import copy sitting on my shelf and to this day, still boot it up on occasion for a quick bout of intense, cel-shaded shooter action. It was never the most technically impressive shooter out there and certainly wasn’t in the same league as Treasure and Cave’s finest efforts, but there is something to be said for its vibrant art style and simplistic but ultimately addictive gameplay.
As you can imagine then, I was rather keen to get my hands on the recently released, and absurdly named, Karous – The Beast of Re:Eden for 3DS. Sure, the 3DS doesn’t seem like the most obvious platform for a traditional Japanese shooter, but honestly, I never imagined that I’d be playing another Karous title on any platform, so the simple fact that it existed at all was enough to keep me happy…….or so I thought.
While I certainly wanted to love, Karous – The Beast of Re:Eden (I really did), the fact of the matter is, this isn’t a very good game. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it’s just so, well, it’s just so horribly mediocre. The bold vibrancy that was the calling card of the Dreamcast original and its Gamecube, Wii and 360 re-releases has not made that transition to the 3DS iteration – the visuals here have forgone the crisp cel-shaded look of the original and replaced them with a rather drab aesthetic that, while still technically cel-shaded, shares none of the colourful drama that made the original stand out from the crowd.
It’s not just the visual style either; the game is awash with poor design choices that could (and really should) have been avoided. While I do not have an issue with being thrown straight into battle (this is a schmup after all), all context and battle requirements are outlined on the bottom screen and are completely abscent from the action taking place on the top screen. I’m sure that sounds fine in theory – nobody likes clutter – but in practice, it just doesn’t work. The action is simply too intense to look between two screen to check if you’re receiving relevant information or more guff related to the story.
As to what that story is, I still have no idea. More importantly, I really couldn’t give a monkeys. Shooters are hardly famed for their rich storytelling, but the tale told here is especially obscure and utterly nonsensical. The real issue though is how it’s presented – there is no attempt at flair, just boring text placed annoyingly out of sight on the bottom screen with no thought as to how it might be followed by the player. Beyond the poor delivery of the story, the strange design choices make their way into the ugly menus, menus that are horribly reminiscent of the kind you might have found on the old DS. Sadly, that DS level of presentation isn’t exclusive to the menu screens – it runs right through the game – from the menu screen to the game itself, this really is a technically unimpressive shooter. It’s not outright ugly, it just looks outdated and devoid of the colourful fun that made the original a joy to play despite its relatively simplistic mechanics and scoring system.
The combination of traditional blasting with Karous’ distinct sword attacks is still fun, and underneath the poor presentation, this is still a fundamentally enjoyable shooter. With over 100 short stages and plenty of unlockables, there is certainly plenty to do, it’s just that, while it’s never bad, it’s never all that good either. Like I said, it’s just so mediocre. The choice of platform doesn’t help matters either – Karous is ill fitted to the 3DS platform, and with absolutely zero 3D capabilities, it’s hard to make any kind of argument as to why it belongs on Nintendo’s fun but technically limited handheld. Visuals aren’t everything, but without a vertical screen or the graphical oomph to do its unique art design justice, it does feel as though the platform is holding the game back. Saying that, there is no excuse for the dull art design and limited colour palette – honestly, given what came before, some of the choices implemented in this games’ design are genuinely baffling.
Karous – The Beast of Re:Eden is a fundamentally sound shooter with solid core mechanics and plenty of content. Sadly, those strong fundamentals are undermined by a slew of poor design choices, disappointing art design and an array of technical limitations. The vibrancy of the original has not made the transition to the 3DS at all, and while the gameplay is still sound, it is ultimately let down by the experience that surrounds it. Making your way through the games’ many short stages can prove oddly addictive and unlocking new powers and abilities does a good job of keeping the experience ticking along, but other than these most basic of hooks, there isn’t a great deal to recommend about Milestone Inc’s latest.
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