Review: The Rapid Angel

MonkeyPaw games is known for bringing over quirky and obscure games that never made it outside of Japan and making them available on the PSN’s PSOne Imports section, such as Sonic Wings Special and more recently Yakiniku Bugyou. They also brought the Arc the Lad games and Alundra onto the PSN, which were first brought over and localized by Working Designs.

The Rapid Angel is a quirky beat-em-up that was originally released in 1998 on the PSOne as Kaisoku Tenshi: The Rapid Angel and stayed in Japan until MonkeyPaw Games brought it here. Let’s see how well it fares today.

The Rapid Angel
Systems: Playstation 3, Playstation Portable
Developer: Techno Soleil
Publisher: MonkeyPaw Games
Release Date: July 5, 2011
MSRP: $5.99

The full title of the game is High Tension Comical Action Game The Rapid Angel, which sums up the overall feel quite well. The premise involves three girls who own a courier shop called—what else—Rapid Angel who are tasked with delivering some important blueprints. However, an organization wants to get their hands on them, so the delivery isn’t as cut-and-dry as it first seems. While the general plot remains the same for the three main characters, different events play out depending on who you play as. For example, at one point it’s possible to avoid a boss fight with Haruna if you choose the right option that’s not available to the other two. You can also take another route in certain stages to see a different area and at points fight a different boss, though the overall storyline ultimately leads to the same point, even if things play out a bit differently. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, you can still get a sense of the characters’ personalities and dynamics, like Natsuki acting as sort of a big sister to Haruna and arguing constantly with Ayane.

You’d expect that in a game like this, you could have a friend control another character and you can both go through the stages beating enemies to a pulp in 2-player mode. Sadly, that is not the case, as the second player doesn’t get to control a character but an angel that follows the first player. The angel draws from a magic meter to fire laser beams, bring up a shield, and turn into a sword for the player controlling a character to wield. It’s marginally better than nothing, but it’s still disappointing that the second player doesn’t have more of an active role.

The character sprites are brightly colored, and you can see their facial expressions change in reaction to the situation. The cutscenes consist of stills and character portraits, and they’re colorful both graphically and in terms of expressiveness. The backgrounds hold small details such as people going about their business or little bugs crawling on the floor of a forest. The music fits the mood of the game and is generally upbeat; and the sound effects, like a creaking bridge, do their job fine. Every line is voice acted, and they sound much like you would expect an anime-heavy game to sound and fit the respective characters. You do have the option turn off the voices if you prefer, though.

As with all Japanese PSOne imports, X cancels and O confirms instead of the other way around. In-game, X jumps, square attacks, circle guards, and triangle unleashes a bomb, though you can change the configuration if another arrangement suits you better. Each character plays differently and has her own set of moves, with Natsume and Ayane using all physical attacks and Haruna using mostly magic attacks from a distance. Natsumi has the shortest range but can hit multiple times, while Ayane has more power and range but is lacking in combos. Though MonkeyPaw’s guide says that Natsumi’s strong point is Combo Attacks, I actually got the biggest combos with Haruna, and she became my favorite character to use. Her more powerful attacks consist of holding the analog stick to the right or left or holding down the right trigger button and pressing square a certain number of times. While on paper she seems a bit finicky to use, once you get used to her she can be borderline cheap in certain situations. They each have their strengths and weaknesses: Natsumi doesn’t have a good way to attack small enemies, while Haruna’s dash attack leaves her incapacitated momentarily when she trips and falls flat on her face (no, really).

You have infinite continues, meaning you can continue to try and plow through as many times as you like until you reach the end. However, each time you’re defeated, your score is reset, so if you want to set a new high score it would be advisable to become proficient in avoiding death. You also start off at checkpoints, so while you don’t lose all your progress, you may have to fight your way to a boss again. Each stage also has a time limit, so you can’t dawdle too much. You can find items that give you more time on the clock, but they’re rare. Of course, completing the stage more quickly helps your score. The game also measures the height of your jumps, which actually factors into your final score for the stage. Lastly, you can find items scattered throughout the stage that give you points when picked up.

You can unlock two characters after beating the game, unless you get the bad ending (yes, they meant it when they said don’t attack the cat), and both of them have their own movesets and quirks. I was disappointed that one of the characters had no dialogue or story as, while playing as the other characters, I wanted to see what the deal was with that character since you encounter him when playing as everyone else. You go through the same fights, including against himself, but there’s no dialogue at all. It felt rather dry to play through his scenario next to the others.

Overall, it’s a fun and enjoyable beat-em-up, and it was rather addictive to play through. I wanted to keep playing to see the next scene and to keep beating up enemies. After I finished one playthrough, I felt compelled to start up another one with a different character to see how they played and how the scenes would differ with them as the main character. However, one minus was that there were times where I’d be right on top of an enemy and hits wouldn’t register. A slight repositioning fixed that, but that left me momentarily open to attacks. This didn’t hamper fights too much, but it was a small kink. That being said, this provides a solid beat-em-up experience with plenty of charm and humor.

PROS
* Each character plays differently
* The wacky humor and charm comes through even if you don’t know Japanese
* Good replay value

CONS
* Hit detection can feel a bit off at times
* One of the unlockable characters has no story despite appearing during everyone else’s scenarios
* 2-player mode is lacking

FINAL SCORE: B

Disclosure: Though the copy being reviewed is one that was purchased by the reviewer, a separate code was provided by MonkeyPaw Games for review purposes. At the time of this review, single player mode was completed on normal with all characters, around a third of the stages was played through on Hard with one character, and the first two stages were completed on Normal in 2-player mode.

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About Aileen Coe