This review originally appeared in E107, February 2002.
Kabuki Warriors comes from Lightweight, pushers of historically faithful fighting games. However, this is no subtle replication of the ancient Japanese art. Poorly textured characters waltz to a simplistic system: single buttons are assigned to attack, block, roll and jump, while another makes your character perform a kabuki dance, which leaves them vulnerable but wins coin plaudits from the audience. A meter measures this popularity and when it reaches a certain level, a sixth button will execute a special move – fire, electricity, whatever; weak, pointless, 16bit eye-candy all.
The story-less Story mode sees your team journeying across 52 near-identical stages, each housing three rival kabuki players. Entering a stage means suffering a best-of-three tournament, and, should you emerge victorious – which you will, since it requires some effort to lose – you win the opportunity to swap one of your fighters with one of theirs. Stages finance travel, and more dancing means more money means more level skips. Skipping levels is a good thing, as the actors take their final bows all the quicker, and you never, ever need to revisit the performance. This isn't kabuki. It's Yie Ar Kung Fu with blusher.