Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is based on the Cartoon Network animated series, and although it's essentially hack-and-slash fighter, the Tenkai universe infuses this adventure with some much needed flavor.

Brawlers and fighting games eventually reach a vanishing point, and Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle lures gamers in with an intriguing storyline. Centuries ago, the world of Quarton was in danger of being destroyed by an mighty overlord named Vilius, as he inflicted the lands with the seemingly indestructible Tenkai Dragon. The legendary Tenkai Knights (Bravenwolf, Tributon, Lydendor, Valom) defeated the dragon, and the creature's essence was split into several dragon cubes that were spread across the lands. Players take on the role of Guren and Ceylan, two youths who find a link to Quarton while visiting an antique store. They, along with two other kids, can time travel from the store to Quarton, where they battle as the Tenkai Knights to defeat Vilius and his minions, as well as find the missing dragon cubes.

Bandai Namco

A big chunk of your initial run of Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle will be spent watching cutscenes detailing this elaborate narrative. While some gamers may be frustrated with all this exposition, the storyline's themes of teamwork and perseverance (at the end of a battle, Bravenwolf often screams, 'Never Give Up!') amidst adversity is a lesson that's subtly woven into all the action. Though the Tenkai Knights each have their individual strengths, only through combining their skills through "robofusion" will they fully reach their fighting potential.

Bandai Namco

The story mission mode follows the Tenkai Knights narrative, as you play each stage fighting Viilius' soldiers. You'll have several knights to choose from at the beginning of a given level, with each of the knights carrying their own specific fighting style. Bravenwolf is an up close and personal, melee style warrior, wherein Tributon is a long range expert. Some knights are great at jumping and averting danger (the yellow warrior Lydendor is the quickest), while others are flat out brawlers (Bravenwolf). The game's controls are absolutely seamless, and if you're having problems leaping from one section to the next or dodging your enemy, that's probably due to the fighter you chose for the stage. For example, since Bravenwolf is more of a ground and pound type of fighter, his own jumping abilities are not as impressive as the other Tenkai Knights.

Under mission mode, each stage is completed by slaying a number of enemies before your own health meter is depleted. While vanquishing your foes, certain items will pop up on the screen that you can immediately grab and add to your arsenal.

One excellent feature is the ability to customize your Tenkai Knight, a function that can only be completed by picking up the aforementioned items during the battles. During your single missions, different colored cubes and weapons will be available to grab once you kill an enemy. It’s imperative to immediately grab these items after your kill, since they’ll disappear within seconds. Though the main goal is to complete each stage, you will want to horde as many of these objects as possible.

Bandai Namco

A customization feature enables players to upgrade their currently owned weapons and armor or even create new items with the collected material. Initially, I used my treasures to increase Bravenwolf’s sword power, which in turn increased his attack rating (each Tenkai Knights are rated on their jump, boost, dash, attack, range, and movement skills).

Upgrading previously owned items not the only customizing option available, as you can also create new objects to add to your arsenal. My first created weapon was the Battle Lancer, which is now my weapon of choice for Bravenwolf.

Bandai Namco Games America inc.

Along with the ability to create collect treasures in mission mode, you can also unlock different power-ups after slaying an adversary. The first power-up is an item which replenishes your health bar, and the other option is the ability to achieve Robofusion mode. When you use the Robusion ability, your fighter morphs into a large vehicle that bombs your enemies on the battlefield. Both power ups, once unlocked in the stage, are located on the lower right hand side of your bottom screen. To employ them against the soldiers, just click on their icon.

For gamers who are stuck on mission mode, or are looking to break up their time there, versus mode lets players dive right into combat. With the versus option, you can choose your warrior and your battlefield sans the constraints of any linear storyline. The biggest freedom under versus mode is the ability to choose Vilius as your chosen warrior. Since he's stronger than any of the individual Tenkai Knights, the confrontations always end up in his favor. Rumble mode pits you against two other warriors, with the victor being the last man standing. Although multiplayer and cooperative play are available on both the story missions and versus modes, Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is still an immensely enjoyable single-player experience.

Bandai Namco Games America Inc.

The score for Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle adds a layered touch to the proceedings. Fighting games can often be cursed with annoying music that detracts from the gameplay, but thankfully the sounds emanating from Quarton add to the epic nature of the Tenkai universe. Whether it's a character customization screen or the actual battle, the music for Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle is still a fun listen hours of my gameplay.

Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle may be initially deemed as a simpleminded hack and slasher, but upon closer look it's a highly nuanced title. Coupled with a solid storyline about four kids who are trying to make a difference, Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle brings a ton of imagination and inspiration to the table.

This review is based on a retail copy of Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle provided by the publisher for the Nintendo 3DS.

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating