--------I HEAR LOTS OF NOISE, BUT I SEE NOTHING!--------
Some of you may remember back in the days when you saw an interesting game in a magazine or you may have seen it on some other form of media (Television, Internet, etc.). Some folks devoted a portion of their time to look at games overseas and prayed that the game that they saw would eventually hit North American soil. Still, there were so many games that are made in Japan that it is nearly impossible to document them all. However, when a game had as much going for it as Shake Kids did, how did North Americans at least not recognize it?
Apparently, according to the staff listed in the production of Shake Kids, the game had a promo video released for it, a couple of sales promotion and advertising folks, and even "Shake Kids Campaign" shops. I know of several games that don't even have half that kind of promotion, but despite all that is stated, I can't find too much out about any of the companies that worked on the game except Eizo Sekkei. On DiMand, the publisher of Shake Kids, is known to have published a couple more titles; Koukai Sarena Katta Shuki: The Note (known simply as "The Note" in PAL regions) and Angel Blade: Neo Tokyo Guardians. Digital Kids, the developer, doesn't seem to turn up anything either. I did find a "Digital Kids", however, the Digital Kids I found (which is still a Japanese developer) worked on games like Hamsterz life and various "Petz" games and pet or breeding related games. Reading the company history, I found no mention of work on Shake Kids or any connection tying the DK I found with the one related to this article. Also, Ubisoft acquired the Digital Kids (the ones known for Petz and stuff) and you can see more about Digital Kids in this link.
--------THE POINT OF THE GAME IS TO NOT FIGURE OUT THE POINT...--------
One day, in a very strange place with buildings shaped like an octopus and ridiculously large ants and other animal-creature things, you meet two children...one being a boy and the other being a girl. The boy, whose name is Randy (Randii) at default, is fourteen years old. The girl, whose name is Nihni (Niini), is twelve years old. Both children are curious and full of energy and the game allows you to choose one or the other (though there is really no difference between them). They are sometimes known as "Shake Performers" and they bring joy to the people by performing their crazy shake dancing rituals...or something. Regardless, fast forward some unspecified amount of time and the world is in peril. Some fiend who goes by the name of Obaba (as well as Boss-J) has been going around the world and is the cause of the crazy bugs, wild animals, and other freaky disturbances. Your purpose is to go around using a weapon that resembles a cocktail shaker and doing what you do best...performing. However, you can't do it alone. With the help of the 59 year old Goro N. and Mr. Shaker (who looks like a giant cocktail shaker jug), you will eventually have what it takes to set things right and your exploits will be documented in the "Shake Times" newspaper for the world to see.
So it sounds like a load of nonsense? If it does, then you should also know that the adventure even takes you across the Himalayas and there's mention of Canada, Africa, and various other locations...including the bathroom, which just so happens to be a gateway into an alternate universe altogether. Mr. Shaker, a divine kind of shaking god or whatever, teaches you the way of the shake. By throwing your shaker at enemies, you can destroy them, but just throwing the shaker isn't enough to defeat all your enemies. When enemies are struck by the shaker, they momentarily get dizzy and during this time, you can initiate a jam session where you suck up any dazed foes in the area and you get your groove on. As the title suggests, you are kids that shake stuff up and you must hit the L and R buttons to shake your shaker in different directions. You must run, jump (though you can't jump at the very beginning), and fight your way through nine stages and fight four bosses along the way. You can get hearts to increase your maximum vitality (five hearts gives you one big heart), glasses to see how much life the enemies have, and magnets. Getting three magnets will allow you to suck up any on-screen enemies regardless of whether or not they are dazed.
--------FINAL FIGHT WITH CRAZED YOUTHS BENT ON SHAKING EVERYTHING?--------
To elaborate further on the game, Shake Kids is generally 2D, but the game attempts to make the game feel 3D by adding the element to jump up into sections of the background or jump down to get closer to the foreground. By doing this, Digital Kids cleverly (though somewhat lazily) removed the need to move in all eight directions. Because of this, the game vaguely reminds me of Klonoa; a brilliant game that is set in a wonderful three dimensional world where your character moves like a typical two dimensional character. However, Shake Kids lacks much of the polish that made Klonoa what it was and the world of SK is pretty mundane. For 1998, you'd expect a lot more from the visual department, but what you see is what you get; simple and flat characters void of detail and style and rudimentary level design. Besides a cool waterfall effect and one of the boss' attacks, special effects are at a minimum.
The game lacks consistency for a couple of reasons. It would be good to just run through the levels and be done with it, but you will be interrupted several times during the course of a stage and you will have to engage in mandatory battles where you must enter jam sessions and tap your L and R buttons like crazy. Once all the enemies are defeated, you can then continue to proceed through the levels. However, you will be interrupted so much that it quickly becomes a chore and your hands can also quickly get tired. It's like it tried to be a brawler like Final Fight or Streets of Rage (since you must stop to clear an area of enemies), but given the gameplay engine, it just doesn't work. Enemies have HP and to deal 1 HP point worth of damage, you must shake ten times. In other words, 50 shakes would equal 5 HP in damage. The game has six special shakes where you must press the L and R buttons in a specific order. Special shakes can earn you extra points, items (hearts, glasses, magnets), or deal extra damage to bosses, but while this adds a little more to the game, the game still feels very repetitive, even despite how short the game is. The shakes that damage bosses would be nice, but you get them at the end of the game, which defeats a lot of the purpose.
--------SHAKY PRESENTATION LEAVES A SHAKY IMPRESSION--------
The only decent thing that grabbed me with this game was the audio...even if the boy and the girl sound exactly the same and make the same nonsensical noises. The music is pretty catchy. The first level theme (in particular) gets the game moving and the slammin' beat gives the game a good rhythm necessary to start the gaming experience. However, even the music takes a hit...because every time you enter a jam session and shake yo bad thang, it interrupts the theme that is currently playing. While the game seems unremarkable in nearly every way possible, the price tag doesn't seem to agree. Retailing at 5,800 yen (more than plenty of standard Japanese Playstation releases), Shake Kids demanded a lot and didn't return the favor in my opinion. When you have to pay money for a product, you should expect certain things and for 5,800 yen back in 1998, I would have expected Shake Kids to be better. Get it for cheap (real cheap) if you can, avoid it otherwise.
- Written by Vyse the determined -