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The Con Review

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Developer: Think and Feel Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: October 18, 2005 Also On: None

The Con isn’t your normal fighting game. In the genre’s classics like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Street Fighter, the goal of every fight was to simply pound away at the enemy while trying to stay alive. In The Con, things are a little different. An interesting gameplay premise sets up for an out-of-the-ordinary experience that ends up as a decent game on the PSP.

The Con features a Story Mode that takes you through the life of a street thug looking to make money by gambling his way through street fights. It begins with a straightforward tutorial that ends with an unsuspected death that serves as a way to progress the story and throw you out into the actual game. Once you reach that point, it’s all about making your way through the ranks of fighters, earning money by gambling on each match, and training or resting with the time between each fight.

The Con almost feels like the franchise modes found in modern football games. The pre-game setup can be just as important as the actual game, and that applies here. Training your fighter with different styles (like power, speed, and health training) will eventually make him or her a much better character and fights become much easier. Still, time management is needed, as too much training can lead to a fatigued fighter that won’t start a fight with full health or energy. This all sounds much more difficult than it really is, and essentially the only challenge is that which you face in the brawl.

The fighting mechanics work pretty well here. Rather than play with the traditional sideways viewpoint, The Con is viewed from an over-the-shoulder angle that makes the fight feel much closer to the player, thus creating a more intense feel. The face buttons serve as high and low attacks while the directional pad and analog nub serve as dodging moves. There is no actual movement besides this, other than blocks with the R trigger and Con moves with the L trigger. These “Con moves” are what make battles interesting. As you gamble for each fight, you actually have the option to take a dive and lose a fight if it means that you’ll earn more money. By holding the L button, you’ll take bigger hits that will have the audience betting in your favor.

Of course, if losing isn’t your thing, the fighting itself is easy and smooth. Some of the brawls I had while playing The Con were extremely exciting. The betting system allows the player to put on quite a show, whether that means they have to take a beating at the start of the match and come back or simply dominate from the first hit. If I was betting on a comeback, I’d take so many hits that I’d really risk a knockout and it made for a few hair-raising experiences. Sadly, after a few hours of the fights, the thrill starts to fade into frustration. The AI slowly goes from a pushover to a solid wall, and this ends up as a frustrating, repetitive problem that simply takes trial and error to overcome.

Unfortunately, the repetitive gameplay goes hand-in-hand with a few other factors. The Story Mode goes on and on while getting less and less interesting, the graphics and environments are repeated far too many times, and the music simply doesn’t fit at some points in the game. Still, these things don’t ruin the experience. The graphics are repeated a lot but that doesn’t keep them from looking great. The environments are surprisingly detailed and the animation is smooth and clean. The music might not work, but the voice-acting is a great touch and the sound effects aren’t all that bad. Playing through the game and strengthening your characters is a pretty addictive element in itself, and I found myself fighting through the repetitious gameplay to make my characters into better fighters. It was actually pretty tough for me to put the game down for a while.

I don’t recommend buying The Con unless you’re a die-hard fighting fan, but it’s still worth a try simply for the novel gambling idea or the fighting mechanics. It’s no Soul Calibur, but it’s an interesting game that serves as one of the better handheld fighting games out there.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide