Warning: spoilers ahead. Going into Anarchy Reigns, I knew two things about it. 1) It was made by Platinum Games and 2) you could play as Bayonetta in the multiplayer. And with its Western release pushed to 2013 (despite the full English game being on the Japanese disc), it seemed like a must play.
As I went through the game, chopping up scores of nameless mutated freaks with my double chainsaw hand, something started tugging at the back of my mind. There was something familiar about this game. But it wasn't until the screen faded to black and white during a cutscene that it hit me, I was playing as Jack Cayman, the main character from Madworld.
Madworld had always been one of those titles I had meant to pick up and play but never had. And I was so intrigued after beating Anarchy Reigns that I went out and bought Madworld to learn more about the life of chaser Jack Cayman.
At first, everything was going good. I saw several characters I knew from Anarchy Reigns; I learned some backstory about Jack and the voice in his ear, Amala, and saw The Blacker Baron's dominatrix assistant, Mathilda, in all the DeathWatch challenge cutscenes.
Yes, things were going along smoothly until I met Rin Rin... and brutally killed her. Suddenly I was more than a little confused. After all, Rin Rin is not only a boss in Anarchy Reigns, but also a playable party member. And yet I killed her in Madworld? Does this mean Anarchy Reigns is a prequel to Madworld? Sadly, that doesn't work either.
One of the key plot points in Anarchy Reigns is that Jack no longer smokes. It's heavily implied that he never will again. Yet Jack is always smoking in Madworld so Anarchy Reigns must happen afterward.
Perhaps the two games are totally unrelated …and just share the same cast ...with the same personalities, motives, and backstories. Yet, the games are clearly connected. You kill the Black Baron in MadWorld, so you get the Blacker Baron in Anarchy Reigns. You kill Big Bull Crocker in MadWorld, so he's a robot with a human brain in Anarchy Reigns. At one point in Anarchy Reigns, Jack even directly quotes himself from MadWorld ("I don't help people. I kill them").
No matter how you try to put the games together -- even if you try to separate them -- it doesn't work. Anarchy Reigns is dependent on things that happen in MadWorld; yet at the same time, some events in MadWorld clearly contradict Anarchy Reigns. So in the end, I am left confused with no way out.
But why is this? Were the writers simply too lazy to make sure the two stories matched up? Did they just want to reuse the characters and didn't care about anything else? Only Platinum Games knows for sure.
The worst part is, by changing a few small details, adding a few lines of explanation, or even just a bit of lampshade hanging, the stories of these two games could form a cohesive narrative. Instead, it's just a confusing mess that takes two entertaining stories and makes them both somewhat worse.
Anarchy Reigns was released on July 5, 2012, for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan. It will be released outside of Japan in March 2013. Stay tuned to Kotaku East for our import preview later this week.