If there's ever an acceptable reason for topless men to fight each other in front of games journalists, it's a Platinum Games preview event. Because somewhere between the sounds of slapping and shoving and the faint looks of bewilderment from the hacks (do we clap?), there's a campness to watching people actually hit each other that's inline with Platinum's instincts as a developer. Take a look at the Bayonetta's BDSM witch-versus-angels plot or MadWorld's ultra violence in black-and-white, and you're more or less looking at an extension of the theatricality that comes from watching four guys rumble in a makeshift boxing ring to what might be the soundtrack to The Matrix.
Anarchy Reigns continues tugging at the idea of expressively theatrical fighting. It continues down Platinum's trademark stylistic route, and it also marks the continuation of the studio's publishing deal with SEGA - the one that put Bayonetta and MadWorld on shelves along, with the sci-fi RPG Infinite Space and last year's Vanquish. And more importantly it's the company's first foray into online games, with producer Atsushi Inaba citing a desire to combine a traditional beat 'em up with net-based multiplayer.
Platinum has already been slowly introducing playable characters through short online trailers showing off their design and character-specific weapons, but the most recent additions to the group should be instantly recognisable to MadWorld fans. Mathilda is a bondage-happy minx carrying an iron maiden as her weapon of choice. You might remember that in MadWorld incarnation she helped introduce the game's Bloodbath Challenges, along with her co-host the Black Baron. And so the second character to be brought into Anarchy is the Blacker Baron, who Inaba describes as bigger, badder, and "blacker" - whatever that means.
Blacker Baron is similarly decked out in the spirit of his predecessor – an enormous black man with the swagger of a boxer and the suit of a pimp, looking like he just waltzed out of a Blaxploitation film and straight into a minstrel show. His power is Super Sexy Fists of Fun, essentially a way of punching people with style. Ah well, it's all for comedy effect! Just don't mention him to anyone outside of your local BNP chapter.
But Platinum's games have made eyebrows raise before. There's a general bigger-means-better philosophy at work in their titles, and often that has resulted in one or more controversial elements. When Bayonetta was released, for one, there was a rumble in the community about her status as a sexist character, suggestively sucking lollipops for health and striking stripper poses after a successful fight. Questionable maybe, but it's part of Platinum's make-it-larger-than-life mandate that has carried on through Anarchy Reigns.