Hands On – Dragonball FighterZ Beta

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the upcoming 2.5D fighter released later this month. Very much in a similar vein to the Marvel vs Capcom series, FighterZ takes place in the iconic Dragon Ball anime universe. Teams will consist of three unique characters, with a roster filled to the brim with all the beloved Dragon Ball personalities. If executed properly, it stands to be not just the best Anime tie-in, but one of the finest fighters of 2018.

This past weekend saw the closed beta test went live, with many players getting their first taste of the game. From just the small amount of content on offer, 2 things are clear; as well as being immensely faithful to its community, Dragon Ball FighterZ is fantastic fun.

For those familiar with other Arc System Works’ titles, particularly the Guilty Gear XRD series, this will not come as a surprise. But Fighterz is as unique as Capcom’s Marvel games were in the 90’s. Using an updated version of the Guilty Gear engine, Arc System Works have created a fighter with blistering pace accompanied by wonderful and wild animations. It’s also incredibly easy to pick up, and most crucially, understand.

Special moves are executed simply, either with Street Fighter fireball or ‘down down’ motions. Each character has but just a few moves each, but cover their anime/manga counterpart attributes to perfection. Goku’s Kamehameha has never looked better. Such moves are of course regulated by a gauge meter. This is powered up by holding 2 of the face buttons or blocking/attacking your opponent successfully. Opportunities are fewer in the case of the former, but really gives off the feeling of the anime’s famous powering-up scenes.

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Stringing together a succession of face-button-assigned, one-button attacks result in simplistic yet spectacular combos. These can then lead onto short gaps that potentially spring further offence; a dash attack, more single attacks, maybe a super move. Alternatively if you’re defending, perfect timing can result in teleportation away from the opponent. Or if you’ve got the timing, attacks can be parried Street Fighter III Third Striker-style. FighterZ’ simplicity paves the way towards stunning, seasoned strategies.

The only apparent gripe is the variety of fighters. Sorry, FighterZ. Being the fairly universal system that it is, your team of 3 (Goku/Vegeta/Gohan being an example) might look distinctly different. However they more or less fight the same. But with Piccolo/Android 16 being added, the latter a big grappler a la Zangief, there is sure to be even more from the finished product.

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Being a tag-team fighting game, your team mates can be used to assist as well as being replacements. A quick tap of the ‘L’ trigger can be used to break up opponents combos, add to your own, or provide a simpler means of attack. Most spectacular of all are the assisted super moves. Nothing says ‘pow’ in DBZ more than a combined Kamahameha wave.

Dragon Ball FighterZ’ mission statement is clear: create a simple yet effective fighting game that appeals to fans of the series and the fighting genre. It may not strictly be for the hardcore fighting fan, but FighterZ will surely be distinct enough to shine beyond just the anime fan-base. I personally haven’t been as excited for a franchise-based beat ’em up since Marvel Vs Capcom 2. Once the finished product is released, Dragon ball FighterZ is going set both the anime and video game genres on fire.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is released on 26th January. Pre-order from Amazon here

Super NES Classic Edition Mini – Lowdown on the Games (Part 5)

Join me as i rundown the games for the Super Nes Mini console.

In September 2017 the dreams of retro videogames fans around the world were realised once again. The successor to the sold-out NES Mini, the Super NES Mini, hit stores worldwide. The Super NES Mini will follow the mould of the NES Mini by including 21 of the most classic games the platform has ever produced.

Parts 1-4 covered the 16 games available in all regions worldwide. This edition will cover the 5 Western exclusives. Children vs aliens, boxing, street fighting (wink wink), horror, even golf (of a sort). Talk about variety, eh?

Western Releases (17-21):-

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Earthbound

Developer: HAL Laboratory

Publisher: Nintendo

Original Sales: 0.44 Million (Unconfirmed)

My experience with Earthbound is limited. It was never released in the UK until 2013, so that’s my excuse. Oh wait, 4 years already? Jeez. Time does fly when you have too many games to play.

Earthbound (or Mother 2 in its native Japan) is the story of Ness, a young boy whose merry band need to save the world from impending doom. Sounds simple? Well, for the most part it is, but there is something wonderfully left-field about Shigesato Itoi’s RPG.

The world needs saving, and Ness, armed with baseball bats, slingshots and yo-yo’s, is an unlikely hero, but one that can be related to. He eats burgers to regain health, catches colds easily and also gets homesick rather easily. Just like any 13 year old, right?

Such RPG nuances must have felt too much for Nintendo to release into Europe back in 1995. It wasn’t the only RPG to miss the European cut of course. But given it sold less than a million copies Nintendo clearly heeded on the sign of caution with Earthbound.

But for me, and with the progress i have made so far, its those aforementioned nuances that make it stand out. RPG’s don’t get more niche than this. And the SNES Mini gives Earthbound a new home it deserves.

 

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Kirby’s Dream Course

Developer: HAL Laboratory

Publisher: Nintendo

Original Sales: 0.59 Million (Unconfirmed)

Kirby’s Dream Course is a Kirby game in the loosest way. In Japan it is entitled Kirby Bowl, which for what is ostensibly a golf sim adds to the identity crisis Dream Course suffers from.

Visually it is akin to the isometric Sonic 3D on the Genesis; bumps, hills and obstacles make up the multiple Dream Land golfing landscapes. And like its visuals, that Kirby style is also successfully transitioned into a golf game.

With just 21 games to place on a SNES tribute console – one already lacking in decent sports titles – why this?! The inclusion of this isometric miniature golf sim is a strange one. Kirby is of course one of Nintendo’s top characters. No doubt redeveloping the once-named Special Tee Shot to represent the world of Kirby will have boosted sales. It’s by no means a bad game by any stretch, it looks and feels a little out of place on the SNES Mini.

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Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Original Sales: 4.10 Million

Capcom’s definitive 16-bit fighter is a true gem of the genre. The twelve most recognisable fighters in the world take each other on in The World Warrior tournament. Your chosen fighter has his/her own reasons, but all want to be the best. Which is what Street Fighter II Turbo is: The best. Some may say it is one of the best fighting games ever made. Even some say the best. But one thing is for certain: it is definitely among the best the SNES has to offer.

Sure, if you were to judge SFII Turbo against the test of time it has been surpassed repeatedly. Mostly at the hands of its own maker, Capcom. But if nothing else it serves as a perfect nostalgia trip. With the SNES Mini ROM running as the US 60Hz version, something that was often but a dream in the PAL regions of yesteryear, plus the added ‘turbo’ adjustable speed, it still serves as one of the purest one-on-one fighters in existence.

As a package however, i would have preferred to see Super Street Fighter II, which is on the Japanese release. It is also a fighter that has been previously made available via eShop. But nonetheless, Street Fighter II Turbo is still up there with the best the SNES has to offer for a fighting fix.

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Super Castlevania IV

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami

Original Sales: 0.50 Million (Unconfirmed)

First off, i need to proclaim that I’ve never been on the Super Castlevania IV bandwagon. It is critically acclaimed, but i find it dull, slow and simply annoying to play. Its a series that was yet to find it’s identity until Symphony of the Night 5 years later. But while it’s a title that simply isn’t for me, it does have endearing qualities that have stood the test of time.

Firstly, it is one of the few adult-themed games for the SNES. It’s distinct horror setting captures the doom and gloom in particularly detailed fashion; vines on railings in the background and the haunting shipwreck of stage 2 are still impressive. The use of Mode 7 also adds a level of disorientation to the already-increasing difficulty. The soundtrack is also excellent.

Super Castlevania IV is no pick-up-and-play retro paradise. It ranks among both Super Ghouls & Ghosts and Contra III in terms of difficulty, possibly even a level above that. It will take many a play-through to master the pixel-perfect requirement for both jumping and attacking – 2 of the games most basic and common actions. It’s a deliberately rigid and unforgiving experience that only applies to the hardcore.

 

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Super Punch Out!

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Original Sales: Unknown

Finally, a sports sim! And yet, not a true one. Like many a NES to SNES sequel, the goal was refinement, not reinvention or revolution. And Super Punch Out! is a perfect example of that.

Your fighter is the average Joe going up against a series of increasingly ridiculous opponents. Each of which requires their pattern or style to be discovered in order to lay some serious smackdown yourself. It’s a simple formula that gets increasingly difficult and ridiculous as it progresses. Beating all four circuits is a bit of a challenge, and once that’s done it’s a case of breaking your own records and honing your timing skills even further.

It may be title that’s a little lost in time by today’s standards but Super Punch Out! is heaps of fun. It’s a shame it isn’t supported by any other sports titles on the SNES Mini, but is a welcome addition nonetheless.

Now we’ve seen what the east is missing, the next (and final) part will look at the Japan-exclusive titles to see what we’re missing out on.

Previous entries: One Two Three Four

 

Review – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle (PS3)

Japanese manga’s Western exposure is as prominent as it’s ever been, and not just in written media. Dragonball Z continues to enjoy success across the US and Europe with reprints of its already-concluded series, a live-action movie, and of course several video game releases. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure however has not shared the same success. It’s had previous video game releases of its own, and is a phenomenon on its own shores. With All Star Battle, the series makes a big case to be noticed, and even give Street Fighter a run for its money.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a 2D fighter with 3D elements; essentially a mash up of Street Fighter IV and Dragonball Z. All the best aspects in fact, from its depth of fighting styles to its flamboyant visual style. JoJo is wonderfully simple to pick up, with three attack buttons, an accompanying sidestep and a moves list that any Street Fighter aficionado will get to grip with within seconds, and that’s just for starters.

There are five different ‘styles’ that characters use in JoJo, each one more flamboyant and downright mental than the last, from comically-extending limbs to fighting on horseback. Yes, horseback. There is little to the imagination in JoJo world; a world of adventure, fantasy, over the top dramatics, and quite frankly insane characters. Pacing is of a slightly slower nature, a la BlazBlue, and each stage has its own obstacles littered around, such as chandeliers falling from the ceiling, frog rain, all triggered by the actions of the two characters duking it out.

Although not knowing the series myself, I still found it all very enjoyable, in fact the ‘WTF’ factor gives it something unique over any fighter I’ve ever played before. The typical Street Fighter-executed moves, a standard we’ve all come to accept from other non-Street Fighter games fits in perfectly, and the different styles on offer ensure it is far more than just a clone. It does suffer slightly in its uneven pacing; characters’ walking speed is snail pace but one move could take you across the screen in an instant, much like Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Jojos-Bizarre-Adventure-All-Star-Battle-Face-300x168Visually, JoJo has wonderfully drawn sprites that capture the eccentric characters perfectly, in their blatantly-camp glory. The action is fast and fluid, and is often a fantastic feat on the eyes. The stages are much the same – all key locations from the manga, perfectly rendered for any fans’ dreams. Story mode is also there as a fan service; it follows each of the several story arcs of the manga, but as someone who doesn’t know the series, the basic ‘press X through several quotes only fans will know’ just meant nothing to me. A quick video recap, or anything more than just pages with three lines of text would keep it interesting. Even for fans it’s just a skim over at best, and as story mode is necessary to unlock all the hidden characters in the game, it feels a bit empty and at times a chore.

Campaign mode is a somewhat novel on-line feature, pitting you in one-round matches against ‘boss’ opponents, gradually wearing them down with the assistance of items and multipliers gained from previous battles. The AI comes from ghost data stats built from other players, and while your health bar can be bound by restrictions each battle, it regenerates if you can hold back for a while. The whole thing seems rather cheap and may well get the fighting purists riled up on message boards, but it’s actually quite original, very addictive, and perfect for those who love unlocking items to customise characters appearances.

Jojos-Bizarre-Adventure-All-Star-Battle-Yoshikage-vs-Shigekiyo-300x168In fact, Campaign mode offers the most original unlockable content in the game, plus the menu system is narrated through in typical anime fashion, which proves equally as entertaining and enjoyable as it is enthusiastic and eccentric. Add in your standard versus mode for both offline and online combat, and there is plenty to keep fighter and or anime fans busy. A surprising omission is there being no tutorial mode, usually a given for any fighting game, so anyone unfamiliar with fighters could feel lost at first, given the wacky content and the different styles, which aren’t initially explained.

Ultimately, if you strip out all the wacky colours, stages and anime madness, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a fantastic fighting game; easily accessible with plenty to learn. But this is a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure game, and the subject matter is dressed perfectly atop to create a wonderfully eccentric and enjoyable experience very few games have ever achieved. The lack of a focused narrative for Story Mode looks like a poor assumption that only fans will pick this game up, but the good news for Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 is that I just became a fan.