If the theme of this game were to happen in my day with schools battling schools, then more than likely, we’d all be in jail by now and the entire town would probably be a bygone mess of broken buildings. I can’t even imagine who’d be looking after the school I went to in our final year. I mean, I could go on about how this person would probably kick everyone’s arses because they did karate. Maybe it would have been the entire rugby team going hell for leather across the fields like juggernauts. Maybe it would be the librarians who would throw flaming scrabble tiles and books at the other schools. I mean the whole thing sounds COMPLETELY implausible!
Schools going up against schools in some sort of competition!
HOW OBSCENELY ABSURD!
This is the fighting game equivalent of playground brawls. Imagine gangs of kids at school going apeshit on each other because one of them called the other one a knob and OOOH THAT PISSES ME OFF I’M GONNA KNOCK HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF happened. That’s essentially what Rival Schools is.
Only more eloquent.
I mean, it is a poorly translated mess but it’s not as if two blokes just wanted to start a fight going YOU WHAT MATE YOU WHAT MATE I AIN’T EVEN STARTED YOU FUCKING MUPPET and thrust a beer glass into their pelvis or something. No, no. Indeed. This is all very “our school is better than yours” – “we beg to differ, let us settle our differences” but poorly translated. Instead we get “I shall eliminate you like the slime from the top of my soup!” – “Oh no! That is awful to know! We must lock ourselves and defend! We cannot be defeated!”
It isn’t THAT bad but it’s fucking awful nonetheless.
There’s something of a story going on here and it mostly revolves around a few key characters but every single character has SOME beef with THOSE ELITISTS at the SUPER PRESTIGIOUS SCHOOL (also known as Justice High – fucking terrible name for a school who kidnap and willingly brainwash people but of course it IS run by a complete sociopath) and they’re all out to get them. There are some deeper storylines involved but generally, everyone hates them because they’re bastards, there’s a shit-ton of brainwashing involved pretty much the entirety of the way through the game and you will eventually face off against a character shaped like a balloon as the ‘final’ boss (inverted commas added for OBVIOUS REASONS BECAUSE HE IS NOT THE FINAL BOSS LIKE OMG DIDN’T YOU EVEN KNOW THAT? AMMMMMM I’M TELLING ON YOU!).
Look. It’s not the worst story in the world and it’s not the best but it IS intriguing enough for players to remain somewhat interested and the variety of character types and personalities have drastically helped proceedings here. You get a real sense of the different schools and how they work and you really do engage with the characters via their terrifically emotive voice acting. There aren’t any silly clone characters and as much as they can do, they’ve tried to give the characters relatively realistic movesets. There are a couple of characters for whom the realism obviously wasn’t top priority. I mean, students throwing fireballs at each other? Good grief, that’d be detention in a HEARTBEAT!
Actually, any of the stuff these kids do would be MILLION YEARS DETENTION before you could even input the fireball motion. Oh so you thought it was a good idea to dive kick the new student? And you say they DRAGON PUNCHED you? Well you’ll both be writing 1,000 lines: I MUST NOT USE RIDICULOUS SPECIAL MOVES ON OTHER STUDENTS. Chop, chop.
Miserable story aside, because it ain’t nice and airy cheery fairy or owt, the main crux of this is to batter the living daylights out of the other schools and then defeat main character Batsu’s father. Of course, he’s not very aware that it’s his father because… well… he hasn’t seen him for years because HE’S AN ARSEHOLE. Anyway, if you defeat him, you get the bad ending. If you defeat him EARLIER in the game, which is RIDICULOUSLY HARD and then defeat him again, you get to face off against the sociopathic motherfucker himself: Hyo Iwamano.
Look at this smug twat. Doesn’t he look like a completely smug twat? He’s a smug twat. Did you hear he’s a smug twat? He’s the type of person the kids at Justice High would have graffiti-ed the toilet cubicles with. ‘IWAMANO-SENSEI IS A SMUG TWAT’ it might say before he killed you with his massive fuck-off sword that he fights with like a CHEATING SMUG TWAT.
There’s one major mechanic that set this game apart from others of the time. Yes, you chose two characters at the start of the game but it wasn’t a tag team game. The second character could be used to perform tag attacks with that did one of three things, depending on your partner.
The majority of the attacks did damage. So Batsu’s involved both characters launching massive fireballs at their opponent. Kyosuke’s would involve a flurry of attacks from both characters before a final synced attack. Hinata, on the other hand, gave the character GUTS. She walks onto the stage, kills the opponent and drags their guts out and gives them to you to show how much she loves you.
That is a lie.
What is ACTUALLY does is raise your super meter to its maximum level so that you can unleash up to 9 super attacks.
The third type comes courtesy of characters like Kyoko, the school nurse – and the most STEREOTYPICAL OF SCHOOL NURSES in that she is unfathomably attractive and likes to massage people – and Tiffany, the blonde American cheerleader character. They give your character health back. Tiffany kisses you, obviously, and Kyoko massages you sensually. Obviously.
So your partner pick is actually quite a tactical one. Most of the time, picking a partner changes the way you attack your opponent. For example, having Hinata is going to make you more likely to use super attacks. Having Batsu is going to make you attack a little bit more freely so that you can build up your gauge high enough to set off the attack. Having Tiffany might make you attack more impetuously in the knowledge that you can always get some of your health back if you connect with the attack.
Rival Schools is, therefore, a much more tactical fighter than it first appears to be and most certainly these looks can be deceiving.
WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCKERY IS THAAAAAAAT THING?!
Look, I’m going to be really honest here and tell you that these graphics have NOT stood the test of time. Looking at the character models, they were enormously blocky and flat. The textures were non-existent and the character models were overladen with pixels to colour them, as you can see above. Yeah, OK, some of the earlier technology was a bit primitive and 3D models could be a bit haphazard at times – I mean, look at all the crap Final Fantasy VII has to go through with all of its “LOOK AT THE STATE OF THOSE POLYGONS” complaints – but let us be honest: these graphics do not look good close up. Look at his face. It looks TERRIFYING. It doesn’t even look as though they tried to be real. It is plastered onto a flat curved facial structure like a T-Shirt transfer. Only they left the iron on a bit long and the fucking transfer melted their whole face. Unacceptable behaviour. Your parents will be notified.
The backgrounds are also awful. In fact, they’re not just awful but they’re actually pretty inaccurate to begin with. Why… would school children by fighting in some of these locations anyway? I mean, are we in a junkyard for this fight above us? Is this meant to signify some sort of EDGY school OH THE CHARACTER IS CALLED EDGE THERE’S A PUN THERE HA HA HA or is it just trying to get away from the whole “school” fighting arena for every character? Yes, granted, there are a few school arenas – and I should bloody well think so too – but perhaps… not enough? I mean… change it up a bit with the locations. Persona 4 Arena managed to shove you into different places WITHIN that school building so how hard can it be? Plus, every school is BOUND to look a bit different… change it up. BE CREATIVE. I expected more from you Capcom. C-. Must do better. See me after class.
So what I’m saying is that the game looks a bit shit at times. The close-ups are poor, the backgrounds are MEH and the limitations of what they could do with the characters are VERY obvious. Thankfully, it doesn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the game but it is a shame nonetheless. Capcom were just about getting into the 3D fighter genre anyway so… perhaps for an early attempt we can let them off. Oooh… but having said that… Star Gladiator came before this and looked better so… this laziness will not be tolerated. If you don’t give 100%, you won’t get what you want in return! I’ll be telling your parents at parents evening…
However, graphical MEH-ness aside, what you have here is an immensely playable title that has a brilliantly simple fighting engine, a cracking set of characters and a lot of little nuances that they’ve magpied from their own previous fighting games. The set-up is interesting enough to engage the player and the fights are fast, furious and button-mashing will NOT suffice. Capcom very rarely go drastically wrong with a fighting game, particularly a new series. They tweak something from other games and try something new. In the case of Rival Schools, the two-person system and the team-up techniques added a new dimension. The fact you could pick from a selection of students from each school allowed for greater story depth (badly translated, you sandwich!) and added replayability. The Playstation version actually came with two discs as well so you could unlock random other characters with borrowed movesets. Apparently the Japanese version had a character creator but they removed it for the UK and US and just shoved in 24 extras into the mix. All well and good but perhaps a missed opportunity there? Not sure on the depth of the fighting system or how it would have worked. I mean, you’ve seen those fighter maker programs they had on PC and the Playstation? Those things SUUUUUUUUUUUCKED. I doubt it would have been like that. I imagine you’d have been given some basic fighting stances but could choose from a variety of borrowed special moves. I dunno. I’m guessing. 1 out of 5. I’ll be retaking the test tomorrow. LE CRY.
You know when the media always talk about games and how they influence children and impressionable teens and whatnot to do things? You know, like they CONSTANTLY say about Grand Theft Auto causing people to steal hookers, fuck passers-by and murder cars? If the same were true for this, we would have schools fighting it out for supremacy in league tables that showed which schools were the best and the shit schools would be closed and the… good schools…
So just like normal then.
Only with more kicking footballs into people’s faces.
Actually, it doesn’t sound all that fun really.