I tell you what, on the outside, it must look as though I have a really strange relationship with fighting games. Some of my favourite games are fighting games and I obviously have such high standards that even the smallest of flaws is likely to BURN A HOLE THROUGH MY SOUL until I can stand it no more. Even the tiniest flaw seems to irk me for some weird reason. then again, in the past we’ve been spoilt completely by a plethora of amazing fighting games that can claim to be bloody amazing because they just ARE. They have the X factor, that je-ne-sais-quoi, that something something… that magic ingredient that makes it brilliant.
So Evil Zone falls into that awful middle ground between what we can only call ‘an also ran’ – it’s a horrible term. It’s better to be remembered for at least trying. We all remember those spirited athletes at the Olympics who head us all marvel at their audacity but love them but being there and having a go.
But do you remember the ones who make the semis or fall in the opening rounds without so much as a whimper or ripple of recognition? The attention obviously goes to the front runners and the Eric the Eels and Eddie the Eagles who tried. And maybe the odd faller…
Who remembers Evil Zone? No one? Colour me not fucking surprised.
This, internet peoples, is one of those semi-finalists that no one remembers. It does enough to make the semis but is never going to be a finalist in any category. And no offence to it, but why the fuck would you remember this when I don’t even remember much about it when it first came out? Aside from the demo disc showcasing it and the mediocre reviews of it when it emerged from Japan… still nothing?
There’s many a reason for that and guess what? I’M-A-GON’ TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE – because of course that’s why you’re here. Cos it’s not for my pretty face.
OR IIIIIIIS IIIIIIIT?
No. Of course not. I’ve shown my visage once. It hasn’t helped. Moving on.
LOOK EVERYONE! WELLSY’S GONNA TELL YOU A STORY AND IT’S TIME TO SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP BECAUSE THIS ONE’S GONNA TAKE A BIT OF EXPLANATIONING!
So it turns out there’s this mega bitch called Ihadurca who tried to be all evil and shit and I’m only calling her a bitch because in this case, she’s just a massive fuck-off bitch in that she’s EVIL, not just cos I’m attempting to be deorgatory for the sake of being derogatory. But she’s evil. Therefore I think it’s justified. So everyone’s had enough of her being evil and have imprisoned her in the EVIL ZONE – I SHIT YOU NOT – but of course that’s not exactly going to last because she’s evil and she’s going to find a way out of course she fucking is, that’s what eveil people do. They get captured but they escape really easily because GAMING LOGIC APPLIES.
Anyway, she’s able to exist in multiple dimensions at once and everyone decides it’s high time to sort this bitch out and tell her they ain’t fucking with her anymore. So before she can escape the EVIL ZONE, someone’s going to kill her first. AND THAT’S WHERE YOOOOOOU COME IN.
Now, here’s the thing with this game that frustrates me in the same way that Eternal Champions did: the set-up and ideas in this game are actually really quite intriguing and they really have something going for them. The massive problem is in its execution. If you ask me for one word to describe it, I’d actually go with wonky.
But on the plus side, it’s better than Eternal Champions. Then again burning yourself with straighteners is preferable to playing that guff so what do I know?
Now, before I start getting all pissy and frantic as to why this game is the gaming equivalent of a bit-part actor, it does have a lot going for it. For a PSOne fighter, the graphics are quite nifty and the game has a way of creating an anime feel throughout the entire thing in its use of camera angles and the presentation of the game. Each character in the game is introduced to you as if introducing a new anime TV show with character voiceovers setting up the next ‘episode’ – including a title – so the whole thing really keeps its inherently Japanese feel. You KNOW it’s DRIPPING in Japanese-ness. You can feel it oozing out from the console.
For example, here we have PASSIONATE MIDORI’s title card as she tells us that she’ll use her insane martial artistry to defeat her next opponent and that we should look forward to it!
Also, note the use of COMIC FUCKING SANS in the above picture. Marks off already. I mean really. REALLY?! FUCKING COMIC SANS?! Jeez, guys, what we you EVEN THINKING?!
LOOK HOW ANIME IT IS.
And even better? The voiceovers are utterly atrocious… which makes it even more authentic. The script is garbage too. I’m fairly sure even after playing it a dozen times, I have no idea what the actual plot of some of these ‘shows’ are. Danzaiver, the Guyver-parody character with a metal power ranger suit, has the most garbage story I’ve ever witnessed and I still have NO clue what’s happening in between all of his fights. Massive ball dropped. Good for authenticity, like the voice acting, bad for actual ‘what-the-fuck-is-going-on’ ness. Seriously, sort that shit out. Why are you fighting? Stop shouting. I SAID STOP SHOUTING. TURN DOWN THE VOLUM- oh it’s the game. It’s too loud. The voice audio quality is REEEEEEALLY shoddy.
Character-wise, we’ve got some really standard ones and some more interesting ones. Danzaiver is your typical power ranger style hero character, Gally is your massive Berserk-style hero with a massive sword, Erel has big boobs (seriously, watch the intro video and you’ll get what I mean), and there is, of course, a schoolgirl. She isn’t a schoolgirl in the US/UK version though. She’s 21. Everyone’s over 21. She’s meant to be 14. That would make more sense. So yeah, she’s a school girl BECAUSE SHE IS WEARING A FUCKING SCHOOL UNIFORM SO HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY THINK SHE WOULD PASS FOR 21 UNLESS SHE HAS A SCHOOL UNIFORM FETISH?
On the other hand, we do have some more unusual characters. Kakurine is a 10,000 year old priestess who looks like a little girl, Linedwell Rainrix is the psychotic character who basically says very little and what he does say is creepy and vengeful, Alty Al Lazel is a young magician who looks a bit like some of the characters in Slayers, and then Keiya is the stoic, behind-the-scenes-megalomaniac who wants the power that Ihadurca has for himself – basically he’s all ‘I will kill you if you stand in my way’ and he’s actually completely serious about it. He’s the anti-comic relief character, that’s who he is. He’s irritating as fuck too.
So the actual character isn’t half bad and it definitely picks out some of the more interesting character tropes from anime shows from the 80s/90s.
It’s just a shame it really couldn’t do more with them.
HERE WE GO. TIME TO SLAY THIS BEAST.
Look, it’s all very well to have an interesting premise and to have a very clear purpose that obviously only the designers and producers were aware about… but the rest of the game does sort of fall a bit short. The biggest problem stems from the fighting system itself. It’s not BAD per se, in fact, it’s quite intuitive and very responsive. It’s just excessively simplistic. Essentially, the control system is Smash Bros… only even simpler. You have an attack button and a guard button and THAT IS YOUR LOT. Seriously. You can’t REALLY combo too much by pressing an attack button three times, can you? You can’t link other attacks either. You can press towards and attack and get a MOST-LIKELY-PROJECTILE attack or you can press away and attack and get a SHOCK-HORROR-ANOTHER-PROJECTILE attack, or you can press up and attack and get a NOT-PROJECTILE attack. You also have a down and attack which traps your characters into a binding circle for a dramatic attack that obviously cannot be blocked because you’re trapped like a fly in a spider’s web and you’re about to get stabbed through the face.
There are some heavier attacks that involve double-tapping and attack but there is also a sort of super attack which you can perform when build up enough power.
You see the health bars at the sides of the- NO. NO. NO. WAIT. I HAVE TO MENTION THESE FIRST.
I’m sorry but what fighting game puts the fucking LIFE BARS down the sides of the fucking screen?! NAME ME ANOTHER FIGHTING GAME WHICH DOES THIS. The fighting game came around to a point where everyone was using the life bar at the top of the screen where the bars drain into the middle so that you could easily see how much life you BOTH had. To have the life bars at the sides of the screen ACTUALLY is more of a hindrance than is rightfully necessary. It DOESN’T work. We established this in the early 90s. IT’S 1999. DON’T CHANGE THINGS THAT WORK. Street Fighter realised this after their first travesty.
So you build up your power, turning your life meter yellow. When it fills the bar, you basically gain one super attack gem… thing. Now, this works in two ways. If you’re winning by a mile, it’s going to take you an AGE to build up this power because your life bar is MASSIVE. If you’re running low on health, you can stock three super attacks pretty sharpish and launch them alarmingly regularly. This mechanic works because actually, in the same way that games uses things like Tension meters if you get smacked around the head a lot, you’re more likely to go ‘last-gasp’ if your health is low. It’s sorta in-keeping with the whole anime thing, oddly enough.
HOWEVER, it’s only one mechanic in a fighting engine that is desperately simple and underdeveloped. So it borrows heavily from Smash Bros (although they both came out in 1999 and ACTUALLY this game came out a week before it in Japan… so… there’s that) but it’s actually too simple for a fighting game that is trying to be serious. Smash Bros never was. It’s DESIGNED to be simple and accessible. Yeah, maybe this game is trying to be simple and accessible but they don’t PAINT the rest of the game to look it so it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. There’s only one button involved for 75% of the fights and that isn’t all that fun at times. It feels distinctly lacking.
What Evil Zone tires to do is actually cross that line between being uber-serious and being easy to get into for newbies. Unfortunately, it falls between the two stools a bit, rather unceremoniously in fact. The characters are OK, the graphics are reasonable, everything feels all dramatic and anime-like and yeah, granted, I have had fun with this game in the past. I still have fun here and there now. The story’s pretty much garbage though and the combat is derivative. It feels as though they WANTED to do so much more with this than they actually could… and as such, you can give all the best equipment in the world to a mediocre athlete but if they don’t put in the hours, you end up being an also-ran.
Suffice to say Evil Zone is out there lollopping home in last place in that semi-final. It did well to get there but in four years time, we’ll barely even remember them being there.
I tell you what, I can be pretty evil with fighting games. Guess that makes me a bitch like Ihadurca too.
What a bitch.