So apparently I’m setting myself a bit of a trend with my review in that I tend to speak about potential a lot. I mean, there have been so many games out there with potential that have wasted the opportunity in some way either due to restrictions, restraints or lack of actual coding knowhow. Whatever it is, it does sadly lead to games getting lost on the way to glory somewhere along the line. And whatever that line is, some game never even so much as catch a glimpse of it.
Let’s refer back to my review of Eternal Champions and explain what I’m getting at here. So that game has IMMENSE potential. The set up was phenomenal, the story lent itself cleverly to what could have ended up being a very good series of games and the characters were for the most part quite an intriguing bunch of misfits from throughout time.
But it was shit.
Why? Sloppy execution. Sega didn’t really do well by that game at all and in the end, the last we saw of it was a Mega CD version with more blood and gore than it should really have needed and all the subtlety of an elephant walking into a school playground full of children.
It was definitely done wrong and then curbed in favour of the vastly superior Virtua Fighter series (although that died a death somewhere along the lines for unknown reasons… I suppose there’s only so much Virtual Fighting you can do without telling any semblance of a story these days… what even was the story there? Either way!
So here we have an obscure 3D fighter on the PS1 from 1997. And indeed, a THQ fighting game that WASN’T a wrestling game. However, if I remember them correctly (AND I DO BECAUSE BRAIN), most of those wrestling games in the early days were prime examples of poor controls. The sort of woolly, unresponsive wrestling controls that plagued games for years because there seemed to be far too much involved with games like that for some reason. Like it had to give itself a few seconds to work out what it was doing and then perform the attack. Possibly. Depending on how the PS1 felt about it.
They weren’t great.
VS doesn’t fill me with confidence on this basis.
And playing it makes everything even worse.
You want to talk about wasted potential? VS is a very good example. I say good. I mean of course GOOD in the bad sense. As in it’s a bad example of a fighting game but a good example of a great concept gone horribly wrong. It’s difficult to quite pinpoint the snags that developed across the game’s creation but there’s a fair few hints.
First of all, there’s no difficulty setting so the game is TREMENDOUSLY DIFFICULT from the off. I say this because it took me nineteen attempts to win a fight. NINETEEN.
And even then, it’s a with a spam character and I just pressed punch twice and hoped for the best. And EVEN THEN IT WAS PURELY BY LUCK TOO.
Ugh. I have so things to say about what happened during my ‘experience’ with this game but it just drags up bad memories that I might want to start throwing soup at small children, spoon and bowl included. That’s how upsetting this has been. Poor burnt children. Look at what this game made me do to you! Sue this game! SUE THIS GAME! MENTAL SCARS!
So what we start off with are 16 characters separated into four specific gangs: Streets, Campus, Beach and Hood. Each gang has four members, each with characters designed by a former Marvel comics artist (and you can definitely tell this – the characters are a bit more interesting than your usual fighting game guff). Each gang can get into a turf war with another and fight against the other members of the other gangs before supposedly facing off against another gang that I don’t know about BECAUSE IT TOOK ME NINETEEN FUCKING ATTEMPTS TO WIN A MATCH AND I DIDN’T HAVE THE PATIENCE TO GET ANY FURTHER WITHOUT SCALDING MORE SMALL CHILDREN WITH TOMATO-BASED LIQUID FOOD.
AND LOOK WHO I FUCKING WON WITH. THIS GUY. HE DOESN’T EVEN LOOK LIKE A REAL PERSON. WHAT IS HE WEARING? IS IT A SHIRT? AN UNBUTTONED SHIRT? I DON’T GET IT. WHO WEARS THIS TYPE OF THING? GAH. THE RAGE. THE SOUP. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!
Each character, for the most part does play significantly differently, save for a couple within gangs who fight using similar fighting styles and steal a couple of moves here and there. There’s a punch button, a kick button and a sidestep button (which only sidesteps you in one direction, which makes NO fucking sense, particularly on certain levels which I will get to) and the triangle button does a strong attack that can cause a larger amount of damage if it hits – which is rare as they’re easily blockable.
And that’s it. The shoulder buttons do nothing. Grappling is a misnomer. You CAN throw opponents but the chances are so random at times, it’s hard to even know HOW to do it.
Combinations of buttons do have some effects but for the most part, it won’t even matter what you do in the game. You could pummel the buttons for days and it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.
I mentioned the difficulty in this game and the game’s MAJOR flaw is that the computer is pretty much a bastard throughout the fight. They block almost everything, they pummel you into oblivion as soon as you get up and as you get up, they catch you at the exact window of opportunity before you can block any attacks, meaning that if you’re caught with an attack, they could easily rain down blows on you until three-quarters of your health is gone before you can even graze your opponent with a timid slap in the face somehow.
Perhaps I need to up my game a bit and try a bit harder to see if I can do any better. I can evade attacks so surely I can avoid getting slammed onto the deck once aga-
NOPE. FUCKING DEAD.
For fuck’s sake, game, what the fuck are you trying to do? Do you WANT me to play you or do you want me to put down the controller, rip open the PS1 lid, snap the disc in half and scar more children with burning hot soup? YOU SADISTIC FUCKERS.
Apparently the game does. It is anger inducing to the point of utter unfairness. Attacks land randomly at times and when you find an attack that works, the opponent never falls for it again and you’re stuck getting everything blocked until you find another random attack that works on them. I mean, I’m all for games learning from their mistakes and learning your behaviours and whatnot but there’s a limit. There’s a line. The line doesn’t exist. Have we even seen the line? It’s not even a fucking dot. It’s an imaginary line that the game chooses to see when they fuck it wants to. Do we get to see it? No. That’d be WAY too sensible.
The range of characters in this game is probably one of its few positive features. You’ve got a mime artist, a cheerleader (a 6ft tall female character who kicks absolute ARSE when she fights against you), a school principal, a sort-of-urban-ninja character, and a pimp called Slim Daddy. Apparently, that was a massive no-no at the time. You can’t possibly have a pimp character in a game! Well… you can have one. If he’s in a shit game, then you definitely can. No one will care!
They didn’t. Shame.
And to be as fair as I can to the game, the characters and their fighting styles are impressively portrayed. They look authentic enough as you battle and they attempted to throw in quite a few fighting styles rather than just have randomers wailing on each other without any sense of style at all.
And that’s why this game is TRULY upsetting.
This whole game could have been so much better. I mean, the idea of having rival gangs facing off against each other lends itself to a great fighting game idea. Imagine having a massive brawl between gangs where you could take control of any of the gang members are attempt to beat seven shades of shit out of the other rival gangs. Think Team Battle modes from Tekken 2 with 4 on 4 action. One fighter goes down, you bounce in with another fighter and continue where you left off! You could totally have done tha-
FUCK IT. You wasted the chance and you blew it. Instead, you gave us a poor organised shitfest of a game where the controls are sticky, fighting feels forced, stiff, clunky and unfair, the visuals look ropey at best, which considering Tekken 2 was ALREADY OUT, is fairly inexcusable, and everything feels harsh and wrong. I didn’t feel pleased when I finally won my first fight. I didn’t even feel relief. I just sat there and went “about fucking time” and realised that I was still angry. This game had pissed me off so much that I forgot what I was even doing. I lost the next three fights and lost the fucking turf war.
I will apologise for filling the local hospitals with soup-damaged children soon enough.
The evade button, working essentially as a sidestep mechanic, also doesn’t work in the way it should. I mentioned that it only sidesteps in one direction but there are stages in the game that feature ring outs so evading out of the way of attacks, could put you into prime position for being twatted over a ledge and out of the ring. There were times when I sidestepped away from an attack, got punched ONCE and was dumped off the stage despite actually being ahead in the fight. I suppose because fighting games were establishing the sidestep feature generally, I was hoping to be able to evade out of the way easily. Double tap up or down to move out of the way. Perhaps use a shoulder button to get out of the way. Perhaps put the game down, kick the PS1 into the TV, launch the disc into a bowl of soup and BURN THE FACE OFF ANOTHER CHILD.
Sadly, that child’s eyesight will never return. But for two pounds a month, you can heal their mental scars by ensuring that games like this are never made again.
Look, VS is straight up abysmal. It’s an absolute mess that dribbles all over what could be a REALLY good game. AGAIN. God, that’s a real theme at the minute. If this concept had fallen into another developers hands, they could have taken it off in the right direction. We’ll never know. They could have done something with it.
The organisation and presentation of the game is clunky and unnecessary. The artwork is pretty ropey too, which is a shame – the character selection portraits could have easily been a lot better. They feel quite rushed and bland.
If anything, the music isn’t bad. They throw in a few good nineties punk rock tunes here and there and they fit the bill well actually. But again… doesn’t that just waste good music?
So it’s shit, really. A great idea made very poorly. Clumsy as all get out, clunky as all get out, and mind-numbingly, rage-inducingly unfair as all get out.
Oh, and if you have to include a moving-tile game before your fights as the game loads… surely that’s a massive indicator of how optimistic you felt about your game…
“PEOPLE NEED TO HAVE MORE FUN IN OUR GAME.”
“WE SHALL INCLUDE MOVING TILE PUZZLES BEFORE THE GAME STARTS.”
“THIS IS A GOOD IDEA AND YOU SHALL BE PROMOTED TO KING OF THE COMPANY.”
“I AM ALL ABOUT THE CLEVERS. WE SHOULD ALSO INCLUDE A PACMAN CLONE SOMEWHERE.”
“YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR. YOU’VE LET POWER GO TO YOUR HEAD.”
“I HAVE BEEN HUMBLED.”
I think you’ll find that conversation is accurate.