Given that the PS1 era of gaming was overloaded with fighting games trying to be or outdo Tekken and the like, it’s no wonder that a fair few slipped by the wayside. As such, Heaven’s Gate (also known as Yusha: Heaven’s Gate in Europe) is one such case of a game that really has very little… actual… well… existence. Supposedly, it’s quite rare but I managed to accrue a copy of it for less than a tenner and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how that happened. I mean… let’s be clear here: this is a fairly niche PS1 title that barely registered anything on the grand scale of fighting games and yet isn’t worth a bundle.
Possibly because it’s a bit pap but who knows? Maybe one day, it’ll make a random reappearance again, particularly given that the developers have actually started to make decent games.
And no. Not Atlus. Although Atlus being involved with this game is slightly unnerving to a point where you wonder what they thought the point of publishing it was.
But you gave us Persona 3 and 4 so I will forgive you. Just this once.
Suffice to say that Heaven’s Gate is a quite simply one of the most MEH fighting games every conceived in the history of fighting games.
There’s nothing that it does inherently wrong. There is also nothing that it does inherently right though. It is the blandest of the bland, the mehest of the meh and everything it does has no spark, no verve, no punch and no kick. It’s not all in the mind. If you want to test me… go find Chop Chop Master Onion, a’ight?
Now… it’s difficult to work out exactly what’s going on in this game as there is absolute zero exposition on display. There’s no story as told throughout the game itself and there’s only a little bit that you can work out from what you’re given. Originally, I thought the plot basically pitted characters of different angelic and demonic lineages against each other to try and defeat the evil demon Geezer AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!! OH MY FUCKING GOD, THEY CALLED THE FINAL BOSS GEEZER THAT IS THE SINGLEMOST RIDICULOUS THING EVER. FUCKING HELL. THAT IS BRILLIANT.
Oh my word…
Anyway. As it turns out, I’m not far off. Essentially, the story boils down to good versus evil, fighting it out for supremacy on Earth. 8 characters (plus unlockables, including – supposedly – Clara/Kurara from Power Instinct) battle it out to face off against… *snicker* Geezer… to stop the Earth being taken over. Or something like that. There are no endings to the game so it doesn’t really matter in the first place.
That’s right: NO ENDINGS. So essentially, no actual point to completing the game other than to say you have. There’s no reward at the end of it and those are the types of fighting games that are absolutely ABYSMAL to me. Even Street Fighter Ex Plus Alpha Dingleberry Hot Potato Power Comb Doodlebug-
FUCKING HELL. ZANGIEF, I WARNED YOU: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.
Street Fighter Ex Plus Alpha had wonky-looking 3D endings that all lasted about twenty seconds and really didn’t do anything but attempt to show us all that Arika could use 3D properly (sort of) but AT LEAST WE GOT SOMETHING AT THE END OF IT. Not that they gave us ANYTHING for the sequel, mind… piece of shit that game was.
Fighting games without any real conclusion therefore piss me off. There’s no reason to go headlong into all of these battles for there to be nothing at the end of it all for us.
So character-wise, we’re treated to three angelic characters, a hermit that looked vaguely gorilla-like called Engetsu, an Congolese shaman-type character called A Hau, and Japanese schoolgirl archetype with butt-ugly artwork Nanase. She’s weak, but speedy and basically fits the terrible trope of being the female character who’s friends with the ‘main character’ and squeals a lot.
She is mostly shit.
On the side of the demons, we have mask-wearing Englishman Dulffer who likes to kill people slowly (apparently), French lady Verny who spends her time being a dancer and model (apparently), and Japanese chappy Kyosuke, who hates being of demon lineage and fights with tonfa (actually).
And then you have sort-of protagonist Jin, a direct descendent of something from the 80s in the WORST WAY POSSIBLE – FUCKING DOUBLE DENIM. YOU ARE NOT B*WITCHED AND EVEN THEN, YOU’RE NOT EVEN AS COOL AS THEM. AND THAT’S SAYING SOMETHING. LOOK AT HIM. HE IS WEARING DOUBLE DENIM, A SILLY, HALF-SMUG EXPRESSION, A SILLY HEADBAND AND RIDICULOUS EARRINGS. HE IS NOT COOL. HE IS NOT THE MAIN CHARACTER. HE IS GENERIC AS ALL HELL AND IT IS WORRYING ME.
GO AWAY, JIN. GO AWAY. TAKE YOUR DENIM AND YOU HEADBAND AND FUCK OFF.
And finally, there’s the plant creature Sasa. Why the fuck she’s there is anyone’s guess. Apparently, she’s a plant-based humanoid who likes to screech like a banshee and hover around a lot. She’s also dying now that she’s learnt to fight. As you do. She’s in there for some reason. There is no reason for her being in this game. In much the same way as ANY of these characters being in this game don’t make sense if there isn’t a FUCKING STORY TO TELL.
You see… the more I think about this game and its shortcomings, the more annoyed I seem to get because as I say, there is nothing inherently wrong with this game. The basic fighting is fine. The characters flow nicely, they control well, there’s no lag to the battles and the whole fighting engine just works neatly. But it is only that. It is perfunctory. It is nothing more than reasonably good. It is not a selling point to suggest that the fighting engine works. It bloody well should do. But at least give us something else to work with here. It isn’t a smooth or fluid as Tekken or anything like that. The character animation does look remarkably jerky by comparison and the blocky textures make it all seem incredibly lo-res. Static screens do it more justice than perhaps it deserves. It seems weird that on a system where Tekken can manage to maintain a spot-on frame rate throughout, that any other game should be allowed to get away with anything less than that. I mean, seriously, there’s no STYLE behind having games that do this. It’s as if they wanted to game to run faster and cut out half of the animation for the characters. No. This is not not acceptable. It should have run smoother than this. No excuses. You’re trying to sell your game to us all. Do as least try.
And the character models themselves are not exactly groundbreaking… or interesting. The character design is wonky and dull (with a couple bordering on stereotypical) but with a bit of sheen and polish, they could actually be pretty good. The fact that the backgrounds clash so harshly against the characters does not help. The ceilings also clash badly against the backgrounds and character models. It ends up being an assault on the senses.
Which one? ALL OF THEM.
Even the music is pretty dreadful. It’s unforgettable for the most part and for the rest of it, it just sounds… out of place. Fighting game music is meant to instil a feeling of fear or menace in the player and yet it feels… too… nice. There’s the usual guitar flare on the character selection screen but outside of that, it just ends up sounding very unusual for the type of game it is.
I mean it’s better than the godawful jazz funk of Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha but… yeah. Meh.
And therein lies most of the problem: did they actually TRY to do something with this game? It feels as though, as much effort as they DID put in, an equal amount of ‘can’t-be-botheredness’ also went into it. Racjin, the game’s developers, developed a couple of other similar fighters – one called Critical Blow and Shadow Struggle – which suffered from the same problems. There were both very bare bones fighters which really struggled PUN INTENDED to showcase their talents. The character selection screen are IDENTICAL – flat, bland screens of nothingness – and the actual engines and graphical prowess are pretty much the exact same. If anything, Heaven’s Gate is the weakest of the three because the clash of colours and assault on the senses across the board is harsh on the eyes.
And, similar to Toshinden 3, the fact that the arenas have ceilings… doesn’t… help. I know they attempted a mechanic with characters latching onto the ceiling and dropping down on their opponents from above… but Toshinden 3 was lacklustre in this respect because it basically wasted the background artists’ time. It’s often hidden behind the ceilings or silly fences around the arena. The sheer audacity of those background artists to want to create a background that shines in your game is absolute TREASO- oh they’re shit anyway.
Someone just shoved a stock photograph into the scanner and changed the resolution to look fuzzy and blurry and then shoved it into the game.
Yeah. Effort. Pouring out from every orifice.
And even when they DO put the effort in, it’s… still pretty haphazard in quality. I mean, they COULD be 3D. There’s really no reason why not. Soul Blade managed it. Tekken EVENTUALLY managed it. Toshinden ORIGINALLY managed it (then reverted and went all shit… but the less said about that the better). Heaven’s Gate is a 1996 game, a year after Tekken and Toshinden were ’94 and ’95. You do the maths.
And that seems to be the problem with this game. It’s so very bare bones and lackadaisical that it has no spirit and no charm. It’s almost another example of a wasted potential… except without the actual potential. Which makes it even more frustrating. I cannot quite put my finger on it but the lacklustre presentation, the bland, generic character design and the total lack of context to the game… just make it a very dull.
See… if you gave the characters a bit more depth then we’d actually be getting close to the type of game this could be. I suppose… to a point… games like this didn’t really have much in the way of story other than “WIN TOURNAMENT, YAY…”
“WE SHOULD DO A FIGHTING GAME.”
“YES. WHAT WILL THE STORY BEHIND IT BE?”
“FIGHTERS WILL FIGHT EACH OTHER.”
“PRINT IT. RUN IT. DONE.”
“HOW ABOUT A TOURNAMENT WHERE THE FIGHTERS TRY TO STOP AN EVIL FORCE FROM TAKING OVER THE WORLD?”
“YOU HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING.”
Well done, guys. You done goofed. That’s a phrase I like to use for developers who suck at making games properly.
So we’re looking at a game that ought to be a heck of a lot better than it is. But there’s no actual reasoning behind the game. If I knew what I was doing it for and why I should care, FINE. I’d be all over it. It’s technically pretty solid, just very…
And realistically, being meh is a crime in gaming circles.
I think this is part of the reason why the game just faded into non-existence. And for us, the gaming public, it’s not much of a loss.
And unfortunately, that might mean we’re about to lose the battle against the demons.
Or the plant girl.
If she’s not dead.