Japanese fighting game lore would have it that at some point, you will come across an all-female fighting game somewhere in your life. In the UK, finding such a thing is a thing of mystery – not beauty – but they do actually exist. At some point, all-female fighting games have been released in the UK, the most obvious example being the Arcana Heart series, of which Arcana Heart 3 was released on the PS3. For want of a better term, the majority of these fighting games appear to be going the route of fan-service and that sort of…
The panty-shot route.
You heard me.
It is a not a huge surprise to know that in Japan in particular, these games are a fairly big draw. In the UK?
Which is why Gals Fighters on the Neo Geo Pocket Color is a bit of a curio. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good game… but it is a curio.
Released very late in the life-cycle of the Neo Geo Pocket Color, Gals Fighter is essentially the type of shovelware that was easy to shove together for the developers. You’ve got all of the code, all of the character sprites already (pretty much), so shove them in one package and let things take their natural course. In a way, that’s not QUITE what we got with Capcom VS SNK or Marvel VS Capcom, as a lot more effort was put into those two games, and the same can be said for SNK VS Capcom on the Neo Geo Pocket Color, a game so accomplished, they really ought to have released THAT game on the Neo Geo proper (but using the proper sprites, not the three-colour 8-bit versions we have here). Unfortunately… we got this instead.
And it is pretty much shovelware.
Only at least it’s playable.
So let us surprise you with this news:
THE CAST IS ALL FEMALE. AND THEY ARE ALL FROM SNK GAMES. AND THERE IS PRETTY MUCH ZERO STORY.
You’re up to date now.
I saw ‘zero’ story but there is a MAGICAL talisman – because why not? – and it can grant you one wish. Because of course it can. It’s GAMING LOGIC. Can’t think of a story? Throw in a magical amulet/talisman/bracelet/rune/hairpin/fake poop and there you go: instant story. Just add water and wait for fireworks.
Cue jokes about damp squibs!
The usual staple of SNK ladies take to the stage, Mai, Athena, Yuri and Nakoruru, whilst the lesser-known quartet of Leona and Shermie from the King of Fighters, Shiki from Samurai Shodown, and Akari from The Last Blade make up the numbers. There are also three hidden characters, each of whom haven’t appeared in a fighting game on the Neo Geo Pocket before.
Apart from one.
But we’ll get to them shortly enough.
Whip, Leona’s occasional teammate from the King of Fighters, joins in, as does the game’s boss character and so does Yuki… Kyo Kusanagi’s girlfriend.
AND SHE IS IMPOSSIBLY SHIT.
Which doesn’t matter because she basically fights by NOT fighting.
And by screaming NO at her opponent.
I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU.
This is actually in the game. But it is beggars belief that a character as moronically unnecessary as Yuki, a character who can’t even fight, a character who wouldn’t even be much use in a slap fight, a character who seems to have been written with the sole intention of possibly getting KIDNAPPED, has made it into this fighting game ahead of all of the other female characters in the SNK stable.
But then again, this is not a straightforward, bash ’em round the head, serious fighting game.
So shoving a waste of space character, one who adds a SMALL amount to the game’s “humour”, is probably… about right. Characters in the game have been tinkered with a little bit in that moves that they pull off are presented in more hilarious ways. Yuri’s usual air fireball move is now changed for a “SMASH WITH A HAMMER” attack. Athena’s teleport move is now supplemented for a juddery run animation complete with multiple feet. One of Mai’s super moves sees her sprite turn soot black after being engulfed in fire. It’s minor touches like this that just add a little bit more to a game that really doesn’t quite have the same feeling as other games. But at least it has that behind it. A bit of humour didn’t hurt anyone. And beside, this is a game that features a character who screams NO at you as an attack… taking itself seriously is not really this game’s forte.
As well as this, finishing off rounds with a super move sees a little montage appear in the background of the defeated character.
Yeah. You sensing a theme here?
I mean, look at this shit. Shiki, one of SNK’s most criminally underused characters, a character whose backstory is basically one giant long string of sadness, is given a super move that has her disappear and then reappear from the floor through a makeshift door.
And then suddenly… it feels a bit inappropriate. But that’s coming from me, someone who knows about the characters.
Aside from the silly character choices, the game also suffers from some REALLY ugly moments. Now, the only other times Shiki has been in a game prior to this one was in Samurai Shodown 64 (a 3D monstrosity) and the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s very own Samurai Shodown! 2. And in that game… her sprite was tiny in that game… so redrawing her sprites makes her look like a really awful cosplay version of Sub-Zero with ugly facial features. Her animation and sprites look really rushed by comparison to other characters, particularly Whip, who appears to have been recreated brilliantly by comparison.
And some of the other characters, who already had a multitude of sprites to their repertoire already, have been nerfed somewhat. They don’t look anywhere near as good as they ought to. Colours are off, animation is slightly disjointed and the whole “MASSIVE HANDS AND FEET” joke gets unfunny very quickly. Not that having big hands and big feet is funny, you guys. I’m sorry to everyone with big hands and feet.
This game isn’t sorry though. It just throws them right into your face. Your character’s face.
It’s a joke.
“IT’S NOT A FUNNY ONE. OR ONE THAT I GOT.”
Mechanically, there is nothing particularly wrong with the game itself. It works in exactly the same way as these types of games do on the system. You have a punch and a kick and you do the fireball motions to perform most of your moves. So far, so ho-hum. Fight against a set number of opponents and eventually you will reach the game’s final boss: MISS X.
It’s Iori Yagami in a dress.
So when I say characters who haven’t appeared in a game on this system before… yeah. Iori is basically wearing a dress and they turned him into the boss character. It’s actually… very inappropriate again. This is part of the game’s problem in that it really doesn’t seem to understand what it’s doing or what they have at their disposal. They could have taken it seriously and given us a proper fighting game that wants to show off the best of the best of their franchises’ female fighters and instead they give us KYO’S USELESS GIRLFRIEND AND IORI YAGAMI IN A FUCKING DRESS.
Chizuru. Kasumi. Charlotte. Yuki. Just… SO MANY CHARACTERS THAT THEY COULD HAVE CHOSEN. But no. Shove Iori in a dre- OHHHHHHHHH, this is meant to be funny.
THIS is the funny side of the game.
Not shoving a character in a dress and assuming it’s funny. Yes… hindsight… but still. Know your audience. Think about what a waste it is that you didn’t use a better roster of characters! Good grief. OK, I’m done with this now.
But… let’s be super clear on this one… it’s fun to play. That’s the irritating thing about this game. It does so much wrong, the dodgy graphics and animation, the piffling story, the wasteful use of characters, the distinct LACK of characters and the fact that it’s crossing the line of inappropriateness… and yet it’s basically a carbon copy of every other SNK fighting game on the system. It’s fun and fast and fluid and there are intricacies to this version that make it a little bit trickier than your usual SNK fare.
But… by the same token… if you’re going to play a game of this type on this system, you have all manner of fighting games on there already. King of Fighters R2 will do. SNK VS Capcom will DEFINITELY fit the bill. Samurai Shodown! 2 is a pretty good alternative. Gals Fighter just does the job of being a fighting game perfunctorily. But that’s it. It’s reasonable. There are too many better fighting games already on the system that it doesn’t seem to be worth the admission price, especially given that it’s shorter than the others, the number of characters is less than the others and it’s often REALLY ugly to look at.
And then there’s the appeal of the game. I’m all for the all-female cast. That’s fine… and to be honest, if SNK chose their cast a bit better, they could have been onto something pretty good here.
But the whole point to these kind of games is for fan-service and to be honest… they really don’t do that very well. You know what most of these characters in these types of games are like, right? They’re schoolgirls. They have the silly short skirts and the heaving cleavage. This game really doesn’t pander to that at all, apart from Mai Shiranui because MAI SHIRANUI, and thus… it’s odd to try and argue that the market ISN’T there… but is it? In the UK, this isn’t something we really tap into. It’s not something we get as such.
But then again… this isn’t THAT sort of fan-service. It’s a collection of female characters that the players will already know and won’t be into it for that reason. No schoolgirls present? Big deal. I like to play as Leona. She’ll whup your ass and do it in military clothing.
Part of me wonders whether the actual market for this game was die-hard SNK fans… or girls. Everything in this game is actually dressed up to be fairly girly looking. The choice of fonts, the packaging, the hearts floating about everywhere… it feels quite stereotypically girly. The fact that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and the fact that it’s girly… reading way too much into this makes that sound quite offensive. IT’S NOT A SERIOUS GAME. GIRLS WILL LOVE IT.
I can take the all-female cast – as I say, plenty of girls to choose from DID YOU HEAR THAT SNK? – but to not take that possible market seriously?
Bad move guys.
And as such, the whole game feels a bit ho-hum and dreary, wanting to be decent but really a rushed hash-job of inappropriate proportions. But again, it’s not a bad game, it just does very key things a bit laughably. Creating a jokey, humorous fighting game is all fine and whatnot, that’s a good idea. In fact, heck, there are probably some out there! But not taking your audience seriously, chopping out decent content, throwing in the most yawnsomely banal story and then hoping for the best?
And shoving Iori Yagami in a dress.
He really doesn’t do fashion decisions well, does he?
One word, Iori: BELTS.
AND TUCK IN YOUR SHIRT, YOUNG MAN.