You remember the Neo Geo, right? That super expensive console that SNK threw out into the world that housed a plethora of SNK fighting games, etc, etc, you know all this. I’ve said it before and you know it’s expensive. Expensive joke, fighting game joke, blah, blah, blah… here we go.
Years and years and years ago, my parents took my brother and I to an outlet shopping place somewhere near the coast and holy shit, it took us about three hours to get there and it was the biggest waste of time my family have ever admitted to putting us all through. There was literally nothing there that any of us wanted or considered buying. However, to make up for this, we did stay for some food and there was an arcade there which was actually… massive. I assume it’s not there anymore or if it is, this game no longer exists in its ranks.
Indeed, this game was there and my parents said that I could have a chance to play on one of the games there. Bizarrely enough, this super-colourful, slightly OTT-looking fighting game was the one that caught my eye more than anything. I’d seen other games there and thought “PFFFFFT. I can play that type of stuff any day!”
But mum said no.
I don’t even remember what I played on in the end. Probably something shit.
But I never forgot this game because of its cheerful-looking gameplay and rainbow graphics and all that bobbins… and I’ll never forget that game’s title: WAKU WAKU 7.
No, no, no… seriously. Waku Waku 7.
I think my mum might have had a point with this one. She probably took one look at it and thought “HE WILL DERIVE NOTHING FROM THIS BECAUSE THAT TITLE MAKES NO SENSE” and steered me clear of it.
Or she didn’t like me playing fighting games because VIOLENCE.
Now… imagine that you’re pitching your game to the company with a name like that. Can you imagine going into the office and having someone yell their new game title at you? Can you imagine that? And then you have to yell yours out too?
“HEY EVERYONE! THIS NEW GAME IS CALLED RESIDENT EVIL!”
“MINE IS CALLED COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT!”
“I’VE GOT ONE CALLED TOMB RAIDER!”
“WAKU WAKU 7!”
Can you imagine that?
You’d be forgive for not having a clue as to what Waku Waku 7 even is but for the uninitiated, it’s basically like Dragon Ball meets slightly bonkers character designs meets fighting game meets who the fuck know because seriously, this shit is all over the place in terms of what it is.
Yes, it’s a fighting game… but that pretty much covers all you NEED to know because the rest of it is an absolute shambles of bad, almost unnecessary storytelling and some really… really unusual… well… how do I put this…?
This game makes little to no sense.
From what I can gather, there are seven Waku Waku balls distributed to randomers and the aim of the game is to collect them all so that the one with all seven can have their wish granted – so far, so ho-hum, a phrase I’m using quite a lot of late but fighting game storylines really are as ho-hum as you like, particularly the Neo Geo ones because all of those ones tend to have a story. Because why not?
So if you’re beginning to think this sounds a lot like Dragon Ball, then I’m with you on that one. 7 balls… people want to find them all… slightly bonkers character design… story arcs that last 9000 episodes… SORRY. OVER 9000.
*snicker* Dragon Ball reference.
OK, so the last one isn’t in Waku Waku 7 and for good reason: because the game takes all of about fifteen minutes to complete seeing as there are only 7 characters.
Well… if you want to be facetious about it, there are actually 9 but let’s come to that one in a bit. So of the 7 base characters, you have obvious male protagonist, male protagonist’s lady friend, brooding sword-wielding elf, brooding macho man with tagger-on and cat, mechanised police tank, large barely-verbal rabbit-bear creature avec child, and robot maid.
Did I mention this game makes no sense?
From the outset, you’re looking at the character roster and thinking “who the hell came up with these ideas?” and then unabashedly laughing at the rabbit-bear creature because he is AMAZING and plays brilliantly… plus he’s just a massive purple rabbit-bear and what is there not to love about that? He has massive arms and paws and tiny little feet and he carries around a small child who absolutely ADORES him and that he protects with all of his might. And he’s so pleasant and nice-looking. He’s clearly the best character because he’s so effortlessly cute and cuddly and LOVELY.
As you progress through the fights, you pick up the other characters’ Waku Waku ball and defeating all seven, including a shadow version of yourself – WHICH NO ONE EVER QUESTIONS IN THESE GAMES – then you shove them into a convenient statue, unleash a lovely little fairy and also a GIANT MONSTER in the shape of final boss Fernandez and you have to fight him as well… and he is for all intents and purposes a pretty cheap boss character seeing as he takes up so much of the screen that his punches and kicks (if you can call them that) literally hit you from ANYWHERE. Blocking, jumping and keeping as far away as possible are essential to this boss fight.
And not getting eaten and purged out.
Because boss characters can and invariably will.
Did I forget to mention that Fernandez is a giant black ball with demon ears? He looks quite cute at first glance, hardly the demonic monster you were expecting, I’m sure. And yet… if you lose the second round to him… he looks absolutely…
Demonic? Shall we say? It is a massively quick 180 shift from the slightly cuter “oh he’s just a massive ball of whatevers” to “HOLY SHIT, HE’S GOING TO KILL ME AND EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS CITY!” in the space of a finger click.
There are no words. He’s a strange boss character.
But then again, I don’t think I’ve given off the impression that this game is anything but strange so far. And to be honest, this might be the strangest thing so far, and seeing as we have rabbit-bears and robot maids to deal with, that’s a lot of bizarre to have to put up with.
And that is actually one of the game’s major strengths: it’s so weird, it’s actually pretty unforgettable. The whole experience, as short as it is, sticks with you because you often cannot believe something so daft has happened. So you just got fired out of a police tank cannon. That’s just a normal day in Waku Waku 7! Been electrocuted by a robot maid? Normal. Eaten and expunged by a giant black-ball demon? Yep. Normal.
But at least you remember it happening.
And some of the characters do stick out far more than others for these very same reasons. They’re not your usual fighting game fare and for that, the game does very well by itself.
But… by the same token… they are undersold a little bit.
Graphically, the game is actually worse than you would expect perhaps. Some parts of it looks absolutely great – some of the backgrounds are detailed, but simple and don’t try to overawe you. But if anything… the sprites themselves are really… flat. Take Arina as the prime example. The majority of her character sprites are so lacking in detail or texture or even shadow that her legs and arms and face look flat and uninspired. She isn’t the only one, Mauru, the rabbit-bear, is usually one shade of purple across his whole body and it starts to get a bit annoying at time, particularly when you expect the characters to actually look… meaty. They don’t. They look incredibly lazy by comparison. The animation isn’t too bad although a lot of character feel skimped on… but when you go across the character select screen, the detail involved actually gets lower and lower and then you finish on Arina and it’s the lowest amount of detail possible.
AAAAAAAAAAND then there’s ‘Bonus-kun’, a character of which we will never speak of again because YOU CAN TELL WHAT HE IS AND HOW UTTERLY REDUNDANT AND LAZY A DESIGN HE IS. FUCK THIS CHARACTER AND FUCK WHOEVER THOUGHT OF IT. RUDE. LAZY. BOO TO YOU.
Yeah, OK, flat textures and whatnot aren’t the be all and end all but… it detracts a little from the experience and it ought to look better than this realistically. It’s a style, I’ll give you that…
The game itself is your fairly bog-standard fighting fare in that you have three rounds and a super meter. The super meter fills to the number of Waku Waku balls you own (which doesn’t make sense if your opponent has the same number of balls… but there are only seven and if you have four and they have four… that’s eight… and… LOGIC. WINDOW. BYE.
Special moves work in a similar way to Street Fighter and the King of Fighters, with fireball-motions aplenty, and some charged-up moves thrown in with certain characters. The screen zooms out if the characters get too far away each other, a trend that began rather unsuccessfully with the Art of Fighting games and is implemented… well enough here. It makes the sprites look a bit meh but it doesn’t take anything away from the gameplay itself. The fights carry on unabated.
There are dashes forward and backwards, you can attack characters on the ground, you can attack characters as you get up off the ground, you can turn yourself vaguely super-Saiyan if you have enough super meter built up and you can use your super meter to set off bigger versions of your special moves by pressing both punch or kick buttons. The game even helps you out like they would have done in the old arcades on the cabinets by giving you the list of special and super moves on the character select screen – which is nice of them.
And everything comes as standard.
But if it wasn’t for the fact that the game was so weird… it really wouldn’t stand out at all. It’s so amazingly bog-standard, it feels quite… dull at times. As I mentioned, the game can be completed in all of about fifteen minutes and completing it really does nothing but give you a points total. Acceptable in 1996, given the arcade experience it delivers, but perhaps less so now. I can’t begrudge it that as such but by the same token, if I want to spend fifteen minutes having fun, I can think of a far better alternat- no, no. I’m not making this joke. I apologise profusely for this.
It does unfortunately make for a bit of a vapid and uninspiring experience all in all. Watching it can often be more fun than playing it, given the amount of bonkers stuff that happens on the screen a times, and while it is essentially a neat little fighting game that sorta… exists… it’s not going to set anyone’s world on fire unless you end up getting shoved into a police tank cannon and fired out the other end.
Because that might happen.
Give it time.
Oh who am I kidding, it’s 2016. It might happen any day of this fucking year for all we know.