While I might not be the best at them, I’ve always been a fan of 2D fighting games. Ever since the awesome animation and visual style of Capcom’s Darkstalkers and Arc System Works’ BlazBlue series companies have been trying to one-up them with even more detailed and animated fighting games.
Now entering the long list of anime-ish looking fighters is Examu’s Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match, which offers a slightly flawed but fun experience that should please fans of the genre who expect nothing less.
I’ll be honest, even with my extensive knowledge of anime and visual novels, I still didn’t recognize many of the characters here. Examu drew from a number of series such as Utawarerumono, To Heart, Tears to Tiara, and Comic Party. Each of the 13 characters and their partners (26 characters total) has their own reasons for fighting, whether it’s to save the world from evil or just wanting to be the best fighter out there. AquaPazza plays like a typical fighter with basic attacks, combos, special attacks, and super moves known as Splash Arts. Any special moves require one bar of your super meter, and a splash art requires three bars. Pulling off one of these can be difficult, but the tradeoff is that they deal a large amount of damage while even playing a mini-cinematic to add more insult to injury.
There’s four attack buttons to use, weak, medium, and strong attacks, and similar to games such as Marvel vs Capcom, there’s a button to call your partner in to perform an assisting attack or take a hit for you. With the wide variety of abilities and play styles each characters has, it can be a little daunting learning them all. But once you do, it feels rewarding when you see your practice pay off. Things can get a little tricky also with picking a fighter that suits your style, and finding out who is the best partner that matches you. It also doesn’t help that the tutorial included on the game doesn’t cover a lot of the complex moves and skills you can perform, such as move canceling and chaining moves into larger combos, guard impacts and other things. With that being said, AquaPazza has steep learning curve that isn’t incredibly friendly for newcomers and may alienate all but hardcore gamers. Luckily there’s a little hope, as there is a simple mode that allows players to do combos and special moves just by pressing the attack buttons continuously, as well as a button to unleash a splash art. Even with this, those who use it will never get to experience all of the other deep skills you can do, but at least newcomers aren’t shut out either.
One of the most unique aspects of AquaPazza is its emotion system, which rewards you for always going on the offensive and not turtling in a corner. If you crank out large strings of combos and perfectly timed blocks, your character gets pumped and the amount of damage you do will increase. And if you’re blocking a little too much, your characters emotions go down and you take more damage. This emotion system helps keep things from getting boring and encourages players not to spam block too much.
Once you’ve found a combo of characters you are comfortable with, you can test your skills online with the multiplayer mode. Here you can choose to fight in either ranked or player matches to show who is the best. You can also save a replay of a fight, set titles for yourself, and check to see how you stack up on the global rankings. As I mentioned before, like most anime-looking fighters out there, AquaPazza makes for some nice eye candy. Both the characters and stages are beautifully drawn and animated with high definition sprites that make you want to pick up and play just to look at them. The sounds are just as great, with plenty of upbeat tunes to get you in the fighting mood, while special abilities are yelled out in Japanese (no English audio here) as you trade blows with your opponents.
Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match is a slightly flawed but fun title for anyone who enjoys putting some serious work into their fighting games to get their literal kicks from. Featuring plenty of unfamiliar yet cool visual novel characters, some nicely drawn characters and backgrounds, and a steep learning curve it’s a game that may appeal only to hardcore fans of the genre. Fans of Darkstalkers and BlazBlue should definitely give this one a chance, especially if they’ve been anxious for more hyper-stylized anime fighting fun.