Tag Archives: 2D Fighters

Rivals Of Aether Review

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Super Smash Bros. It’s arguably one of the most popular Nintendo franchises. Some may even say the most popular Nintendo franchise. From the original Nintendo 64 game all the way up to the Wii U iteration, it’s an iconic game. But fans will constantly debate what version is best. A passionate group of Smash fans would tell you it is the Gamecube version. And whether you agree with that or not, you have to admire that level of dedication. Not only have they gotten it recognition in the fighting game community as a competitive game, they’ve gotten it featured in tournaments.

So of course it was only a matter of time before companies would try to make their own platformer fighting game hybrids. Some of them terrible, some of them just okay, and some of them pretty damn good.

PROS: Super Smash Bros. Melee pacing. Unique features. Great character designs.

CONS: Relatively small roster compared to other fighters. Not a lot of single-player stuff.

WHAT?: Is what you’ll ask confusedly upon seeing some opponents’ recoveries online.

It would be easy to dismiss Rivals Of Aether as another Smash pretender. It has a similar 4-player party fighter feel. It has the same general goal; knock everyone off of the stage, and be the last one standing. It has a cast of characters with nowhere near the recognition of Nintendo’s major IP. Some of you may even ask “Why bother playing this over any of the Super Smash Bros. games?” But before you sigh, click on a different site, and prepare to see if Mr. Game & Watch has finally made it to S-Tier thanks to a professional player’s new discovery hold on.

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Because Rivals Of Aether is actually quite good. The game may not have the high production values, marketable Nintendo mascots, and blockbuster score. But it’s probably the best of any attempt to compete with Nintendo’s formula yet. Yes. Better than Sony’s attempt. And better than Papaya’s Cartoon Network themed clone. Both of which were solid efforts.

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Right from the get go, this game makes no qualms about who it targets. If you’re one of the die-hard Super Smash Bros. Melee fans out there, Rivals Of Aether is hoping you’re going to pick it up. Assuming you haven’t already. But if you’re not, and you enjoy the Smash games, you may just enjoy this as well. This game embraces the competitive end of the Smash fandom. You’ll find no items, or power ups. Not even for simple fun. What you will find, are some really cool looking stages, and characters. All of the characters make a great first impression here. They’re fairly unique (Except for maybe Wrastor who is clearly a Falco Lombardi stand in.), and have designs that stand out.

Upon getting into a match, you’ll find it plays very much like Smash. You’ll want to be the last one standing, as I mentioned earlier. It has similar play mechanics under the hood. Directional Influence is a major part of defensive play, affecting the angle of knock back when you’re sent flying. There are tilts, specials, and meteor attacks to boot. Enthusiasts will feel right at home here.

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But it isn’t a carbon copy of Super Smash Bros. either. Rivals Of Aether makes some enhancements that make it feel different enough to justify looking into it. It adds a second set of regular attacks it calls Strong Attacks. Where the Smash games have a button for regular moves, a button for special moves, and then different attacks based upon whether or not the stick was moved simultaneously with a button press this one adds a third button. It’s a small thing, but it also means another few moves per character.

The game also has a bigger emphasis on parrying. If you can time the block button perfectly, it grants you a brief moment of reprieve by putting an opponent in stun for a second. It also brings in advanced tech techniques by timing movement just before hitting surfaces. Rivals, also puts in a wall jump technique which can be really helpful when recovering from a strong knock back.

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One thing everyone will love is the sprite work on display. The pixel art is really, really nice stuff that hearkens back to the 16-bit console era. This game oozes Super NES, and Sega Genesis in terms of motif. The chip tunes aren’t half bad either.  Every stage has its own thumping songs that fit its visual flair. Interestingly, some stages will favor certain characters. To balance this out, at least in multiplayer, players can vote on what stages to disallow for a conflict. So if you see your opponent has chosen Orcane, you can put a giant red X on his stage so he can’t make easy saves by swimming.

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The game also has a pretty robust tutorial in it. Honestly it gives the level of care, and attention some of the better Street Fighter, and Tekken tutorials have had in recent outings. If you’re a newcomer it’s honestly worth checking out, and if you’re a Super Smash veteran you should at least look at it, as it can go over some of the differences nicely for you. It covers the absolute basics, but then covers combos, cancels, and the advanced wall jumping mechanics as well.

 

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Rivals has both offline, and online matches where you can play against random players, or friends. It’s, pretty fun. It doesn’t usually lag that badly unless the opposing player is on the other side of the country or world. And even then I’ve still had some matches that were playable. Not great by any stretch, but at least I could move without having to expect to wait 30 seconds to see Zetterburn take a step. Be that as it may, I still don’t recommend veering too far outside the realm of low ping opponents.There are also tag battle modes which can be fun to play, though I suspect most will play the Free For All mode the most. I was also impressed with the character creation tools. Like the ones found in King Of Fighters XIII, and Capcom Vs. SNK 2 you can change the color palette of the characters to use as a custom appearance for yourself. So if you want to make Wrastor green, you can do so.

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Where the game falters a bit is when it comes to one player modes. Aside from the excellent tutorial, the only real thing it has is the Story mode. Here, you take each of the characters, and play through their part of the game’s lore. Like most fighting games this is told by picking a character, playing through computer opponents in a 1v1 match, until you reach the final boss. After defeating the boss, you’ll get a bit more backstory, and credits. Once you beat the game with every character though, there isn’t much left for you to do. You can take the points you earn for playing, to unlock the secret characters. But beyond that there really isn’t much else. When considering the small roster, it doesn’t translate into much single-player time. Sure, one could point to the Abyss mode where you try to exceed goals the game sets with enemies, and items to beat. But for a game that wants to tear you away from Smash, that isn’t much.

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Don’t misunderstand me though, Dan Fornace, and his small team have done a terrific job in making a Smash-like fighter. If you don’t presently have a Nintendo console, and played a lot of Super Smash Bros. in the past, Rivals of Aether is a no brainer. If you do have a Gamecube, Wii, or Wii U, and love Super Smash Bros., you still may want to give this game a shot. Because it’s going to be more of what you love. As long as what you love is playing against other people in person, or online. This game has the competitive end set. But if your favorite parts of Smash have been breaking targets, Adventure modes, and Subspace Emissaries, Rivals may feel a little bit anemic. That said, if you’re a big fan of fighting games put this one on your radar.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Reposted Review: BODY BLOWS

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(Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog.)

All of the Hadokens with none of the Ryu.

Every so often a game developer realizes a platform is lacking titles in certain genres. Then decides to do something about it. The year was 1993. The developer was Team 17.

PROS: Huge cast. Decent visuals. Nice chiptunes.

CONS: Nearly everything cribbed from other fighting games. Asinine 90′s DRM.

WTF?: The final boss is a T-1000

Body Blows was both a reviled clone, and timeless classic at the same time. Originally released on the Commodore Amiga, then ported to MS-DOS shortly thereafter, the game filled a need for fighters on home computer platforms. Up until Body Blows, computer gamers had the odd port of Street Fighter, Street Fighter II (Which were both poorly coded, and terrible), and Acclaim’s port of Mortal Kombat. (One of the first good ports of an arcade fighting game to the PC.). Outside of those one had to go farther back to 8-bit computer platforms to find stuff like World Karate Championship. Another game Body Blows oddly enough cribs from.

Only a paragraph in, and it already seems like I’m harping on just how much BB lifts from other games but it’s true. Many of the characters have the styles, and moves you’ve seen in countless fighters. Street Fighter II is probably the biggest one. But  you will also see elements of Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Mortal Kombat,  and a few others under the hood. The story is pretty much non-existent, as you play through nobody really gets dialogue or much in the way of exposition. It’s your typical tournament fighter, with typical short bios during the intro, and little else in the way of narrative.

Characters in Body Blows are hugely influenced by Capcom, and SNK, and it shows.

Dan is a streetwise Ken Masters.

Nik is the game’s Ryu in clothes that remind players of Terry Bogard..

Kossack is this game’s Zangief.

Maria is our Chun-Li stand in. (Though to be fair is surprisingly different)

Ninja is a strange cross between Blanka, and Mortal Kombat II’s Reptile.

Dug is a power character who is an awful lot like certain Final Fight enemies.

Mike is a suit who turns into a whirlwind. (Okay, one more different character)

Junior is Boxer  powered with E. Honda’s Hundred Hand Slap.

Lo Ray is a Monk character who does cartwheels, and mind projectiles. (Another original.)

Yit-U is a Ryu clone with Mortal Kombat teleport moves, and specials.

Max is the final boss, playable via a cheat code. He also turns into a Terminator.

Out of eleven characters over half are derivative of those from much more widely known games. The fighting system is also mostly taken from World Karate Championship. This is largely due to the fact, that at the time most PCs had one button joysticks, assuming players had a controller at all. That said, it actually does work in the game’s favor.

Moving the joystick (Or movement keys if you mapped them to your keyboard) will move your character about the screen. Holding the fire button when you do will perform your regular moves, blocks, and specials. You can perform Shoryukens, and Hadokens with ease. The game also does allow for players to get a few two in one combos, and even a cross up or two. Considering the time period that is actually a pretty good thing. Body Blows isn’t the most balanced game either. Some characters simply cannot compete against the rest of the cast when playing in capable hands. Compounding this are the supers everyone has by simply holding down the fire button.

Visually, the sprite work is actually really nice. Especially the backgrounds. The environments in this game can hang with many of the fighter games of the time period. From the invading submarine on the Kossak stage, to Maria’s town, to a construction site, to an office. Body Blows  is a pretty game.

Sounds are mostly pretty good, from the midi soundtrack, to the sound effects. They don’t set the world on fire with iconic music but Team 17 gets it’s job done. If I had any major problems besides the general sameness to it all, it would have to be the DRM built into the game. This was just before the time of CD-Key protection, and so like many other games of the time they went with manual protection. Manual protection  requires players to have the actual game manual on hand to type in information to log in. Body Blows WOULD have been one of the nicer manual protections as it doesn’t make you go through insane hoops like finding word one in sentence four, paragraph 4 on page 45. Instead, the game simply tells you to punch in a three digit code out of a chart in the back of the booklet that goes on around six pages. This would be much easier except that like a thesis in a comic book by the Ultimate Warrior, it prints the grid in a yellow color on an all white page. While it isn’t impossible in a dimly lit room, it’s difficult to read in a few situations, and you may find yourself crashing to the DOS prompt several times before finally getting it right.

Despite all of the cloning within it, Body Blows does succeed in being a fun fighting game.

I remember originally finding it in a game bundle at a KB Toys shortly after our family had gotten our first Windows 95 box. While it certainly didn’t stop me from playing my SNES ports, it did manage to keep me enthralled enough to finish it. In the context of it’s heyday, players who only had an Amiga or MS-DOS computer were really getting something special as GOOD Street Fighter ports didn’t happen until Super Street Fighter II would see a proper release on computers. So for anyone who didn’t have a Super NES or a Genesis, Body Blows made for a nice ad hoc fighter. In fact, the Amiga would see two sequels, Body Blows Ultimate, and  Body Blows Galactic.

To go back to it now is really an act of either nostalgia or collector curiosity. It’s still certainly not a bad game, but there’s no way you’re going to want to play it instead of the games it stole from, or the games that have vastly leaped it since. I’d still recommend checking it out at least once should you ever get the chance. The MS-DOS version runs under DOSBOX with little to no trouble, and it’s just one of those things you have to see to believe. Especially when you realize the guys behind the successfully long running WORMS series can do a fighting game when they feel like it. For it’s time, Body Blows proved  that tournament fighters could, and should exist for computer platforms. It won all sorts of praise from the Amiga gaming community when it came out, and even managed to give DOS users a decent fighter.

It also sent the message to other publishers to put some effort into their porting duties.

Final Score 6.5 out of 10 (Not bad, but not great either.)