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I'm starting to think that there's no elegant way to lead into these articles. It's not like there's any thematic consistency in the Kusoge Crop Of The Week. The list I was going through was specifically set up to destroy my expectations and leave me helpless, 100% at the mercy of whatever game I booted up next.
See, before I started on this marathon, I said things like "You can't subvert my expectations if I don't have any." This is a belief grounded in a universe that makes sense, where events logically follow each other through a chain of cause and effect. A universe like that couldn't produce the games on this list, and so it naturally follows that I ended up being dead wrong.
#8: Umineko: Golden Fantasia
"It's good, I promise." —Zari0t
I want to call Umineko: Golden Fantasia an awful game. I want to spend paragraphs upon paragraphs ranting about how it represents the worst parts of every anime fighter, with more emphasis on abusing obnoxious multi-layered system mechanics than actually interacting with your opponent. I want to scream about how the sound design ruins an excellent soundtrack with obnoxious, squealing voice work that never shuts the fuck up, or about how the port was so incompetent that the movelists were still in Japanese and I had to change my monitor to 60hz, or about character designs that only exist because some people can only get off if they're ruining someone else's Wholesome Fighting Game Fun.
I can't, not really. Golden Fantasia, or Ougon for short, achieves everything it sets out to be: a VN tie-in tag fighter loaded with fanservice, stacked high with big buttons and powerful mechanics for anime game fanatics to sink their teeth into. Movement is crisp and fast, the spritework is servicable, the soundtrack's a standout collection of Umineko's best, and the netcode is reportedly incredible. If you're a fan of the VNs or looking for something to tide you over until BBTAG, you'll probably love it. Also, I probably hate you.
Zari0t: Easily my favourite best worst fightan ever. It's too polished to be straight-ass kusoge, but it's mechanically convoluted enough to be kusoge at the same time and has the classic fucked-up hitboxes to boot. I was actually relatively close to removing it from the list in the couple of days leading up to the start of the KAC, but the announcement of the Steam release made me change my mind on that. I don't think anything was left unshown for this one other than the Harder Than SNK Boss and I guess Willard doing Willard things. Netcode's still godlike. Play it.
#9: Digimon Battle Spirit
I go into every game on the calendar blind. This has a lot of obvious advantages, like being really fucking funny, but there is one disadvantage: it is very easy to troll me into playing games like Digimon Battle Spirit, which is not a fighting game.
Like, okay. There are two characters. They hit each other with attacks in order to make progress towards winning. Blocking exists, throws exist, throws can't be blocked. If you want to argue that Battle Spirit is a fighting game, that's pretty much what you've got. Maybe there's something to be said for that laissez-faire approach.
I don't buy it. I spent 95% of my time with the game chasing down little blue orbs scattered all over the uncomfortably large stages, like an infinitely less graceful version of Super Smash Bros. coin battles. If this is a fighting game, then Pop-Tarts are sandwiches, MS Paint is a video editor, and Noel Brown is a respectable member of the FGC.
For what it is, I don't even think Battle Spirit is that bad. The music's dated, basically a 1-to-1 port of the Wonderswan version, and the controls are pretty stiff, but...man, it's a Digimon game. Does any of this actually matter? Can I go home?
Sleepmode: Smash clones peaked with Digimon Rumble Arena 2, and we very well couldn't give TyroneSama the best we had to offer, now, could we?
Keegan: You might be wondering why I added something that seems to even barely be a fighting game. You might expect me to tell you about some hidden depth, or some bit of the game's design that I found interesting. Maybe you'd want to hear an interesting bit of history behind this game, or its development, or its design. But that won't happen. I added this game out of a deep love for two things:
2. Making TyroneSama suffer
Thank you for your time.
#10: Toy Fighter
<Abbock> god naomi operator menus are such shit <Abbock> ok, so it's a 3 button game <Abbock> 1: punch <Abbock> 2: kick <Abbock> 3: UNIVERSAL SYSTEM MECHANIC THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE BLOCKING.....
Remember when Genki made a spiritual successor to Fighter's Destiny centered around knockoff dollar-store toys? Neither do I, and according to some Google searches, neither does anyone else.
For those of you who missed out on Fighter's Destiny, Toy Fighter carries over a lot of the same spirit, starting with the unusual round system. Depleting your opponent's life bar is worth one point. Landing a single throw is worth twice that amount, but defenders can reverse throws with a well-timed input, but the attacker can reverse the reversal, but the defender can break the re-reversal...no wonder these guys went on to make UFC games. Finally, landing an unwieldy and slow super gets you 3 points on the spot. Get five points, win the game.
The Mystery Button is a dodge button. While holding it, you channel your inner SNK boss, instantly backswaying all highs and hopping all lows, but helpless versus mids and throws—which is pretty scary, considering throws are worth twice a full life bar. It's a really bizzare mixup, but it's a servicable pseudo-replacement for sidesteps and lends itself well to the game's weighty controls.
Moving around is clumsy and overly committal, and you'll likely spend more time point-blank in your opponent's face than playing anything resembling neutral. But Toy Fighter's made with care, it's got a great soundtrack, and chained throw reversals are some of the hypest shit I've seen in a long time. If you can get a NAOMI emulator set up, give it a shot.
Abbock: A smorgasbord of Good Fighting Game Ideas. Got this installed at the arcade I work at just yesterday. Some regulars and I experimented a bit with the systems and had a great time.
It has a completely insane air tech system. press P+K while being juggled, and you can catch an opponent's attack with an unbreakable throw (that means 2 life points for reading their juggle timing!) but you suffer a ground bounce if you mistime or they don't attack you. In the 3 hours I played this game with arcade regulars, the air tech was only successfuly performed once.
Also strange is what the game calls "special counters", which you can think of like a fatal counter. There are moves with blue trails that do a decent damage, but have reactable startup and horrible recovery that don't make it worth it. However, getting a counter hit with these attacks results in like... over 50% damage. goddamn.
#11: Battle Stadium D.O.N
I thought I was done with wackass GameCube Naruto games after Gekitō Ninja Taisen! 4. That is the wrongest I've ever been about anything in my entire life.
Battle Stadium D.O.N is a platform fighter, a godless crossover between Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto—thus the name. You unlock characters by playing a slot machine, which gives you gacha tickets that give you a chance to unlock a different character. Items are always on, even in training mode, and the tug-of-war health bars make it possible for games to go literally forever: that is, unless you're playing a team mode, in which case everyone has shared HP and can die to a single dial-A combo. I guess you could call it a party game, if your idea of a party is getting together with your old high school friends and snorting ground-up Shonen Jump.
Out of every platform fighter I've ever played, D.O.N controls the worst, no contest. It's clumsy enough on the ground, sure, but that's nothing compared to how BEYOND FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE it is to control in the air, where you're inevitably doomed to keep reattatching to the same goddamn ledge from half the screen away. Even with functionally unlimited airdashes (they drain your super meter, which completely fails to be a real restriction), getting around the screen is a fucking chore. And that's if you can even figure out where you are to begin with, since the overly-sensitive camera keeps all 4 characters right at the edges of the screen, no matter what's going on.
The game doesn't look bad, and the cast has some interesting quirks, like Frieza's utterly terrifying airdash angle. If you could turn off items, it might even be somewhat interesting to lab, with universal jump-cancels opening up some creative routes. But even if you care about the fanservice, it won't make up for how disorienting and frustrating it is to play D.O.N at a basic level. If you want the authentic experience, just search around for a few combo videos and take the ambience in.
VEGETA VEGETA VEGETA
five buttons into win
gacha character unlocks
#12: Twinkle Queen
Twinkle Queen's painfully generic character designs are easy to explain; it's a crossover fighter, and most of the cast was shoved onto the character select screen from various visual novels or eroge, black holes of time and effort devoid of all creative value. But that doesn't explain...whatever this is.
I thought that was an emulation glitch, but that's actually how the game looks. Those are actually SNES-style prerenders in a Wii game, and they look even worse in motion, lifeless animatronic dolls smeared through a low-resolution texture. Sure, using low-budget 3D makes sense if your budget is tight, but that's not what this is about. This is about MileStone Inc., a group of ex-Compile devs with years of development experience, making a full set of character models and then forgetting that 7th-generation consoles can display realtime 3D. Maybe there was something in the water.
The system's fairly straightforward. Light-medium-heavy chains, a universal metered dash cancel, and a Mystery Button that turned out to be a weak and awkward parry. This feels like the sort of game that ought to have airdashes, but it doesn't, which left me feeling sort of disappointed (a pattern that Twinkle Queen is happy to repeat). There are ostensibly some tag mechanics, but none of them really change the formula, and there's a tacked-on 4-player mode that plays like an even less graceful version of Guilty Gear Isuka.
Every normal converts into pressure on hit or block, which already makes the game sort of a homogenous mess, but a handful of system quirks caught my eye as I played around. Some normals force crouch for no clear reason, the spotty infinite protection has no consistent rules, and projectile limits cause some...interesting issues with command normals. Oh, and we got the training dummy to slide two screens by nudging the training mode settings during blockstun. $10 bounty for anyone who can explain how that happened.
Nothing about the baseline design is broken per se, and after enough time staring, you eventually become desensitized to the blurry, awkward visuals. Even then, the whole thing has this uncomfortable air to it, like waiting in an airport and suddenly wondering whether you still have your boarding pass. It's not that any single thing is wrong with Twinkle Queen, though many things are—it's that absolutely nothing's right.
Abbock: I'm not really sure how or why this game came to be. I downloaded the iso the week the game came out because I wanted another fighting game for my softmodded Wii. My friends and I were disappointed but also somehow thrilled with the result.
#13: En-Eins Perfektewelt
Here's the photo negative of Twinkle Queen. It's a 4-button fighter, light-medium-heavy-parry, with an unorthodox cast and simple, straightforward mechanics. That's where the similarities end—in every way that Twinkle Queen was uncomfortable and disappointing, En-Eins Perfektewelt is actually pretty damn good.
Let's get the most important thing out of the way. Yes, that is a bright purple tank with an extendable skull head. That's Blitztank, and it's a playable character. If you're not already sold on this game, feel free to close this window and go fill some values into a spreadsheet, or whatever you do to distract yourself from the fact that your black, shriveled heart is incapable of feeling joy.
En-Eins is fast. You move fast, you swing fast, and you die fast. I think that's what I appreciate about it the most; in most games, an all-or-nothing desperation super treats you to 30 seconds of cutscene, but in En-Eins, it's barely longer than a normal special move, and you still fucking die when it hits you. It's quick to wrap your head around, too, with simple mechanics and short combos—and three different autocombos, one for each button, just in case.
The visuals can be a little disorienting at first, and the character designs feel pretty disjointed (supposedly this is a series outlier, I don't give a shit), but overall it feels pretty good all around. Apart from the best character in the history of fighting games, it doesn't even seem to have that much jank to go over. If you can find a cab or set up a NESICA wrapper, give it some time and explore for yourself.
Sleepmode: The only fighting game visually louder than The King of Fighters XI; a photocopy visually, but more of a photo negative mechanically. This game draws a lot of ire from ABK fans because of the unbelievable tonal shift in its aesthetic (that admittedly doesn't really even match the art style of the returning ABK characters), but the simple addition of a double jump really adds a significant extra layer of diversity to the parry game, making it feel like a real evolution of the formula. Definitely one of the least taxing NESICA ports you can play.
Zari0t: So I stand corrected. This game really shouldn't have been on the Calendar, but I really don't like how not-ABK it is—it's ST with autocombos and doublejumps, that just...feels wrong to me. At the same time, however, I'm glad it made it in because we got to witness Blitztank in all its glory. [insert teabagging tank here]
There are a few nuances to Reflector (parry) and the juggle system that weren't quite made apparent - successful air reflectors done close enough to the ground can actually ground your character earlier than normal, allowing for safe(r)jumps sometimes? It's weird. And juggles, well, anything can be used to juggle the opponent, but only specific moves or air-hitting the opponent twice force a juggle state. This leads to some of the hypest and silliest looking loops in the game.
Expect Aufs-Achse next year? Maybe?
#14: KemoFre Fight!
Whenever I think about KemoFre Fight!, my brain instantly starts to cloud with white noise. Maybe that's because despite its ostentatious presentation, I've never had a game make such a lukewarm impression before. Or maybe Keegan's right and that's just tinnitus. 50/50.
KemoFre Fight! continues the proud Kusoge Advent Calendar tradition of ear-splittingly painful experiences made in fighting game creation kits. It's ostensibly based on the Kemono Friends anime, but since I'm the only living human who hasn't seen it yet, I won't comment. Regardless of your anime habits, it's a 100FPS disaster with virtually zero volume leveling and ludicrously broken gamepad support, hitting every classic hallmark of Fighter Maker.
The entire cast is cute girls designed after different animals (roughly a 10% on the Chester the Cheetah Furry Index, relax). They're all blatant expys of notable fighting game characters; you're going to pick them according to your favorite franchise, succumb to about half an hour of watching a girl with a raccoon tail calling Log Trap, close the game and nurse your bleeding ears.
It's a fast-paced system, with incredibly strong movement and easy execution across the entire cast. No high/low blocking, Fantasy Strike style, which is a mercy considering the universal fastfall. 5AAAA autocombos have automatic dashing followups, linking into themselves until the opponent guesses the right direction to break. Sadly, the universally stubby normals leave the cast feeling kinda homogenous—an indistinct blur of piercing, squeaky-voiced fighting game references. Except for Toki, who is literally Toki from Hokuto No Ken. One of her supers (and her reversal) is an ear-piercing scream several times louder than any single sound effect in the game. Her other super is...
Which I guess is kinda cool.
Sleepmode: There are two things you need to know about this game: its subtitle is "The Kemono of Friends" (which probably won some points in Keegan's book, but whether they were kept is another question entirely), and it was developed by the same team responsible for the Strip Fighter series. I'll let you make your own judgements on that one.
Zari0t: I was sold on it when I first saw "Literally Toki".
Keegan: I don't care how many cool fighting game characters you parody, if it's in something as offensive to every single sense as this you can keep it.
A brief overview of this week:
- Zari0t submits a game, claims it's good, it's shit
- Zari0t submits a game, claims it's shit, it's great
- Zari0t submits a game, claims it's good, it's shit
- Keegan submits Digimon: Battle Spirit
I spent the majority of Week 2 being tricked and lied to. In retrospect, I'm actually starting to appreciate the amount of work that went into arranging and framing these games in the most psychologically incomprehensible way possible.
Fortunately, the rest of the list contains no tricks. Actually, I'm lying. There's at least one, but it was honestly my own damn fault.
Continued in Part 3 (TBA)