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Well, the much awaited Fight for Life for the Jaguar, after months of delays and "indefinite holds, has finally arrived. As many of you may know, the storyline is basically this: eight fighters have died and gone to the afterlife. They are engaged in a fighting tournament by the GateKeeper, the winner if which gets his life back. Does this sound familiar? If you've played Eternal Champions on the Genesis, then you've heard this all before - trade in the GateKeeper for the Eternal Champion, and the storyline is almost a carbon copy. But we don't get original storylines any more anyway... nothing but rehashes of rehashes... but I digress...
Fight for Life is a one-on-one fighting game done in a 3D perspective, a'la all the recent game - VF, VF2, VF Remix, Tekken, etc... You have eight fighters to choose from, each with their own special moves and fighting techniques. It is truly a 3D fighter, as the game incorporates side stepping attacks, which is kind of nice; however, we've seen it before. What is here that we haven't seen before is the ability to "steal" two special moves from each of your defeated opponents, slowly building your fighter into a one-man army. This is really nice, adding a new element into a genre full of rehashed ideas...
So, were all the waits and delays in this game worth the wait? Well, let's dive in and see...
Mixed bag here. The backgrounds are wonderfully done - very colorful and detailed. When side-stepping, the background rotates quickly and smoothly - very nice. Blood exists in the game - but for folks who saw the "blocks 'o blood" in the E3 video, don't fret - it looks MUCH better than that now. Fighters are nicely texture-mapped, a'la Virtua Fighter Remix. However, they are also still rather blocky, and movement is somewhat stiff, a'la Virtua Fighter. Fighters also have a somewhat undefined, grainy look to them due to the extensive texture-mapping. I'm looking at it through an S-Video connection, so the only step up from here is an RGB connection. Maybe it would be better there, I just don't know. Overall, the graphics are pretty good, but just not quite "there." Fighters could still use some cleaning up and definition around the edges. I thought this would have been remedied after the long delays, but I guess I'm wrong.
Man, I really like these tunes! They're all good - fast rock with a strong backbone of a beat (read: lots of bass). The opening theme even has some singing in it, which is as clear as the singing in Cannon Fodder's opening theme (and those who have Cannon Fodder know that is clear!). Something I found odd was that, at least on some of the tunes, the music slowly goes back and forth between left and right speakers - alternating in waves, sort of. Weird.
Sound FX: 6
The sound is OK. Typical "ugh's" and "thumps" and "whacks" of most of the games in the genre. Voices of fighters are clear for the most part - only a couple of the vocal sound bites are hard to understand. Some of the voice-overs are cheesy - I really hate the "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!" of the victims of Jenny's Shove move. Really bad!
Control is pretty good. Moves are fairly easy to pull off. Although I still can't get a few of them to work, the moves are easier to execute than those of most fighters out there. Problem: incnsistent thumb-sliding for moves. For example, at times, U,L,D seems to mean just that - up, left, down - it does not always feel like sliding from the up position to the down position on the control pad works. Although it seems to get better with a lot of practice, this makes for somewhat jerky control when trying to pull off special moves. Guess the game just has a little different timing than most fighters. Another quirk is that, even though you can steal two special moves from defeated opponents, some special moves execute in the same manner. For example, both Ian's Chop Kick and Kara's Double Leg Kick are executed by pressing <Up, Down, B>. So, if you make the mistake of choosing both of these moves for you fighter, I guess you'll only get one. Francois should have thought this through a little better first, huh? On the good side, side-stepping attacks is very cool. It adds that "3-Dimensionality" to the game. The inclusion of the Avoid button rather than Block is also interesting, it seems that each fighter has their own unique ways of avoiding attacks, from rolls to flips and so on. Kinda cool.
Fun Factor/Playability: 6
I have to admit it, Next Generation's comments regarding the length of rounds is true. I'm not good at these games, so for me the slower pace is good, but it really is just too slow. Rounds can last as long as five minutes each (or more) - the pace is slow enough that I have time to look at the manual DURING ROUNDS to look up moves and how to execute them - before the other guy gets to me! Sorry, but that is just too slow of a pace. Let's hope for a turbo code or something.... This extreme slow pace of rounds is what reduced the score, even given the positives mentioned below...
I watched last year's E3 video to see the difference between that version and the final version of FFL. The final version features better texture-mapping and music. Fighters still are about as blocky as those in the E3 version, but the improved texture-mapping hides it well. Strangely enough, the E3 version seemed to move at a quicker pace than the final version. Always a tradeoff, I guess....
In summary, Fight for Life is a good attempt at 3D fighting, especially given cartridge limitations. FFL will prove to be a collector's item for the Jaguar (but I guess all Jag games are collector's items these days). However, if you have a Saturn or PlayStation, stick with Tekken or VF2, unless you're like me and just wanted a 3D fighter for the Jaguar. All in all, Fight for Life is a good game, though I've seen better elsewhere.
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