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Joy Mech Fight (NES) artwork

Joy Mech Fight (NES) review

"Joy Mech Fight has been criminally neglected."

I wasn't expecting Joy Mech Fight to be good. It's on an 8-bit system and lived in the shadow of Street Fighter II. I didn't see how it was technologically possible; the NES's sprite and video limitations does not allow the pixel accuracy and smooth frame rate necessary for a good fighting game.

But the NES never ceases to amaze me.

Let me set the stage: the year is 20XX! Noah from Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Benny Lava are friends <3 and have started an ice cream shop together. One day a batch of "Nutty Banana Hammock" goes horribly wrong and they create a robot named Sprinkles. Benny Lava, blinded by his sun glasses, forms an army of evil robots and starts taking over the world. Noah and Sprinkles do the only thing they can; challenge Benny Lava to a robot fighting tournament on the moon!1

You don't need to know Japanese to enjoy this game; JMF is a visual masterpiece of 6502 assembly that transcends language barriers. Instead of using frame-based sprite animation, each character is a collection of smaller sprites that float together. This technique allows for liquid smooth animation and pixel perfect hit detection. JMF is one of the most fluid 2D fighters I've ever played, which is an astounding feat for an 8-bit system.

JMF is relatively straight forward. A and B punch and kick, and they can be combined with a directional button for a stronger punch or kick. Each character also has four special moves, and you can see how to execute them in a tutorial available on the character select screen. There's a giant picture of a controller in the tutorial, so anyone can figure it out.

JMF follows the the "easy to pick up, difficult to master" mantra that inspired Super Smash Bros years later. The attention to detail in design is nothing short of brilliant, and while 8 of the game's thirty-six playable characters--yes, thirty-six characters--are palette swaps with identical moves, the rest have their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and moves.

Special moves are short and require no directional input (which would be a pain on a D-pad--a point many fighting games ported to console forgot). Many of the button inputs are also portable across characters (e.g. down + A is a projectile for several fighters), so it is trivial to pick up a new move set. The question won't be how to execute a move but rather when is the most effective moment to use it.

Many special moves have minor variations that make a big difference. For example, Flame has a rolling attack (down -> back + A) that moves in a low arc; if you swap A for the B button, the attack will arc upwards instead. Projectiles are another good example. If you push forward when launching one, it will move faster; pushing back has the opposite effect. It's minor details like this that reward experimentation and practice with finer control over your fighter of choice. And unlike many fighting games, you don't need to print out a list from GameFAQs.

The two main modes are story and versus. The AI is somewhat competent, though will fall victim to patterns now and then. Story mode has 3 difficulties and pits you against all of the fighters in the game. The AI will actually change tactics between its lives (for example, it might go on a sudden offensive or introduce a move that it wasn't using before), which prevents the player from getting lazy and spamming a cheap move.

Joy Mech Fight has been criminally neglected. It's not just well designed, it's not just well balanced, it's not just easy to learn, it doesn't just offer depth, and it isn't just technically amazing--it's fun as hell. It's one of the few games in the NES library that lends itself well to group play. New players can easily join in, but experts will be rewarded over button mashers.

Many NES games need to be qualified by when they were released. For example, Super Mario Bros was a great game in 1985, and is now "great for its time". Joy Mech Fight needs no such excuses. It's good right now, and can still hold it's own against modern fighting games. If you have the ability to play Famicom imports, move this to the top of your wishlist right now.

1 I don't speak Japanese, so this is based on the cut scenes.


dagoss's avatar
Community review by dagoss (July 20, 2012)

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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 24, 2012:

Great review, dagoss! I may have to check this game out when I get a chance. The explanation of the game's plot is completely full of win.

BTW, second paragraph:

"...have started are friends <3"

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zippdementia posted July 25, 2012:

I pretty much love this review. Out of curiousity, and not to get into a discussion of scoring, but what kept you from awarding a 10 score?
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dagoss posted July 25, 2012:

Nothing really specific. I think they did everything with the genre they could have done with the hardware at hand. To give a game 10/10 though, I think it has to be so good and so original that it makes me shit my pants.
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zippdementia posted July 25, 2012:

Got it. I like that scoring system. The amount of shit in your pants is equal to the amount of points awarded. It's simple and effective. I may adopt it, with your permission.
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dagoss posted July 25, 2012:

Just be careful; you don't want to confuse the shit in your pants with a shitty game.

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