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Fuzzical Fighter (NES) artwork

Fuzzical Fighter (NES) review

"Perhaps these two genres just weren't meant to be mashed together and thatís why they wound up feeling as compatible as the typical Hollywood relationship."

The marriage of shooters and role-playing games is not one that a person might expect would have a high possibility of succeeding. One genre is known for its fast-paced action. Quick reflexes are needed to succeed and character customization rarely goes much further than the question of which power-ups best suit a personís play style. The other genre, meanwhile, features a much slower pace that forces players to constantly find ways to improve their partyís functionality. Perhaps that tough boss will fall because you improved your tactics, but oftentimes, victory is the simple result of running around to grind a couple levels and then trying again with that extra power.

Sigma Entertainment was not daunted by the Grand Canyon-sized gap between these two genres, though. So it is that the Famicom received Fuzzical Fighter, a game wherein you control a world-respected airship starship pilot named Mark. He drives his vessel, the Fuzzical Fighter, through eight levels as he attempts to help a group of monarchs solve problems caused by the theft of a magical stone. Before each stage, Mark will be able to visit small towns where he can spend money to buy several different kinds of upgrades to his ship. There are a ton of different weapons, as well as improved armor and boosts to the ship's speed. Additionally, you can purchase increased health and magic. If you're short on the money required to get everything you want, paying a small fee allows you to warp backwards and complete familiar stages as many times as you'd like -- in essence, grinding for goods.

And that's the gameís experience in a nutshell. There's not really anything particularly great about Fuzzical Fighter, nor does it fall victim to any blatant failings. I found a couple levels to be pretty neat and as the game progresses, things can get pretty tough. However, death isn't something to really worry about. One item that can be cheaply bought in stores allows you to warp back to the last town you visited at any time. If you find yourself a hit or two from your demise, all you have to do is select that item and you'll find yourself right next to an inn, ready to heal up before departing for another try at things. Some of the boss fights are cool, too, and they appear in a variety of forms that range from medieval things such as a wizard and dragon, to the sort of spaceships one might see in a Gradius offering.

But something is wrongÖ

Perhaps these two genres just weren't meant to be mashed together and thatís why they wound up feeling as compatible as the typical Hollywood relationship. Or perhaps the team at Sigma was simply unable to completely execute its idea. Whatever the case, Fuzzical Fighter is not all that enjoyable. Itís a decent diversion, perhaps, but nothing I'd want to return to.

The most notable issue is the way that possessing a lengthy life meter actually detracts from the whole shooter experience. Skill is the key to shooters, as you're expected to maneuver around a screen while dodging ships, bullets, walls and any number of other obstacles. A few games within the genre give a person a certain amount of room for error by allowing him or her to take a hit or two at the cost of losing weapon upgrades, but for the most part you need to have your reflexes in working order. In Fuzzical Fighter, though, you can absorb a couple dozen collisions before dying. And if that's not enough, all you need to do is collect some money to purchase armor upgrades (so that hits don't cause as much damage) or extra health (to simply take more damage) and you can then bully your way through the game, rather than relying on actual skill.

Then again, The Guardian Legend gave players a long life meter and plenty of opportunities to upgrade, and I found that game to be a lot of fun. Perhaps thatís because that other title featured some pretty fast action. In contrast, this game's horizontally-scrolling stages move at a snail's pace, which makes it take longer than it probably should to actually clear them. Quality is also a mixed bag. The third world is an interesting outer space level where there are some vividly drawn background objects, such as comets and planets. Enemy spaceships and robots are fun to fight and fit the level's theme. Moving on to the fourth world, though, you'll find yourself in this series of ugly and annoying corridors where the most dangerous adversaries are giant blocks falling out of the sky. Whenever it came time to replay levels for money to try out other weapons, that one never got selected.

As for those weapons, they make up another mixed bag that is also a bit frustrating. As you go from town to town, more options become available, with the more expensive ones being stronger. However, ďstrongerĒ doesnít always mean fun to use, or more efficient. I'd find myself going from a nice multi-directional assault to using a weapon that might be stronger, but which only fires directly in front of your ship. Meanwhile, there are no power-up icons floating around throughout any of the levels because everything is handled through the stores. There's just a certain sense of wrongness to the entire experience. Itís more logical to give players a handful of standard shooter weapons such as lasers, spread shots, wave beams and so on (both automatically, and as rewards for finishing worlds) and then to let those players spend their money to upgrade the equipment the way they want. That approach worked well in The Guardian Legend, with sub-weapons that had three separate power levels to find or purchase. It would have worked just as well here.

I spent a lot of my time thinking along those lines as I played Fuzzical Fighter. It's not a bad game by any means, only flawed enough that it leaves a person contemplating possible improvements that would have made it better. Sigma Entertainmentís developers could have made the action a bit faster. They could have put more emphasis on skill by not letting patient players pay their way out of their problems, and they could have easily improved their power-up system. Instead of a proper shooter/RPG hybrid, this feels more like a slow shooter with RPG elements forced into it, all to the detriment of the action. Itís an interesting curiosity, but overall a mediocre game that wonít give you much reason to continue playing once youíve satisfied any curiosity about how well the mixture might work.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 26, 2013)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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