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Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm (PC) artwork

Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm (PC) review

"Old-School Sensibilities. "

Learn to parry. Since Street Fighter III came along, inviting attacks to parry and counter has become a part of versus fighters everywhere, but I’m not sure any have committed to it as hard as Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm does. It’s understandable; one third of the three-person indie development team (all of whom have various degrees of experience within King of Fighters development) was a SFIII tourney fighter, and the influences of his love are plain to see. But forget all that "press forward instead of back to parry" nonsense; Yatagarasu has dedicated two of its six buttons to act as high or low parries.

Hell, it even has pseudo-parries. Get stuck in a chain combo and you can reduce the damage inflicted on your helpless character by guessing what kind of attack you’re going to be pummeled with next and copying the corresponding button. Get it right and you’ll take reduced damage, which is the difference between slumping defeated in the corner and coming out of a chain alive and ready to counter. They’re both systems of worth within Yatagarasu's old-school aesthetics, leaning away from the encyclopaedic move lists of Marvel or Guilty Gear and expecting you to instead exist within violent bursts of sudden damage, little bubbles of aggression you either fall foul of or successfully defend against. Learn to parry and you can carve yourself a window that will last probably less then a second, but which can give you the opportunity to turn the tide. Get it wrong, hit the wrong parry, and get punished.

Rolling with the huge risk/reward aspect and turning these moments to your advantage is extremely gratifying and feels as eloquently balanced as it should. In one form or another, Yatagarasu is a game that’s been kicking around since 2008; there’s a Vita port being planned under a different sub-header, and a competitive arcade version has been available in Japan for a while now. Attack on Cataclysm has added a few new cast members, though, bolstering a roster that once only offered two very similar fighters (this game’s version of Ryu and Ken) until now it boasts a more impressive eleven. The fireball-hurling Shoto-style pair is joined by giant grapplers who execute fiddly 360° pad rotations to bust out powerful throws and pile drivers (much like old chum Zangief), Geese-like Reppuken users, mid-air specialists, unashamed Dudley clones and girls with swords. It is an interesting dynamic that the females cast come to the party armed for the most part, changing the way you have to play them. Rather than throwing out rapid-fire attacks, swordswoman Hina must rely on ‘charge time’ specials, which see you holding Back or Down for a second before completing the attack input and launching an attack that consists of a sword-slashing charge or a flying uppercut. The entire cast is there from the start with no need to unlock anyone.

There are two differing Arcade modes. One of them lets you play through a selected character plot arc as is standard, while the second instead has you take an avatar through the game’s over-branching plot as well as the expected options. Versus lets you take on local players and a very competent practise arena helps you learn moves or construct your own combos. Net-play is an option with some commendable social media choices included, and it is only slightly confusing on launch with the developers promising to make it better down the road. The interface works already, though, and allowed me to stroll online as a complete novice and get destroyed in seconds by people who have been playing the game for years… but that’s okay. Some of the net coding in similar games wishes it worked as well as Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm does, which makes me feel slightly better about my embarrassing string of losses. I managed to turn the tide come release, as respectably full lobbies at last were populated by people as fresh as me. That environment offered a more even playing field.

There’s also an in-game commentary mode that originally featured three of the top Japanese tourney fighters springing up to lay in lines of smack-talk or excuses, but this has been updated to include their North American counterparts. They are selectable at the start of each game, and once chosen will pop up now and then to share some thoughts. It’s a nice touch, but doesn’t really add a huge deal to the game. Someone’s face popping up and mocking you for attack spamming, or complaining that their character was only a split second too late in executing a game-changing counter isn’t something you’ll often have time to look out for. You know, what with the massive guy with a mask running towards you and threatening to suplex you into oblivion, or the ninja chick jumping off the side of the screen towards you.

Some people will have issues with the fixed 4:3 640x480 resolution and the lack of widescreen support, and though I can understand the complaint since this is a 2015 release, I’m certainly not one of them. Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm wears its retro inspirations proudly, boasting some excellent pixel animation. It’s a game that obviously hankers for the versus titles of old and has tried to capture the best of that by rebuilding it from the ground up, adding innovations along the way. It’s a commendable effort, and it's a blast to play the type of game that ate so much of my childhood, now served to me with some measure of modernisation. There’s a place in this world for Yatagarasu, a real labour of love developed by people who openly adore this genre and (happily) are talented and driven enough to give back to it.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 09, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted January 04, 2016:

Nice review, Gary. I'm gonna give this one a try thanks to your year in review feature, which brought me to the review in the first place.
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EmP posted January 04, 2016:

I've not played this in ages. I'll probably be awful now as so much of it is timing based. Nudge me if you get it and I'll boot up the netplay again.

Thanks for (eventually!) reading.

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