Pocket Fighter (PlayStation) review
"There has never been nor will there ever be again another fighting game quite like this. For you see, Pocket Fighter is unique. Pocket Fighter is special. Pocket Fighter is whacked out Japanese lunacy pumped up on 'shrooms and put through a fanboy themed blender. It's everything that a true Capcom fanatic could ever want in a fighter, and nothing anyone else would even come close to understanding. At first glance, you may think that you get it. It's a 2d one on one fighter isn't it? As close as ..."
There has never been nor will there ever be again another fighting game quite like this. For you see, Pocket Fighter is unique. Pocket Fighter is special. Pocket Fighter is whacked out Japanese lunacy pumped up on 'shrooms and put through a fanboy themed blender. It's everything that a true Capcom fanatic could ever want in a fighter, and nothing anyone else would even come close to understanding. At first glance, you may think that you get it. It's a 2d one on one fighter isn't it? As close as you are to enlightenment Grasshopper, you must first go deeper than that. Open your mind and let your eyes fall upon its glorious absurdity. Observe its simplicity, bathe in its technique, enjoy its originality. This is what the jaded gamer would call a breath of fresh air. All the energy and excitement one has come to expect from the best fighting code shop in the business, with none of those pesky pre-established genre standards that we've all seen a hundred times before. Hello originality, it's nice to meet you innovation... welcome to the next round.
Round #1... Fight!
So what is it that makes Pocket Fighter so unusual? Well, it certainly isn't how it remains as faithful to the one on one formula as newly weds on their honeymoon. And for that matter, the way Capcom have brought together a diverse range of characters from some of their best fighters has also been done before. When Pocket Fighter breaks from the mold however it does so with such explosive fanboy pleasing force that one really needs to step back from the screen in order to take it all in. Superficially speaking at least, players can expect to be wowed by some of the most pleasing cartoon style visuals the genre has ever seen. This is in part due to the decision to present each of the 12 characters in a super deformed fashion. For the otaku impaired among us, what this means is that everyone from Sakura to Ryu and Felicia have been shrunk down to pint sized proportions. It's big eyes, little mouth, uber cute anime style designs all the way. Not only does this imbue Pocket Fighter with a wholly unique look, but it also works wonderfully well within the context of the action...
... which just so happens to be totally and utterly insane. As combo attacks are shot off in rapid fire succession, players will no doubt be surprised to see their chosen character go through a series of quick transformations. While Chun-Li may begin her attack wearing her usual blue Chinese dress, the combo won't be complete until she's changed appearance a number of times, ultimately culminating with her looking like Resident Evil's Jill Valentine... handgun and all. Bikinis, police uniforms and bunny girl suits, it's pure Japanese inspired fetish madness. Could another culture have possibly come up with such a concept? I think not. Though purely cosmetic, these costume transformations look great while the more hardcore of fans will surely get a kick out of the many tips of the hat Capcom have shown to their previous triumphs. Make no mistake about it, Pocket Fighter is a game that is infinitely more appealing if the player has an extensive prior knowledge of gaming fandom..
Round #2... Fight!
It's with the unique visuals in place that Capcom have taken to re-arranging the standard one on one gameplay into something that can only be described as ingenious. Gone are the genre's standard variable strength attacks, in their place now lies a beautifully streamlined system that utilizes all of 3 buttons and a single taunt. Don't let this apparent simplicity put you off however as in typical Capcom fashion, Pocket Fighter has all the technique of a 9th degree Black Belt. Punch and kick attacks can be chained together with the greatest of ease, while the guard busting charge attack ensures that players who defend too much are kept on their toes. And of course when push comes to shove, there's always the patented Capcom special attacks to fall back upon. Dragon punches, cyclone kicks, and fireballs of all shapes and sizes... except this time there's going to be a lot more strategy involved other than simply timing an effective counter attack...
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of Pocket Fighter's gameplay is its freshly implemented system of gem based power-ups. Though players begin the game on an equal footing, each of their 3 special attacks can be powered up at anytime by collecting the gems that lay strewn across the 2d battlefield. When this happens, the already strategic punch swinging fireball tossing action begins to take on a whole new dimension. Whereby two colliding fireballs may have cancelled each other out in the past, a level 3 fireball will now absorb a lesser one before impacting upon the opposing player. Though for much of the time the action is still spent battling back and forth across the screen, the presence of these gems can create something resembling a mad dash for cash as players constantly attempt to one up each other. All that power, all those gems... it's time to get collecting! Yes it's a simple concept, but it's also innovative, original and above all else, a hell of a lot of fun.
Challenging players through all this is a competitive AI that manages to hold just the right balance of difficulty without resorting to such things as cheating or cheap hits in order to win. If getting it on alone isn't your thing however, there's always the genre standard versus mode for friends who want to stick it to each other. Yay for tradition! As good as it gets, it's unfortunate to see that Pocket Fighter's greatness has been brought down a notch or two by a character editor that brings new meaning to the term... what the hell?! Here players are expected to answer a series of questions while the Playstation selects a pre-existing character based upon their input. An interesting concept to be sure, but having named your newborn there isn't much left for you to do other than to sit back and watch them fight it out against the CPU. Oh my! It's a moderately customizable demo screen, how extremely novel! How thoroughly disappointing...
Final Round... Fight!
In comparison to its arcade based older brother, the Playstation release of Pocket Fighter is surprisingly close to perfect... even if the slow loading times put a dampener on things occasionally. Every little detail that made the arcade original a delight to play has been reproduced here for the sofa loving gamer with nothing but the utmost attention to detail. From the colorful cartoon styled backdrops to the precise controls and outrageous humor, Capcom have crafted something that long time fans are sure to view as a reward for their faithfulness. It may not have the biggest range of selectable characters ever seen and perhaps it isn't to everyone's tastes, but Pocket Fighter can still none-the-less hold its head up high as a serious one on one contender. Chain combos, reversals, super finishing moves and an excellent gem power-up system... just because it's cute doesn't mean it's any less technical. This one goes out to fighting fans and Capcom aficionados everywhere, check it out...
* The cross franchise mix of popular Capcom characters makes for some interesting match ups
* An excellent gem system allows players to power-up their characters during a fight
* Lightening fast one on one action
* The controls are spot on as always
* A perfectly balanced AI provides competition even when friends are lacking
* A good use of humor throughout keeps things interesting
* Beautifully drawn cartoon style visuals
* There are 2 hidden characters waiting to be unlocked
* A true treat for Capcom fans
* A larger selection of characters would have been appreciated
* Is that a character editor or a customizable demo? You be the judge!
* Playstation standard slow loading times are in full effect
* Pocket Fighter will sadly never receive a sequel
Community review by midwinter (August 27, 2004)
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