"Pummel your opponent for a few seconds and build your Super Meter up to 100 percent, unlocking the ominously-named Kero Kero Anger or ferocious twirling pom-pom attacks! The Super Meter isn't a new invention, but Asuka takes it to the ludicrous extreme... because it doesn't stop at 100 percent! The meter keeps filling all the way up to 120% Burning."
...is not in this game! The Asuka series broke new fighting game ground by taking the "beautiful girls duke it out" theme without turning it into a "rape the loser" sperm-fest. What were world-famous developers Fill in Cafe thinking?! From the creators' own admission, this series aspired to rank alongside the very best -- alongside the mighty Street Fighter 2 -- and Asuka 120% Special Burning Fest does just that with its charming characters, smooth animation, classic music, and awesome gameplay!
This is actually the fifth incarnation of Asuka, right behind the Turbo CD's also-excellent Burning Fest Maxima. In her best imitation of the divinely talented Aoi Nanase, new girl on the block Atsuko Ishida takes over as character designer, keeping the tradition of female artistic influence alive. Her vibrantly colored art gives the packaging a snappier, saucier feel... although the game itself preserves Nanase's heavenly sketches from 120% Maxima.
Asuka's story draws on the long-standing institution of the Japanese "Culture Fest". This is a school festival where each student group sponsors a play or performance or some other showing of their cultural identity. Ryouran Girl's Academy is a bit different -- they have a Burning Fest, capped off by the "Mega Fight Tournament" where each club sends a representative to battle for school supremacy! The two biggest rivals are AsukaHondaand KarinaToyota but the Headmaster's daughter, tennis queen Tamaki, is expected to win it all.
Expected by everyone but ME! I refuse to accept defeat at the hands of Tamaki's blistering dynamite serve secret arts attack. The biology club's superstar Karina, along with her froggy little friend Kero-Pyon, will dominate because she's the best best best!
Karina: "There's no fight we can't fight... together! Together, we can win!"
My adoration of Karina is all because of her scholarly intellect -- it's got nothing to do with her way-too-long but super-cute ponytail. Aside from Karina and her best friend Asuka, who's studying the darkest secrets of chemistry under the firm tutelage of her mysterious mentor Tetsuko (translated: IRON GIRL!), most of the ladies represent one sports team or another. Softball star Kiyoko's quite a cutie, showing off her short hair and short shorts as she plops her mitt on her head, winds up, and slams a home run straight into cheerleader Megumi's soft stomach! The characters are so memorable that JAST actually abducted rhythmic gymnast Kumi (in name, body, and profession) and forced her to perform the naughty "forbidden drill" in Three Sisters' Story.
So when Satan takes a break from his starring role in Puyo Puyo to tempt you with lame chick fighters like Advanced Variable Geo or Pretty Fighter X, when Satan promises "personality" and "smooth 2D animation", know that he speaks in snake-tongued LIES. No one else -- except Capcom or SNK -- ever matched Asuka's spirit, and even those juggernauts never matched the shadows... oh those shadows! Although Asuka Special's raw graphical quality doesn't even come close to its own sequels (or the Darkstalkers series), it's got these awesome shadows that actually twist and bend to match the girls' innocently violent actions. It's 120 percent cooler than the flickering grey circles found in most other 2D fighters (even the good ones).
Since Asuka Special basically amounts to "Maxima Deluxe", Fill in Cafe pilfered and remixed Yonao Keishi's masterful dance-style soundtrack from the Turbo CD game. It's even capped off by the same classic vocal version of "Always 120%". Between the fast-paced music and the energetic announcer with the cute accent, it's hard not to get excited about playing a few rounds of Asuka.
It's even harder once you pummel your opponent for a few seconds and build your Super Meter up to 100 percent, unlocking the ominously-named Kero Kero Anger or ferocious twirling pom-pom attacks! The Super Meter isn't a new invention, but Asuka takes it to the ludicrous extreme... because it doesn't stop at 100 percent! The meter keeps filling all the way up to 120% Burning. You'll know you've hit 120 percent because the meter disappears and is replaced by a fist wrapped in the FLAMES OF HELL -- prepare to unleash honorable justice on your victim!
Along with its awesome twist on the standard Super Meter, Asuka Special comes with a lot of other cool gimmicks. It's got dashes, double jumps (that can reverse direction in mid-air!), parries, throws, projectile attacks, and combinations that can be custom-linked into extra-powerful juggles. Best of all, the game plays like a dream; if I had to liken the control to a similar title, I'd pick King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999. As though to rub its own awesomeness in your face, whenever you perform a particularly powerful attack, the word SMASH!! sprays itself across the screen in bright bold double-exclaimed letters, like this:
So basically Asuka 120% Special Burning Fest rules... but its sequels rule even more! Asuka 120% Excellent adds an awesome quest mode, Asuka 120% Limited is on Saturn (everything is cooler on Saturn), and Asuka 120% Final kicks every other PlayStation fighting game's butt. If its superior sequels weren't so easy to find, I'd recommend Asuka 120% Special without a second thought, but they are easy to find, so you may want to think twice before putting your money down. Mark my words: People who ignore my advice and buy this inexpensive, easy-to-grasp import are doomed to spend hours in ecstacy!
Staff review by Zigfried (April 06, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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