"When you think of the excellent developer known as Treasure and their small library of Mega Drive games, which titles spring to mind? Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy are probably the two titles that instantly spring to mind which is understandable. Those two games were easily the most popular out of the handful of titles but one that truly deserves to stand side by side with those two games is another title that was pushed into the darkness of obscurity. A fighting game that boasts one of th..."
When you think of the excellent developer known as Treasure and their small library of Mega Drive games, which titles spring to mind? Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy are probably the two titles that instantly spring to mind which is understandable. Those two games were easily the most popular out of the handful of titles but one that truly deserves to stand side by side with those two games is another title that was pushed into the darkness of obscurity. A fighting game that boasts one of the most innovative methods of play that is only just being mimicked now:
Simultaneous four -player mode!
In Yu Yu Hakusho, you can have up to four fighters on the screen at once, if you have the correct hardware. However, the chances are that you wonít be able to track down the two joypad connectors required to enable multiplayer mode. Itís too bad because this mode is incredibly enjoyable and delightfully manic. Can you imagine playing Street Fighter 2 with four players? If you take that thought, extract the trademark moves and characters, and replace them with a host of original and bizarre fighters then youíll get the idea. Itís a definite experience to go through but the cost and hardware requirements may shamefully prevent you from playing it for yourself.
We have a diverse and bizarre cast of characters to choose from. The High school dropout, Urameshi is the main character so he plays as an all-round fighter, great for beginners and experts alike. His rival, Kuwabara is somewhat slower and stronger than Urameshi and uses a strange energy sword that he uses to cut his foes. We also have a strange host of demons to choose from such as Jin, a horned creature that attacks with the wind and Hiei, an Ice Demon and an expert swordsman. A few tree hugger fighters use the power of the forest to their advantage. Kurama can summon big plants to pop out of the ground and take her opponent down and another character can turn himself into branches and vines to to poke and whip foes into submission. We have another hulking creature that is half man/half-tree who uses his slow and steady power moves to dish out the damage in his fights.
Apart from its brilliant character balance, YYH has a few original features that make it stand out from your typical fighter. You can parry many attacks using two universal moves: one allows leaping backwards to edge of the screen, avoiding any close range attacks and another allows you to jump into the background to avoid projectiles. Imagine the ecstasy as your opponent charges towards you with a powerful punch yet you parry it with ease by jumping into the background. He follows and hurls a big ass fireball towards you but you flip back with ease and jump into the foreground.
We also have an energy bar that allows you to pull off stronger special moves. It starts at its maximum that enables you to go all out at the beginning of a battle but each special move you use will eat up your energy bar so in order to revive this lost energy you must hold down any of the attack buttons. Your character will pause and start to restore his energy supply, which goes up quite fast, enabling you to fight more viciously. It may be a little awkward when you have to retreat from the battle to replenish lost energy but you wonít be complaining when you pull off your ultimate attack and knock your opponent around the block.
That may sound a little complicated but after playing the game once, you will be dodging all over the place and pulling out combos like there is no tomorrow. Charge forward, grab your foe and fling him into the air. Then, blast him with a Ki attack before he hits the ground. Heíll get up, unleash a set of fireballs towards you and your leap backwards, and sidestep the blast. Quickly, lunge towards your foe, unleash a four-punch combo on him, and elbow him so hard that he goes flying into the side of the screen. When he gets up, still dazed from your ferocious attacks charge up a killer final Ki attack that knocks his dazed body to the ground. Think of that scenario again, but after its just taken crack and youíll get a sketchy picture of Yu Yu Hakusho.
Aside from the standard arcade style one player mode and the basic multiplayer fights, we have a handful of extra matches to keep the play flowing. You can choose a basic one on one match that generates a random opponent for you or you can have two vs. two matches. Two on two matches are the root of the multiplayer fun of Yu Yu Hakusho. Read the above paragraph and imagine it with two battles going on in the same screen. Lastly, we also have a practice mode, which is quite handy for beginners as it allows them to get used to the unusual fighting style that Yu Yu Hakusho uses.
Yu Yu Hakusho has some brilliant and vibrant visuals that make the game stand out from regular Mega Drive titles. Everything is so damn bright and colourful, even the darker stages have a ton of life in them. A few of the stages that really stand out are the stadium, which has the sun setting over it. The way the level goes from day to night looks fantastic. Another stage is set in space and show various parts of a destroyed satellite floating around and a bizarrely placed plane (What the hell is a plane doing in space?) The character sprites are also bright and detailed, conveying each of the characters vividly. The determination of Yusuke and Kuwabara as they begin to fight looks fantastic and the sinister stance of the smaller Toguru (the guy who can turn into a tree) is enough to fill you with anxiety.
The game also has a ton of voice samples, especially for a Genesis game. Every character has a handful of phrases that they shout when they perform a special move or when they win the fight. Everything is in Japanese so be prepared for a ton of high-pitched screams and shouts that echo through the battlefield. It all sounds like gibberish but thatís what anime fighters are all about, characters yelling death threats in Japanese and throwing fireballs at each other. We also have a nice set of tunes for battle although the majority of them are just your standard action tracks and none of them are too memorable. None of them are going to haunt our memories for hours after play but theyíre still decent and enjoyable tunes.
Yu Yu Hakusho is an outstanding fighter that stands up well to the test of time. Finding the game and the extra hardware may be a little tricky and somewhat expensive but itís an importers dream come true. The four-player mode is so damn innovative and has yet to unrivalled today. Not even Capcom or SNK have tried to emulate it yet which is quite strange considering it was introduced over ten years ago. If you have not read any of the manga or youíve not even seen the anime then donít worry about it, the game doesnít have a story relating to the series so you donít need to know anything about it before you play. Forget all of the arcade rundowns of more popular games and play Yu Yu Hakusho for one of the most interesting and original titles from the 16-bit era.
Community review by goldenvortex (July 20, 2005)
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