Pocket Fighter (PlayStation) review
"It finally happened. After years of selling Street Fighter II, slightly modifying it half a dozen times, re-releasing it onto various consoles, creating a prequel trilogy, three versions of a sequel, crappy movies, cartoons, action figures, and dominating the 2D fighting genre, the beloved Street Fighter series franchise jumped the shark. Of course, Capcom wasn’t ready to part with one of their most lucrative series just yet. They needed something different, something that not only captur..."
It finally happened. After years of selling Street Fighter II, slightly modifying it half a dozen times, re-releasing it onto various consoles, creating a prequel trilogy, three versions of a sequel, crappy movies, cartoons, action figures, and dominating the 2D fighting genre, the beloved Street Fighter series franchise jumped the shark. Of course, Capcom wasn’t ready to part with one of their most lucrative series just yet. They needed something different, something that not only captured the sheer awesomeness of the previous games, but something that didn’t seem like yet another version of Street Fighter II. That’s a pretty tall order. When push came to shove and the new title had to be made, Capcom’s developers must have been desperate for a decent idea. Or maybe they were just drunk with Japanese sake. Regardless of their creative sources and motivations, Capcom eventually presented the gaming world with Pocket Fighter, one of the most refreshing spins on a defunct franchise loved by so many.
For the moment, let’s pretend that the Street Fighter series doesn’t have a coherent plot. Forget about Shadaloo, Sagat’s burning desire to exact revenge over his scar, Charlie’s final fate at the hands of M. Bison, and nearly every Street Fighter character you’ve ever known. Instead, let’s take Ryu, Ken, Sakura, Ibuki, Zangief, and Chun Li, put them into non-canonical situations, throw in Morrigan, Hsien-Ko, and Felicia from Darkstalkers for a little spice, and include Akuma and Dan Hibiki as secret characters. Include a bunch of simplistic subplots, such as Ryu’s never-ending search for strong warriors, Akuma’s island being turned into a tourist trap or Ken’s obvious intention of cheating on Eliza. Toss in some cutesy graphics and flashy colors to make it stand out, and you’ve got Pocket Fighter. The result is a blend of some of the most popular Capcom fighting game characters in a fairly unusual but enjoyable crossover game.
The followers of the respective series will have no problem picking up their favorite characters and start to kick some ass. The game’s basic combat mechanics are essentially unchanged from its Street Fighter predecessors; you can still heap a flurry of punches, kicks, and throws onto your inept opponent. All of the characters feature their signature moves, be it Ken’s flaming Shoryken, Zangief’s spinning piledriver or Dan’s hilariously ineffective three-hit forward kick. Fans of the Street Fighter Alpha series will also recognize the game’s multi-tiered Super Combo system; with every hit you land on your enemy, an energy gauge will begin to fill up. Once it’s reached a certain point, you’ll be able to devastate your foes with all sorts of supercharged Hadokens, hard-hitting triple uppercuts, and all the other plenty of other moves that can empty a health bar in the blink of an eye. It’s as if Capcom decided to make Street Fighter Alpha with a few non-Street Fighter characters mixed in for the hell of it…
…Until you discover the pure insanity of Flash Combos, that is. Take Chun Li, for example. For years, she’s been able to decimate her foes with a series of lightning-fast kicks, a gravity-defying upside down spinning kick, a wimpy fireball, and unprecedented speed and agility. In Pocket Fighter, however, the self-proclaimed Strongest Woman in the World has a few new tricks up her sleeves. Should you press the right button combinations, you’ll get to see Chun Li change into a bunny suit, a police officer, a cheerleader, a circus performer, and even a gun-toting Jill Valentine wannabe. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; you’ll get to see Felicia dressed up as Mega Man, Ken riding a bucking bronco, Ryu wielding a gigantic spiked mace, Ibuki singing karaoke, and Zangief morphing into a masked luchador, complete with a steel chair and the fight bell to knock his opponents silly. All of these special attack animations don’t merely serve as references for other Capcom games, but make the game seem far more random and fun than the boring old moves from the previous games.
Such an awesome concept probably won’t sway some of the more cynical fighting game fans out there. I know what you’re thinking. Another Street Fighter Vs. Random Franchise crossover game?! Don’t worry, folks. Pocket Fighter is certainly nothing like Xmen Vs. Street Fighter, Capcom Vs. SNK, or any other multi-series fighting games that have been spoonfed to us. Instead of focusing on building teams and massive character rosters, this game spends more time on something a little less conventional: gem collecting. Every time you hit your opponents, they will drop red, blue, or yellow trinkets on the ground. Should you get the chance to swipe them, your character will eventually gather enough to level up their moves and apply certain elements to them. Ryu’s Hurricane Kick can turn from a measly little spin attack into a flaming deathtrap, or it can literally summon a mini-Hurricane to pelt his opponents with both kicks and raindrops in mere seconds. There are even a few elemental orbs that you can chuck at your enemies that can turn them to stone, turn them into flaming ashes, or freeze them in your tracks. Needless to say, this isn’t the Street Fighter you used to know.
Not only does Pocket Fighter have unusual gameplay, but it looks pretty weird too. Remember how badass Ryu was in Street Fighter II, how his muscles bulged from beneath his gi, how he practically roared with every Hadoken he slung at his pathetic opponents? That Ryu is gone. In his place, we have an incredibly deformed Mini-Me version of the hero. Instead of toned muscles and sleek bodies, the characters of Pocket Fighter look like a bunch of mutated munchkins that have taken too many steroids. Their bodies are tiny, yet their heads are huge; if you thought Dan used to look stupid, just wait till you see his inhumanly large grin and beady eyes. Despite the fighters’ laughable appearances, savvy Street Fighter fans will appreciate the amount of character cameos used for the backgrounds of the fights. You’ll get to see the deformed versions of top members of Shadaloo and Mad Gear chowing down on some ramen, Dee Jay acting as dancing bartender for Cammy and E. Honda, Dhalsim washing an elephant with his stretchy arms, and Birdie brushing his Mohawk. If all else fails, you can watch M. Bison use his Psycho Power to go sledding through a winter wonderland.
Pocket Fighter is a wonderfully wacky game. It takes a handful of popular characters from each of Capcom’s most popular fight game series, morphs them into chibi-anime monstrosities, and flings them all together for an awesome crossover fighter. The game not only implements the tried and true gameplay of the Street Fighter Alpha series, but it includes a slew of Easter eggs, references to other games, humorous new spins on old attacks, and some elemental gem collecting a la Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. This game is a lighthearted take on a series that used to take itself seriously; though the heyday of the Street Fighter franchise has long passed, rare treats like Pocket Fighter make revisiting it a rewarding and worthwhile experience. Besides, you just can’t deny that Chun Li acting like Jill Valentine is the one of the best things Capcom has ever dreamed up.
Community review by disco (July 23, 2006)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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