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Asuka 120% Maxima Burning Fest (Turbografx-CD) artwork

Asuka 120% Maxima Burning Fest (Turbografx-CD) review


"The idea of schoolgirls beating each other up in sanctioned one-on-one combat is absurd, but the energy, competitive arrogance, and youthful vitality ring true. The concept may not translate as well into American culture, but this club-vs-club extravaganza struck a chord with Japanese gamers. Although outdone by its descendants, Asuka 120% Maxima Burning Fest delivers a fun, hyperkinetic look back at what once made the PC Engine "the" system to own."



FURIOUS FEMALE FIGHTING ACTION

Every year, Japanese schoolchildren hold a culture fest, during which each club pours their collective heart into producing the finest tea shop or fish-catching kiosk that any could imagine. Asuka 120% Maxima's "burning fest" is a bit different. Instead of setting up shop or putting on plays, each club at Ryouran Private School enlists their strongest rep in a violent martial arts tournament. Volleyball players launch crippling serves, baseball players pop flys into rivals' faces, and chemistry students hurl vials of explosive thermite. Such behavior would normally result in expulsion; here, victorious clubs are rewarded with vital budget money.

Ryouran Private just happens to be an all-female academy. That means the combatants are all cute girls.

Title character Asuka, a pretty and brainy chemistry student, entered last year's tournament as an underdog against a quintet of sports stars. She had hoped to purchase new lab equipment with the victory purse. Unfortunately, she got mauled. Asuka trained hard all summer, and this time she's determined to bring the money to her poor classmates. She will do this by dousing other schoolgirls with noxious chemical concoctions. She's also developed a wicked uppercut.

Unfortunately, Ryouran Private's resident biology whiz has other plans. Karina is one of Maxima's four new characters, bringing the total cast up to ten. Highschool chemistry and biology departments are always trying to split an already shoestring budget, and Karina isn't about to let Asuka buy beakers when fermaldehyde is in short supply!

Karina's weapon of choice is her frog. Kero-pyon doesn't care about money; he just wants to escape vivisection. With that powerful motivation, he's an energetic partner for Karina's spunky fighting style. Tossing a frog around (and watching the characters' reactions) is much cuter than the generic sonic booms or fireballs offered by other 16-bit fighters.

Asuka and Karina aren't the only members of the cast with a tale to tell. Most of Asuka 120% Maxima's quirky characters are driven by some form of rivalry. At left, karate kid Torami and tennis star Tamaki leap right into their return bout -- last year, Torami was the runner-up and narrowly lost it all to Tamaki's killer serve. Their rematch will be furious, because Asuka rewards aggression; featuring fast movement, dashing rush attacks, and airborne juggle combinations, battles are reminiscent of Dream Match 1999, albeit less refined. That's not bad for a 1995 fighter, let alone a fighter that somehow functions properly with only two buttons. This disc successfully blended simplicity of play with what was then considered complex design.

At release, Asuka 120% Maxima's one glaring weakness was the uneventful scenery. The crazy characters engaged in furious battles, backed by upbeat dance music . . . but there were no cheering crowds throwing teddy bears into the air or random people pedaling by on bicycles. Duplicating Street Fighter II's fancy "floor effect" was also out of the question; although a great game that would influence the genre in ways Westerners never knew, Maxima was a great game on underpowered and dying hardware. As if to drive this point home, the quicker and slicker PlayStation version would appear in only eight months.

The idea of schoolgirls beating each other up in sanctioned one-on-one combat is absurd, but the energy, competitive arrogance, and youthful vitality ring true. The concept may not translate as well into American culture, but this club-vs-club extravaganza struck a chord with Japanese gamers. Combine the concept with memorable characters and quick gameplay that put lesser efforts (including Fatal Fury and Fill-in Cafe's own Algunos) to shame, and this important little disc helped secure Asuka's place as a worthy series. Although outdone by its descendants, Asuka 120% Maxima Burning Fest delivers a fun, hyperkinetic look back at what once made the PC Engine "the" system to own.

//Zig


Rating: 7/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (December 15, 2009)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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Masters posted December 15, 2009:

Isn't this an old review?
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zigfried posted December 15, 2009:

No

//Zig

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