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Evil Zone (PlayStation) artwork

Evil Zone (PlayStation) review

"There is good anime and bad anime, good fighting games and bad fighting games. On the scale, Evil Zone falls somewhere below (way below) Dragon Ball Z in the first category and hovers somewhere to the north west of Smash Brothers in the second."

IHADULKA is a being capable of existing in MULTIPLE dimensions AT THE SAME TIME and she threatens the world of HAPPY ISLAND. When she attacked the inhabitants of HAPPY ISLAND, they fought back and managed to ENTRAP her in THE Evil Zone. But the DANGER is NOT over. IHADULKA must be DESTROYED before she can escape THE Evil Zone. Many WARRIORS have come together to fight and DESTROY IHADULKA before she can escape Evil Zone. Each has THEIR OWN reason to fight, but right now... THEY ARE WARRIORS.

Or so Colonel Campbell dramatically tells us at the start of Evil Zone, a 1999 fighting game for the Playstation 1 imbued with an anime flair. And by flair, I mean terrible voice acting. If you thought I was exaggerating in the introductory paragraph, give this a listen:

He’s got one thing right... it’s bad

There is good anime and bad anime, good fighting games and bad fighting games. On the scale, Evil Zone falls somewhere below (way below) Dragon Ball Z in the first category and hovers somewhere to the north west of Smash Brothers in the second.

Evil Zone is, I dare say it, a casual fighter. Anyone can pick it up and be pretty good within an hour or so. There are only two buttons, attack and block, and each character has roughly the same move set with different animations and timing. Moves are activated by combining the attack button with different directions. Nothing complex like Street Fighter, mind you. I’m talking more along the lines of hitting left and attack, right and attack, or right twice and attack. It’s also a 3D battlefield, so pressing up or down moves you around your opponent for a dodge. Like Smash Brothers, it’s simple, but unlike Smash Brothers, it’s very fast paced. This leads to a nice equilibrium in gameplay, wherein you don’t have to memorize finger cramping combos in order to play, but you do have to be on your toes as you dodge around attacks and wait for the right opening to strike.

There’s also a couple twists thrown in the martini to spice things up. For instance, if you stand still and gather energy (in typical glowy anime fashion) you can charge up your attacks and unleash special “death moves.” The interesting thing about this is that the charge bar is your health, so the closer you come to death, the faster you can charge and release special attacks. This helps to make Evil Zone one of the most balanced fighting games I know, as you become stronger the closer you get to dying. It makes the matches really tense, as even a near-death opponent can make a startling comeback:

It's over the top!

Now take this nice gameplay and wrap it up in a hideous pink bow, throw in one of those singing birthday cards that never shuts up, and you’ve got hideousness so playably bad it’s excellent.

Evil Zone is unique in that it presents each of its character’s story modes as an anime episode series, even going so far as to include “previews” after each fight in classic anime style, with the character jabbering on about random philosophical things and ending with lines such as “next time, on Fantastic Abilities: Kakurine!” Each character’s series is unique to their style, so the cutesy mercenary chick has a bunch of comedy routines make up her previews, while the enigmatic and egotistical Keiya reads letters detailing his next opponent’s dark secrets.

It can’t disguise the fact that it’s covering up for a fighting game. Characters still introduce themselves with pearls of wisdom like “My name is Keiya, of the Tenpouin clan. Now I must fight you to the death.” Still, it’s almost cute and in the Japanese version probably does an admirable job of spoofing (or ripping off) the standard clichés of anime. I mean, you’ve got your magical school girl, your genki pair of bouncy boobs, your cyborg, your satan-possesed rock star...

Right, about that rock star...

Which tells us all why a cutely campy Japanese idea should never be localized with American voice actors. Especially in the nineties. The American voice cast takes what might’ve once been, at worst, cliché lines and turns them into something beyond awful.

It’s not just the voice actors. All the usual localization muck-ups were made here. The character’s mouths keep moving long after the bad voice acting has stopped, leading to awkward pauses in dialogue that can last as long as five or six seconds. Characters that are obviously 16 have their bios changed to show them being 24, because of course if children play a video game that shows a 16 year old getting beaten up by lasers, they’ll become evil. Keeping to themes of censorship, one of the more “casually dressed” characters gains a crappy make-over in the form of purple spandex to hide her milky thighs. Lord, they nipped THAT one in the bud. Absolutely NO ONE is attractive in purple spandex, no matter their measurements. Ironically, the most revealing costume in the game (how DO those jubblies stay in there?) goes ignored. But you didn’t see anything anyway.

You might’ve gotten the impression I don’t like Evil Zone, but actually I think I love it. The gameplay is quick and fun and the awful localization provides ageless comedy. I can only take so much, though, before I have to turn off the game and shake my demons out in a corner. It's sort’ve like drinking fifths of tequila. It’s great for a while, but you can’t escape the inevitable headache.

I keep coming back for more, though.

zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (February 10, 2009)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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