AquaPazza: AquaPlus Dream Match review
There are some games that you simply know will never be localized for the West. Games so obscure, so intrinsically Japanese, that to bring them to the English-speaking world simply makes no business sense. Aquapazza is one of those games, an anime-styled crossover fighter bringing together characters from various romance visual novels that will never, ever be released over he- wait, what?
Yep, despite appealing to about ten people across the entire country, Atlus has decided to bring Aquapazza to America, and we applaud them for it. It might not interest many, but we love seeing obscure stuff like this making the trip West.
Aquapazza is developed by Examu, the guys behind the similarly strange Arcana Heart, but uses characters from various games by visual novel dev Aquaplus. None of these visual novels have ever been released in the West, so its unlikely players will be familiar with this lineup of schoolgirls, cat-eared ninjas and pop stars.
26 characters populate Aquapazza, although only 13 are directly playable. The other 13 are support characters, each with a couple of unique attacks that the player can use at any time in a fashion that might seem similar to Marvel vs. Capcom players. The entire system is reminiscent of Arcana Heart, which features a huge range of assist characters that you can mix and match with at will. Each character can pair up with whichever assist character you chose, so the potential for unique styles of play, even using the same character, are vast. Assists vary greatly, with some being direct attacks, others projectiles, some even affecting your status, and finding ways to incorporate them into your play style and create huge combos is where lots of the fun lies for the hardcore fans.
The biggest difference between characters are their movement options. Everyone can dash and jump, but all do so in different ways – double jumps, short hops, wildly different types of dashes and so on. The differences in movement makes for an interesting system that could potentially be difficult to balance – in some ways, these feel like characters from different fighting games thrown together without changing how they play (remember Capcom Fighting Jam?) Luckily the differences don’t seem severe enough to make some match ups too unfair, as every character seems to have ways of dealing with most other movement options.
Otherwise this is a relatively simple fighting game, with three attack buttons and a fourth calling your assist. All the basics you’d expect are here, with special and super moves mostly performed via classic Street Fighter commands. It all feels a bit basic, with only a few moves per character, and experienced players may be surprised by the lack of EX moves, as the game system feels like it should have them. This is still a more complex game than the simple Street Fighter IV, but players shouldn’t expect Guilty Gear-levels of technicality.
Aquapazza’s most unique mechanic is the emotion system, rewarding players for playing in an aggressive, attacking manner. Characters start out at a “neutral” emotion level – attacking, moving forwards and generally laying on the pressure will eventually put you in a state of “high emotion.” This gives you increased damage and speed as well as more priority, active frames and quicker recovery on some moves, allowing for combos that are otherwise not possible. Conversely, run away and defend often and you’ll find yourself in “low” emotion, taking increased damage and having your guard broken increasingly easily.
It’s a neat system, reminiscent of the Negative Penalty various Arc System Works games use, although it suffers the same problems in that it seems to give a disadvantage to characters with a keepaway play-style. Like the movement, it’s probably not enough of an issue to cause massive imbalance, but it’s always irritating when a game’s mechanics seem biased against certain character types.
Features-wise, Aquapazza might be a bit sparse for people used to the smorgasbord of options given by Street Fighter or Tekken. “Story” mode is a joke, nothing more than an arcade mode with a couple of static text sequences thrown in between. Even for a crossover, the story in Aquapazza is utter rubbish – in a way, we’d rather if they just hadn’t bothered. There’s also “Another Story”, which is exactly what it says: another arcade mode with a slightly different crappy plot. The only other things for single-player warriors to try out are basic time attack and training modes. There’s none of the trials, tutorials, survival modes or campaigns that bigger budget fighters often bring to the table.
Multiplayer options extend to little more than basic versus mode, either on or offline. Of course, for hardcore fighting game fans, this is more than enough. The proper way to play a fighting game is against other people, and that’s all you really need. Unfortunately, as an incredibly niche title even in a genre of niche titles, there are very few people playing Aquapazza online. Even worse, most of them are in Japan or America – the game isn’t technically out here, after all. Finding someone close by with a decent net connection isn’t likely.
Still, if you’ve got friends nearby who enjoy fighting games as much as you do, Aquapazza is worth a shot. It’s not going to set the world on fire, and is likely to be quickly forgotten, but as a cheap PSN download, this is a solid addition to your library.
We’ve played several worse fighting games in our time. If you’re a fan of fighters or just a hipster that enjoys playing stuff no one else has heard of, you might find something to enjoy here.