By Hailinel 7 Comments
Having recently bested Super Mario 3D World (well, save for the bonus world), I felt that it was a good a time as any to get back into a genre that doesn't command much of my time in fighting games. As much as I enjoy them, I'm not of the competitive mindset; something that has tended to incite some of the fighting game community duders in these parts into some very critical replies to my what few fighting game blogs I've written. Whether this will turn out the same way, I don't know.
My Amazon order for Aquapazza came in last night, and I've had the opportunity to put a couple of evenings worth of time into it. For those of you that don't know what this is, it was published in North America by Atlus, and was developed by Examu, whom a few of you might know as the developers of the Arcana Heart series. Well, Examu teamed up with Aquaplus to create a fighting game based on a collection of their properties. And for those of you who don't know Aquaplus, well, they're a company mostly known for dating sims. In particular, the Aquaplus name is reserved for their lighter, console-friendly content; they also produce explicit adult games for PC under a separate label called Leaf.
Yes, I'm still talking about a fighting game. And no, it's not pornographic. Either that, or the T-rating doesn't mean what it used to.
I don't have any actual hands-on experience with Examu's other titles, so Arcana Heart veterans would be better equipped to suggest where Aquapazza ranks among their fighting game efforts. Just from my hands on experience, it's a very unusual fighting game, and that isn't just because of the source material. Battles are one-on-one, but in addition to a fighter, each player also selects a partner character that can be summoned by pressing X. It's sort of like Persona 4 Arena in that way (in a very loose sense), save for the fact that the partner needs time to recharge after being called.
And then there are the emotions. These are basically status effects that encourage aggressive play. Being aggressive in battle raises the fighter's mood, which in turn adds a bonus to damage percentage, while being overly defensive can lower the mood and incur a penalty to defense. So it pays to be on the attack as much as possible.
The other odd thing about the game is that it features two separate story modes. There's nothing particularly special that links them; the primary difference is which characters are fought during the "story beat" fights. It's also not possible to play the second story with a character until that character has been used to clear the first one. The stories themselves are light, fluffy, and inconsequential, getting their entertainment value mostly from how ridiculous their premises are.
As for the actual fighting, I can't personally say that it's up there with the Street Fighters of the world. It's competent, at the very least, and can be entertaining for how ridiculous some of the fighters and their attacks truly are (one is a high school girl that carries a large stack of books and throws them as arcing projectiles, another is a maid robot (in a school uniform) that can make part of the ground slick with her mop). It's a game that is largely forgettable, save for how esoteric and unusual its cast is for a fighting game.
On the other hand, that ridiculousness does lend itself some goofy charm. It reminds me, in a way, of games like Waku Waku 7; games that are technically inferior to their Street Fighter cousins but have enough to them to be entertaining in quick bursts. Is it something I'd recommend anyone looking for a good fighting game? Oh, heck no. It firmly occupies that niche space in fighting games populated by the likes of lesser titles that would never see the light of day at the main stages of EVO, but might be found in hotel rooms hosting quarter matches for games (much) more technically competent than Jackie Chan in Fists of Fire. It is aggressively mediocre.
Though I will admit that the game does hold some nostalgic value for me that exists separate of the game. (No, I didn't play any of the dating sims.) Back in college, the anime club actually ran through the anime adaptation of To Heart, one of the games represented in Aquapazza. Not a good show, honestly, but the characters were memorable enough that seeing a couple of them appear in this game was what actually piqued my interest enough to try it. And I'd be lying if I said I felt cheated out of money paying for the game; I wouldn't call it necessarily good, but to me, it's amusing enough.