What's the Greatest Video Game: 99 Vidas

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imunbeatable80

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Edited By imunbeatable80

This is an ongoing list where I attempt to play through and rank every single in the known universe. Please see prior blogs for write-ups of other games or the google doc link below for the full list.

For the record, I have no exposure to the gaming podcast 99Vidas that this game is "based" on. Quite frankly, I don't think this "review" will help me either.

Like most kids who grew up during the time of the SNES or Genesis era, I am very familiar with side scrolling brawlers. From River City Ransom on the NES to Streets of rage and Final Fight, I feel I have played some great versions of the game trying to be created here. 99 Vidas is attempting to mimic those games of yore and mix in newer elements that hopefully make for a more rewarding experience. There are multiple playable characters that each have an "element" tied to their moves. These are mainly cosmetic as I don't think enemies have elemental affinity, but this does impact the animation you will see as you utilize screen clearing moves throughout the game. Each fighter you choose also has their own stats, and while they all start at roughly the same basic level, you can proceed to pay to level up their stats and mold them into the fighter you want them to be.

These are welcome additions to the tried and true formula of beat-em-ups. Now you can tell yourself that your goal is not just to get through a level as healthy as possible, but now you can work towards leveling up a character. At then end of every level you are given the option to spend some of your hard earned money (found in broken boxes throughout the level) to either increase your stats or buy extra lives. The higher the stat you are trying to increase, the more expensive it becomes. Thus you find yourself at the end of a level asking should I save my money to hopefully upgrade my combo at the end of the next level, or cash out my money to make sure I have enough lives to make it through the next level. Stats carry forward across playthroughs meaning, you could play through again and again to max a player out, but extra lives do not.

No Caption Provided

This is where my harshest criticism comes against the game. This game can't be beaten on your first time through. The game does not block you out, or have levels inaccessible, but if you are balancing leveling up your character and buying extra lives on a playthrough (aka the way everyone would initially play this game) You will find you do not have enough lives to finish the final level. Make no bones about it, this game is hard. Much like the brawlers of the past, this game mimics all the elements of those games. Cheap enemies, check.. Unfair boss battles, check.. Less and less health pickups, check.. and while all of those things are to be expected, much like the games of the past, this game wants you to burn through "quarters". On a single playthrough it doesn't matter what you spec in, you will not be able to survive the onslaught whether you are max speed or max power, or 50-50. The only way to beat this game is to knowingly go into the game with the expectation that you are going to play through it twice. On the first playthrough buy as many stat upgrades as you can, get as far as you can and then game-over. When you start another game, choose that semi-leveled up character and now play through the entire game again, but now only buy extra lives. That is how you get through the game, and it doesn't matter how good you are, you will need both to succeed and you can't get both on a single run.

Some people might be chiming in that those mechanics are how all the rogue-lites/likes are built now. Die and grow your character until you are ready to take on the final boss knowing all the secrets you know now. The problem with that thinking is that this game is not a rogue game. The levels don't changeup, there isn't an element of surprise, it is honestly just playing through an identical game twice in order to complete it. The game is just not interesting/fun/or funny enough to warrant wanting to play through twice (at least) in order to see credits.

Ahh.. the first level, when the game is good.
Ahh.. the first level, when the game is good.

The reason you will need all those extra lives, is simply because most of the boss fights are unfair, and despite learning their patterns, makes it fairly impossible to get through them without losing a few lives in the process. And in case you didn't enjoy the boss battles the first time, the final level is a super long boss rush where you get to enjoy them all over again, but this time with a lengthy stage in-between the encounters. Manage to make it through all of that, and you get to fight the final boss twice, first in his hard, but not impossible form, and then again in his impossible form.

I want to pause here, because, this final fight is by far one of the worst final boss fights I have ever participated in. Part of his final form is that he essentially, for lack of a better term, randomizes his attack. One of those attacks is a screen clearing special move that mimics what your characters can do. I should state, that this move is un-guardable, and can't miss. Each use of it will take you down to about 1/4 of your health, and there are no healing items on the level to use to recover. The beauty of this, is that he could and will use this ability multiple times during the final fight. Assuming you are good enough to ONLY be hit by this move and nothing else the boss throws at you, that means you will lose a life every two uses of this ability. During the final playthrough I completed, he used it over 10 times, which means it burned through 5 + lives. This is a battle AFTER a boss rush with no where to buy more lives, or take a breather. All told, I would assume you need at the very least 10 lives at the start of the level to even make it worth attempting, and that is taking a couple chances of not only doing really well during the level itself, and hoping the random final boss goes easy on you.

I can tell you now, that the person who took this screenshot did not beat the boss with how little lives they have.
I can tell you now, that the person who took this screenshot did not beat the boss with how little lives they have.

Defeating him after a rage inducing 2+ hour of re-playing the entire game, gets you... More unlockable characters (at beginning stats), so now you can play through a game AGAIN with someone slightly different. Uhhhh No thanks 99 Vidas, the required 2 playthroughs was more than enough of your game, that I am not about to subject myself to it again and again just to level up another character I won't use.

Perhaps this game is better if you know the podcast, perhaps there are jokes that land better (or at all). Hell maybe they talk about this game on their podcast and tell people secrets to beating the game, but from an outsider looking in this is a brawler that wants and desires someone to play through it dozens of times, but lacks any reason for you to want to do so. Unless you are driven by the desire to get all the trophys, I just don't see a reason why you would want to engage in the same 5-6 levels dozens of times. I can't recommend this game for solo or co-op play. While multiple people will "help" you level up characters faster, it also means you are trying to divide the money multiple ways and find yourself either carrying a weaker player, or having a very under-leveled (but even) group.

I like that the characters have slightly different move-sets, but their elemental affinities mean nothing, and frankly the difficulty in the final level and boss, is so demoralizing, that it was hard to push through to beat it knowing that we would have to start over just to stockpile lives.

Is this game the Greatest game of all time: Nope

Where does it rank: This one was hard to rank, but I am putting it 22nd out of 23 games. It is below "Ni No Kuni", and above "Harms Way." Honestly, this is hard to place. It is short enough that if I was forced to play it again (even with a fresh character) I could probably beat the game in 4 hours (2 hours a playthrough), but it would be a miserable 4 hours. Those 4 hours would include a lot of frustrated cursing, and anger sweats. I might have been bored with Ni No Kuni, but at the very least it didn't boil my blood during it.

Up Next: Adam's Venture: Origins (our first adventure game)

Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion). Here

Thanks for listening

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grappler

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This was basically my experience with the game. Its not interesting enough to warrant this much work. The combo "system" if you could call it that, was super basic and doesn't work differently between characters. There are too many cheap ways to steal lives off of you too. I remember the last boss but I can't recall if I actually beat it or not. I just lost interest.

I keep thinking about how beat-em-ups can be much better than this. Hell Double Dragon, Kunio Kun, the Turtles Games had more interesting gameplay figured out years ago.

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imunbeatable80

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@grappler: Thanks for the read.. yeah, this is not anywhere near the top for beat-em-ups. I feel like they put in too man gimmicks without a payoff. If you want to focus around leveling up your fighter, the game needs to have more interesting purchases and combos (like the game "fist puncher"). If you want to focus on the elements then bad guys need to have weaknesses ( first boss weak to fire, 2nd to water etc.) So that picking an element actually means something.

I only beat this game because i "had to" otherwise i would have been done after my first attempt of the final level.

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bigsocrates

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#3 bigsocrates  Online

I found this blog confusing.

Let me start by saying that I have never played 99 vidas so I have no idea if the game is good or bad or whatever. But I did grow up with 8 and 16 bit games, including brawlers, and the idea that it's outrageous that the game expects you to play through it multiple times seems...at odds with the roots of the genre, especially on the home console.

Brawlers are naturally short games and they made up for this by being cheap, especially in later levels. Of course in an arcade game you could usually just force your way through with enough quarters, but that's not really the way that people I knew played them in arcades (they'd see how far they could get on a buck or two rather than spend $20 to get through the whole thing the first time) and it wasn't the case with home conversions, which generally limited lives and continues.

Nobody really expected to beat a game the first time they played it, especially because of how short these games were. Jeff has remarked multiple times how annoyed he'd get if he bought a new game and was able to finish it in one afternoon. So if you look at a series like Streets of Rage (which was a brawler designed only for the home market) it was generally tuned at a difficulty level that meant that people had to play a bunch and learn the levels and characters and bosses to have a chance to win. It wasn't even about leveling up characters or anything like that just about improving skills and, crucially, learning the levels.

So for a new Beat 'Em up to require a couple playthroughs in order to finish it doesn't seem that problematic to me if it's being pitched as a throwback game, regardless of whether it's a roguelike or not. That just seems like a nod to the old style design and challenge patterns. Most modern games do allow unlimited continues in some way, but not all of them, and it seems like a valid design choice to make a game that's too tough to beat your first time out and requires a little of that old school level repetition to get through.

Heck, the Ghouls and Ghosts series is notorious for requiring you to beat the game twice to see the true ending, and almost nobody finished it twice straight through their first time.

Now some of the other issues, like bosses having unavoidable attacks (if they really are unavoidable) seem pretty bad and if the game isn't funny or fun to play then sure, maybe it's just a lousy game and that's compounded by its demand for repetition. I'm not really defending the game because I haven't played it. But I guess I just think that having the game tuned so that you have to play it more than once to finish seems...fine for a relatively short brawler. If you boot up the Sega Genesis collection or the Nintendo Switch Online SNES selection you can find a bunch of brawlers that's also true of.

This game seems to be trying to be something of a throwback. Maybe it fails at that and it's just a bad game, but that doesn't mean the throwback idea is necessarily bad.

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imunbeatable80

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@bigsocrates: Thanks for the read. To be honest i agree that a game requiring multiple playthroughs because of difficulty is certainly fine, you brought up streets of rage, which to this day i probably have not beat legit. That game is as much of learning patterns and fine tuning your approach to the game so you can beat it on one "quarter." But thats litetally the only way to eventually beat it (outside of cheating).

For 99vidas i don't think the same mentality works. This game makes you essentially pick between lives or stats on your first playthrough, but the choice is fake. If you choose lives and no stats, you will find yourself to weak to really fight late game bosses, just throwing your corpse at them until you gameover. If you choose stats over lives, you can now go toe to toe with these bosses, but you wont have the extra men to continue after you get hit by cheap moves. So to truly beat this game you are either forced to play it twice (level up, then store lives) or more (max stats, no lives... maybe?)

In my opinion a game shouldnt force multiple playthroughs, it can encourage it (story reasons, being fun, etc..) but if someone is truly gifted enough they should be able to start the game and beat it. Maybe that is possible with 99Vidas, but im sceptical. Technically someone could beat final fight or streets of rage without playing it twice, it may be unlikely but it is possible.

The idea of a throwback isnt inherrently bad, and 99vidas is going for that, but i think they took pieces of the formula, tried to add their own into the mix and missed the point. They tried something, nothing wrong with that, but i would recommend so many other games above this even if they are harder games.

Ghouls and ghosts is apt, a game that makes you play twice to see credits, but in my opinion is just a more fun and fluid experience. My sole dislike isnt on this two playthroughs system, i think there are other elements i dislike that 99vidas attempts, but i remember vividly how i felt getting to the final level and realizing that to make it to the boss i would have to quit, just to start back at the beginning and harvest more power. Its not a good feeling

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bigsocrates

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#5 bigsocrates  Online

@imunbeatable80: I would bet that the best beat 'em up players can finish 99 Vidas in their first try, probably by upgrading less and just using characters with bad stats.

Honestly it sounds to me like the real problem is not so much that 99 Vidas requires multiple playthroughs as that it's not a very good game, so making you play a bad game multiple times is super annoying. I totally get that. I have often said that a good difficult game can be a lot of fun, and a bad easy game can be entertaining and worth playing, but a bad difficult game is almost always a huge chore. 99 Vidas sounds like it's both bad and difficult (and difficult in bad ways) which makes repetition not fun because it's not fun to play the first time, let alone again.

But I'd bet that if the game were more enjoyable and better designed but also difficult to the point where you had to play it multiple times to finish it (realistically) that it wouldn't be nearly as big a problem. Just like something like Streets of Rage, if a game is really good then playing it multiple times to get through it doesn't feel like a chore.

I still think it's a reasonable design to make a game that's too hard for the vast majority of players to beat their first time through, but if you're going to do that for a modern game you'd better make sure it's fun to play, otherwise it just compounds the boredom and problems.

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imunbeatable80

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@bigsocrates: 100% agree with everything you wrote. If this game was just hard (like final fight/streets of rage) and i had to play it multiple times because i wasn't good enough to beat it initially, it would probably be a different story in terms of how i viewed it as a whole. I could convince myself that the enemies werent cheap, and I just had to be better at learning patterns or a strategy in order to make it through.

I do appreciate the discussion, as these write-ups are just as much talking about games as they are arbitrarily ranking them.