Fighter's DestinyThe verdict is in: Ocean's first N64 fighter is the one to get.
After seeing one mediocre fighting game after the other on the N64, it s a true blessing when finally someone comes along and does it right. Developed by Imagineer s Genki team, Fighter s Destiny (Fighting Cup in Japan) not only provides great hand-to-hand combat for fighting fans, it also manages to come up with several unique features that you won t find in any other fighter. Ocean was quick to pick this game up for its US release, and I m sure it will pay off.
Gameplay: Fighter s Destiny mixes the somewhat slower, earthbound fighting action of Sega s Virtua Fighter with a heavy dose of Tekken. But instead of simply trying to copy those games (like most titles), Fighter s Destiny adds enough originality to make the game stand on its own feet. First of all, Destiny combines dual power bars (strength and health) with a cool point system. Apart from a straight knockdown, you can beat your opponents in a variety of ways -- and you are awarded points accordingly. For example, a ring-out is worth one point, a knockdown is worth two points, countering a special move or throwing someone down is worth three points, and a special move or combination of moves is worth four.
Knocking someone down takes quite a bit of effort and isn't accomplished with just a few punches. A large number of unanswered strikes or kicks will render a player woozy (called "pyori" condition) -- but unlike in most fighters, you can still move and evade attacks to a certain degree. A few more unblocked hits will send the dizzy fighter sprawling to the canvas earning the attacker a quick three points.
One of Destiny s best aspects is the diversity of fighting modes and styles. Some of the characters are aerial experts, some are fist-fighters, and others borrow their moves from the wrestling world. As for styles, the game not only offers straightforward fighting (try to earn stars for each character by beating the game), but also the ability to gain new moves by fighting in the Masters' Challenge Mode. These skills can be saved to a memory pak and later on wagered in battle against your friends.
Control: The game plays and controls like a charm via the D-Pad and utilizes only two attack buttons, punch and kick. Although that may sound limiting at first, you can pull off a number of different moves by tapping the pad, pushing up and down or punching in combinations. On top of that, using block and evade (the shoulder buttons) is essential to the play experience. It's clear that Destiny was designed from the ground up to be an N64 fighter -- by using A, B, and the back-buttons, the game avoids the awkward C-Buttons, which are great for 3D games, but death to fighters.
Another neat little feature is the throw gauge. Whenever someone tries to grab you, a gauge at the bottom of the screen will appear that, depending on the skill and health of you and your opponent, will quickly fill. If you manage to block or counter before the gauge is full, you escape unharmed. It sounds simple, but in practice this adds a wonderful play element that makes Destiny feel more like a wrestling or martial arts sim than an action fighter. And if you ve ever been annoyed at someone who just crouches down and blocks all the time -- throw him! He can t counter a throw if he is holding the block button.
Overall, the control is good, perhaps a bit sluggish at times, with decent 3D sidestepping and a broad range of moves that will take a long time to master.
Graphics: The presentation lags a little behind. The character design and polygon models are average at best, and some fighters display visible texture flicker at the joints. The backgrounds are strictly bitmaps, meaning flat "wallpapers" that don t affect the action. Luckily, the programmers put in some moving objects to liven things up a bit and added realtime lighting effects to the fighters. For example, if you fight in front of fire the characters will be bathed in red light.
And Imagineer didn t neglect what I personally think is one of the most important factors in a fighting game: framerate. The choice to go with flat backgrounds ultimately pays off when the action runs at framerates exceeding 30fps. It only drops occasionally during some of the special throws (but since you aren t controlling the fighter at that moment, it s really not a problem). On the positive side, Destiny impresses with many cool special effects, such as flaming fists and glowing sparks.
Sound: With the exception of the somewhat goofy announcer, the sound effects and voices are excellent. Hey, the French clown even has a French accent! Remember Street Fighter, where everyone sounded like they came from the dark side of Osaka (even if they were supposed to be from India or America). Punches, kicks, and the meaty "flaming knuckles" sounds are complimented by a cheering audience and make slamming someone to the floor a very rewarding experience. The music, on the other hand, is typical Japan-midi fare. Not bad, but rather forgettable.
Characters: There are ten fighters (not counting hidden fighters): Ryuji, a Japanese karate champ; Abdul, a well-balanced fighter from Mongolia; Tomahawk, a huge wrestler from the US; Meiling, a fast Chinese kung-fu girl; A Japanese Ninja whose special move skills outweigh everyone else s; Pierre, a French clown with several dirty tricks; Leon, an androgynous all-rounder from Spain; Bob, a powerful African-Brazilian; the tough aerial combat specialist Valerie from Germany; and last but not least, Boro, a crazy Swiss girl with battle-cries worse than Xena s. Although the line-up is not the most original, the fighters are interesting enough -- and don t forget that there are more hidden characters (including the Joker, the Master, the cow, and Robort).
Balance: As good as Fighter s Destiny is, it s not without flaws. Thanks to the many modes and the cool two-player action, you will virtually play it forever -- but there s no denying that the player balance is a little off. Some fighters (I ll leave them for you to find) have moves that are much too strong, and you can easily beat the computer using those moves. This does not come into play when you re taking on a human opponent or the Survival Mode, but it would have been nice if Imagineer had put in a little more tweaking to get rid of this flaw.
Options: Fighter s Destiny has five basic modes:
All modes offer the ability to adjust the scoring system, ring sizes, and difficulty. For those of you who like using the analog stick, Destiny even lets you adjust the sensitivity setting for best control. Good news for renters: You can bring up a list of all the moves by pressing START, even during the game. Both Rumble Pak and Memory Pak are supported.
Overall: If you re looking for one fighter to buy for your N64, this is the one. Some minor problems in presentation and overall player balance keep Fighter s Destiny from getting a perfect score, but this is -- no doubt -- the most original fighting game in years. It doesn t quite live up to the best of the best (like Virtua Fighter III or Tekken 2), but it beats the living daylights out of every other N64 fighter ever released. Even after two months, it s still one of the most-played games in the office (it s fun watching the PSX guys dis the N64 and then play Destiny without end) thanks to the ability to learn new moves or compete for high scores in the different game modes. Action fighting fans may be put off by the slower pace, but anyone who enjoys Virtua Fighter or a good wrestling title will HAVE to pick this one up. Nice going, Ocean.