Now here's some good news. Fighter Maker is making its way to the States! If you ever thought you could make a better fighter than Namco or Capcom, now you can try. In Agetec's (formerly Ascii) Fighter Maker, you can customize everything from walking and blocking animations to special moves and grabs. When we say customize, we mean down to individual limbs, which can be manipulated any way you want. You can also set the frame speed for each move and how the attack will affect the enemy, like whether you want to knock the body down or have it launched into the air for easy juggle combos. Ever wanted your fighter to do the Macarena? You can do that too (Agetec demonstrated for us a fighter doing a "Macarena" death blow...you had to hit the fighter before he finished the dance, otherwise you met with instant death). It's all very cool. Fighter Maker's release is set for late May or June. We'll have more info on this game next month.
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This is an interesting idea for a Playstation game. It takes the popular "customizing" feature found in most wrestling games and applies it to a 3-D Tekken-style game. But instead of customizing fighters' outfits and bodies, players get to customize the actual fighting style their custom fighter will use. This can vary from simply mixing and matching from among the twenty fighting styles provided, so the fighter has kicks from Tae Kwan Do and punches from Boxing, or the player can create entirely new movements from scratch.
There are really two distinct modes of "play" with this game: Fighting Mode (which takes up eleven pages of the manual) and Edit Mode, which takes up the next 41 pages, with an additional 16 pages for the tutorial. Even though the focus of the game is clearly on the fighter-design aspect (that's what the game's named after), we'll have a look at the fighting aspect first, since that's the closest thing to actual "gameplay" it has.
And the verdict on the fighting part of the game is... not good. The player fights for six rounds and then the credits roll. There are no boss monsters or even any noticeable increase in the difficulty of the opponents. There are "hidden" moves, but I didn't need any to stroll to victory the first time I played.
As far as the technical aspects go, it plays a lot like a second-rate fighting game. There's three "attack" buttons (High, Medium, and Low) instead of Punch and Kick. Many of the moves are, shall we say, quite reminiscent of Tekken 3. And for some reason, there's no jumping. Other than that, it plays pretty smoothly, although the hit combos can get pretty annoying, as three-quarters of a fighter's life can get taken off without the player getting a chance to get a move in.
One of the standard elements in fighting games is the hidden moves. There aren't any magical effects like fireballs here, just new kicks and punches. Also, the moves aren't all that hidden because Edit Mode lets you see all the moves everyone has.
Meanwhile, over in Edit Mode, the simplicity of the fighting is replaced by complexity more appropriate to designing a universal translator than to a Playstation game. Figuring out how to change a pre-designed jab into a slightly different jab requires thirty minutes of reading the manual, followed by a great deal of twiddling while you decide exactly what rotation angle every one of the body's joints should be at. It's a job that would be too complicated to call a "game" if it came with a keyboard. And trying to do all this with a Playstation controller, which was designed for a completely different job, requires a lot more patience than even Lara Croft demands.
Another problem is that there aren't any game-balance effects built in. Want to make all your attacks super-fast, and have maximum damage and range? No problem! After modifying one move, I was able to win the fighting mode while only tapping one button over and over again, since my quick jab would take down any opponent in two hits.
This brings up a question. What were the makers of this game expecting the players to do with it? For single-player use, it's fairly pointless, since the fighting mode is so bad. Are you supposed to make your own fighter and go fight a friend? Aside from the fact that everyone's attacks will be superdeadly, to save a whole fighter requires all sixteen slots on a memory card! Who are these people with all these memory cards sitting around, waiting to use them to play a fighting game where each fight takes less than a second?
I suppose one thing someone could do is design a perfect fighting style. First, you'd pick a fighting style that isn't in the twenty that come prepackaged. Then, you'd, um, figure out frame-by-frame exactly what someone does while going through every move. Then spend literally hours programming it in. Then what? Even if you took pity on the game and didn't make each attack do maximum damage, is the opportunity to fight six CPU fighters and watch the credits worth all that effort?
There's a feature where you can program your fighting style with special logic so the CPU can run it. I didn't have the heart to look too closely at that feature, although the manual deals with it in just one page. Likewise with the throws, where in addition to moving your character frame by frame while moving each joint, you have to move your fighter's opponent. Frame by frame. Joint by joint.
All I'm saying is that it takes a long time. That's all.
The pre-made fighters are all acceptable. There's the standards of the field: the karate guy, the weird monstery thing, the cute judo girl, etc. There's also a mobile skeleton and a hip seventies dude, which I think is funny. However, since the pre-made bodies have to fit any of the preset moves, there's not really much difference in the sizes of the characters.
What's odd is that the player doesn't get to do any customizing of the custom fighter. After going to all that work to create a fighting style from scratch (sorry to dwell on the time spent, but it's pretty much the point of the review), the fighter body and look is strictly off-the-rack. Compare that to, say, WWF Attitude where you have to use preset moves but can customize the body nearly to infinity. No matter how innovative your punch may be, it's still a punch. Changing a character's hairstyle from a beehive to a mohawk just feels like a more interesting change, and this game doesn't allow that at all. The backgrounds are nice, though.
It's an interesting idea for a game and I'm sure there are people who want to play a game where the characters use perfect Drunken Monkey Style Kung Fu. But I doubt those people want to spend three or four hours doing the animation themselves.
Snapshots and Media
- Black and Bruised
- Bloody Roar
- Capcom Fighting Evolution
- Capcom Vs. SNK Pro
- Cardinal Syn
- Dead or Alive 4
- Def Jam: Fight For NY
- Def Jam Vendetta
- Fighting Force
- FX Fighter Turbo
- Guilty Gear X2 #Reload
- K-1 The Arena Fighters
- Kakuto Chojin
- Legaia 2: Duel Saga
- Marvel vs Capcom 2
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy
- Neo Contra
- Onimusha Blade Warriors
- Pride FC: Fighting Championships
- SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom
- The King of Fighters 00/01
- Virtua Fighter 4
- Wu Tang: Shaolin Style
- X-Men: Next Dimension