Friday, June 18, 2010

Of Import: Advanced V.G.

There's a reason Street Fighter II endures, while so many rival 2-D fighting games have come and gone.  It's a deep, well-balanced game that rewards practice and technique, timing and finesse.  It's still just a "best in the world" championship story, but its cast of outlandish characters makes up in personality what the plot fails to provide in terms of believable motivation.

Unlike, for example, Advanced V.G., a Japanese fighting game for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM which gets just about everything... not wrong, but not particularly right either.

The publisher, TGL (Technical Group Laboratory) is still around as a systems integration company, but has not been in the game business for quite a while.  The game supports the 6-button PC Engine controller as well as the classic 2-button model, and the game's primary appeal seems to be its all-female cast:

The game doesn't go out of its way to be sexy or "adult," so it never feels seedy; it's played mostly for cuteness, with the occasional bit of modestly torn clothing for ecchi spice.

That said, main character Yuka really ought to invest in a longer skirt if she's going to be doing this sort of thing on a regular basis:

The music is generic -- the best (or at least the most interesting) track is the techno tune accompanying Ayako's dance club environment.  And the character animation is weird -- instead of full-body sprites, the characters are often structured in blocks, with most of the body remaining stationary while arms or legs fly.  The approach leads to weird angles and static, hunchbacked postures that never quite look natural.

On the other hand, the floor scrolls in simulated 3-D perspective, no mean feat on the PC Engine, and the game has some substance, with a lavishly illustrated and fully-voiced Story Mode that (from what my English-only observation can discern) lays out Yuka's story from birth to fighting adulthood.  All of the still images are quite nicely presented:

I found the game fairly challenging in Story Mode -- I spent several rounds trying to help Yuka defeat her first opponent, Jun, to no avail.  So I switched to the Normal Mode, and tried out several different characters before discovering one of those fatal flaws that lesser fighting games tend to exhibit.

As it turns out, crazy little cat-pawed pink-haired Manami is equipped with rapid-fire kicks and punches that make very short work of her opponents.  I was able to breeze through the game in about half an hour on the default difficulty setting, just being aggressive and beating on all comers with Manami's fists of furry:

Even her own doppelganger proved easy to beat:

This lack of balance is in large part due to weak AI -- opponents tend to block even when a blow is in no danger of landing anywhere nearby.  This makes it easy for Manami to fake them out with quick feints, causing her rival fighter to freeze momentarily while she inches close enough to administer a rapid-fire series of uppercuts.
There's not even a final boss to deal with; once Manami has beaten all 9 playable characters, her victory ending appears, yen flying:

Although we shortly discover she's just a little girl fantasizing a la Walter Mitty, hiding out with her siblings while Mom wonders who broke the window with her overenthusiastic fists:

I'm not particularly good at fighting games, so the fact I was able to beat this one in my first play session says something about its overall quality.  It's not so much that Advanced V.G. is awful -- it's just nondescript, and a bit on the easy side after a little experimentation.  The fighting action is weak, the animation isn't impressive, and the characters are stereotypical.

Though it does come with a nice full-color manual.

Not recommended for most purposes, but if you're a fan of anime girl fighters, be my guest.

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