Developer: PDW: Hokapen
Publisher: Rice Digital
Platform: PC (Download)
Release Date: Available Now
ESRB: N/A (T recommended)
The hardcore fighting game community can be a daunting place. Go into a dedicated forum, and you can see arguments over character balances, mechanics, and combos that you have probably never seen before. Hardcore fighting game fans put a lot of weight into various parts of a game that we may not even think about, and it's their love and dedication to this meta-game that keeps them occupied.
While not all fighting games strive to fill that meta-game niche, Yatagarasu is one that was supposed to satisfy perfectly. Developed by former Street Fighter: 3rd Strike and The King of Fighters creators, it sounds like any hardcore fighting gamer's dream come true... but it seemed unlikely that the game would ever leave Japan, leaving Western gamers out in the cold for what could be the ultimate fighting fix.
However, two years after the game's initial release, Yatagarasu was picked up and partially translated, and made assessable to English speaking gamers. Now, the question can be answered worldwide: Is Yatagarasu the fighting game hardcore fans have really been waiting for?
First, there's something I need to get out of the way: Yatagarasu is only partially translated. This means more than just part of the game is in Japanese; it also means that you need to fix your computer up so that the game will be able to run. The manual says to download AppLocale and has a link, but the link's dead... so if you're having trouble getting the game to work, you can check out this blog post.
Now that I've gone over this fighting game's troubles with running on English computers, I can move on to the actual game itself. Yatagarasu offers you eight fighters to choose from as you traipse through Arcade Mode or online Network play. Rice Digital translated the menus for the game, so while it's easy to get the game started... but if you're looking forward to any possible story bits or explanations as to who these characters are and why they're fighting, you're going to be disappointed. None of the story's text was translated in the game, so English speakers are still left in the dark about the game's story.
Then again, Yatagarasu is not a fighting game to place much weight into its story. While many modern fighters like BlazBlue have been giving players long and in-depth stories to play through, Yatagarasu takes the old-school approach, meaning the the story is really just there to vaguely link the battles together. This is a boon to gamers that think that fighting game stories are getting to complicated and inflated for their genre.
Another difference that this 2D fighter offers from most of the popular competition is in its stance on technical gameplay. Many modern 2D fighters focus on flashy super moves and typically easy to spam combos; while these powerful techniques look great and the combos help newcomers, they can also destroy strategies and skew character balance.
Yatagarasu does away with all of this. Instead of pulling off same-y combos and activating devastating special moves, it's all about learning what your move set does, and how to combat your opponent's counters and hits. Things like knowing your reach and the space between you and the enemy, which moves hit high and which low, and what combos cancel and break through a guard suddenly become more important than before, and also essential to victory.
However, these types of things are lost on a newcomer to the fighting genre... and even on some veterans. Because of this, Yatagarasu isn't for the faint of heart, or for the impatient. If you aren't interested in the technical side of fighting games, this isn't for you; there are many alternatives to try out instead.
Before wrapping up, though, let's quickly talk about the game's roster. Eight characters is a very small cast in a fighting game, but this can easily be attributed to the developers' indie status and their focus on a balanced, technical game. As such, it doesn't really feel like any of the characters are over- or under-powered; while Arcade Mode can be brutally difficult, losing doesn't feel as if it results from a character itself being cheap (though the A.I. can be a different story). The rosters' sprites look pretty great too, featuring some detailed and well-drawn sprites.
So, the answer? Yes, Yatagarasu is pretty much the hardcore fighter fan's dream come true. Stripping the genre back down to its roots, this 2D fighter is a meta-game dream, and something any truly hardcore fan should pick up.
But those that aren't should stay away. The limited roster and technical moveset won't entertain for long, and gameplay both online and off will be quick to show you that Yatagarasu won't hold your hand, nor is it child's play.
+ Deep, technical fighting relies more on skill than special moves
- Partial translation makes it hard for most computers to run
- Not friendly for fighting game newcomers
Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10
Yatagarasu is a great answer to hardcore fighting fans that yearn for the older days of the fighting genre. Newcomers, however, will be quickly scared off by its demand for precision and hard-earned skill.