Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: November 19, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
In the past few years, we've seen a surge of fighting games, 2D and otherwise. From indie prospects like Skullgirls and Yatagarasu, to big titles releasing soon like Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- and BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, fighting fans have plenty to keep them busy for a while. But in this time of many fighting releases, which one should you play?
Amongst the many entries vying for your attention is Aquapazza, an unusual crossover game featuring characters from a variety of Aquaplus's Japan-only visual novels, including To Heart, Tears to Tiara, and Utewarerumono. Can this title stand on its own mechanics to the average fighter fan, or does this game only exist for the fan service?
Aquapazza is a 2D sprite-based fighter, much like the BlazBlue series. Characters are colorful and pop out of their surroundings, and stage backgrounds are very interesting and many are quite eccentric (like the anime convention stage). Also, despite having four characters on screen almost all the time, the only slowdown the game faces is, oddly enough, during the character selection screen, though that may be because of the high-quality hand-drawn animations in the menu.
Oh, but what about that part regarding four characters on screen at once? Aquapazza's unique point comes in the form of partners. After you select a character, you select a partner character. These partners come with a few moves of their own, executed with the X button. These moves can range from a single heavy hit, to hexes that freeze your opponent, to even moves that have stage-wide effects.
Since you can choose your own partner, it adds for a wide range of strategies you can use against the enemy. Like long-stringing combos that devastate slower enemies? Or perhaps you like using range and projectiles to your advantage? With the right character and partner combo, you can make a team suited to the strategies you want to use. But, you do have to be careful - using a partner's action makes them unavailable for some time (the exact time depending on the partner). And if you get hit while a partner is trying to use a move, the move will fail and you won't be able to summon them for a bit, as to make it so you can't completely rely on partners to smash the opposition.
Other than that, though, Aquapazza is a fairly standard fighter, with input combos and flashy special moves to pull off. There are two modes for playing: Normal, which is basically the fighting game norm of quarter circles and button combos; and Simple, which more or less simplifies combos down to a direction and button press. Most fighting fans will want to stick with the Normal scheme, but the Simple one is nice for genre newbies.
As you might expect from a mash-up fighting game, Aquapazza's story is little more than a justification to bring together fighters from vastly different universes. One day, Ma-Ryan was trying to concoct a love potion, but the resulting magical energy from the spell caused the creation of the forbidden potion "Aquapazza," which can be used to enslave people. Also, somehow a bunch of universes got melded together from the creation of the Aquapazza, which causes other problems.
Again, it's more of a throwaway plot, but it's enough to justify running through eight matches of fighting schoolgirls and oni-bloodline innkeepers. The plot is the same for every character; those same characters are privy to certain match-ups before the final battle that reveal certain relationships or other information. The final boss, however, is really quite cheap; in addition to having a partner that recharges almost instantly and moves that are hard to defend against- upon defeat, the boss regain half of its health. Given that the rest of Story Mode slowly ups the challenge bit is fair and not quite overwhelming, this final stage is sure to frustrate gamers.
Oddly enough, after finishing Story Mode with one character, you'll unlock their story in Another Story mode. This mode is, as the name implies, a second story for Aquapazza, where the plot details an ancient mirror that can grant the wish of anyone that finds it. Of course, it doesn't actually make much sense, considering all of the same characters are out and about, and at the end of Story Mode it was said that the universes split apart again, but it's really not important as it gives you a reason to play through eight more stages of fighting action.
Honestly, it was hard for me to tell if the AI throughout Another Story was harder than Story Mode; since you can only play Another Story with characters you've completed Story Mode with, you generally have more experience with the characters that you can choose from than just picking any character from the get-go. Also, the boss of Another Story is, unexpectedly, more in line with a typical, fair final boss - a powered-up and quick moving character, but without any partner to help balance out the power difference.
While there isn't a standard Arcade Mode, the two story modes make up for that. Also, the other standard fighting games modes are intact, including Training Mode, a Gallery to view ending CGs and other graphics, and local and online multiplayer modes (the latter I was unable to test before the writing of this review).
The verdict on Aquapazza? While there's nothing inherently wrong with the game, it doesn't really manage to stand out, either. Few gamers are going to feel any sort of connection with the fighters, and there seem to be an overabundance of characters from the To Heart series, leading to a few too many females wearing the same school uniform. While the partner aspect is interesting, there's not much else for players to look forward to either, and once you find the partners you enjoy there's no reason to try new combinations.
Unless you're really looking for another fighter to tide you over, and the recent releases aren't cutting it, then it might be better to skip Aquapazza. There's little to keep a gamer entertained for long, whether you're a fan of fighting games or otherwise.
+ Partner system adds a bit of spice to the overall system
+ Fighters are animated fluidly and backgrounds are lively
- Lack of previous knowledge of the characters makes playing them pretty bland
- Little to keep you entertained after the story modes are done
Overall Score: 5.0 (out of 10)
Aquapazza is a thoroughly average fighter that's hard to recommend to anyone other than starved fighting aficionados or Aquaplus fans.