Reviewed: April 2, 2005
Released: February 28, 2005
You always have to wonder about market analysis when you see a game that is this bad. I mean there had to be some little accounting peon who threw together some numbers and said that, yeah this will sell. Maybe not a whole lot, but we’ve got a marketing tie in with the series so that will move a few units. So long as we don’t spend too much in production and advertising we can make a nice little profit without a lot of expenditure. He kicks it up the food chain, and corporate decision making being what it is we get Rave Master: Special Attack Force because the numbers were right.
You have to wonder though; will anyone actually buy this game? And if no one does buy it, is it only the peon who gets fired or is it everyone else who thought this was a good idea? Regardless of life’s little mysteries such as these we still are confronted by the disaster that is this game.
Would that I could relate here anything resembling a back story, so that maybe you could at least see if the Rave Master cartoon was any good, but I have no idea and the game is not very illuminating. There are a bunch of people and they are dead set on beating the tar out of one another, that’s all I know.
Whenever I played this game two things came to mind: Weekend at Bernie’s and punching bags. Any game that can be summed up by those two things would seem like comic gold, but you have to wonder when the character controls handle like strings tied to a dead guy and the computer is using you like Rocky did a slab of beef then you might have a problem. In other words characters are slow to respond to input commands, the commands themselves are jerky, and the computer conversely has perfect timing. Imagine fighting M. Bison with only one hand for every fight in the game and you’re getting the idea.
There are a few decent ideas for this game, and if they were better executed this might actually be worth playing. Instead of having just a straight fight until someone’s life bar runs out, you have a see saw battle over one bar, the more you beat on your opponent the bigger share of the bar you have, and vice versa. You win by getting your bar big enough that it starts flashing and then performing a finishing move. Sounds neat right? Problem is that in order to start a finishing move you have to hit the start button and then a split screen pops up with your image and your opponent’s image separated by a time meter. You have to pound on every button until that meter runs out, and then the winner either executes a special attack or prevents his opponent from making one.
Another “great” feature of this game are group fights, where you can have up to four fighters on screen at once, two to each team, or two against one, or… well you can figure out the other permutations. Again, what seems like a great innovation is totally destroyed by poor execution. The big issue here is that you would think that having two fighters against one would make it easier for you to beat your opponent, but in this game the exact opposite happens. Now, not only do you have to try to beat a spookily good computer opponent, you also have to not let it beat your vegetable of a teammate to paste and then pull off the super to end you both.
Top this off with a very limited selection of attacks, which everyone has, and a general lack of distinguishing play styles between characters and you have one steaming pile of crappy game play.
Oh, and don’t think you will be saved by timing out with more health than your opponent. That’s a loss too, and, well let’s just say a rather ignoble one at that.
As with all tie in titles, the most important issue is getting the image right. The fan base you are trying to appeal to is familiar with and cares about these characters, so they better be rendered properly or the whole marketing scheme breaks down. This game is no exception.
The character sprites are what I would assume are recognizable copies of their cartoon counterparts, and don’t look too bad for the GBA. The backgrounds that you fight on are also decent looking. So we have nothing really spectacular to look at other than a few nice drawings on the character select screen.
Animation is about as jerky as the controls are, and special attacks are simply not that special. Instead of having a nice effects sequence with multiple hits, etc, this game gives you an image of your character getting ready to launch the attack (an image of the character’s head mostly) and then an image of an explosion, this of course comes along with text like “Feel the fury of my Final Flurry” or “No man withstands my Masterful Murderous Melodies” or something equally lame.
Midi is actually capable of good things, take the original Final Fantasy music as a for instance, most of the themes of that game have been carried through the whole series. So why is it this game sounds like someone let their three year old at their old synthesizer? The GBA does have a fairly limited sound capability as compared to the PSP or DS, but that doesn’t mean everything has to sound like Super Mario Bros. only not as catchy.
I could go on about cheesy sound effects and a general lack of anything like decent use of the hardware available, but you get the idea.
I can only imagine that the audience this game was marketed to would be 5 year old Japanese kids who are rabid fans of the series. Seeing as the cartoon has made rather less than a noticeable impact on the American market, and not many young children own a GBA it seems likely Konami has missed the boat.
Speaking from my own playtime, the 30 minutes I spent getting knocked around by the computer was more than excruciating. I was thinking about contacting the CIA afterward to see if they wanted a new method of “persuasion”.
Just how big a fan of Rave Master are you? Are you big enough and crazy enough to shell out thirty bucks for a crappy game, a less informative manual, and some mildly pretty colors? If so pick up this game. If not, save your money and buy a PSP.