I remember reading GameFan back in the day and being blown away by all the games the Saturn received in Japan. Back then, all I could do was drool over them as my nerd-lust consumed me. Now, I finally have the chance to go back and play all the games I couldn't back then.
Of course, not everything can live up to our expectations.
Ninku - Tsuyokina Yatsura No Daigekitotsu! (Long name...) is a 2D fighter for the Sega Saturn, made by Sega of Japan in 1996. The game is based on the manga/anime series of the same name, although I honestly haven't experienced the source material.
The thing that really drew me to this game when I first saw it more than a decade ago was the look. This game has some incredible sprites, especially considering the time it came out - two years prior to the debut of the Guilty Gear series. This was the first time I'd ever seen sprites of an animation cell quality, and it amazed me. The 3D backgrounds are pretty nice, too!
Of course, just like Arc System Works' fighters, the game looks a lot better in screenshots than in motion. It's not bad , but there is a distinct lack of frames in many animation.
The audio is... just kinda there. It barely gets the job done, actually. The music tracks are easily forgotten, and many of the vocals sound like they were recorded at a low quality. Nothing in this department is going to get stuck in your head, that's for sure. The music does remind me of the same mid-90s style that I used to hear on anime VHS tapes back in the day, though - I guess that's something.
The gameplay is the real disappointment, though. It's pretty bare-bones, with very little in the way of combos and tactical movements. Movement altogether is rather clunky, with walking and jumping seeming off. Even though the arenas are 3D, this only comes into play with certain attacks that, when they connect, will throw the enemy into the screen. Gameplay-wise, the 3D nature is not taken advantage of at all, it's just a visual gimmick. If this game had Fatal Fury-style sidestepping, it could have helped the game tremendously.
Also, if you are going to play this game, it'll have to be with friends. The AI is down-right incompetent. I got through the entire game by simply liberally using one or two specials until my super meter filled up, then unleashing my super until I had no energy left. And it worked, the entire time. I never lost a single match. Got pretty boring, actually. Playing with friends can always be fun, but even here it gets a little tedious - again, usually spamming the same attacks over and over again pays off far more than diversifying, mainly because the movement is so awkward, it makes it a hassle to switch things up.
RetroGrade: D. It's fun, but only for a while. When you look past the amazing 2D sprites and the 3D arenas, you aren't left with very much. In the end, this game just doesn't have enough content to justify a high price. It's not bad, it's just not very good either - especially when compared to many of the fighting game options on the Sega Saturn.