Let’s get this out of the way: I am not an authority on fighting games. I mean, I play a lot of fighting games, sure. I’ve been to a few fighting game tourneys this year (mostly weeklies, one major); I haven’t gotten to the top yet in any of ’em. I barely know half the names of notable FGC celebs in the country, let alone the world. I can talk FGC terminology but I can’t teach people how to GIT GUD.
Consider this review a not-so-expert opinion.
I first learned about Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm (for the love of God I’m shortening it to just Yatagarasu from hereon), published by Nyu Media, from one of the folks in my Mortal Kombat X playgroup; he’d shared a review on FB that spun a tale about an interesting little indie (fine, doujin) fighter made by some former SNK staff. At the time all my fightan’ brain cells were focused on getting better at MKX, and the prospect of King of Fighters-lite with Street Fighter III-esque parries was…intimidating. My interest was officially piqued when the same dude who shared the review showed up at our FLGS and was playing a significantly better MKX game, according to him because of Yatagarasu.
And then I broke my arm.
With only my three-year-old laptop to keep me company and my library of low-spec games rapidly exhausting itself, I decided to give Yatagarasu a go once my hand was well enough to start making d-pad motions. The game soon integrated itself into my therapy, in a way; by seeing how well I could do the motions I could gauge how much I’d recovered from having a nerve entangled in a snapped bone (fortunately no photos of that).
In other words, I’ve just spent roughly three paragraphs telling you that I was bored enough to play Yatagarasu every. Single. Day.
At least until the doctor said I could get my ass back to work. But hey, review time!
Yatagarasu’s graphics are…a mixed bag. The 2D sprites will definitely appeal to nostalgic older gamers or vintage-hungry hipsters, and the backgrounds do look pretty. However, the sprites clearly show their pixels and it comes off really mismatched with the smooth, spiffy stages. The art is standard anime fare.
Nothing extraordinary here either: Standard fighting game music, with a range of electric guitars and synth. A few of the tracks are catchy enough but it’s more a matter of personal taste than anything. The character voices aren’t particularly distinct, except perhaps for Chadha (the resident grappler and token big guy): He sounds like somebody took Hodor and put a ball gag on him before shoving a mask on.
The actual fight sounds are your typical punch/kick/sword swishes with satisfying thwacks and slashes upon collision.
After trying out “Arcade” mode (the game technically has “Arcade” and “Story” but the devs couldn’t be arsed to fix the fact that the menu displays “Arcade” twice) and choosing one of the game’s two shotoclones I was greeted with a grand storyline that involved occasional dialogue between fights, with my character beating people up in pursuit of the other shotoclone. There were vague references to the other guy’s dormant power, with my dude apparently having the hots for the other dude.
Hopping onto Google and hunting down a Wiki gave me little more than vague descriptions on some of the characters’ pages. Playing through the story a coupl’a times with other characters and trying out the other “Arcade” mode gave me references to the Akashic Records and some hints that someone, somewhere in the lore did some sort of experiments. Finally checking out the official site gave me some detail on the metaplot and…well, let’s just say that it’s a fighting game and the story isn’t one of its strong points. Or very coherent for that matter, as far as I can tell.
The character roster doesn’t really have anyone who’s especially iconic, considering they’re all pretty much expies of some concept or moveset from elsewhere (i.e. Ryu and Ken in Leotards, Ninja Girl with Big Tits, Ninja Guy Who’s Only Half-Japanese, Spunky Ungentlemanly Dudley, Bandanna Fei-Long, Gimpsuit Zangief).
The first thing players will probably tell you about this game is that it has parries. What does this mean?
For the non-fighting game enthusiasts among our readership: You normally stop yourself from being beaten to death in a fighting game by blocking (usually accomplished by pressing your d-pad/joystick away from your opponent), which greatly reduces damage of whatever limb, weapon or energy blast has been sent in your general direction. A parry, in comparison, is far more precise; in this game you press a parry button right when your opponent’s attack would hit, and if you time it right you take no damage while getting a few frames of advantage. What this essentially means is that if you’re badass enough to predict what the other fighter’s gonna do, you can negate damage while setting them up for some major hurtin’.
The rest of the mechanics are pretty standard. Your arsenal includes normals and specials, as always. You’ve got your super bars that can be spent on EX moves and supers (for the laymen: EX = boosted version of special move, super move = I Am Spending a Good Chunk of My Super Bar to Hurt You Real Bad). KoF vets will happily recognize hyper hops (a.k.a. the “all up in your business” command) and the guard meter (a.k.a. “block enough hits and get stunned”).
After playing around with the game a bit, one also notices that counter hits deal huge damage. This mechanic seems common to all characters, and pretty much means that you can win a match by knowing which of your attacks beat out your opponent’s and knocking them out of their own attack animations.
Put that all together and the game favors players with timing and discretion, but that doesn’t make it slow by any means. Yes the guy who’s learned his combos is capable of doing major damage, but so is the guy who can fake you out and launch his own offensive of counterpokes. You want to get in your opponent’s face and apply pressure while predicting his counterattacks and…countering them with your own counter-counterattacks.
This is all a lot simpler than I just made it sound, trust me.
Last and most certainly least of the mechanics is Persona 4 Arena-esque commentator selection.
You can choose to have one of the game’s characters or some FGC celeb (the only one I know is Maximillian) do your commentary. As pictured, it pretty much entails them popping in during the match to tell you how well (or poorly) you’re doing.
I personally like to keep it on just because it’s not a feature you see in all fighting games, but most people I know find it annoying. In a two-player match, if one person picks “No Assist” then neither player gets their magical talking head below their lifebar.
The first major gripe most players will have about going head-to-head is that the game literally reads whatever two controllers were plugged into your device when you booted the game up. If two players are using pads and a third wants to challenge the winner with his fightstick, they’ll be spending a bit more time than is necessary reconfiguring (at least once we’ve had to restart the game altogether just for a third guy to switch in his controller). With games like KoF XIII and Guilty Gear Xrd that read multiple controllers and save you the time, technology these days can do better.
Otherwise it’s all standard one-on-one beatdowns that we’ve all grown to know and love. Speaking of versus mode…
In all my attempts to play online I’ve only managed to get into a lobby once and it was some French (or was he Canadian?) dude. I got disconnected from the lobby before the match could actually start.
The game’s online matchmaking makes Dark Souls’ multiplayer look as crowded as Ragnarok Online’s Prontera. I rarely see more than four lobbies active at a time, and they’re either full or I fail to connect. The one time I tried playing with a friend within the same country, it failed to connect too; strangely enough he’d managed to square off with a particularly skilled gentleman from Japan earlier that day.
I don’t know whether Yatagarasu itself has bad servers or it’s just allergic to the Philippines, but it does demand a teensy bit of tech know-how just to get online in the first place.
It’s an enjoyable game that’s easy enough to learn, since you can win matches by knowing your highest-damaging moves and simply baiting your opponent into leaving themselves open for those moves. The advanced stuff like parries, footsies and long combos munching on your lifebar aren’t necessary to enjoy a few rounds of the game for casual play. Fighting vets will find a good-enough mesh of KoF and SFIII that is far less demanding of your hardware and might pleasantly surprise. All in all it gives off a vibe that the devs put together a mechanically solid fighter and sent it off without really implementing any extra features or polish. But hey, that’s probably because it was crowdfunded.
Online play seems pretty limited for now (in the Philippines anyway) but it’s fun enough if you’ve got some friends over.
Just to top it off, here’s some gameplay footage from a coupl’a local channels.
Too Much Gaming’s playthrough:
And a shameless plug of my own Youtube show, #BREGZ: