Originally Posted by Naisu Baddi
I never got a chance to play "Sunset Riders" because it seemed to be rare for some reason, even when it was relatively new. I think it was probably always rare, as it's currently going for really high prices on E-bay. Anyone know what the deal is with that?
That... couldn't be any further from the opposite of my experience with that game in the 90's. That arcade machine was everywhere. Bowling alleys, malls, movie theaters, pizza joints. It was about as common a sight as the Konami X-Men and TMNT games. Pretty much every kid I knew that was into video games at the time knew the game quite well and had played the hell out of it. Seemed like it was among the more popular titles of the time.
With that thought of rareness in mind though;
181. Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen (Sega Genesis, 1994)
Fighting games based on shonen anime licenses have a nasty reputation. For damn good reason, as the vast majority of them tend to have a chronic case of sucking ass. There are exceptions though.
This game here isn't just an exception: it stands well, well far apart from and high above every single solitary anime licensed game, fighting or otherwise as something truly masterful and genre defining.
Its made by Treasure: same people behind Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, etc. With that kind of pedigree, right off the bat you know that you're in for something utterly mind blowing, anime license be damned.
In my post on Guardian Heroes I singled out that game's versus mode as being pretty much almost a whole other game unto itself, a free for all arena fighting game along the lines of Smash Bros, but totally outdoing that game several times over while predating it by years. Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen predates Guardian Heroes by two years and is unquestionably the direct inspiration for Guardian Heroes' versus mode. The similarities are undeniable and impossible to miss.
At a glance, this game would appear to seem to be a slightly more primitive dry run for versus Guardian Heroes. Its up to four players simultaneous rather than six, and it has two planes of fighting (background and foreground) rather than three (back, middle, and fore). There's also only 11 playable fighters as opposed to the dizzyingly countless dozens that Guardian Heroes sports, and those 11 characters on the surface all appear to have far less moves than the principal characters of GH. The controls and fighting mechanics are incredibly comparable, and skimming this game on a surface level one could be forgiven for mistaking it as simply a less refined predecessor to a game that would take the ideas here and further polish them.
But make no mistake, one would be grossly, grossly incorrect in making that assumption. This game might just be the single greatest fighting game that next to nobody outside of Japan has ever played or heard of. Hell, it might just be the single greatest fighting game ever made. That's not at all hyperbole. I'm completely serious.
The versus game in Guardian Heroes is sublime, but at the end of the day it is a secondary mode to the primary game which is a branching path beat em up first and foremost. Makyo Toitsusen IS a free for all arena fighter and nothing else, and thus it puts ALL its focus on being just that. This is Guardian Heroes' phenomenal sub-game put front and center and given a laser-focus that simply isn't present in versus GH.
The number of playable characters here may be dwarfed by the staggering amount found in GH, but as I said in my post on GH a decent chunk of those characters are joke or novelty characters with nothing much in the way of depth to them. Not here. Each and every single one of the playable characters here are here for a reason. They also may have seemingly far less moves than the main cast of GH, but each and every single one of the moves they do have are clogged to the gills with hidden depths and versatility of a level not found in even the most complex playing GH character.
In fact that's kind of the fundamental principle as to what makes this game the masterpiece of flawless design that it is: deceptive simplicity masking incredible amounts of depth.
Fighting games enjoyed enormous popularity in the 90's and in the flourishing arcade scene of the time, but as arcades declined and died at the turn of the following decade, the genre also crashed and burned in a big way. A whole new generation of gamers not reared on the genre during its heyday found it to be way too over-complex to the point of being impenetrable.
Think about it: how many people do you guys know who seem to always decline playing fighting games with the general excuse of “I suck at them” or “I can never understand how the moves work”? Hell, how many of you guys ARE that type of gamer yourselves? This is a genre that is often hypocritically criticized as being simultaneously too dumb and simplistic compared to other genres (“all you do is punch each other; there's no strategy like in a game like Civilization”) and too complicated and skill-driven for the average layman to understand or get good at.
The genius behind Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen is that it COMPLETELY circumvents this whole paradigm. This game, on the outside and on its most immediate surface level, is RIDICULOUSLY simple. There are generally only between about three to five special moves per character and the motions to pull off the moves are so ludicrously simple and easy to perform (and many times often shared between characters) that you'd have to have something physically wrong with your hands to not be able to do them right. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that you could easily put this game in the hands of a pre-schooler and they could probably figure out all the basics in about a half hour or so.
Now this is the point where hardcore fighting gamers (like myself) would balk at such a game and call it “baby's first fighting game” or something similarly disparaging and dismissive and go back to playing Street Fighter III or any of the Virtua Fighter games. But nope, that would be totally wrong also. For all this game's surface level simplicity, it also hides INCREDIBLE depths of a kind that give even the most technical Capcom and SNK fighters a run for their money. You get a feel for the basic moves of a given character, and its a hop skip and a jump from there to figuring out how all kinds of INSANE combos and juggles work for that character. Advanced combos that just about anybody with half a brain and who takes the game seriously and plays it even semi-regularly will be able to understand and pull off. And for a roster of characters with only three to five special moves apiece, each and every single one of those moves has a mind boggling degree of versatility to them. Any ONE special move in this game has about 30 or 40 different uses depending on a given situation.
The character balance is among the absolute best of any fighting game I have ever played (and I've played a whopping FUCKTON of them, believe me). Nobody in this game has any kind of unfair advantage over anyone, and nobody is useless or has a single useless technique between them. Each and every single punch, kick, dive, dash attack, and fireball present in this game is there for a very good reason and will have about a dozen different opportunities to shine in any given fight. The incredible economy of the movesets for these characters is so perfect, so without flaw, you just want to cry. And the fact that an arsenal of such amazing, impressively deep techniques in a fighting game are so goddamned universally beginner friendly is more than outstanding: its to be celebrated by anyone with a hint of genuine love and passion for the pure, technical gameplay aspect of video games. And of course the controls are so flawless, so tight and spot on that half the game's addictiveness comes from just the sheer joy of controlling the character.
The other half surely comes from the manic, breathless pace of the fights. It is a testament to the fighting engine's masterful craft and care of its construction that the game can be this user friendly and beginner welcoming while still being as insanely fast and relentlessly frenetic as it is. For those coming at this game from the perspective of being someone who is intimidated by the fast pace of fighting games and the complex technicality of some of them, do NOT for a microsecond be put off by how breathlessly paced the fighting is here. Trust me: give the game a few minutes of your time, learn the fundamentals of how it works, and you too will be able to hang with the psychotic, fast and furious brawling like nothing's nothing. Just like Guardian Heroes, this game is controlled chaos personified: for all the madness and explosions and fists flying and bodies sent hurtling every which way, you will always be able to track exactly who you are, where your character is, and what they're doing. Always.
This game isn't merely a great fighting game for people who are normally intimidated by the genre; it absolutely WELCOMES anybody, of ANY skill level to play it and have immense fun with it, and it does so without ever for one fleeting instant feeling like its dumbing anything down or pandering to non-gamers or non-fans of the genre at the expense of experienced expert players. It alienates nobody and acts as a welcome invitation for any player of any genre persuasion to see why this genre is so popular and beloved. Frankly speaking, THIS is how you properly introduce non-fans to a game genre without marginalizing its established base. This is how it should be done always. Textbook.
This game is the epitome of the phrase "easy to learn, difficult to master". It manages the incredible balancing act of being universally accessible while completely satisfying even the most hardened and technical of fighting gamers. And the most awe inspiring thing is that it handles that balance while making it look so goddamned easy and effortless.
And oh what fun this game is. This is easily and without the slightest doubt my immediate go-to pick for the single most fun multiplayer game I have EVER touched in well over 25 years of gaming. Get four people in a room with this game, and they are guaranteed to have an absolute fucking blast with it. Even if two of them are Fighters Evolution snobs and two of them can barely handle a Smash Bros. game, Makyo Toitsusen is without question that flawless Rosetta Stone fighting game that can be universally beloved and appreciated by anybody. Absolutely anybody. Hell, the matches are so hectic and insane, the game is oftentimes just fun to WATCH other people playing it. A factor which further invites people to want to play it and learn how it plays: the fun factor is so high here, you can feel it permeating from the game just from WATCHING it be played. Look up any youtube clip of a 4 player match in this game and see what I mean. This game is an outstanding masterwork of the best game designers the industry has ever seen firing on all cylinders.
Even on a non-gameplay level, the game is astounding. The fact that it supports up to 4 players at once (via multitap of course) and the fact that the fights are so hectic and insane and fast paced does not at all for one moment affect its performance. Similar to Wild Guns on the SNES, there is NO slowdown. There is NO glitching. Not even to a remote, minor degree. Not ever. At all. At. All. No matter how many characters are flying about, how many ki beams and explosions are filling the screen, it is never running at anything less than optimum performance at all times. That the graphics and sprites are so detailed and the sound and music so crisp (by Genesis standards mind you; that system was notorious for having far from the greatest sound chip) and the backgrounds filled with insane visual effects that one would think were far beyond the Genesis' programming capacity (and all these factors combining to push the Genesis' hardware above and beyond what must have surely been its absolute breaking point), this game is a miracle of expert programming. This is the work of true prodigies of game coding. And this is on 16 bit fucking hardware. In 1994.
Indeed the one and ONLY negative aspect of the game has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself. Its the game's availability. It was never released anywhere other than Japan and Brazil (where it was known in the latter's case as “Yu Yu Hakusho: Sunset Fighters”). And even then it was produced in tragically limited quantities. Trying to obtain a physical copy of this game below triple digit figures is an exercise in heartbreaking futility. Legend also has it that beyond the game's general rarity, the other reason that so few copies seem to crop up for sale is that the vast overwhelming majority of Japanese gamers who bought and own copies of this on its original release love the game so much that they're still to this day unwilling to part with their copy for any price. I'm not entirely sure how true that is, but in all honesty I have no problems believing it. If ever there was a game that is utterly CRYING for a re-release with online capabilities, this here is that game. If you have any experience with or knowledge of emulation, by ALL means this is a game to put at the absolute top of your must-play priority list.
Ignore the fact that its based on a popular Shonen Jump anime. Ignore the stigma that such games carry. Forget every awful Naruto or Dragon Ball Z fighting game you ever might have had the misfortune to touch. This game here isn't even in the same galaxy as those games, much less the same solar system, much less the same planet, much less the same league. You need absolutely NO familiarity with the license whatsoever to play and love this game. You don't even need to like anime itself at all to recognize the beauty of this game.
This isn't just a timeless classic of the fighting game genre. Its a work of art. And that the vast overwhelming majority of people playing video games today will likely never be able to so much as touch it (outside of emulation) let alone give it the proper recognition that it truly deserves, is a real tragedy.
Edited by Jaquio - 3/27/12 at 8:22pm