|I could hardly believe that a new 2D isometric beat-em-up was being released, so I snapped this one up without wanting to think about it too much, and hoping for the best. Ah, my innocent days.|
Eloquent Fist is not a great game. Ikkitousen is some kind of anime or something probably; at any rate there's a large cast of buxom anime-looking women in short skirts and tight sweaters or sailor tops, ie the usual fantasy Japanese schoolgirl outfit, and they run along from left to right through street scenes and so forth, beating up what appear to be prep school students. Their moves usually involve a lot of high kicks, and you can imagine what happens due to their short skirts, although curiously they don't seem to mind. If they lose all their lives, you get a continue screen backed by a cheesecake shot of them in carefully arranged ripped clothing. There is one male character (possibly more; there are 17 character spots, and five or so have to be unlocked), and I'm afraid I didn't check to see what his continue screen looks like. Once seen, the screens and cheesecake shots are saved in the Gallery mode for easy access.
So the cheesecake quotient is high, but what about the game? Most attacks are done with the square button, and mashing it repeatedly does chain combos, sometimes ending with triangle, which is otherwise a knockdown attack button. Circle does a sort of area attack that hits everyone nearby, but using it costs a little life. The X button jumps, but the jumps are so low and stiff that there doesn't seem to be much point in having it at all; in the first three levels I never encountered any obstacle or threat/attack that needed jumping over or could be jumped over.
Most of the attack animations are as stiff as the jumping; they aren't too badly drawn (I noticed a few that seemed to lose proportion on the leg or arm), but there are usually no in-between frames of animation on the movement, so the movement doesn't really look natural or graceful. This isn't too bad on the faster and broader attacks, and two or three of the women have very quick effective combos that will toss a mob of preppy attackers like a cheap salad, accompanied by lots of flashy effects and shouting.
That's about as good as things get, and I'll admit that the one or two flashy combos those few characters have would have been enough to get me to mash through the game with them as far as I could, if it weren't for the boss fights.
The developers don't seem to have had a way to make the bosses slug it out with you in a fun way. The rank and file prepsters you thrash by the dozens up until the boss fight don't do much in the way of give and take--they pretty much fold like a pack of cheap playing cards--but that's sort of expected from them (although it does make the first few levels more tedious than they should be; the prepsters don't actually start getting dangerous until level three). Bosses are supposed to put up a pretty good slug-fest, though, and that just doesn't happen here. The bosses, it should be noted, are the other playable characters. Some of them don't even seem to know how to attack, really, and will just stand there a while as you keep notching their hit points down. But the really unsatisfying thing about them is that they don't tend to react when hit: you see the hit spark on them, but they don't play a recoil animation, and thus don't have any "hit stun" effect.
I think the designers resorted to this because otherwise the bosses would have no means of fighting back. See, they aren't very good at doing regular attacks, so they just kind of stand there motionlessly getting hit for a while, then they'll whip out with an unstoppable (no hit-stun on them, remember) unblockable (there's no block function in the game) screen-wide attack that automatically hits for about 80% of your life meter. This isn't really a fun way to have a battle.
You can activate super moves too, if you've built up some mana or whatever from kicking ass, or if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of your life meter. You can, or at least I seemed to a few times, cancel out the boss' super attack with your own super attack, so I suppose that's one sort of game mechanic left here, but it isn't a great one. Anyway once you suck up some unstoppable super attacks and drop a life or so (unless you were lucky and the boss was one of the really stupid ones that didn't know how to attack at all), you're past the boss and running down another city street mauling the same unthreatening-looking prepsters for a while.
That's in Arcade mode. There's also Story mode, where it seems that you pick one of three groups of the characters, then play through a mixed series of boss fights and prepster mob street fights with them, with some Japanese conversations interspersed. I didn't spend much time with it.
A tiny part of me still wants to try running through the game with one of the three quicker characters, just to see if anything changes for the better later on, but the lack of variation in the mobs and the astounding lack of boss AI that I found in the first three levels will in all likelihood keep me from trying it.
Oh, I suppose I should say something about the characters I was less interested in playing with. Some of them have quite effective attacks, and some have remarkably ineffective ones--there seems to have been no real attempt at balancing them out--but what they have in common are simply uninspiring attack patterns and animations; if you're going to play through a severely repetitive beat-em-up requiring you to destroy hundreds of very bland prepster clones over and over, you're going to need to have at least one attack that's quick, effective, and intuitive, and not too boring to watch, and most of the characters here don't have it.
It is funny, though, that at least in the earlier levels, using even the more satisfying characters' attack combos may not be the best way to go; they tend to send everyone flying like bowling pins, and if any are still alive, you have to wait for them to get back up and wander back over. So instead of doing that, you can just stand there doing your single attack hit over and over--just slow enough not to initiate your chain combo--and take the prepsters down with repeated hit-stun spam since they're too stupid to counter-attack, dodge, or flank. It doesn't work well after the first few stages because the game starts sending enough people at you that some will get behind you just by accident if you stand there doing it long enough.