| paleface [sys=PS1; cat=Fighting; loc=JPN] |
|If Jet Grind Radio and Guilty Gear had a bastard punk child, it might resemble the cel-shaded, grafitti-clad, beat-ridden madness that is Slap Happy Rhythm Busters. Jet Grind Radio came out the same day as this game in Japan, yet the DC game gets all the credit for being the first game to use cel-shading; to my mind, pulling off decent-looking cel-shading on the PS1 on the same day is a far greater feat of engineering. While it may be argued that Jet Grind has a superior soundtrack, it'd be hard to out-do Slap Happy in pure funky gameplay.|
The rhythm portion of this game has been slightly overemphasized in the small amount of press it's had in the West: you could play through the whole fighting game without doing the beat thing once. But if you choose, press a certain button when your character has built up three charges in their power bar and you do a close range attack which, if it hits, throws you into a bemani-style minigame where each hit on the beat is another blow on your opponent.
You may also want to play the "DJ Practice" mode where you practice normal and hard versions of these rhythm bits, because I think completing these helps to unlock a few of the 21 characters. While a few obviously took some inspiration from Capcom or SNK, most of the color-clashing cast are highly original, for instance the lasso-wielding cowgirl, or the two little girls who ride piggy-back on each other. While the characters shade their cels in three dimensions, they fight in two, and the two-dimensional backgrounds burst with color. Making no pretense of having a story, aside from perhaps a cattle-mutilating alien boss, you just go in and kick butt to techno beats, dishing out combos, special moves, and supers right and left with abandon--the super meters charge up *real* fast. Despite the super-deformed characters and hip-hop style, the controls are no slouch, utilizing six different buttons (weak/strong punch/kick, throw, rhythm special), at least two supers, and six or more regular special moves per character.
I wouldn't be surprised if some of the characters are a bit better than others, and certainly you can do some cheap things to the computer (who, however, frequently revenges itself with a super in your face), but the plethora of moves, in addition to such mechanics as knockback attacks, air recoveries and launching uppercuts, keep things hopping nicely. You could nit-pick the soundtrack, bitch about how two-button supers are a pain (though you can hotkey a single button to do double duty) or deplore the lack of other modes (no Survival mode, for instance), but you'd be missing out on the joys of one of the most unique and rambunctious fighting games ever released.
Menus are in English for the Japanese-impaired.