| paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=JPN] |
|"OZ" is apparently an acronym for "Over Zenith." I have no idea what that means. It is also a reference to "The Wizard of Oz," the movie--for whatever reason, many of the characters in this somewhat unique three-person-juggle beat-em-up have elements taken from L. Frank Baum's classic fantasy story.|
I can't particularly follow the story here, but there's lots of it, apparently, as you go through lots of (skippable) unvoiced dialog sequences between the main characters. A little blond girl named Dorothy gets kidnapped by weird flying alien creatures in wild, gully-ridden wasteland, and the main character, a boy with an axe named "Fool" (?--Tin Woodsman, I guess?), wants to go rescue her, along with some sex bomb blond woman and a Cowardly-Lionesque dude named Leon. And then there's Toto, a little demonkin who shows up sometimes and grins.
I don't know how much any of that matters, as really what happens is you run through gullys from canyon to canyon, killing waves of enemies that spawn in, and then it's on to the next section, until you reach the boss. Pretty standard 3D beat-em-up structure, there.
The interesting part comes in with the two other characters playing with you. Normally, they'll just run around, fighting other baddies. You can call them to a target with the Circle button, if you want to gang up. But once you stun a target, then smash them up into the air, the real fun begins: if one of the other two has the opportunity, they'll intercept the juggled victim and add in their own juggle hits before passing him off to someone else. This back-and-forth juggling between you and the two AI characters can, in theory, continue until the victim is dead, so long as you don't let him hit the ground.
The game gives you a training mode where you can practice this juggling to your heart's content, and a little practice may pay off: combo-juggling a baddie builds up your Tension Meter until it gets a rank 1 or 2 super built up--then hit Triangle to fire the super and, if the big sweeping super attack hits a foe, it obliterates them and gives you a big (money?) bonus. You can spend this money on new items or attribute upgrades for your three characters between stages. I'd rather not have the money-spending/upgrading thing, really, particularly since the item upgrade names are all in Japanese (although many of them are katakana, and have clear icons anyway, so I suppose it isn't that bad), but it seems to be de rigeur in beat-em-ups these days.
A bit further on, things get more complicated, as you encounter targets that only take damage from super attacks. This means that you have to build up a juggle combo on something else, then rush over to the special target and trigger the supper attack before your Tension Meter runs down. The coolest use of this so far (I haven't got very far yet, mind) has been a big behemoth of a boss who shrugs off normal attacks while throwing out big spiked balls. The balls, though, can be combo juggled to raise your tension meter, and then you go smack the boss. One of the more interesting boss fights I've seen recently.
Coordinating multiple juggles in the middle of a raging melee gets pretty wild, and the controls seem to offer a lot of little nuances for positioning yourself just right, if you can keep track of what's flying around you and react correctly. So this game seems pretty promising. It uses Renderware, and looks pretty nice. At the very beginning of the first real fight sequence you see a big blast of slowdown, and my heart sank, but I haven't seen the like since, so maybe that's just an odd load hitch or something. The rendered cinematics look pretty nice, too. I wish there were voice acting to put more life into the clicky conversations, but ah well.
Oh, the music receives particular attention in this game. Early on, Konami was hyping that it was inspired by Borodin's Polovtsian Dances--it's kind of hard to feel that in most of the driving techno/rock tracks I've heard so far, but they at least have some above-average inspiration behind them. The game also has a good deal of style, both visually and aurally. Always good to have some style, I says.