This fighting game series, back when it used to get brought out in the States, was known in these parts as "Power Instinct." This edition is apparently an expanded version of the recent arcade one subtitled "Matrimelee"; the title babelfishes as "Great blood temple whole group: lusts release."
As in the PS1 Ichizoku (see entry 102), this 2D fighter features a gang of wacky characters fighting in front of various musical performances; each stage has its own orchestrated musical theme, with animated performers in the background. There could stand to be a few more backgrounds, I think, but the ones that are here are nice, and the music is well done.
Many of the bizarre characters from the earlier game return, including the two denture-throwing grannies, the old dude with a cane who transforms into a super-buffed version of himself, and the studly guy in a bright dog suit, Poochie--although he only shows up as the transformed version of the fat costumed kid. Not all of the characters have transformations, and I'm not even entirely sure what triggers the transformations, but they're fun when they happen.
Otherwise, the game mechanics seem pretty straightforward: each character has a more or less normal amount of supers (some of which are rather complicated, requiring multiple buttons) and special moves, many have double jumps, there are forward backward rolls, and there you go. Your super meter can hold three charges, and different supers may take different amounts of charges. When you do a super, the whole background is replaced by this big yellow and black power gathering effect.
The main mechanical pecularity are the powerup animations: when you build up a new energy stock, your character roars as an energy nimbus explodes around them; if the enemy hits this energy, they're knocked down and dealt a little damage. It's sort of annoying, if you ask me, but it gives matches a little extra character and strategy, I suppose.
The character sprites are surprisingly small, particularly for an Atomiswave game (I guess 'cause I assume the hardware can handle large sprites). They move pretty quick, though, and maybe to make up a bit for the size, they shoot out all kinds of transparent effects when they hit each other or other dramatic things. The high-res, high-color effects look a little out of place coming off the low-res sprites--not in an awful way, but just a little funky. On the definite plus side, load times are very brisk.
There are standard arcade and vs modes (no story to speak of as far as I've seen), training I think, and a quest mode, although I can't even beat the first challenge because the opponent is really cranked up! I think if you beat the challenges (or maybe arcade mode), you earn "cards"; you can equip a certain number of these cards in vs battles; presumably they each give a different type of bonus. This isn't a new concept by any means (see entry 418, for instance), and I guess I couldn't really care less about it. You can visit a litle gallery mode to see what cards have been won.
So far this all sounds pretty been-there, done-that, but the thing that makes the game is the sheer looniness; you know something isn't normal right from the crazy cacaphony of blaring singalong music (lots of voice samples throughout this game) that explodes out of the main menu screen, and then the loud honk when you go to the character select screen. There are lots of characters, each with a very distinct look, and most even with what you could call personality, although I will say that I'm not overly fond of the fast, shrieking child characters, or the few others that are very much in the generic "I'm a bad-ass sprite" vein. But there are plenty of them that are much more interesting, and once you get them rocketing around in front of a nutty musical act, the music blaring, you'll probably find that you haven't quite played a fighting game like this before, unless it was another in the series.
Not an earth-shatterer by any means, and a bit lacking in modes, but if you like quirky 2D fighters, this one is way, way out there.