Review by Sklathill

Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 11/01/99

Not just an excellent all-girl fighting game: an excellent fighting game.

When some people think of all-girl fighting games, they think of games such as Pretty Fighter and Advanced VG: games made as disc-length fanservice for otaku that just can't get enough of young anime girls with gameplay rivalling such products as Rise of the Robots. "These are games for the perverts!" they say. When I bought my copy of the Saturn version of Asuka 120%, people were rolling their eyes into the next state. Then I actually started playing the game with my friends.

"Hey! This is pretty fun!"

The characters are your typical assortment of Japanese schoolgirls (read: could put up a fight with Sakura any day of the week) representing the schools various clubs. Asuka and friend-rival Karina represent Chemistry and Biology, respectively, while Cathy and Tamaki represent pro wrestling and tennis. And sorry; no fanservice here. While Kumi, the rhythmic gymnast, is in a leotard and school uniform skirts are hiked up much above the regulation knee-length, that's about as far as the characters go. There aren't even any moves which reveal some girl's undergarment color (*cough*Sakura*cough*) so this game is actually quite safe in this department.

The graphics are very nice: just what you'd expect of a 2d Saturn fighting game. The sprites are large and the animation is very smooth; both aspects leave all three PSX versions (including the latest "Final" game) in the dust in this regard. The only quibble I have with the graphics is the fact that all the backgrounds are static; even the earlier PSX incarnations had animated backgrounds. Still, the backgrounds are rather nicely drawn compared to the PSX games, where the backgrounds were a bit pale.

The sound is pretty good. Sound effects are standard game fare and the characters make quite a bit of noise. The crowd sometimes shouts out "Ganbare!" in encouragement; some might call this an annoyance. The music can actually be rather addictive. It maybe standard Japanese poppish game fare, but it's unquestionably high quality, streamed off the CD as Red Book audio. The only problem I have in the sound department is the lack of win quotes; while other games might have each character say 3 or more different winning quotes, Asuka 120%'s characters are stuck with one.

The control and gameplay is where this game really shines. The controls are much like any other fighting game...except that it's only two buttons. A and B by default create a weak or strong attack. C's effect can be achieved simply by pressing A and B together. With this simple system, many attacks can be chained together for combos of more than a dozen hits. Don't think that this means repeatedly tapping on A; this actually requires quite a bit of skill. The veteran player knows how to cancel out projectiles with attacks, knows when to dash attack a character, knows exactly when a super attack fizzles out, knows exactly how and when to use super moves in combos, knows exactly how to juggle the opponent. For example, Karina has a move that sets up her pet frog as a type of land mine, such that it doesn't follow her. If you're really good, you can move forward and dash weak attack, then perform a special move that knocks the opponent into the air and behind Karina. If done correctly, the opponent will sail right into the frog/land mine, thus adding a few more hits to the combo. This really is a game that rewards those with skill, in spite of the series' reputation as a combo happy fighter.

Though this game is much better as a 2 player game, the 1 player Ranking Mode provides adequate challenge for those looking for it. The Story Mode is just that, with much dialogue (unspoken, unfortunately) between your character and the opponents. Of course, the game is entirely in Japanese; even the characters' names are written out in hiragana (while playing) and in kanji (on the vs. screen).

This game would obviously appeal much more to the anime otaku than to the typical video gamer; still, this game is fun for nearly any fan of fighting games. Copies of this game on sale are extremely hard to come by, and those that are sold are sold for far above the initial sales price more than a year ago. These guys know that it's worth it.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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