Rory On March 12, 2003 at 5:13 pm

HAL took Street Fighter, stripped it of it’s combos, injected it with a healthy dose of fun and grafted cute Nintendo characters on top. The end result was far more impressive than anyone could have hoped for, and it not only proved that beat ’em ups could be cute, but it also created a multi-player game that was in a league of it’s own. 2 years later and Nintendo need a killer-app for their latest system, Gamecube, and what better title to choose than this, but who could have guessed what was originally planned as "minor upgrade" could eventually become a full-fledged sequel that is as close to perfection as a game of this type can get.

It’s a rare occurrence when a developer, this time HAL, can take a genre, simplify it to the point where it can be seen as nothing but a button-basher, but still manage to create something as magnificent as this. Unlike most beat ’em ups, the one-player modes are a little different from the normal offerings. The adventure mode is a decent stab at getting the retro 2D side-scroller experience with modern day graphics, and it faithfully reproduces some of the more exciting levels and moments from the classic games from which the characters are taken. Throughout your adventure you’ll visit the vast castle and dungeons of Hyrule, race out of the Planet Zebes, and hell, you’ll even kick Mario’s ass on top of Peach’s castle. Of course, those who don’t want to visit the Nintendo world’s of the past can always just jump straight into the action with the classic mode, which is rather predictably just your character facing semi-random opponents until he gets to the final boss. As if this wasn’t enough to keep gamer’s occupied, there is also the ability to play in "event matches", where you must fight in preselected bouts usually each with it’s own unique situation(IE. Samus must fight to show she is the best bounty hunter, Mario all-stars etc.). Despite having so many single player features, the game really only comes into it’s own through it’s multi-player mode. The rush of emotion whether you win or lose is really the crown jewel in the game. Pummeling your opponent in Tekken doesn’t come any where near the amount of fun to be had with this. To put the icing on the cake, so to speak, is that you can collect trophies depending on which part of the game you complete and with which character. Each trophy is magnificently posed and designed, and gives you hints and tips for when playing with the character, or sometimes a short "Biography" on the character which it represents. The only real problem is with some of the restrictions of the characters and the often infuriating slopes and curves of each stage. As the basic premise is to knock your opponent off the stage, sometimes it can feel a little unfair on a new player if he or she simply walks to one end and is trapped between two objects or is slowly sliding down the side of something with little hope to escape. The problem with the characters is that many of the secret ones can feel like nothing but different looking clones of the already available characters, and with each fighter having only a few moves at their disposal it doesn’t take long to master them all.

The graphical splendor throughout the game is something which is often overlooked by other reviewers, as many seem not to acknowledge that this game has one of the slickest engines I’ve ever seen. The speed runs at a consistent 60fps, despite every landscape being bold and beautifully rendered in real-time, and the nice touches such as the moving track in the F-zero level look impressive and rather than just being pretty, actually have a proper influence on the outcome of the match. Character models are also very easy on the eye, with each character being of a high polygon count, and each is animated flawlessly throughout. Particularly with Mario and Link, as Mario has a very nice model, a far more darker, almost more realistic approach to the character. Link on the other hand is impressive not only because of every last detail on his little green suit, but also because he has, in my eyes at least, surpassed the wonderful, but never used model we saw back at the unveiling of what the then-new Gamecube was capable of.

The sounds in the game are also suitably nostalgic, with some great classic tunes given a nice new modern sound and everything is now a lot more crisp and clear. The thumps and the wallops are just as bland as every other game’s, but it’s nice to see that many characters have been given the right to shout and cry just as much as their older cousins.

Fighting purists may find this game a little too easy, but I for one am glad to see the decidedly old-school pick-up-and-play methods of Nintendo’s past being given a new lease of life through the advanced graphical capabilities of today, and perhaps some developer’s should take a page from HAL’s book and go back to their roots which made gaming what it is today. It may not come out guns-a-blazing, but the light hearted 2D violence is just as manic and as fun as it was 8 years ago, and perhaps this new breed of "serious" gamers should give this a go, as once your under it’s charm there is no way out.


Not a Tekken beater, but it doesn’t try to be, think of it as a more joyful recreation of the genre


Lush, bright eye catching and silky smooth, Mario and co. have never looked better


Catchy tunes that you can hum alongh to, and some nice new speech samples


The basic fighter and 2D platformer parts compliment each other nicely, and is one of the most polished games on the ‘Cube

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