Life in the projects ain't so bad.
I was about to start this review by discussing the history of Capcom and its famous fighters. Then I was going to mention something about Project Justice's (aka Rival Schools 2) roots in the original Rival Schools and how it took 2D fighters into the 3D realm. But mere moments ago, I came out of my 24/7-video-game-playing-induced bout of brain dead activity and was shocked with inspiration.
Project Justice may look like "just another Capcom fighter" that deserves "just another review," but that would be like calling green "just another color" for ketchup. In fact, this game is something really special and is definitely a much tastier treat than the aforementioned condiment.
How many fighting games out there allow you to (a) fight a guy wearing Speedos, (b) fight AS a guy wearing Speedos, or even (c) beat up a guy wearing Speedos as the school nurse? None. No other game can bring you crazy characters like Project Justice can.
In addition to the infamous swimming coach, there are a ton of other schoolyard fighters including the baseball player, the yearbook photographer and the Phys Ed coach. This wild and wacky band of characters gives a whole lot of personality to a game chock full of goofy fighting..
Just wait until you see some of the hilarious team attacks. As you lead your team of three, you'll build up a power meter a la Street Fighter. Since you can't tag out in the middle of a match, your partners act as support, causing bad things to happen to your opponents. Maybe your team will engage in some synchronized swimming - martial style - or even force the enemy into a deadly Kodak moment. You never know what could happen with this group of heroic high schoolers.
Performing these feats of lethal silliness with your fighter is easy for fighting veterans because Project Justice uses the exact same scheme as all other Capcom fighters. Quarter-circles, half-circles and all of the familiar button combos make this game a snap to pick up and play. Even the fighting newbie won't have a whole lot of trouble learning the ropes here.
One cool aspect of the gameplay is the unique counter system. Pretty much every move in the game can be countered, including the team attacks. When a team attack is initiated, it can be countered with the simple press of two buttons. Don't relax just yet, because now you've got to earn your counter. One fighter from each side will run onto the screen for a quick five second round of sudden death. Get the first strike and the move is cancelled, but lose and your character is schooled in the fine art of smackdown. Ouch.
Surprisingly enough, Project Justice actually has a coherent storyline...sort of. Back in the original Rival Schools, a group of super-powered high school students stopped a plot for world domination. One year later, bizarre events are beginning again and some of the kids are acting strange. Our group of super students must solve the mystery before it's too late! Okay, so it's no Scooby Doo, but you'll actually be able to understand what's going on (unlike some other fighting games).
As the Story mode begins, players will choose from a handful of schools and set off to solve the mystery. Along the way, you'll notice that decisions have to be made about which character to control. These choices sometimes lead down different story branches, adding an element of replay value to the game.
If the different stories aren't enough to get you to play the game again, then the unlockable characters are. Over 10 characters, including the lead villains, are up for grabs, giving Project Justice a huge roster to play with.
The biggest bump in the road is the game's plain graphics and areas. While its isn't really flawed, the ho-hum visuals could use a touch up and a little bit of love.
But wait - we're not done yet! You'll experience one of best things about Project Justice before you even get the disc into your Dreamcast. Surprisingly, the game has a suggested retail price of $19.95! If that isn't a good deal for a top-notch game, I don't know what is.
So there you have it. The Dreamcast isn't buried yet. The life force still trickles through Sega's machine and is strengthened with the release of a great deal like Project Justice. This fighter definitely earns a spot in any Dreamcast library.