Your mind is my plaything!
The air above the city street crackles with energy. A translucent cube hangs in mid-air with two people floating inside of it. The crowd that had once filled the street below disperses quickly, well aware of what is about to happen. The two combatants circle each other, ignoring gravity's call. The battle begins and the sparks fly. Lances of energy are projected from each fighter as they use their ESP not for the advancement of mankind, but for battle. Some are fighting to free humanity, others to enslave it. When the battle is over and the cube dissipates, who will be floating victorious?
Though the Dreamcast is still young, it already has a number of fighting games. From the visually impressive Soul Calibur to the seen-it-before Marvel vs. Capcom, the fighting genre is showing its popularity. On rare occasions, a truly unique fighting game is released, and such is the case with Psychic Force 2012. With innovative gameplay and the Dreamcast's impressive graphics, Psychic Force 2012 has a good chance of being a sleeper hit.
The plot is fairly basic. Suffice to say that there are good guys, bad guys, and guys who toe the line. Every single one of them have psychic powers and all of them are fighting for the future of mankind as we know it. Just your basic anime-inspired fighting game plot. Nothing really new there.
Simply by glancing at the game, however, you know that something is different. For one thing, there is no ground on which the fighters stand. Instead, they float in midair, mocking the laws of physics. You circle your opponent vertically as opposed to horizontally. Each arena is bordered by a translucent cube that can be shattered if hit hard enough. Very strange.
Besides the strange arena, the fighting dynamic has been changed as well. Each player has one meter and a POW number. The single meter is split in half: psychic energy (which limits the number of special moves you can do at a time) on the bottom, and health on the top. As your health goes down, your psychic energy goes up. You can also sacrifice health to increase psychic energy and your POW number, which augments the power your attacks. This balance between special moves and health works amazingly well and leads players to develop more style when they play, as opposed to just memorizing specific moves.
Unlike many fighting games, Psychic Force 2012 has a great balance between distance and close attacks. Through the use of a "dash" move, you can close in on your opponent very quickly and execute a number of moves. However, if you're feeling overpowered, you can drive your opponent away using a psychic bubble of energy by repeatedly tapping the attack button.
As innovative and neat as Psychic Force 2012 is, there are still some problems. For one, the control takes a lot of getting used to. Understanding the different psychic abilities of each character is fairly hard. This is due, in part, to the fact that you're limited to only three buttons: light attack, strong attack, and guard. This means that moves are a combination of directions and attack buttons. If you thought that was hard in Street Fighter, try removing the floor.
The limited button usage raises questions. Why not use the other standard buttons? I could come up with a ton of cool uses for every single button on the Dreamcast controller, both to accent the gameplay or to just plain improve upon it. Using more buttons would have helped the control.
The other drawbacks are design oriented. The characters are your generic anime stereotypes. Very few of them have any real originality. Also, they all speak in Japanese with English subtitles. Am I the only one who likes characters to speak in the language I'm fluent in? I know that translating the language costs money, but what's the point of speech if you can't understand it?
When the dust settles, Psychic Force 2012 is a very odd game with some great new additions to the genre. Though the character design needs work, the game itself is fun and worth a try. While this doesn't outshine other "traditional" fighting games, it is a refreshing change of pace.