One of these guys can break dance. Whoa.
Having revolutionized an entire genre of gaming, Capcom's Street Fighter series is the benchmark by which all 2D fighting games are measured. However, something funny happened on the way to the forum. Someone apparently forgot to tell Capcom about the extra "D" (the Third Dimension, if you will), and other companies went nuts, pumping out 3D fighters faster than you can say "omigodthreedeenowayhowcool." Playmates Interactive's Battle Arena Toshinden paved the way for the 32 bit, 3D fighting game extravaganza, culminating in the recent beauty Tekken 2 . In the meantime, Capcom seemed to be missing out on the newest dance craze. Or so you'd think....
Actually, the kids who dreamt up Street Fighter were busy letting their creative juices flow, and when the dam finally burst we get Star Gladiator. You'd think they could have come up with a better name, for example, "ORBITAL SOCK'EM" or "SPACE DEATHNESS" (patents pending). Nonetheless, this 3D fighter easily holds its own against its numerous brethren.
Like all good fighting games, Star Gladiator has a rich and immersive plot (snicker, snicker...). The year is 2348. Interstellar travel is a reality and many races of alien beings are in contact with the wimpy humans. All seems to be well with the universe...until a mad physicist named Bilstein uncovers the secret technique for capturing the energy of the human mind. This energy is called Plasma, though it's not clear if this is plasma as we know it today or some strange futuristic form of plasma, or maybe even plasma with eggs or plasma, plasma, bacon and eggs (and plasma). A few bizarre plot twists later and we end up with a fighting game incorporating some of the most interesting and entertaining characters around.
Star Gladiator is a fairly standard 3D fighter. The controls are reminiscent of Tekken 2 , though a bit simpler. Most of the moves are achieved through long button combinations (as opposed to the control pad madness found in Toshinden ). A helpful training mode option allows you to master the timing of the combos without getting squashed repeatedly by the computer. Each fighter has a ton of moves, though some of these are completely useless.
There are nine fighters at your disposal (unless you want more). Only three of these are humans, the others being, well, flat out weird. Play as Gamof Gohgry, the bear-ish/Ewok-ish thing from Planet DeRosa. Or check out Rimgal, the dinosaur-man with the skull club. And for a real kick, take on the persona of Saturn Dyer, the pinheaded yo-yoing street performer with the pasty green skin and the fresh break dance moves (yep...its all there). The unique character design is quite refreshing and keeps the game interesting.
The graphics are surprisingly sharp. In fact, they're the best we've seen in a fighting game to date. Some of the fighters have individually rendered and animated fingers! These polygonal fighters move with fluidity and realism, again much like Tekken 2 . The character design lends itself to a large color palette, and the fighters look great. The backgrounds are well-drawn and colorful, providing more than just a sense of locale. Background animations are quite impressive as well..
The most important element in any fighting game is, quite frankly, the fighting, and Star Gladiator serves up some pretty good chow. Each fighter is equipped with a "graph" of Plasma combos (found in training mode). These can be anywhere from 2 to 6 buttons, though the number of actual hits does not correspond to button taps, much like Killer Instinct. There are two throw moves for each character as well, based on whether your opponent is facing you or not. In addition to the regular Plasma combos are the vicious Plasma Strike (hit all the attack buttons and watch the brutality) and the even more vicious Plasma Final, which doesn't actually "finish" your opponent, but is impressive nonetheless.
Perhaps the easiest way to win is by knocking your opponent out of the "ring." This feature (exactly as in Virtua Fighter 2) adds to the urgency of the action and makes for some interesting defensive tactics.
Speaking of the proverbial devil, one of the main problems with this game is the defense. Blocking works against some moves, but is completely useless against others. It seems fairly random as to whether or not you will block a move. This is frustrating when you are trying to stop a king size combo from opening up a new orifice. There is a counter attack system in the game, but it is very difficult to utilize.
In all, Star Gladiator is a fun game to play and a cool game to watch. It does a good job of combining graphics with gameplay, though the genre is getting played out.
Before I forget, there is a move in this game that you need to see to believe (hint: scroll back up and click on more). To use the words of Capcom (brace yourself): "A Kappa is a legendary Japanese creature out of mythology... it supposedly has the power to steal your energy by, um, er...well, reaching into your ass and pulling it out. This portion of the legend lends itself to what very well may be the most unique throw move in fighting game history..." More than 'nuff said.