On staff, Francisco Garcia Fuentes is known as the heavy Japanese import gamer. A neat aspect, in my favor, is currently Francisco has everything he orders shipped to my house, so I get to open boxes filled with titles like Demon’s Gaze, Seventh Dragon 2020 II, and the Queen’s Blade strategy-RPG that came out a few years ago. For me, import gaming is another step one takes to become hardcore, akin to buying and collecting Gen 2 video games like Atari 2600s, translating and crafting foreign language patches, and buying an arcade cabinet. Looking for my own affordable (you know, because importing games is an expensive endeavor) venue into import gaming, I went with a safe bet; a dirt cheap copy of a PSP fighting game based on the Fist of the North Star spin off Hokuto No Ken: Raoh Gaiden – Ten no Haōh.
I chose Ten no Haōh thinking a fighting game would ease the biggest barrier when playing import games, text, usually, this is a bigger problem with rpgs and strategy games, learning how to even play the game. Deciding I could finger my way around the familiar opening menu, (oddly in English, which I have noticed in the other titles Francisco has played where random text for stats and menus will be in English), with the usual Story Mode, VS CPU, Practice, and Options choices readily available, I went forward, thinking button recognition could be easily learned from a round in practice mode.
I then learned Japan uses the “O” button as the “yes” command, with the “X” button as the “No” command on the PSP. After my entire way of life came crashing down around me, I thought back to how in anime, when exams are handed back, circles mean that the answer is right, where an “x” means the answer is wrong. Makes sense. Even now, I will forget this fact and hammer the “X”, becoming frustrated at how I am now back at the title screen. THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME PEOPLE!
In my head, fighting games like Ten no Haōh, mean two things: unlocking characters (for instance, Fist of the North Star’s famous protagonist Ken) and art by going through story mode/campaign, and experiences every character’s fighting style in Free Battle. Story Mode was a slog of pre-fight text, but since I originally watched the Raoh Gaiden anime (based on a manga that brings up another interesting thing about Japanese langua games, they have non-videogame related ads, like ones for the Raoh Gaiden manga, at the end of the instruction manuals), I understood what I was missing. Ten no Haōh is bare-bones enough that completing these two tasks was all I could do.
Personally, I find fighting games as they are now impenetrable. Their reemergence from their arcade cabinet cocoon with 2008’s Street Fighter 4 has given the spot-light back to the hard-core stylings of knowing what using a combo during the “key animation” means. Simply, tournament titles were only the time sunken veterans appear to fight it out for greatness. Masters of King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter, Tekken, oddly not a title I actually like Soul Caliber, and finally Street Fighter itself. Do not get me wrong, I can respect the passion, but I cannot find personal value in dedicating my limited free time to just a few video games.
Anime tie-in games, specifically fighting games, on the other hand have this odd charm for me. Like their own branch on the fighting game tree, they ease up game play by focusing on the look of the combo instead of the complex execution. For instance, Ten no Haōh allows you to use Fist of the North Star’s resident Jesus look-alike Toki’s signature sky assault move “Heavenly Soaring Hundred Crack Fist, with a simple two bar charge while holding down the left and right bumpers and pressing “X”. In general, the complex button combinations that fighting games are known for are simplified in tie-ins like Ten no Haōh with blocking tied to its own button and projectile attacks (characters like the street biker madman Jagi and fortune teller Sakuya use a shot gun and knives respectfully). I look to these tie-ins to focus instead on neat alternate costumes and status effecting taunts made in reference with fans’ attention in mind. The two GameCube and PS2 One Piece games that hit stateside, Grand Battle and Grand Adventure, are perfect examples.
I would say this test was a success.
Image Sources: MobyGames.com