Thursday, 29 May 2014

Aa Harimanada (Game Gear)

Aa Harimanada is a sumo game, based on Kei Sadayasu's comiic of the same name. You've probably seen the Mega Drive game based on the comic, which, as was the fashion at the time, was more like a sumo-themed fighting game, with large, detailed sprites and special moves and the like. (As an aside, the UK's Sega Power magazine printed a review of the Mega Drive game, but were apparently too lazy or too cheap to get someone to translate the title for them, so they just referred to it as "SUMO".)

The Game Gear version is, as far as I can tell with my very limited understanding of sumo, a lot more realistic. Though there are special moves in the game, the only reason I know this is because I once
performed one by accident (ashoryuken-looking maneuver that I was unfortunately never able to recreate). The CPU opponents never performed any specials, no matter how far into the game I got. There is one particularly unrealistic-seeming touch left in however: the ability to jump stright up in the air about three or four metres. You can't attack or anything from up there, though, so it's as pointless as it is inappropriate. Winning is possible via the regular sumo methods of knocking your opponent down, or throwing them out of the ring, though there is also a health bar, presumably to avoid stalemates, and attacking an opponent with a fully depleted health bar will automatically knock them down or send them rolling out of the ring.

As you can see from the screenshots, the game's graphics are fairly nice looking, though they're far from the best the Game Gear has to offer, and as you play the game, you'll notice they commit a far graver sin: repetition to an almost absurd degree. There's only one arena in the game as far as I can tell, having played well over twenty stages in, and even worse, there's only on character sprite. It's true, although the many opponents you face in the game all have different names and portraits displayed before each bout, every one of them, including the player character, is one sprite used over and over with the only variations being in skin and mawashi colour. Making this even worse is the fact that the varying skin colours rarely match the colour of the character seen in the pre-match portraits.

Despite this, the presentation in general is pretty good. The one sprite the game has is of a decent size and also fairly well animated, and there's quite a bit of sampled speech, considering it's an early 90s handheld game. Each match also ends with a big, full-screen animation of the winniing move, which looks pretty cool and is only slightly hampered by the fact that again, all the animations feature generic characters, irrelevant of which characters are involved.

Unforunately, though there are a few good points speaking in this game's favour, they are vastly outweighed by the negatives. The aformentioned health bar is the game's real killer, even in light of the recoloured sprites problem, as it removes the need for any kind of skill in the game. It's entirely possible to coast through the game by simply pummeling opponents with palm thrusts and headbutts until they're knocked out, and it seems they never develop any kind of skill to counter such tactics. I've only seen the game over screen because I lost a fight on purpose, and I've never seen the game's ending simply because the boredom of fighting identical, inept opponents always becomes totaly unbearable after about twenty-ish matches.

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