Friday, 8 May 2015

Kettou Beast Wars (Game Boy Color)

Before Crawfish's miraculous ports of Street Fighter Alpha (to the Game Boy Color) and Street Fighter Alpha 3 (to the Game Boy Advance), handheld fighting games outside of the Neo Geo Pocket had a pretty bad reputation, and in most cases, that reputation was deserved. But stretching back into the early-mid 1990s, Takara were publishing ports of SNK fighting games to the Game Gear and Game Boy that were often far better than their peers. A lot of those ports were made by another company named Gaibrain, and it's this partnership that also made this game, based on the Transformers Beast Wars Toyline and TV Shows.

Luckily, their talents aren't limited to ports, and not only is Kettou Beast Wars a game full of enough features to make some console fighting games look bare bones, but it's actually a good game, with every department excelling to the extent allowed by the host hardware. There's eight playable characters, as well as at least one boss character, which would be generous for a fighting game on an 8-bit system, but this being a Transformers game, each character can also transform at any time mid-battle. So each character has two full sets of animations, including movements, attacks and even seperate sets of specials for each form.

The characters that are most fun to play as are Megatron, because he turns into a T-Rex that breathes fire and does flying kicks, and Guiledart, who turns into a Triceratops and has some really awesome-looking throws in his robot form. Of course, the game's concept alone ensures there's some fun to be had no matter what characters are involved, since you can have a gorilla fight a tank at Stonehenge, or a cheetah fighting a squid on the beach.

Those modes I mentioned earlier are a typical one-on-one arcade-style mode, a team battle mode where the player can choose to play as the Maximals (faces) or the Predacons (heels), and something called "quick draw", which I couldn't really work out. There's also a couple of extra modes, like a mode full of text-heavy character profiles, and an odd mini-game, which sees the player hammering buttons to break gems out of a big rock.

Mechanically, it's not super-complex beyond the transformation gimmick (which is admittedly really cool). There's a meter at the bottom of the screen that has to be charged manually, which can be expended in a power-boosting "hyper mode", or on super-moves that I haven't been able to execute. Transformation doesn't have any kind of penalty or limitation, though: you can press select at pretty much any time that you're not taking or dealing damage to change form.

Presentation is pretty great, too, within limits. The sprites are tiny, but still manage to be pretty detailed and full of character and charm, and they're really well animated, too. Backgrounds are a little simple and bland, but the colour choices are attractive enough to make up for that in most cases. Some of the menu screens are a bit weak, being plain white text on a black background, though considering the relatively massive amount of stuff that's packed into such a small cartridge, it's fair enough to allow this concession.

Yeah, I definitely recommend Kettou Beast Wars, at least, if you're for some reason in the market for Game Boy Color fighting games.

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