Saturday, 3 February 2018

Battle Tycoon - Flash Hiders SFX (SNES)

I complain a lot about how many action games, especially those released in recent years, are ruined by the addition of experience points, skill progression, and the negative difficulty curve that those features create. But of course, there are exceptions to every rules, and Battle Tycoon is one of them. It's the sequel to a PC Engine game I've not yet played called Flash Hiders, and both games seem to be pioneering forays into the kind of long, robust single player modes that later fighting games like the home ports of Street Fighter Alpha 3 or Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution would have.

Obviously, there's the traditional modes where you just pick characters and fight against other human players or computer-controlled opponents, but the meat of the game is in the "Advance" mode, which has you selecting a character that you'll stick with for the duration, while you fight opponents, gain experience and raise your stats. This mode is split into days, and at different times of day, you can go to different places: the official arena to take part in fights against random opponents at random power levels, the street fight arena, where you can choose your opponent from a whoever's present on that day, the gambling den where you can bet on fights in which you don't personally participate (though, if you want, you can actually sit out of fighting altogether and have the computer do it. though the strategy/raising part of the game isn't really deep enough that this would be worthwhile for anyone), an item shop, a place to save your progress, and your apartment where you can look at your stats.

Mostly though, you just take part in fights and watch numbers gradually go up. There's an interesting thing to note about the character stats in this game, though. There are four stats: Attack, Guard, Speed and Point. The first three are obvious, but Point is a pool of extra stat points that can be assigned as you see fit at the start of every bout. All the fights are so easy that the stats don't really seem to matter very much at all, but it's a nice touch. It's an enjoyable mode, and when it came out, there probably wasn't really anything like it. It's kind of surprising that a game like this, that is, a longform action game that's totally accessible to the JP-illiterate doesn't seem to have any kind of fandom in the west already. You would have thought it would have been a hit as far back as the imports market in the 90s, especially when you get onto how it looks and sounds.

How does it look and sound? Well, it's obvious that the developers not only had a target audience in mind, but they knew exactly hoe to hook them. Everything about this game is aggressively designed to appeal to 1990s anime fans (or as they were known at the time it came out, just regular anime fans). The character designs, the stages, even the menus, all look like they could have been licensed from a hundred different OAVs of the time, with music that comes as close to the ideal as the SNES can muster, too. The sprites are a little smaller than most fighting games of the time, but the quality of the artwork is still generally of a very high standard and the whole game looks great.

I totally recommend trying out Battle Tycoon. It looks incredible, and though it's not a particularly sophisticated fighting game, it's still fun enough and the single player mode is, as mentioned, years ahead of its time. It really makes me want to splash out on a 6-button PC Engine controller and a copy of the first game, too, since that has things like full-screen pixel art cutscenes and CD quality music.

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