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Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match Review – No, This Isn’t Some Italian Dating Service

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Aquapazza, the love child of Aquaplus and Examu comes together in this fun, fresh 2D fighter. The games has its issues but delivers a fun experience for fans of anime and fighting games.

I was super excited getting such a weird title coming overseas that utilized all of these anime characters to which series I have a vague recognition of. This game gives you 13 playable characters and 13 support/partner players that range from several anime series. These series being:

  • Utawarerumono
  • Tears to Tiara
  • To Heart , To Heart 2, To Heart 2 Dungeon Travelers
  • White Album
  • Comic Party
  • Kizuato
  • Routes

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When playing this game, its awesome to see all these wacky and interesting characters from established anime series, and in all honesty added more interest for me to look up these characters and to check out their series out. I believe these shows aren’t as popularized in the west so I’m hoping this game can garner interest for gamers like it did for me. As much as I like discussing the novelty of utilizing anime characters, this review must go on and to truly discuss the game play experience.

To start off, the story of this title and in most other fighters are usually unattachable. It’s almost an understanding amongst most fighter genre enthusiasts that stories end up being subpar compared to the competitive experience you get from the gameplay. What is cool about this game however is that it offers two story modes, to which I enjoyed the idea. When you beat the first story mode option, that particular character is unlocked in the option for Another Story, which is a very awesome way to keep the longevity of gameplay to those who aren’t too into the multiplayer aspect of the fighting game scene.

It’s a shame because I wish there was a bit more character growth involved in the story rather than a problem based progression. I suppose that would be hard to do in a compilation game such as this, but I was so interested in these characters that I wish I had a better idea of their being other then just the two character endings you get from each playable character. A little fun tidbit is that when you select your partner there are normally multiple outcomes on some of the dialogue based solely on if you choose a partner from the same series.

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When playing the first story mode I dreaded the upcoming boss fight and yes; it is there my dear fighting genre enthusiasts. The ridiculously difficult boss trope is out and apparent in this game. When reaching the 8th battle you are fighting a random Dark Version of one of the playable characters and the main boss as the partner. This time, I fought dark versions of Hakuoro and Tamaki. Fighting Dark Tamaki on the normal preset difficulty made me want to chuck the controller across the room with extreme rage.

The dark version would use special moves that would take a bar of health away, while even the regular throw for the character would take 70% off of one of the health bars. Having this added with the boss partner touting unusual hit boxes when she does her on command attacks added more to the frustration. I had to quit after 25 tries only being able to take her down a few times for only one round. Luckily enough the difficulty could be adjusted numerically at the options menu which I had dropped it down from its normal 4 rating to 2. The battles leading up to the insanely difficult boss battle were challenging and were perfectly fine but the sheer amount of difficulty and straight damage output from simple attacks the boss did was way too much.

When replaying it at 2, it wasn’t so difficult. I realized when beating the boss this time at the second round that the boss will actually revive for one full bar before being defeated. So luckily enough I didn’t get to that point on the normal mode or I would have really thrown my controller across the room in a fit of rage. The second end boss from Another Story didn’t seem to be as cheap as the first one, thankfully not having any revivals or ridiculous hit box attacks, but I did not attempt to curse the world to attempt that again the same night I played that.

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As said before, this is a pretty solid fighter. Each playable character definitely has their own strengths and weaknesses in zone control, which is how every 2D fighter should be. Aggressive combat is highly pertinent as when you are aggressive; your character’s emotion will rise which will heighten your state giving you critical hits, better SP acquisition and additional hits when utilizing specials. This makes the game quite hard to be defensive as it is extremely quick to gain or lose emotional levels which makes it very difficult for comebacks to be doable as lower states will lower your attack and SP gain in general.

For competitions, I’m sure this is extremely fair but for the common gamer, it is quite the opposite. The 13 playable characters all present unique abilities and their penchant quirkiness however with the characters I played there were some who were blatantly more balanced in the game. One character that comes to mind is Morgan from Tears of Tiara, with how much speed and control of the whole screen she can have. Speaking of speed, in Aquapazza; speed is not extremely fast as you would find in Blazblue or the Guilty Gear titles, it’s a bit slower and presents its combat in a more technical way to establish combos rather then the previous mentioned titles that are known for their chaotic move chaining. It’s definitely closer to the likes of Street Fighter II in the way zoning and method based contacts are utilized over quick commands. This is both good and bad for people as button mashing will only get you so far but will really leave you extremely open for some heavy hits.

One of the coolest and I believe the most game changing aspect to the tactical battling system is the partner systems. Each partner has their own special of powers most of which have 2 special attacks that can be used once their assistance meter is full and if you are in a middle of a combo, you can immediately use them with the cost of one SP bar. The 13 partners are all extremely special in how they attack which really can lead to some devastating combos, which is also depending on how they are utilized. This is one of the game’s greatest features, which is to find that perfect partner for your type of style.

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Some of the downsides are actually some of the partners themselves. There are partners who will follow you on the field and attack on command, ones who will be in the background until called or ones that are summoned. For the ones who are in the background, when they are called in; if your character gets hit while they are being summoned they will stop the attack all together which really puts those types of partners at a disadvantage unlike the two others which are on command and uninterrupted.

Let’s talk about some of the Summon based ones, in particular; the White Album characters. I would say they are the cheapest partners as when they are summoned, they affect the whole stage, not allowing the enemy to summon their partner and still do damage and cannot be interrupted. So a tactically thinking player would have a huge advantage with the amount of time they have during that summon to wallop a good chunk of health out of the enemy, who has no ability to call in reinforcements.

Another fun feature of the game (that we covered here) is that they put a TON of color palettes for both the playable character and partner. Its a small thing but its things like this which make you appreciate the game as a complete package, rather then be given as a DLC. Another great feature would have to be the Splash specials, which will use up 3 SP bars. These leave you with a cool attack and a little animation that just sweetens the deal, similarly in the style of Project X Zone when performing a special.

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A few other things would have been beneficial for the title. Although there isn’t a huge ton of mechanics involved, it might have helped to have a litte bit more explanation or tutorial on the combat. In particular, those Splash specials have to be done very specifically, where the player must be at least one bar down and have their bar glowing with at least 3 SP bars full before attempting. After attempting it, you cannot perform that again for the entire round. That and even the emotion system was just something of shock that I noticed while playing and observed the effects.

Although it becomes self-explanatory later through playing the title for most hardcore gamers, it would benefit the casual player with at least a help or tutorial option on the menu. This is considering that Training only allows for the practicing of moves and not an understanding of the mechanics. It may sound ridiculous but it must be taken into consideration that any type of player will pick up the controller. My dad in particular tried it out and didn’t even know that type of move existed and when he saw me do it; he tried to input the same command with no avail and in due time got extremely aggravated thinking it was his input method not being right.

After I told him, I got a fun remark of being an ass for observing his stress, and then I went and proceeded to enjoy the game. What is cool about the training however is that based off the selection of your partner they do create a suggested combo or two from that particular partner and give you footage to show the combo in action so again, all the little things can help and/or degrade the title.

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Combat mechanics aside, the art is presented in 2D Pixel Sprite forms in combat which are pretty. However, some characters or objects can look somewhat jagged, stretched, some of the detailed features become a bit muddled in the design. Arawn’s pixel art comes to mind, especially when it comes to the face. Mostly everything else is done with beautifully hand-drawn 2D anime sprites, even when it comes to dialogue conversations and HUD displays, which are nicely animated rather then static. Also when performing the Splash Specials you are treated to a few seconds of that beautiful hand drawn animation which really is a reward from doing the attack and transitioning from sprite form to hand drawn animation. The stage art is really beautiful and very colorful, it very much reminded me of Blazblue’s backgrounds. Alright, maybe not as intense as their stages but still quite nice nonetheless.

Audio is also pretty nice. You are presented with some J-pop/rock music which fits nicely. I am unsure since I haven’t seen any of the series in particular, but I am curious to know if the same voice actors are reprising their roles for this particular game. A quick search suggested not but that would have been very cool. The voice overs are all done in Japanese so it avoids the really quick switch from the more commonly annoying and over-exaggerated English voice overs. Not to say all English dubs are the worst when it comes to anime or games, but most of the time they usually feel extremely out of place.

As said before, This game is a very solid fighter. Its very fun and for me personally, garnered a new interest to check out some of these series which I would hope be the intent of Aquaplus and Examu. It could help to have a few tweaks to character balancing and boss damage output, maybe have some basic user interface overhauls, all of which would just help fortify the experience. Overall the game is a good and fun experience, especially for the launch cost $29.99, it’s very well worth it. Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match is currently available in retail and on the Playstation Network, and I hope you guys pick up this fun gem and enjoy.

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Chris Gollmer

About

I have been an avid gamer since I was a child, playing Legend of Zelda on the NES and began true niche gaming during the SNES/Genesis battles.