Fighter's Destiny (N64)
Fighter's Destiny is a rather schizophrenic product. At first glance, this unusual game seems to offer little more than unimpressive graphics and lackluster Japanese MIDI cheese. But beneath the rather uninspired surface lurks an innovative and addictive fighting engine that simply plays like a dream. At Antagonist Inc. great gameplay rules, and it's such gameplay that ultimately makes Fighter's Destiny the best N64 fighting game yet.
There is no real story to speak of in Fighter's Destiny. Kudos to Ocean for sparing us a laughably poor storyline ala the nefarious Dark Rift. Like virtually every other game in this genre, we are presented with a cast of characters who have decided to beat each other's brains out. What more do you need to know?
Alas, the character design of Fighter's Destiny leaves much to be desired. Maybe it was just impossible to splice together a story involving this motley crew of international misfits. It's as if the developers of the game were not certain which creative path to choose--reality or fantasy--so they produced a game that attempts to merge the two. These characters are neither realistic nor outlandish. (Okay, there is a cool mad cow bonus character, but it is not central to the game. )
In Fighters Destiny, we are treated to characters like Bob from Brazil, Abdul from Mongolia, and Pierre from France. Note that Pierre is also a clown; considering the history of French military prowess, this seems quite appropriate.
The American character, in particular, will have gamers shaking their heads and asking, "What the hell were they thinking?" His name is Tomahawk, so one supposes he is Native American. And yet he is often adorned with some strange variation of the Confederate flag, along with his yellow boots and green face paint. This guy could really use a personal makeover.
In addition to the bizarre and at times uninspired characterization, the fighters themselves are constructed of noticeably fewer polygons than are used by most N64 fighters. They lack fine graphic detail (like the decapitated heads hanging from the Executioner's belt in Mace: The Dark Age), and sometimes there is even visible polygon flicker.
The environmental graphics in Fighter's Destiny are also average at best. Unlike the ambitious Mace, Fighter's Destiny opts for relatively simple non-interactive backgrounds. There are no rotating blades of death here, just basic background patterns that incorporate some degree of 3D movement.
So what makes this game so good? Well, there is a trade-off for all of its graphical compromises, and that comes in frame rate and control. Arguably, frame rate is of special importance in fighting games because of the need for lightning-fast moves and responses. In this respect, Fighter's Destiny excels. The game boasts a fast and smooth frame rate throughout. Control is superb, and gameplay is never sacrificed for pretty visuals.
Of course, a fast frame rate and solid control is useless if the gameplay engine itself is uninspired. And it is with an innovative engine that Fighter's Destiny delivers the fun in spades.
Fighter's Destiny plays like a hand-to-hand combat game. This is not a traditional fighter in the vein of Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat. Although there are cool special moves, players are nevertheless unable to leap 20 feet into the air or spew flame from their throats. No one is ever impaled on whirling spikes. No one's heart is ever ripped from their chest. Oh, there are some cool effects, but the focus here is on classic combat. The gameplay resembles that of Virtua Fighter and Tekken, with a healthy dose of originality to boot.
Each fight occurs on an elevated ring that stands some 20 feet or so above the ground. It is possible to knock one's opponent off the edge of the ring onto the ground below. It is also possible to be hanging by one's fingertips off the edge of the ring, and to grab and pull over one's opponent. But note that despite the long falls and cool maneuvers, these fights are neither bloody nor fatal. Fighter's Destiny looks and play is more like a game of skill than of brute violence.
The point-based fighting system of Fighter's Destiny is unique. Unlike most fighting games in which the mission is simply to beat opponents into lifeless submission, this game bases success on point totals. The standard match goes to seven points. One point is awarded for something relatively simple like throwing an opponent from the ring. Special moves award a massive four points, while knock downs award three, and "throw downs" award two.
The point system adds an fun strategic element to gameplay that is missing in other fighting games. For example, there are times when one may only need a single point to win a match; in such a case, a simple nudge from the ring will produce a victory. At other times, a perfectly executed special move will catapult a fighter to a come-from-behind victory. Clever fighters will execute particular moves based upon how many points they need.
There are also innovative gameplay features like dual health and strength meters, and even a throw meter. When someone grabs you, the throw meter appears, and you have a split second chance to escape the throw by pressing the A and B button. Again, touches like this make Fighter's Destiny action resemble classic hand-to-hand combat.
Another unique feature of Fighter's Destiny is the ability for a player to gain or lose specific fighting skills through combat. As your fighter works his or her way through a tournament, the skills of defeated opponents are acquired. It's possible to save your character to later abuse your friends.
There are plenty of different gameplay variations in Fighter's Destiny, with a total of five modes of play: Vs. Computer, Vs. Battle, Record Attack, Master Challenge and Training mode. The training mode is fun and useful, as the resident robot will teach you whatever move you want to practice.
It is also worth noting that a control list of all moves is always available with a touch of the "Start" button. This is a particularly handy feature for people like me who tend to forget special moves!
Unfortunately, the audio department of Fighter's Destiny is on par with the graphics. The game features a Wave Race reject announcer who, thankfully, can be turned off. Not only are his trite announcements annoying, at times they are incomplete; sometimes the audio glitches and he does not even articulate an entire sentence.
Each character does have his or her own voice, and the voices do have unique accents. Music, what there is of it, consists of typical Japanese cheese. Overall, the audio is inconsistent at best and does little to compliment the great gameplay.
Fighter's Destiny is one of those games that actually improves with time. Those gamers who can look beyond the questionable characters and lackluster audio will be delighted with an innovative fighting engine that ranks among the best of the genre. While Fighter's Destiny is not for everyone, the game has more than enough great gameplay to keep fighting fans coming back for more. Play the game with an open mind, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Overall 8.4 out of 10