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Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament

Being an anime-based video game designer must be great. Think of all the job security that comes with it; you already have the characters, so absolutely no originality is necessary. You’ll likely be familiar with all the special moves, cutscenes, and voices, allowing you to cobble together whatever kind of game you want and throw creativity out the window. If all else fails, you can always fall back on the fans. Yes, that endless horde of anime enthusiasts, too blinded by their love for some anime, will always buy a game if it’s based on their favorite show. There won’t be any questions asked, no matter how ridiculous, poorly designed, and downright crappy the game might be. Hell, an anime -based game is practically a guaranteed moneymaker even before it hits the shelves. But even with all of the success, it’s a wonder how the minds behind these games can sleep at night, knowing that they’ve screwed over countless fans with their ill conceived gaming slop.

That’s a pretty good shoe-shining trick right there

Meet Yusuke Urameshi. This tough guy was once a teenage delinquent, a scrappy street fighter, and likely high school dropout. He didn’t care about his misspent youth, opting to spend his academic time lounging in arcades, gambling, drinking, and all the other stuff that probably seemed cool at the time. However, this all changed with one selfless act. Yusuke saved a small child from being hit by a car, but ended up getting killed in the process. Upon his descent into heaven, he discovered that the kid would have survived anyway, thus making his heroic sacrifice an unnecessary waste. Smooth move, buddy! In order to get resurrected, Yusuke signed up to become a Spirit Detective, vowing to protect the world from countless demons and other evil supernatural beings. Skip forward a few months, and our hero’s back, packing new spiritual powers and enhanced fighting abilities. Not only can he duke it out with the best of them, but he can also use his fingers to send energy bullets banging into his hapless victims. His arrival couldn’t come at a better time, either. A sinister demon named Toguro is out to kick some ass, and Yusuke’s at the top of his list. Thus the Dark Tournament was created, a contest featuring the best fighters of both worlds. Considering that the lives of his friends and family depend on his victory, Yusuke better be ready to put his skills to the test.

And he wins…with garden shears?!

Of course, he won’t get to take down Toguro from the start. You’ll have to help Yusuke and his ragtag group of fighters survive each round of the tournament, from the lowly preliminaries through the epic finals. You’ll not only get to control the Spirit Detective, but his rival/part-time best friend Kuwabara, the deadly assassin Hiei, and an effeminate whip-slinger named Kurama. You’ll also be able to unlock bonus characters, such as Yusuke’s mentor Genkai and even Toguro himself. Each round will put you in the shoes of a different character, forcing you to strategize with the fighters’ different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Some characters will thrive on fast-paced combos and all-or-nothing offenses, while others will require a fair amount of distance attacks and defensive play. All of the fighters come with intricate movelists filled with punches, kicks, projectiles, uppercuts, dodges, magic attacks, and everything in between. It’s up to you to master these complicated button combinations to see you through the tournament unscathed.

Too bad you’ll never get to enjoy using them. The controls and button responsiveness in this game are abysmal. You can’t use half of all those fighting moves effectively in battle; there’s too much lag time, too many little glitches that will screw up your clever attack plan. Blocking and other defensive measures are worthless as well, allowing for plenty of attacks to land unhindered. The hit detection is laughable, allowing you to only hit your foe a few times, often too far away to make any logical sense. Of course, none of these problems will affect the AI-controlled enemies; they can perform every single move, combo, and special attack at ease, decimating you before you can even get a single attack in. Even the least powerful attacks can turn into powerful ringout maneuvers, yet another random aspect to the horrid mess of problems. And if all else fails, characters can fall right through the ring, making this game all the more aggravating.

Jaw Breakers all round!

Dark Tournament looks even worse than it plays. The epic competition has been taken from its gory anime version, colored over will cell shading, and given to us as a mediocre presentation at best. The fighting arena is a bland mass of destructible tiles and stands (because we all know that destructible environments are so interesting), including a big screen mounted on the wall for the benefit of the cheering crowd that you will never see. The characters look like pale versions of their television counterparts, complete with over exaggerated outlines, wooden movements and attack animations, and faces that offer no emotion whatsoever. At least the voice actors did a decent job, offering signature attack screams like “SPIRIT GUN” and “SPIRIT SWORD”. The attacks themselves are pretty flashy, offering just enough fireworks and sound effects to make things interesting. That is, until the audio randomly craps out on you. It’s not like you’re going to miss hearing the punches connect and the boring music, but it’s still a disappointment. Also, the game tries to be cool by implementing slow-motion Matrix-esque moments when a fighter gets KOed. Yeah, like I really want to watch Toguro do a slow motion ten-hit *****-slap on Yusuke for the umpteenth time. The game tries to make up for its shortcomings by including scenes from the anime between each bout, but even the most diehard fans will realize that such a bold attempt at saving face is too little, too late.

Risho: …parp…

The sad thing is, Dark Tournament could have been great. It features one of the best story arcs in the series, has a fairly large cast of unlockable fighters, tons of movesets to master, and a remarkably challenging AI. Unfortunately, it’s marred by pathetic controls, laggy responsiveness, unreliable combat mechanics, and a truly pathetic presentation. This is a great example of how to take a great anime, mold it into a fighting game, and ending up with a monstrosity of a game. Fans, stay away from this game; don’t let its flashy holographic cover and cheap promises fool you into paying for this…thing. Gamers in need of a fighting game for their PS2 are better off with a Tekken game; same gameplay mechanics, less glitches. To be honest, I’d love to tell you more about Dark Tournament and its utterly pathetic qualities, but the game freezes every time I try to beat it.

Go figure.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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