This holiday season is already well underway, busy with the launches of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the supposed resurgence of the Wii U and Vita, and plenty of high profile titles. Releasing in the midst of all the chaos, AquaPazza hopes to make a splash and remind fighting game fans not to forget about their Playstation 3s.
AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match is an anime-inspired fighter that brings together characters from multiple Aquaplus titles, ranging from those that cannot be pronounced or spelled (Utawarerumono) to some you may have heard of in passing (Tears to Tiara). The roster totals out at 26 characters – 13 playable and 13 assist-types – offering a wide variety of playstyles. No matter how you prefer to fight, there’s probably a character or two for you.
AquaPazza’s characters are a strange bunch. There’s a girl who clumsily attacks you with a stack of books, a mage who is very slow and deliberate, a grappler, and another that literally attacks with a mop. Some assist characters will slap you with a fan, run you over with a bicycle, or break out into a elemental solo concert. These characters are equal parts weird and awkward, but they all look good. Character sprites and backgrounds look crisp, and animations don’t appear to have skimped on frames either, keeping a smooth visual experience throughout. The only issue with AquaPazza’s visuals is that because these are anime characters, most of the females are dressed in the traditional school uniforms. They look very similar, which sometimes caused me to lose track of where I was on-screen. Changing color palettes will be your savior here.
AquaPazza is a fighter in the Street Fighter mold (games that primarily use quarter-circle inputs), giving it a good amount of pick-up-and-play-ability. Without consulting the command lists or training mode, I was able to learn moves and pick up nuances for my chosen characters after only a few matches. AquaPazza has a bit of BlazBlue in it, too, using a four button system of light, medium, and heavy attacks and a dedicated assist button. It also shares in having an incredibly difficult final boss, even on the default difficulty. I spent the better part of two hours trying to beat this boss my first time through. Each round, fighters have two health bars and when you think you’ve beaten the boss, he gets a third one. No need to explain how frustrating it was to win both rounds, only to have to survive an extra lifebar.
All the basic gameplay modes you’d expect are included in AquaPazza. Each character has a pretty nonsensical story in Story mode, and beating each character’s story unlocks their equally nonsensical Another Story. There’s Score Attack to rack up high scores, Training to practice and experiment, Versus for local beatdowns, and Online (Ranked and Player matches) for long distance whoopings. In my experience, the online play was nearly flawless – I played with a guy in Argentina with minimal lag. The training mode has all your basic options, but it does leave a little to be desired (hit boxes, where are you?).
Assist characters are both AquaPazza’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. Unlike the original Marvel vs Capcom, your assist character is always onscreen, pacing and following the fight in the background until called into action. After using them, there is a short cooldown period before they can be used again, preventing them from being spammed. It can take a lot of practice, but finding the right character-assist combination is worthwhile. With the right combination, it’s possible to pull off satisfyingly damaging combos. The downfall of their eternal presence is that they can sometimes be distracting because so much is already going on, the screen can get a bit cluttered. It’s not a huge issue, but most will at least notice it and temporarily lose track of the actual battle.
AquaPazza may be weird, but it is also a deep, technically proficient fighter. Despite some early frustrations and a cheap final boss, the experience was a fulfilling one – one that will do well to bridge the gap for many until the highly anticipated Guilty Gear Xrd releases next year. And with a budget-priced MSRP of $30, this well-balanced fighter should earn a little of your time.
Available on Playstation 3
Pub: Atlus USA
Buy: Purchase AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match from Amazon
Full disclosure: Review code provided by the publisher