Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match is a unique little localization. At no point would I have ever thought that a game mashing up a big chunk of Aquaplus characters would come over. We did get some Utawarerumono representation in Chaos Wars, but that game came over on the same hopes and prayers that put the final nail in O3 Entertainment’s coffin. This, well this is a different matter completely. Aquaplus makes some fairly popular games. That is to say popular games in Japan. Most work off the adventure game (which usually means visual novel in Japanese) genre so those never had a chance of localization. Tears to Tiara and Utawarerumono do work off of RPG formats, but they’ve long since been passed over by localization companies.
In fact, the only representation this company has ever had in America is in the anime the games have spun-off. You can go out today and watch Comic Party, White Album, Tears to Tiara, Utawarerumono and ToHeart, which covers 24 of the 26 characters in the game. The reason though that this came over is because Examu developed the game and Atlus USA has done fairly well with their Arcana Heart titles. That’s all it took and now English-speaking anime fans can play as one of the many characters they’ve been watching for years.
This localization does make for a dream match up to a lot of the fans that have been supporting this company through various different anime and manga distributors over the yeas. Now let’s find out if it is any good.
While you could call it a dream match for Aquaplus, Aquapazza really is just pitting their extremely popular ToHeart characters against everyone else. Encompassing over 30% of the characters, the heroines of ToHeart certainly have their presence known. The story revolves around the mischievous Ma-Ryan’s attempt to create a love potion to steal the heart of Takaaki Kouno. Instead, she sorta merges the worlds of the Aquaplus games while brainwashing all your opponents and ultimately just creates a mess for everyone. It isn’t much of a story, but the focus is on how the characters would interact in this situation.
This main story is a bit dull, but fortunately, a 2nd story mode comes through. Aquapazza went through 3 stages when it was in the arcades to what we have as the final product in the west. In these phases, they were able to not only fix bugs but add a few characters. One of the last additions was Chizuru, of the never before seen in the west title Kizuato, who gets the brunt focus in the second story. She is attempting to break her curse and in the process gets possessed and turns into your typical cheap boss. Seeing as these routes are PS3 exclusives, the focus on the interactions is a step up. It certainly makes the game worth burning through twice as the game really builds the difficulty differently across the separate playthroughs.
Mechanically, Aquapazza works off a partner system similar in concept to the original Marvel vs. Capcom. When you choose your fighter, you also choose a partner that will accompany you throughout the game. There are 13 fighters and 13 partners you can choose from, all with a great deal of diversity in approach. These partners work off of a set of 2 attacks that can be used to called as many times as you want in a match with the only caveat being that they need to recharge after use. With different characters having different lengths of recharge and different styles of attack, it is worth researching which character will benefit your combos the most.
The other major notable is the games emotion system. The tide of battle focuses on those who push forward. With a high emotional state, your character gets an offensive and defensive boost. To obtain this, you have to be proactive against your opponent. Backing away and getting beat on will lower your emotions. This will decrease your defense and offensive capabilities which makes it really hard to get a comeback started if you get a bit lax in the middle of a round.
It is an interesting system to feed off of. While it sucks to trigger a low emotion in the middle of a round, if you find yourself blocking more than attacking though it really is your own fault. Since the effects only last as long as it takes you to really regain your footing, having a strong offense is the best way to maintain a solid defense.
For the fighting game characters themselves, it really is interesting how diverse the lineup feels. Most characters feel particularly unique with Morgan having a limited number of arrows to use per match or Manaka’s inability to really move forward without lunging clumsily. They all have some fairly unique talents and abilities which was particularly surprising when running through the lineup. One character feels like Sakura from Street Fighter mixed with some Kyo from King of Fighters. Then there is a character that specializes on healing and defense boosts.
The personalities really speak to these characters with their defining move sets. Tamaki works like most grab characters, but she has some interesting little additions like a move that temporarily stuns an opponent with her evil glare. Hakuowlo can call his daughter in on a giant white tiger to attack. There are nods all through the characters designs that really sets this fighting game a bit apart.
As a featured title amongst the big boys of Tougeki’s final Super Battle Opera tournament, it shows that this game has the potential to stand with the likes of Street Fighter, and it can. For those with advanced play styles, the game offers a parry system that burns 1 gauge of meter. So meter managing plays an important part in the game besides simply creating flashy super moves. There is a solid range of characters here and when paired with the partner system, everything comes together in a smooth package.
The one thing I have to say that holds back Aquapazza is that it isn’t overly appealing on any one front. It is a solid fighter full of niche characters few in the west have heard of. There isn’t much of a fan service element that you would associate with some eroge based fighting games. The soundtrack is mostly generic rock and some animations in the menus are missing a few frames. That’s little stuff though as what we have here is a good fighting game built on the pedigree that Examu has established with their Arcana Heart series.
It is easy enough with the 3 button attacks (4 if you count partner attacks) to be picked up by most anyone, but complex enough for those that really want to turn this game into something interesting. For the video game debut of Aquaplus in America, Aquapazza is a great start.
[+$29.99 MSRP] [+Solid Fighting Game] [+Interesting Mechanics] [+Diverse Characters] [+Crossover Appeal] [-Some Rough Animations]