Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Evil Zone (PSX)

Evil Zone PlayStation PAL title screen
Hi, I'm Ray Hardgrit, and I'm currently making it my mission in life to play games beginning with the letter E for an hour or two each to figure out what they are and if they're any good.

Today I'm playing late 90s Japanese PlayStation game Eretzvaju, known in English as Evil Zne (who knew there was an italic version of the Venus symbol?) It's just plain Evil Zone in the US though, and as far as I can tell the only reason it's been given a female gender symbol for the European title is because the main villain is a woman.

The game is by Japanese developer Yuke's Media Creations, known for games like Power Move Pro Wrestling, WWF SmackDown!, WWF Royal Rumble, WWE WrestleMania, WWE Day of Reckoning, Rumble Roses, Wrestle Kingdom, WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw, and Finding Nemo, so you probably won't be too shocked when I reveal that this is... a fighting game.

An ANIME fighting game!

Uh... can you read that? White on beige probably wasn't the smartest idea in the first place, but the resolution and MPEG compression have conspired to absolutely wreck that scrolling prologue text.

Fuck looking at words though; why should I bother using my own eyes when I've already got Colonel Roy Campbell from Metal Gear Solid reading it all out for me? It's like I'm back in a mission briefing, except this time I can't rely on Solid Snake to keep interrupting every few lines to repeat things he's not sure about.

One thing that's absolutely clear is that our target is Ihadurca, an evil being currently held prisoner in the Evil Zone awaiting execution. Catching her turned out to be hard enough though and only the very finest warriors in the multiverse would stand a chance of being able to finish the job.

Fortunately nine of them are already lining up for the task.

Though fighting game rules clearly state that they must all fight each other in a tournament first, with the survivor going through to the Evil Zone to take on Ihadurca herself in one on one combat. This final fight will then determine the fate of all humanity... because any other heroes with a hope of defeating her are going to have been knocked out along the way. They didn't really think this through.

The contenders are all different anime archetypes it seems, probably parodies of characters I don't know from series I haven't seen, and each gets a chance to show off in this reasonably well-animated intro.

Ah, this hero must be from the dimension where bras haven't been invented yet.

C'mon Evil Zone, you could at least pretend to respect your audience.

This is Ihadurca by the way, a being so powerful that she wears her ridiculously ornate outfit remotely via telekinesis. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that she took it to this level but then stopped short of having angel wings.

Oh hang on, there they are.

This is apparently a premonition of the worst case scenario, as she shatters the four pillars of her floating Evil Zone prison and escapes in an epic anime explosion (which is one of the best kinds of explosions in my humble opinion).

By the way, the Evil Zone itself is a circle with runes painted on it, with a pillar on each of the four corners. You've already seen it in fact... as the game's title screen logo is the prison viewed from above. I thought that was as a clever touch.

Right, now I get to pick my character. There's nine available from the start, with Ihadurca unlocked later.

I'm really not a fan of fighting games locking off characters like this, not when it takes them out of multiplayer as well. You don't want to have to finish single player or fuck around with memory cards just to have someone's favourite character in the roster when they come over. Though it should be mentioned that I'm the last person on Earth who should be having opinions about fighting games, as I am the worst person on Earth at playing them.

First in the character list there's a transforming Power Rangers/Guyver superhero voiced by Jon St. John, then next up there's a... okay I don't actually care who else is in this game any more. Because how can I not play as an action figure with the voice of Duke Nukem?

Special Inspector Danzaiver's story starts with the narrator (still Paul Eiding) explaining over this slide-show of screenshots that he's been summoned to the strange world of I-Praseru to rescue his partner Yuri, who by coincidence happens to be stuck in the Evil Zone. Oh sorry, he actually did say 'the' that time.
"A new program starting next week, Danzaiver - The Ultimate Hero, episode 1: The power of the supreme ruler to destroy an evil. Zerochaku! Danzaiver!"
That is such a perfect anime episode title, though I'm not so keen on having to wait a whole week for the first round. So each character gets their own imaginary anime series then and each fight is a single episode from that series? That's insane; it'll take me at least three episodes just to power up.

"And Danzai-Burst," adds Colonel Campbell at the end, randomly. Uh, alright then, let's get this shit on.


ONE WEEK LATER.


Quit blocking my energy shots you... blue-haired becloaked midget!

Okay this may look like your typical 3D fighting game, but it's not really playing like I expected. For one thing there's only two buttons and one of them is block. All offensive moves are accessed by pressing or tapping in different directions on the d-pad while hitting attack. I can fire off energy waves like this just by standing still and tapping the attack button, but he can block them entirely with just as little effort, so I'm going to need a better plan.

Ow. Well that's one part of my armour that definitely didn't need to be superheated by supernatural flame. Thanks for that Al.

According to wikipedia "The game tries to focus on simplicity with a "pick up and play" feel that isn't daunting to new players." But I guess they meant picking up the manual, as I'm really struggling to hurt this guy here.

At least they've given me infinite retries. Should be just enough, the way I'm playing.


SEVERAL ATTEMPTS LATER.


Hah, you couldn't block my grab could you?

I have no idea what you'd call that move, but falling backwards and dropping him on his head certainly seems to have done the job. Surprisingly it only took one lucky win to defeat the guy, and it really was pure luck as I still have no idea how to pull off the grab move.

"Don't blame yourself. In this world, justice will prevail," says Danzaiver to his fallen opponent. Once again righteousness triumphs over... uh, actually I think Al was one of the good guys Danzaiver. Well we didn't kill him at least.

By the way, everyone keeps pronouncing his name as 'Dan-zee-bar' and it's weird.

Danzaiver faces the next enemy, Keiya of Tenpouin. Keiya is one of the sorcerers selfishly wanting Ihadurca's power. Will Danzaiver ever be able to triumph over Keiya?

Next week's feature is Danzaivar - The Ultimate Hero, episode 2: Entrapment of wicked desire. Assassin from the darkness!

And Danzai-Burst.

"Don't be a drag, you're upsetting my plan," says Keiya, before immediately trapping Daizaiver in a sigil and blasting him with...pentagram power.

Well then, he may have made the first move, but I'm far more proficient with the game now than I was when facing my last opponent those 300 times. This time the fight won't be so one-sided!


SOON.


Man I'm crap at fighting games.

Still, while I'm helplessly watching my character getting killed yet again, I can't help but be impressed with some of the graphical touches in the game, like Danzaiver's helmet getting cracked during the fight and Keiya's ponytail having separate strands of hair that fan out as he moves his head. That's just not something you see all that often in games, even today.

Alright then Keiya, you want to take this to the next level? Let's see how you like my spinning corkscrew blade attack! That's one of the more advanced techniques I've discovered, activated by pressing up... and then the attack button (I think). They've basically cut straight to the point in this, taking out the basic punches and kicks, then replacing them with special attacks.

Oh, he's using the 'inescapable red cylinder that appears out of nowhere' move? Clever... clever...

Annoyingly I have no idea how to pull this off myself or how to get out of it when it happens to me. At this point all I can do is sit here and watch what Keiya does next now that I'm at his mercy.

Ah, he turns out the lights then beats me up in the darkness. Fascinating.


ONE IMPLAUSIBLE VICTORY LATER.


Right, now that's finally over with. Wow, nice episode title you've got there this time Danzaiver.

By the way these images really do appear exactly like this in game, with the doubled rows of pixels making the diagonal lines zig-zag and the text look like ass, it's not anything I've done to the screenshots. I can't say if the NTSC version has the same issue, but it definitely doesn't look so great on a PAL TV.

Okay then now I'm fighting Erel Plowse I guess. And Danzai-Burst.


She caught me in the red cylinder, pushed me over, and then overcharged my armour until it exploded. That wasn't very nice!

It's becoming obvious that I'm missing some tiny yet crucial piece of information here on how to play this game, so I'm going to quit back out to the title screen and try the tutorial instead.

Whoa, it turns out that I've been actually playing these fighting games the right way all these years.

This is the cheesiest, tackiest, fighting game tutorial video I have ever watched (it even uses wipe transitions), but it's actually been really helpful. Now I know for instance that the red circle move that's been tormenting me is just a long range grab, activated the same way as a regular grab. I press down and attack to catch someone in the circle, or tap block when it's forming to escape from it myself. That's it.


SOON.


Double tap down and hit attack for a rising attack, to knock an opponent into the air!

Then when the opponent is airborne, double tap forwards and hit attack again for a gliding attack to... oh she's gotten back up and dodged it already. This was a lot easier to pull off back in the training simulator, when my opponent had the common decency to stand there and take what was coming to him.

I was a fool to dismiss the other characters so quickly earlier by the way, as Gally 'Vanish' Gregman here is voiced by the same person who performs the narration: Paul 'Colonel Campbell' Eiding. He begins his storyline by getting his wife and dog to help him announce the next episode along with him, and as the game goes on he starts using the 'next episode' promos to compliment his wife's cooking or secretly confess to the viewer that he really misses how he used to get flat out drunk before getting married.

You can probably tell that the game isn't all that bothered with telling a story.

It takes its setting VERY seriously though, or at least whoever wrote the in-game encyclopaedia did anyway. So if you ever find yourself curious about the current political situation of the four kingdoms of I-Praseru, they've got you covered.

Seems like the kind of thing that would be a better fit for an RPG, but I'm definitely not going to complain about the developers adding extra content.

Meanwhile in Keiya's story, he uses his episode promos to give advice to people who write in. Like a certain bounty hunter who really wishes he could drink more booze (he tells him to think of his health and quit drinking entirely), and a magician who wishes he was taller so people would stop treating him like a child ("Drink lots of milk. Drink a gallon a day.")

This time I'm fighting a schoolgirl, possessed by that ghostly figure you can see behind her for reasons that are never explained.

Oh sorry, I mean college student, as she's seven years older in the English versions of the game. I imagine that was adjusted because it's really fucking creepy for a 14 year old to flash her underwear as often as she does due to that tiny skirt she's got on.

Someone forgot to tell the people writing the manual though.

There's a few other changes too, for instance Erel Plowse here would have her legs and ass covered up if I was playing the US version.

Erel's anime series is a comedy, where she gets into hijinks while pining after Al. Well at least that's what the promo claims anyway, though I imagine the main content will actually be more about how she gets beaten up several times in a row before managing a fluke victory. Danzaiver also shows up just long enough to whine about being forced to be on her dumb show, though seeing it's only as a voice I'm going to pretend it's actually a Duke Nukem cameo.


LATER.


Man, I was doing well this time against Midori until she split into four people and started kicking me. There should be rules against that!

There's two interesting things about Midori I should mention (as an excuse to take a break from this beating). First, her name means 'green' in Japanese, and it's cool that she hasn't felt any compulsion to let that influence her choice of outfit. Second, her theme music is actually a really good rock track: youtube link (good for punching folks to anyway). It's by T's Music, who also produced the amazing Lords of Thunder soundtrack, and they do fine things with guitars.

Look at poor Al on this picture, he's seems understandably concerned that he's being dragged around by a full grown woman who acts (and paints) like an 8 year old. Even in the Japanese version she's at least 17.

I'm starting to miss Danzaiver's episode promos now. I miss Paul Eiding ending them all with 'And Danzai-Burst'.

This guy is the 'pervert' she was referring to by the way, though 'serial killer' might have been a better term. Linedwell Rainrix he's called, so he was pretty much doomed from birth. Either way the poor idiot still fell for the old 'split into multiple people and shove you onto the pavement' trick. I learned that one from Midori!

Actually I just got close enough to him that pressing right and block made me dodge behind him, then I used the grab move. I could've also walked around him the old fashioned way I guess as I can step in or out of the screen by pressing up and down. We generally don't though.

Anyway this is all getting from the important point to be made here and that's that I just totally pwned this noob.

Oh bollocks. I just hope she lands in the river.

I was getting bored with her story anyway, so I think I'll quit back to the title again and give the game one last shot with another character. If I can't reach Ihadurca with them then I'll turn it off.

Aha, the old '10000 year old who looks like a 10 year old girl' trope. Kakurine should be a interesting character to finish on.

Well she can puppet people around with her little paper voodoo doll, that's cool I guess. Also she floats above the ground and gets across the level by teleporting. There's not a great deal of comedy in her storyline though.

"My only one purpose is to kill her, my only wish is to kill her," she squeaks in her intro. Well that's nice, it's good to have goals in life. Though with that voice I'm starting to suspect that the twist at the end will be that secretly she's a chipmunk with a wig on in a dress.

Also "In the fantasy world I will not forget my feelings," is a terrible catchphrase.

Okay teleporting behind someone and shoving them over is kind of funny, but I'm done with this now. Sorry Ihadurca, but it doesn't seem like anyone will be arriving to kill you today after all.


CONCLUSION

Like I said, I'm the last person who should ever try forming opinions about fighting games, but this doesn't actually seem like a terrible game. Sure the streamlined controls probably mean that it's too shallow to appeal much to a serious fighting game fan, but mechanically it all seems to work the way you'd want it to. Compared to some of the crap I've played for this site like Dangerous Streets and Brutal: Above the Claw this is clearly on another level of adequacy.

The dialogue has apparently gotten a bit mangled in translation and the lip sync is off by like 5 seconds at times, but that just adds to the charm of it. You wouldn't want a celebration of 90s anime like this to make too much sense anyway, and the actors deliver their lines with a suitable lack of subtlety. It's a shame though that the episode promos are just a slideshow of game screenshots, as that's the interesting bit!

Oh also, it doesn't have a jump button, that's a shame too. No fighting game should take three button presses to get your character airborne! I can't say I didn't enjoy it though, so it gets a shiny star:


Next time on Super Adventures in Gaming, episode 947: 'Trapped in the Lovecraftian Library! Explore the Deadly Books'. And Danzai-burst.

(PS. leave me a comment k thx).

3 comments:

  1. Hello, I'm commenting again because just wanted to say that I love your website!

    I decided it's time I too say my two cents about what games I wish would be reviewed. See if any of these titles happens to catch your interest!

    - WOLF: a game developed by Sanctuary Wood which is extremely unique in its genre. It's a wolf simulator. It's really good and original... I loved it so much as a kid!

    - BATTLE BEAST: the game that you got with Windows 95, I recall. Very fancy graphics and very '90s character design. But bad gameplay.

    - POSTAL: the original, the real Postal game, not the awful sequels which are what everyone thinks about when they hear this name. The first Postal was actually a little gem of haunting artistical style and disturbing, dark psychodrama. In short: the total opposite of Postal 2.

    - PRIMAL RAGE: might be one of my most favorite games. Giant dinogods! Post-apocalyptic setting! Fighting game!

    - ALIEN RAMPAGE: pretty good old run-and-shoot game. It's so much the essence of old school, with the boss fights that literally look like the cover of a heavy metal band album, that you can't help but love it. The protagonist kind of looks like Predator.

    - MORTAL KOMBAT: who doesnt love Mortal Kombat?

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    1. I'm sure I'll be able to give one or two of them a try at some point. Though if that wolf simulator doesn't turn out to be exactly like a low res version of Goat Simulator I'll be distraught.

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  2. Interested to read your review on this neat little gem! I'm huge into fighting games and think of Evil Zone as my number one guilty pleasure, it's great if you have kids or people who are less into fighting games to play with. My boyfriends little brother hates fighting games but we always have a blast when playing this game.

    If you finish the games with Kakurine, Setsuna and Ihadurca and you're really really drunk or good at piecing together nonsense, you'll figure out what the deal is with Setsunas possession. This game is incredibly weird and I love it to bits!

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