Review by Kenri

"What is the exact opposite of joy?"

Nintendo really hit it out of the park with the Smash Bros. series. You know why? Because the whole game is an advertisement. I see Captain Falcon in the original Super Smash Bros. and find myself playing F-Zero X soon after. I unlock Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee and next thing you know, I'm playing Fire Emblem 7. And when Pit was announced for Brawl, you can bet your bottom dollar that I played through both Kid Icarus games. There should be a limit to this, a speed bump that stops me from playing all sorts of obscure little games because the main character is being speculated to be in Brawl. But such a limit doesn't exist, and when people start bringing up Sukapon, from the 2D fighter "Joy Mech Fight" for the NES, I'll be damned if I don't immediately try the game for myself. The seductive allure of these potential playable characters is far too great. "Just think," I say to myself. "If I play this game, I can contribute to these conversations! I can say, 'yeah, Sukapon might work in Brawl, but isn't Ray more deserving?'"

So I played Joy Mech Fight.

Whoops.

Allow me to start off by saying that I don't particularly like 2D fighters to begin with. Street Fighter II is a game I will never understand the praise for. That said, after just 5 minutes of JMF, I found myself longing for the comforts of SFII or one of its thousands of clones.

The core fighting engine of Joy Mech Fight is so unrefined that by comparison a hunk of coal could easily pass for a diamond. Considering there were only two buttons to work with on the NES controller, one could make the case that the folks at Nintendo did a commendable job. Whoever attempts to make this case better be a lawyer, because nothing in JMF's gameplay comes even close to commendable.

Punch and kick are each allocated to one of the two buttons. As you would expect, up on the DPad is jump, and down on the DPad is block. Moving right and left are, obviously, right and left on the DPad. And here's where things fall apart. Despite this deceptively simple interface, nearly every move beyond simple punches and kicks is a royal pain in the lower back to execute. Which means that while the average player cannot pull any of them off, the enemy will have no trouble doing all of them all the time. And that brings us to our next problem: the bipolar AI.

You've probably heard of rubberband AI, and bipolar AI is its whiny little brother. One moment he wants ice cream, then he wants mac and cheese, then he wants to go outside, then he wants to play video games, and repeat until you're ready to punch him in the face. This is a form of artificial intelligence that does not determine difficulty based on if you're winning or by how much, but rather seemingly at random. This is not good game design, and it doesn't help that many of the later opponents are... well, I have some choice words for them, but nothing that can't be summarized by a string of obscenities. For example, you will fight enemies that can spam projectiles that take up half the screen. You will fight enemies that can inflict 25% damage with a single blow. And worst of all, on occasion, you will be hit by an attack that not only damages you, but also knocks your head off, so you must spend some time putting it back on while the opponent pounds on you.

...Eh? Did I not mention these are robots you're fighting with and as? I guess I assumed the title would make that clear, but then again, there's nothing joyous about this game, so my bad. The explanation ties in with the story, so I'll kill two birds with one stone if you don't mind.

The story, as far as I can tell from not being able to read any Japanese, goes like this: The quintessential nice, kind professor and his blatantly evil assistant (complete with black shades and a villainous mustache) are friends. But then suddenly, kindly old professor returns to his lab and finds his robots missing! He turns on the television, and egads! Blatantly evil assistant is using the robots to threaten the world! Professor Good quickly repairs his robot making machine and create a pink blob of a robot named Sukapon. From then on, you must fight your way through four stages, chasing Professor Evil to his tower of villainy and beyond.

Each stage is composed of eight enemy robots and then a boss. You can fight these enemies in any order, which is nice. The first stage is a bit different, as it only has seven robot masters, the ones that were presumably stolen from you. Each time you defeat a non-boss enemy in stage one, you recapture it and add it to your playable roster.

The problem is that nearly every fighter is useless. Clearly this will vary from player to player, but for me, every fighter was completely worthless except for Sukapon, who had a spammable projectile capable of defeating nearly every enemy in the game, and a green robot with two glowing antennae, which has a projectile _and_ rapid kicking combo. These are the only two fighters you will ever need throughout the whole game, so clearly, there are balance issues.

Each robot is visually impressive. They are have a certain charm to their movements - their little victory dances, their attempts to reattach their severed head, and so on. This often makes you forget you're playing an NES game, as it is very graphically pleasing, and there is never a speck of slowdown. I can only assume this is possible because all the robots seem to have a Rayman thing going - various body parts, such limbs and heads, float in the air around their central bodies, never actually attached, so that the NES is never forced to render particularly complex movements.

And though the graphics are impressive, the sound is not. I have some gauze crammed into my ears, and the bleeding seems to have stopped or lessened, but the less said about the music in JMF, the better. Calling it "music" is, in fact, far more than it deserves.

Aside from the story mode, which is rather long for a fighting game (composed of, I believe, 35 fights), there is a player vs. CPU mode and a player vs. player mode. The latter is something you don't want to try, unless you have some friends that you don't like very much. Personally I like my friends, so I won't subject them to this game. The last option is CPU vs. CPU, which has no discernable reason for existing, except perhaps that the game's developers realized that watching JMF is a lot less painful than actually playing it.

This is true in more ways than one. Fights that routinely become projectile wars, enemies that jump around randomly or repeatedly use a single overpowered move, and the aforementioned bipolar AI make Joy Mech Fight a game that is certainly more fun when not played.

Nintendo, why hast thou forsaken me?


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/07

Game Release: Joy Mech Fight (JP, 05/21/93)


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