perjantai 25. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Power Instinct (1993)

GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: November 1993
AVAILABLE ON: ARC, GEN, SNES, Wii Virtual Console

Perhaps the best example of a gaming fad gone wrong is the swarm of one-on-one beat 'em up games that followed the success of Capcom's Street Fighter II and Midway's Mortal Kombat. Almost every game company that was somewhat prominent in the early to mid-90's had a fighting game of their own, and those that weren't, quickly cooked up some half-baked beat 'em up to get a leg up in the business; all fighting games sold themselves back in the day. In 1993, during the six years they had been active in the video game business, Atlus, who hadn't accomplished anything to tell future generations about, made an arcade beat 'em up named Power Instinct, a shameless Street Fighter II clone injected with a large dose of strange Japanese humour. Unfortunately, the game was successful enough to spawn a whole series of arcade and even home video sequels. Even more unfortunately, the original game was ported to both the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis in 1994. The most unfortunate thing about it all is that it ended up in my hands.

Come on grandma, let's boogie

Eight descendants of the Goketsuji clan of warriors spread all around the world take part in a traditional fighting tournament to determine the clan leader for the next five years. The story centers around the sibling rivalry of the clan's current leader, the 78-year old woman Oume Goketsuji and her younger sister Otane.

Back in the heyday of the classic fighting game, I was one of the idiots blind to the staleness of the whole genre. I used to play fighting games with my friend all the time, we used to even pretend being characters from Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II. Whenever a new fighting game was reviewed by our favourite video game magazine, we kept on checking through the character profiles and drooling after the game until one of us got it. Then we would play it until we grew tired of it - which never happened until the "next big thing" came along. This horrible era came to its end with Tekken and its sequels; Tekken was the perfect beat 'em up. You couldn't do better than that at the time, it just wasn't possible. Everything that came after Tekken was a Tekken clone, just like every mid-90's beat 'em up had been a clone of either Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat, or both. In time, we realized what kind of idiots we had been, blindly following a genre that just played like a broken record for so many years. During those years, we played a lot of different beat 'em ups. Luckily we managed to avoid Power Instinct.

Even the battle stances, yes.
Although the music's of the most horrible kids' anime variety you could possibly imagine, everything from sound effects to standard character design, to graphical effects, to the background art, are ripped straight off Street Fighter II with no questions asked and no remorse shown. The game has a few gimmicks of its own, such as its prominent humour - which ain't too funny by any Western standards - and the expansion of the playfield upon slamming your opponent through a wall or some other barrier. I guess the graphics are OK by the most basic standards (not much more can be expected from wipes like Atlus), but not nearly as good as the graphics of its most obvious targets of plagiarism.

Nearly each and every character can easily be pointed out as a carbon copy of some dude or gal in either Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Let's see now, the final boss is an elderly woman, some sort of a wizard who can transform into any of the playable characters. Shang Tsung of the first Mortal Kombat game, anyone? The only differences between the characters are their gender and the fact that they really overplay Oume's age angle, by having her use her set of false teeth as a projectile weapon. The other "granny" character of the game, Otane, is identical to Oume; she just wears different coloured clothes and is much slower and weaker. Two grandmas, and we would've been fine with having none. White Buffalo... a large indian - T. Hawk. Thin Nen... a monk of some sort, capable of setting his opponents on fire - Dhalsim. He even shouts out something like "YOGA!" every time he sets fire to his opposition, and the "character in flames" effect is EXACTLY the same as in Street Fighter II. Reiji Oyama (R!) and Keith Wayne (K!) - Ryu and Ken, down to the core, and there's nothing else to say about them. I guess this is all enough to convince you that there's nothing original about this game, and if there is - such as this kind of quirky and enfuriating music in a genre game - it's nothing good.

It all boils down to the controls, which are quite OK, actually much better than in many bigger fighting games of the era, such as Clay Fighter or Fatal Fury - even the first Mortal Kombat game. They're very smooth, special moves are relatively painless to execute, although the game lives up to the golden 16-bit rule of do or die; meaning you will be in such a hurry to win that you'll easily resort to dropkicking your enemy to oblivion. They just won't let up, there are no opportunities for you to take advantage of. If you hesitate, you'll go down in flames, especially against Oume who will easily kick your ass in under five seconds if you try to be too much of a tactician.

Judge her by her age, will you, hmm?
The playability of the game is not all up to the controls, it's also up to the feel, atmosphere and longevity of the game, and there's simply none of those qualities to be enjoyed in Power Instinct. There are no rewards to it at all. You can change your character any time you want after a defeat, and some characters simply might have some opponent's number while some might not. In other words, you will beat a round of Power Instinct quickly, if you just find the right dude to beat some other dude's ass. It's all the same who you beat the game with, they all have the same ending in the console versions - the good old "Congratulations" ending that everyone loves - it particularly shined in the SNES version of Jurassic Park. The design is 90's Japanese video game design at its most whacked. There's no true, ball busting violence that made Mortal Kombat shine, there's no great music and great characters that made Street Fighter II a landmark, and the humour angle was much better used in the otherwise dull Clay Fighter. There are some extra "survival" modes for the enthusiastic to try out, but nothing too exciting, I assure you.

Power Instinct is a useless clone of Street Fighter II, and I can't believe this game went on to have so many sequels as it did. Not many made it out of the arcade halls, though, and none were ever exported from Japan, where they were some sizzling hot shit - ain't that strange. Good controls almost save the day.

SOUND : 4.5


a.k.a. Goketsuji Ichigoku (JAP)

This game is the only game in the Goketsuji franchise to see a Western release.

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