[ Writer ] = EightOne
[ 04/17/03 ] = Tabasa's Real Debut! (not Pocket Fighter)

Let's rewind back to the year 1996. For Capcom, that was a good year in the arcade scene. They had Super Puzzle Fighter II X, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, 19XX, and even Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters as part of their powerful lineup for that year alone. The CPSII system is doing incerdibly well. Will Capcom stop there? No. This is also the same year they pilot their newest system, CPSIII. Since Capcom's 'fighting engine' has done so well, they decided to make a variation of it for their first CPSIII game. What was the first CPSIII game? Street Fighter III New Generation. Is that your final answer? If you said no, then good on you, because it was not the first CPSIII game.

It was the very little-seen War-Zard (Red Earth for those who paid any attention to it in the states). It was talked about for a long time, but axed because it was just "testing the power of CPSIII." For what? SFIII, of course. Because of this, Stateside gamers barely got to see this game (if at all), but it did get to stay in Japan. Throughout my travels, I finally got to see this game in late 1997, with an aspiring hope to someday own one for myself. Now that I do (thanks to Shou-sama), I'll be going in depth on this one since few resources never really bothered to put out enough info for the curious.

War-Zard takes place in the year 1999, in a world where the big bad guy, Valdoll has caused horrible things to happen to the world (where in the U.S./Asia version, the game takes place "in the year of Our Lord, 13XX"), and it's your job to take out the eight monsters around the world and finally Valldoll himself (he's called Scion everywhere else). You choose from only one of four characters (perhaps a big setback for this game): Leo, the lion-headed former king with some mad sword skills; Mukuro (Kenji), Master ninja with a wide variety of attacks and the matching quickness; Tao (Mai Ling), acrobatic teenage girl fighter who is like Chun-Li in ways; and Tabasa (Tessa), Super Gem Fighter/Pocket Fighter starring with who attacks with anything from cats to cannons, to doves and swords!







While this is only four characters, each has a long list of moves when maxed out. Like any other fighting game, they have their respective strengths and weaknesses. As for the CPU opponents, there are only eight; from Hauzer, an earth dragon with thick skin and firey attacks to Nool (Hydron) an aquatic creature who uses ice/water based attacks to Luan (Lavia) a bird-woman who attacks from the air and is annoyingly swift. They too have their weaknesses against certain elemental attacks, as well as their own moves and/or 'Super' Moves. Unfortunately, there is no code to play as any of the CPU opponents or any secret characters.

I will tell you that WZ is a fighting game. You have your joystick and six buttons (3P/3K). Typical Capcom stuff, right? Yes, but it gets different in a lot of ways. When playing in 1P mode, the 'best of three' concept goes away. It's just one round. Lose and be prepared to insert another coin. As your level goes up, the enemy's life increases. (more on levels in a bit.). Also this game revolves around experience points. This value is basically your score. as you you hit a certain score, your level increases. Also the "Super Moves" are not as you know it this time around. You can only do them when you have Magic Orbs, which you can use for an Elemental Attack using 214+3P. WZ isn't exactly one of the more combo-friendly games, but some nice stringing can be pulled off here, too. This game is notorious for "guard cracking" when your guard breaks from blocking too much in period of time. One sure fire way around that is to use the "Ultimate" guard, which is done by pushing the same strength P+K. This will let you block any - and everything - with no damage at all. The only catch is that you can't do this in the air, and the lag from recovering from this can cost you some valuable life.

As for the moves, you only start with a few and earn more as your level increases. A good thing is that they are all simple circular motions of some kind. Nothing at all as intricate as any SNK moves, but easy enough to where you can link regular moves in to special moves. Some moves, however, can be obtained by having a high enough level and "Vs. points" (from 2P matches). After finding the passwords that include these moves, I'd easily say that they are well worth the effort. Super Moves are done with the 'typical' Super Move motions (like 236236+P), but require you to have a Magic Orb to do them.

The level up system not only gains you moves at certain levels, but also affects your strength and your defense against certain elemental attacks from the enemy. As the level increases, the points needed to advance get higher. Sometimes it make take a complete play-through to gain one level. Bonus points are earned by collecting coins that appear in random treasure chests throughout a fight (as well as food and even Magic Orbs), and of course from finishing a CPU opponent in a certain way, remaining vitality, time, etc. The game can be finished at any level, but the game is much better balanced as you have more techniques to take on the opposition. As for the endings, they are usually based on descisions (yes/no) that you make, or factors in game play (like how you finish a certain opponent, for example). Every character has a good and a not-so-good ending.

WZ has great graphics. The backgrounds are deatiled and imaginative, but in a way charmless, since there is not a lot going on (if anything at all). You'll immediately notice that some characters have a lot of animation. One of the better examples is Nool (Hydron). That's largely because of the extra RAM that the system can run. Even the non-player characters in the game sport a fair amount of animation, as well. The endings are nicely drawn too. Like the later games to come in the CPSIII family, you get a good share of zooming effects to the point where it doesn't take a way from the gameplay itself.

The sound in WZ does seem fitting of the game. While some of it is forgettable, there were a few tracks that did grab my attention (like Leo's vs. theme). Is it me or do a lot of the tracks have that drum beat in it? Oh well. The voices are cool too. What's really interesting is a lot of the voices were removed or changed between versions. Tao's "kujuu-ken!" has chanced to a simple "aaay!" This announcer is also definitely one of the coolest ever, with his deep pseudo-evil voice.

Another feature that is unique to WZ is the password system. With this, you can keep your character's level and abilities, but must begin the game from the first battle. By continuing, you also keep your current level and the enemy's life meter stay at about the same point when you lost (give or take a few points).

Overall, War-Zard is a decent game, though it has its obvious flaws. Many hardcore fighting fans may try their luck for a round or two, but my be scared away from the eventual lack of replay value. I only like it because I want to play it on the same level that the experts go to Super Battle Opera with on SSFIIX. Collectors might find this game to be a treasure since it wasn't widely released in the rest of Asia and the Japanese kits can be obtained for cheap. If you ever see this game, buy it or play before it does fade into total obscurity.