written by Yukuridanshi
[Editor's Note: This Review is from the AOU 2003 show in Chiba on Saturday, Feb 22 -the author is the individual that supplied us with a sneak peak of Sengoku 3]
The pendulum swings back- and hard. After the lousy showing from last year,
(where the highlights of the show were a glitchy Metal Slug 4 and a
sluggish-moving Soul Calibur 2 beta), the AOU 2003 represented a somewhat
brighter picture of both where the Neo-Geo and the game industry as a whole is
headed. This year (as with the case of Sengoku 3 in '01), there was a
fast-paced, action-oriented game that really grabbed the fans' attention- and it
came in the form of Matrimelee, a frenzied and comical MVS 2D family feud from
Much like Sengoku 3, Matrimelee is not perfect- there are some graphical gaps, particularly animation-wise. But the game is also much like Sengoku 3 in that it is a particularly good game for those with a short attention span. My explanation centers around the characters and the gameplay.
You do have your more typical characters- White, your muscle-bound Native American fighter, and Hikaru, a little schoolboy with a baton. Where things begin to get a little less conventional is when characters such as Ume (the grandmother) and Buntaro, a young martial artist who walks with one hand in his pocket (an unmistakable nod to another much-loved character we know from SNK). So are these characters gathered to see who is the strongest in the universe? Quite the contrary- the Goketuji family is in shambles over whether (and to whom) the princess will be wed. The princess has a number of suitors in the lineup, and those who make up the rest of the cast- such as Grandma- are those who aren't so happy about the marriage.
Now for the important stuff- the gameplay. The twist to this game seems to be the idea that dominance by one player is frowned upon- there are a number of tricks in this game that the player who is down can use to regain the upper hand. The first is the special power bar at the bottom of the screen.
For the sake of argument, let's say that one player is beating the crap out of the other player, using, one cheesy Lee-style (from Last Blade) sequence after another, intimidating the opponent to sit and turtle- but all is not over. For each hit a player takes (whether the move is blocked or absorbed), the player's power meter increases. When a player is knocked down and his/her power meter is full, as the player stands up, he/she emits a huge energy blast, sending the other player reeling. This is designed to be a setback to the "experts" who love to corner more defensive players with sequence after sequence. Then, of course, the player with the full power bar has the option of unleashing a super move.
Another boon to more conservative players is the double counter, taking the emphasis on countermoves one step further. One double counter can be just as damaging as a three- or four-hit traditional combo. So, the idea that the more aggressive player has the upper hand is less true in this game than it is in other 2D fighters.
The graphics are of varied quality. The characters are (generally) well-animated, enough to really bring out the personality and flair unique to each fighter, but the backgrounds don't fare quite as well. Each background is well-drawn and has excellent color coordination- but the animation- particularly at the ring- is unforgivably choppy. Also, the level of detail and even the resolution appears to be considerably lower than World Heroes Perfect, Last Blade 2 or Mark of the Wolves. The system may be going on 14 years old, but the idea that the graphics have reached their peak on the system is, discomforting as it may be, not unfounded.
The music is fine- fast paced with lots of bass on most stages, but it does not add as much weight as do the excellent sound effects.
What we have here is a solid fighting game with a nice cast of characters, and a few nice gameplay variations that prove to be fresh (and even somewhat counter-intuitive) to those who think they know 2D fighters. But do not expect the beginning of a new generation of 2D fighters here. Instead, think of it as nothing more than just the next entry to the Neo library, even though we consider that a big deal in this vacuous Neo era. But do check it out at least once.
Overall score: 7.0/10
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