Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wrestle Angels - Long-Ass Wrapup

So, what happens after you've finished playing card games and watching girls pound the snot out of each other as a direct result? Well, that depends on your results. For the first three chapters, while you're competing in team matches, losing best two of three results in you being shown a graphic of the last member of your team who got to fight being humiliated by being forced to expose herself to the crowd.

Poor Toshimi...

After this, you're shown a screen listing all five members of your team and their current stats. Here, you're given two experience points, which you can then spend levelling up stats exactly twice (Example: levelling up Toshimi's default level 6 in joint moves to level 8). The maximum level for any stat is 10, represented by the letter "A" due to space restrictions. After levelling up, you're shown another exchange of dialogue against the boss you failed to defeat and sent back to the roster menu to try again.

Should you win, then you're shown a graphic of the enemy team's captain being humilated (whether or not you actually fought her in the tiebreaker), and then taken to a screen which allows you to copy a move from the enemy captain and give it to one of your members for use. The number next to a move's name is the level in its stat category required to learn it (In the picture example, Yukiko's "3" rating in Power will only allow her to learn a body slam from Beauty's extensive power repitoire, but since she already knows it, it's a moot point). Then you're shown the EXP screen, only now you're allocated five experience points to use on your girls. Once you're done, you're sent off to the next challenge.

The third match of the first three chapters is against the local champion, Panther Risako in Japan, mysterious masked luchadora Em Sande in Mexico, and hard-hat wearing powerhouse (and Reggie Bennet expy) Remy Dadarne in America. Defeating their teams simply earns you the five experience points. In order to gain access to copy their moves and view their humiliation CGs, you must send a single member of your squad to face them in a title bout. Losing a title bout gives you a single experience point and sends you back to the roster screen to try again. Winning gets the above mentioned rewards, and yields two experience points as well as allowing you to move on to the next chapter.

On the subject of the roster screen, there's a reason you're asked to select five girls to form a squad instead of just three. See, damage sustained in one match carries over to the next, so it's not a good idea to simply send the same three girls in repeatedly, lest you start racking up losses, which can be kind of embarassing when you're shown the win/loss record after clearing the game. HP lost in one match are partially restored for the next, but allowing a girl to sit a match out will restore them completely. This places a great importance on building up your entire team as well as knowing the makeup of the CPUs, so that you can play the enemy's weaknesses to your advantage (No CPU-controlled character will ever have more than a single stat at max).

However, after the third chapter, everything changes. At the end of the third chapter, Beauty reveals to your team that while they were out touring Mexico and the US, she captured the world championship from Risako, and in order to flaunt her superiority is organizing a tag-team tournament. This tournament takes up the entirety of the fourth chapter, and you're only allowed to select two fighters to participate for its entirety. The fourth of the four buttons at the bottom of the combat screen (Data, Situation, (Pin)Fall, and our subject, the humorously misspelled "Tuoch" ("Touch", in other words tagging in/out) finally comes into play, as enabling it before initiating an attack allows you to switch characters should that attack be successful. It's an interesting feature, but one that isn't very important here as you'll usually have at least one character leveled up enough to take on two CPU opponents all by herself (the feature gets refined in the later sequels).

During the fourth and fifth/final chapters, each match itself is treated as a title bout, with humiliation CGs and all (actually, it's the only way to see the CGs of the lesser non-Japanese girls). The final chapter is, instead of an elimiation-style tournament, a round robin-style tournament in which each participant fights every other contestant, and the one with the highest number of wins takes home the gold. Winning the whole thing sends you off to the final title bout, and througout the entire chapter, you're only allowed to use one of your roster. This effectively means that the game layout was designed to get you used to the 3v3 system in the early chapters, ween you off of it in the fourth, and have you use your most upgraded fighter in the last.

Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day, the original Wrestle Angels is a fun little title to play. It has limited character buildup and only moderate replay value (You can finish the whole game in under three hours if you know what you're doing), which will either be spent trying to get a better win/loss record for the challenge gamers, or trying to see all of the humiliation CGs for those who like that sort of thing. However, what it does with what little resources it has to do them with is pretty damned impressive. The card game takes some getting used to, and easy to exploit once you start maxing out stats, but is very addictive once you get going.

The only thing that I find didn't need to be here was the humiliation CGs (and it would seem that fans at the time agreed as they were completely phased out of the series following the third installment), but then again, that's one of the things about Japanese 18+ games. It seems to be that the best ones are those where the gameplay or story is so good that the naughty stuff feels tacked on.

On the whole, WA1 is an interesting take on the fantasy sports genre, combining team management (something that would eventually become greatly expanded upon and would become the secondary purpose of the series, after watching cute girls beat each other up) with a combat system that rewards not just stat progression, but (some) critical thinking as well.
Hmm... How to end this long-ass rant that most people would only take a single post to write about... I know! Boobies! Everybody likes boobies, right?

Funny, it's almost like she wanted to show her "selves" off...

The luchadora tag team "Pink Pirates" give you the same CG no matter which of them you beat at the tournament.

The American wrestler Bunny Bomber, who was unceremoniously dropped after this game and didn't show up again until last year's Wrestle Angels Survivor 2.

- Azure out

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wrestle Angels - Gameplay

So, after picking out the five members of your team, you're shown a short exchange with the first boss character, Beauty Ichigaya, after which you're sent... straight back to the exact same menu screen as before, only now there are only five names on the list instead of eight. This is where you make your preparations for each coming bout, and it seems to be another memory/cost-cutting decision.

The way the game works for the first three chapters is simple enough. You select three members of your team to go out and face the three members of the opposing team. Each member faces a member of the opponent's team once, in the order they were selected. For example, if I select Toshimi, Bomber, and Yukiko to face opposing team members Hitomi, Riyu and Beauty; then Toshimi will face Hitomi and Bomber will fight Riyu. If either side wins both of those matches, then their team is declared the winner of the contest. If the score comes up 1-1, then Yukiko and Beauty will face each other in a tiebreaker.

The matches themselves are played out through the use of a simplistic card battle game. The blue corner is where the player's stats are displayed, and the red is used for the CPU. As for the stats themselves, they're read from top to bottom, left to right:

  • Throw: Grappling moves (body slams and backdrops.)
  • Joint: Submission moves that attack the joints.
  • Power: Full-on attacks (shoulder blocks, powerbombs)
  • Fly: Acrobatic techniques (flying kicks, top-rope maneuvers)
  • Body: The character's main hit points. The lower these are, the easier it becomes for the opponent to successfully land harder-hitting moves and score pinfalls.
  • Arm: The amount of stress the arm muscles can take.
  • Leg: The amount of stress the leg muscles can take.

The fact that there's three sets of hit points might lull you into a false state of security, but the fact of the matter is that the Arm and Leg stats only count for submission moves and even at max will each only be able to take half as much punishment as the body. Submissions each attack one of the three HP stats, and if a single one is emptied by (or already depleted prior to) an opponent attacking that area with a submission, then the afflicted character will give up and lose the match.

When a match is started, both sides are given a hand of five random cards and the player cannot see the CPU's hand. A single new card is issued for each card used and there is an infinite supply - As long as your character can keep fighting, you'll recieve a new card after each exchange. Each card is marked with a character representing the four main Throw/Joint/Power/Fly stats and a number which shows how strong the move performed will be.

After selecting a card, a sub-menu pops up, asking you to select a move from the category represented by the character on the card face (Example, selecting a "Throw" card will give you options such as body slam, front suplex, and backdrop). Each character starts off knowing a number of different moves, and will usually have more moves for the categories where their default stats are highest. Moves that are lower down on the list are stronger, but are less likely to connect if the opponent's HP haven't been successfully whittled down a bit first.

When both card and move are chosen, they're brought up to the center of the screen to compare against the opponent's and see who will attack successfully that turn. The general jist of the calculation involved in deciding this is that whichever character has higher stats will win the exchange and get to attack. Using the image above as an example, if Yukiko and Beauty were to both play Fly-type cards, Yukiko would most likely win the exchange since her Fly stat is much higher. If both were to play Throw-type cards, then whichever side has the higher-number card would win. In the unlikely event that both players play the same type of card while having equal scores in the represented stat, then it would come down to HP and the power factor of the move. If all factors are equal, the CPU will generally concede you the exchange and let you attack.

Aside from the four main cards, there are also defensive cards (colored black with white lettering) and rare special cards (red with gold lettering). Defensive cards are designed to be used if your character has an otherwise unusable hand for her stat build and allow her to execute a known defensive action. Most characters have access to an illegal maneuver for defense (Use of a steel chair inside the ring and slamming the opponent into the turnbuckle outside), as well as a general-purpose guard; however, the more acrobatic characters will have access to special defensive holds such a small package or rolling cradle pin. Defensive cards work by matching up against the opponent's card and checking the user's stat for the opponent's action and matching it against theirs, although a high enough numbered defense card can still override an opponent whose card-stat match is higher.

As mentioned above, the special cards appear rarely (although they can show up at the start of a bout, something which seems to happen to the computer more often than the player...) and grant the use of one of two special actions. A taunt, which will allow the character to automatically cancel out the opponent's next move, or the character's finisher, which does high damage and always has the greatest priority over all other card-types. Special cards are always ranked higher than any other card, and if both the player and CPU put them forward, the player will win the exchange.

The last feature of the battle system is the cyan colored border surrounding each character's portrait, which serves to monitor the physical condition of each fighter. In its default state, the fighter is alright and will slowly recover lost HP for each of the three bars every turn they are not hit with an attack to that body section. However, some moves have a chance of hitting hard enough that they cause the opponent to bleed. When this happens, the cyan condition border turns red, and the fighter will no longer be able to recover their HP each turn. A fighter in this condition has a significantly harder chance of coming out on top.

Well, that's enough about that. Tomorrow: Match aftermath and stage flow (also boobs for those who like that sort of thing).
- Azure out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wrestle Angels - Characters

Upon starting up a new game, you'll be asked to pick five out of selectable eight characters to form a team and chase after various championships. The selectable girls are:

Mighty Yukiko: The main character. Even if you don't select her for your team, she'll be the one appearing in all the cutscenes (probably due to the amount of memory it would take to do event CGs for each and every character). As you'd expect from a combat story heroine, Yukiko is honest, straightforward and gutsy, but also kind of dumb. She has a decent amount of HP by default and specializes in flying and acrobatic moves like her moonsault press finisher.

Mimi Yoshihara: Coming off a tough loss against Panther Risako in the intro, Mimi is just about the strongest member (statistically speaking) that you can choose. She has high scores in throwing and submission, but low ability in power and acrobatics.

Bomber Kishima: One of two power-type wrestlers you can choose, Bomber's a hot-blooded sports fan. She's depicted as kind of pretty in the early games, but she got somewhat butched up in later installments. Her finisher is a strong lariat.

Akira Ijuuin: The other power-type, a rich girl who nonetheless works hard and always has a smile on her face. Akira is, despite being more experienced in the ring than any other playable character save Mimi, completely interchangable with Bomber as far as stats go. She does however, have a few different moves, including her trademark piledriver.

Toshimi Minami: My personal favorite of the playable characters (Get a load of that cute bowlcut hairstyle!), Toshimi is a submission specialist who falls slightly behind Mimi in terms of ability. Unlike later games, where she's depicted as a cool, lone wolf-type, Toshimi is much more open with her emotions in this game.

Teddy-Cat Hori: A nice girl whose balanced stats make her a decent addition to any team. TCH is completely average in all areas (Including HP and arm/leg endurance) except submission and power, where she falls short, but her finisher, a backdrop, suggests that you should start by leveling up her throwing ability.

Hitomi Fujishima: An idol wrestler who is more focused on being cute and winning over the crowd than winning matches. She's statistically the single worst pick for your team and should only be picked up by those looking for a challenge. Her highest stats are throwing and acrobatics, both of which are in the middle of the board. Her finisher is an enzuigiri kick to the back of the head.

Riyu Kikuchi: Another fragile character, Riyu is saved from Hitomi's "Jobber" branding by virtue of her unusual stat mix. She has decent scores in power and acrobatics, which is useful at picking at the weak spots of the early opponents. She'll need careful leveling up if she's to win later matches, though. Her finisher is the infamous DDT.

Wrestle Angels - Intro

The Wrestle Angels series of games has something of a cult following here in the states, which I happen to be a part of. Most US fans more than likely got accquainted with the series through the Super Nintendo incarnation Super Wrestle Angels, or the more recent PS2 outing Wrestle Angels Survivor. I happen to be one of the former, and now that I've accquired a means of playing the elusive first game of the series, I decided to use my first real entry to show my readers what exactly they've been missing out on.

Game: Wrestle Angels
Platform: PC-9800 (PC-98)
A very plain main menu shows that this really was a first attempt, and while not particularly impressive by today's standards, its simple looks belie an addictive and fun little game.
Here's a brief rundown of the backstory:

The IWWF (International Women's Wrestling Federation) champion, veteran Panther Risako, has been challenged by a group of upstarts representing New Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (SNJ, for "Shin Nihon Joushi" puroresu). The girls of SNJ issue their challenge based on rules set by "Beauty" Reiko Ichigaya, a fellow competitor who has major pull within the organization due to her status as a corporate heiress. Simply put, two teams of three wrestlers face off in best-two-of-three bouts, with the losing team having to shame themselves by exposing their naked (or near-naked, as is most often the case here) bodies to the cheering crowd.

Yes that's right, the whole thing is an elaborate setup to allow you, the player, to see some pixellated T&A.

I imagine most of you who read up to that last sentence have already labelled me a pervert and closed your browser tabs, but for those of you choosing to read on, know that I was not lying before when I spoke of a great game beneath the lowest-common-denominator stuff.
The options in the main menu are "Single Mode", which allows you to play a single match against the computer, utilizing all but one of the game's cast at their default stats, "Tag Mode" which lets you play a single match under tag team rules, "Profile Mode", which (after switching disks) allows you to view a brief blurb about each of the game's characters; "New Game" Which is where the meat of this package is, and "Load", which lets you pick up a previous story mode file at the start of the most recently-started match.
Since this post is getting kinda long, I'll break up my review of the game into several. Next up, the story mode menu and characters.

New blog!

So I've decided to start up a new blog. My old one over at livejournal fell apart pretty quickly because I didn't really think I had anything to write about. Now I've decided to start fresh at a different site.

What will I be blogging about? Pretty much anything that strikes my fancy, I suppose. Video games, movies, that sort of thing.

That said, there's three things I'm probably going to write about in the next few days, so best to throw out a list just for the hell of it:

  • Games: Wrestle Angels
  • Toys & Models: 1/100 HG Strike Freedom Gundam
  • Music: Touhou Nengara Nenju

This won't be a terribly original blog for sure, but I beg your favor all the same.
- Azure out.