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Fighters Destiny Review

Publisher - Ocean
Developer - Imagineer
Platform - N64
Type - Fighting
Score - 7/10

While we loyal fighting game fans wait for the fighting Messiah to come to the N64, we've been getting a steady flow of mild fighters. Most of these games have been clones of popular titles, borrowing heavily for the fighting engine and character design. Fighter's Destiny does not fall into that category. It's far from the king of fighting games we've been hoping for, but it will serve up some brand new features that make it stand out from everything else on the shelf.

The sounds and music in the game are functional as are the arenas. Fighter's Destiny gives you the minimum requirement for a fighting game and that's it. That's not to say that the game lacks imagination, it's just that there is no real distinct musical themes or levels.

The graphics suffer from a similar blandness. There's no doubt that there are better looking fighters on the N64 (War Gods, Dark Rift, Mace...). The characters come off feeling blocky; as though they needed just a few more polygons to round off the edges. The textures applied to the models also don't cut the mustard. Luckily the game has lots of character and individuality to make up for a mediocre presentation.

Alright, let's not mince words. The most important aspect of a fighting game is the fighting engine. Fighter's Destiny has an engine that is an affront to every fighting game ever created- and that's its charm. The basic idea of a fighting game is to pummel your opponent to the point where he/she loses consciousness. That's the only constant in every title. Fighter's Destiny breaks this tradition by supplanting this with a point system based on knock downs.

Instead of playing a best-two-rounds-out-of-three contest, a match could last for 2-7 rounds. A round does not end when you beat your opponent to a pulp, but rather when you force your opponent to the floor. Even if your opponent is in perfect health, if he's knocked to the ground, it's over. When you take your enemy down, the game awards you points. When you acquire enough points (the default number is 7 points) you are declared the winner. This seems odd, but don't dismiss this game for being different. What makes the point system work is the fact that different methods of taking your opponent down are worth different point values. Knocking someone out of the ring is worth one point. A run of the mill knockdown or throwing someone is worth two points. Using a special maneuver down is worth three points, and a super move or combo can net you four. At first I thought this was pretty lame, but it grew on me the more I played. The thing I didn't like was the fact that a single hit from a basic special move is sufficient to knock someone down. That makes it a round ending hit. That got old really fast. Luckily, a little practice will prevent the game from becoming a one shot punch contest.

Eventhough the one shot knock outs were tiresome, the point system saves the game. Assigning a premium to different combat tactics gives players incentive to try varying fighting styles. You have the option to play quick and tough, finishing the match in two rounds, or you can try easier tactics and opt for longer games. The fact that a super combo will give you 4 points (which is half the fight) gives you a very good reason to practice the more difficult moves. The best part about the point system is that all the values are customizable. This allows you to decide which take downs are worth big points.

The point system is the most visible change from tradition fighting games, but another feature is two different defense systems. The first system is the tradition blocking system. This is where you throw your limbs in harm's way in the hope of lessening the blow. The other system is the "auto-avoidance" system. This system is accessed by means of a secondary block button, but it operates differently from your basic block. When you hold down the secondary block and move your fighter, you move out of the way of attacks. This lets you escape all hurt rather than take less damage. This system takes more timing and finesse than standard blocking. You might as well forget it's there the first game, but keep it in mind once you master the basics. Another oddity to both blocking systems is that you can use them when you are stunned. A stunned character in most fighting games must stand helpless to any attacks. In Fighter's Destiny, you still have some chance of blocking or dodging.

By far the coolest aspect of Fighter's Destiny is the throwing and grappling system. Most Tekken-style fighters display a short movie when you throw an opponent. There's one animation for success and on for failure. This is annoying as heck and interrupts the rhythm of the game (see Dark Rift). Once someone grabs you in Fighter's Destiny, the action doesn't stop at all. If your reactions are sharp enough, you can escape or even reverse a throw. This changes the action from your standard kick-punch fighter into Wrestlemania. It definitely adds a new experience that you can't find in any other fighting game.

There are some parts of the engine that you may not find innovating or appealing. All of the characters have unique looks and animations, but there isn't much to say for individual style. There are a few fringe characters who stand out (the Ninja and Pierre), but most of them fall in the grey area. This is largely because there are no real ranged or aerial attacks. The repository of special moves consists of rapid punches or kicks, like Tekken. I can get over the loss of ranged attacks, but minimal to no aerial combat just plain stinks. Most characters feel anchored to the ground, and the ones billed as aerial fighters don't live up to their names. You're not going to find any psycho mid-air high kicks. This gives the game a more realistic feel, but I'd take a little gravity-snuffing fantasy any day.

Another bad aspect are the ring-outs. Mace currently holds the gold medal for cool ring outs. Fighter's Destiny has the title for most annoying ring-outs. The default ring is down right claustrophobic. It doesn't take much for a hyperactive opponent to rush you right out of the ring. Even if you change the size of the ring to its maximum, cheap ring outs can spoil an otherwise engaging match.

The final flaw in the engine is on that is too common among so-called 3D fighting games. The characters are 3D models, the arenas are also 3D, but the action is planar. You have the option of side stepping, but that results in little more than rotating the camera. It's not developed enough to actually affect the gameplay. The 3D nature of the character models are apparent during grappling sequences, but the action is just a matter of hitting your button first. This is yet another it-looks-3D-but-it-aint game.

With the exception of side stepping, the controls are comfortable and active. The special moves are almost exclusively based on multiple button tapping and the D-pad performs superbly. Unlike other fighters, this game uses only a few buttons. This means that you don't get the awkward feeling from mixing the large A and B buttons with those tiny C buttons.

That's about it for the engine. There are some other things worth noting. Fighter's Destiny has a great training system. It will teach you basic skills from blocking to punching, and it will show you all the complexities like grappling and special tactics. Fighter's Destiny serves up ten basic fighters with four hidden characters that can be unlocked. Some of the fighters are definitely better than the others, so you can't always count on a fair fight. Also worth mentioning is that you can customize a fighter... to a point. If you have a memory pak, you can take a basic character and give him additional special moves. You do this by fighting the "Master" in instructional matches. If you beat him, you get new moves. Unfortunately, you can only do this at the moment you create your character. You can't go back to learn more moves later, but you can fight other custom characters and wager your moves in combat.

Fighter's Destiny isn't for everyone. If you want a traditional fighter or a non-stop bloodfest, this isn't a game for you. This game is worth a try. Once you get a hang of all the cool features, the unique and remarkably replayable experience Fighter's Destiny has to offer makes it a dandy title.