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Mace: The Dark Age Review

Publisher - Midway
Developer - Atari Games
Platform - N64
Type - Fighting
Score - 8/10

Mace is the first great fighting game to hit the N64. Both War Gods and Killer Instinct were solid fighters, but neither was a truly outstanding game. Mace fills a void that has existed in the N64 line-up since the console's introduction.

Mace has the crucial balance between a tight engine, decent character design, and nifty graphics. On top of this, Mace is one of the few playable, true 3D fighters, and manages to incorporate some new features that set it out from the mass of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat wannabes.

Mace has the most crucial ingredient of any fighting game (2D or 3D), a good fighting engine. The engine is not based around sheer speed or excessive button crushing. The system encourages you to not attack first but rather to wait for your opponent to make a mistake then exploit it. Mace manages to have a slower, more thoughtful rhythm yet manages not to degenerate into the your-turn my-turn monotony that is Dark Rift.

Mace is a weapon oriented game that has three types of attacks: a light weapon attack, a heavy attack, and a kick. The system also has side-stepping, jumping, and blocking. At first it seemed a lot like Soul Edge, but Mace surpasses that game in many ways. Soul Edge's character's react slowly and their special moves are executed by pounding the same button several times. Mace's characters are easy to control and they don't momentarily freeze up after jumping. Also, the Mace engine has a good combo system that involve mix and match maneuvers and breakers. It is a better 3D fighter than War Gods although I wish Mace had War God's side jump. The combo system is intuitive and it has "stand alone" combos which are essentially special maneuvers. What really makes this game stand out is not the engine basics, but the special touches.

Mace incorporates ring outs. Soul Edge does as well, but I have to say that I like Mace's approach better. When an opponent is knocked out of the ring, he is electrocuted, burned, or otherwise damaged, until he returns to the ring. Knocking your opponent out of the ring is not an auto win, but the game rewards you for superior skill and cunning. Another plus is the 3D arenas. Most 3D fighters take place on flat surfaces. Mace's levels have stairs and changes in height that make you take notice that this game really is 3D. What's really spiffy is that there are certain objects on the battle field that characters can pick up and lob at opponents. This is the first fighting game that endeavors to make the landscape a major player in the action. I like it.

Mace gives players a total of 14 players to choose from and most of them look good graphically. War Gods did a better job of mapping faces to the characters than this game, but Mace's characters are better developed and not quite as cheesy. Mace is a good looking game. The backgrounds are well designed and each one has a distinctive feel. Not only does this game play better than all the other fighting games but it is also the strongest graphically. This game also has superior sound quality than the other games. When you get hit in this game, it sounds like it. You'd think game designers would know how to make the speakers rumble by now. Mace is the one N64 fighter that gets it right.

If you want a fighter for the N64, Mace: the Dark Age is it. If you are dead set on having a 2D fighter then Killer Instinct is your only choice, but even if you're a die-hard 2D fan, give Mace a shot.