Even though they started the whole fighting genre, 2D fighting games are a niche genre now. Fans have their favorite series either Capcom’s versus games, SNK’s King of Fighters or Sammy’s Guilty Gear. In this small world is there room for Sammy and Dimps experiment, The Rumble Fish? Maybe, the Rumble Fish does come from companies with experience. Sammy has the already successful Guilty Gear series and Dimps designed the Dragon Ball Z Budokai games. Working together they managed to create one of the most tactical 2D combat systems to date.
On the surface the Rumble Fish really looks like any other 2D fighting game. There isn’t anything that makes it look appealing or different unless you sit down and spend a couple hours with it. One thing that does stand out are all the different gauges on screen. Of course you have a life gauge, if this runs out you lose the match. Underneath this is a block meter. Each block takes away energy from this. If the meter runs out your guard will break and you’ll be unable to block for a few seconds. The block meter makes sure action flows at a good pace. It prevents "turtling" players who sit in the corner, blocking until an opponent makes a mistake. The offense meter it is also familiar to many fighting veterans. This gauge builds up as you successfully land hits on another player. Energy in this gauge can be used to do a couple of different attacks, including an offensive arts super move. The defensive meter works in the opposite of the offensive meter. With each successful block the meter increases. Like the offense meter, when this is filled you’ll be able to do a super move, but this is different from the offensive super. If both bars are filled it will flash critical on the bottom and you do an ultimate critical arts attack that consumes both bars. A critical attack is normally an extremely powerful super move, that will give huge damage if it connects.
The Rumble Fish just isn’t about super moves. You’re not going to have huge 100 hit combos with rockets flying from all directions in this. Instead the Rumble Fish is a more tactical. You have to make each hit and block count. While you may not be able to do aerial raves with ease, there are unique moves in the Rumble Fish. By pressing low kick and low punch together you can do a jolt attack. If you land this the screen will turn red and you’ll move in slow motion. This is the perfect opportunity to deal out a long custom combo. The catch is using a jolt attack requires a full offensive arts meter. Instead of sacrificing your whole meter for easy combo action is to use offensive arts. You don’t have to sacrifice your whole offensive meter for a custom combo. Pressing strong punch and strong kick at the same time lets players do an advanced attack. This attack starts with a quick dashing step towards the opponent, which can be followed up by more hits. Expert players will be happy to know that you can cancel a regular punch into an advanced attack and then cancel that attack for even more hits.
Players have just as many defensive maneuvers as offensive ones. Parrying attacks isn’t new. The Rumble Fish reintroduces parrying as an Impact Break, which uses up half your defensive meter. If a parry is well timed you’ll be able to immediately counterattack, preventing a combo. When you’re hit in mid air you can do a quick recovery to prevent juggling. A quick recovery also opens you up for an easy counterattack, but there is a cost of half of the defensive meter to do this. Players may not want to spend all of their defensive gauge on recovering from attacks. Defensive arts, which take a full bar to use, can turn the tide of battle. Some characters, like the defensive Hikari, has a reversal move known as Oborotefu: Ama. When the defensive meter is full she can pull this off, to reverse an attack and position an enemy for a combo. Since blocking fills up the defensive meter quickly, defensive players can win battles.
While there are bunch of options with the game system, the actual characters don’t have that many moves. There are four different basic attacks: light punch, light kick, strong punch and strong kick. By using a direction command along with an attack button you’ll be able to do a different attack. Besides that each character has a handful of special moves like projectile attacks. These are done like any other fighting game using movements such as half circle back plus a punch button.
Each of the twelve different characters have their own move lists. Zen is the perfect character for beginners. He plays a lot like Ryu, with an anti air kick attack and a projectile wind attack called Zanshinken. Sisters Hikari and Kaya are more defensive characters. They favor doing reversals and blocking over power attacks. Typhon is the short, fast character that is hard to hit and Orville is the heavy hitting powerhouse of the game. The most unique character is Viren. His moves are tricky to predict because he can appear run behind an opponent. He also has dashing attacks, that makes him more unique. The Rumble Fish does offer up three PS2 exclusive characters like Sheryl a ranged ninja. Two other characters remain to be unlocked by going through the game’s story mode.
The Rumble Fish certainly looks better than other 2D fighters. It’s not a pixilated mess like SNK vs. Capcom Chaos. Yet, many people out there will probably dump The Rumble Fish into the same category as SNK vs. Capcom Chaos. Sure the game isn’t in 3D. It’s not going to stand up to Tekken 5 in realism. The title manages to look decent. Even though it suffers from bland backgrounds and character design. The background music is pretty generic fluff. No one is going to rush out to get the soundtrack, but it does get the job done.
Because of the poor presentation gamers are likely to overlook the Rumble Fish in favor of other games. However, fans of 2D fighters should give it a chance. After spending sometime with the title you’ll see the fighting system is pretty deep. So if you’ve been looking for a new 2D fighter give the Rumble Fish a chance.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
The fairly decent story mode is in Japanese, which could be a problem if you care about it. Besides the story and the command list, the other menus are in English. With a little effort anyone can figure out the gameplay, even with a language barrier.
Sammy nor Sega has made any official announcement about the Rumble Fish. However, we guess that it’s unlikely that this game will come over. The Rumble Fish never had a real American arcade debut and in general 2D fighters don’t sell too well in the US. If you’re really interested in this title your best bet is to import.
+ Pros: A surprisingly deep fighting system, that rivals almost every other 2D fighter out there.
- Cons: Few characters and a lackluster presentation make this title for 2D fighting fans.
Overall: Honestly, The Rumble Fish has one of the most balanced and tactical systems in a 2D fighter to date. Now if the game just had more moves plus characters to choose from, we’d be in business.
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