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Review: The Rumble Fish 2 is Filled With Intertwining Mechanics

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rumble fish 2 review

The Rumble Fish 2, a 2005 arcade game that previously hadn’t received an official global console release, offers some interesting mechanics for someone looking for something new (that’s technically old). Giving you defensive and offensive bars, it offers a lot of options in each round as you pit its gang of oddball characters against one another in a battle to beat each other’s clothes off. I doubt it’ll steal you away from whatever fighter you’re regularly playing now, but it’s a fun diversion with some good depth.

It’s the sixth Fight For Survival (FFS), and you’re battling your way to the top using one of thirteen different warriors to beat your way to the top. There’s a solid variety of characters in this group as well. Mito, a young lady with an eyepatch and a sword, uses two different stances, Crime and Punishment. These allow her to switch from a relentless rushdown character to someone who can poke the opponent to keep them out. Boyd is a tough retiree (who’s definitely hiding a small animal in his hat) who loves to beat you down up close. Some of his moves build a scorpion meter, which, when it reaches thirteen, means his supers will deal absurd damage.

Like the old man mentioned above, there are many good character designs in The Rumble Fish 2. I just had to go with the old-man-on-vacation look, but you also have the colossal, monstrous boxer Bazoo that gets locked in a cage after every round (and who’ll drop rocks at varied ranges throughout it). Sheryl is an assassin who uses thin wires to do all manner of acrobatic tricks and cut you down at the same time. Lud has a punk look to him with his bright mohawk and temperature meter that gives him access to stronger versions of his moves. The characters stand out and have some nice personality, giving you aesthetic reasons to choose each character on top of their moveset.

rumble fish 2

There are some standard moves between the characters that offer some interesting possibilities. Dashing forward will carry its momentum into your attacks, allowing you to do more pushback and strike with some interesting effects. Backdashing gives you some invincibility frames, so if you can time it well you can quickly punish someone who uses the same move a lot (like me). There’s a dedicated dodge button as well, which gives you some upper-body invincibility (although you’ll still get slammed by lows) and opens up some interesting turnarounds when your opponent think’s they’ll hit you.

The Rumble Fish 2 also offers you a lot of powerful options by giving you a pair of super bars instead of just one. You’ll be charging and Offense and Defensive gauge throughout the match, and these offer unique options. Defensive options can give you an Impact Break if you hit Dodge as a strike is hitting your block. This cuts down on the combo advantage your opponent would normally have, allowing you to slip a counter hit in there. You can spend two Defensive bars (you can get a total of three of each bar) to make that Break even larger. However, you have to be blocking while standing to do this to mid or upper strikes. Blocking low will only Impact Break a low, so if you reflexively block and duck like I do, you’ll need to break the habit and be more purposeful if you want to use these moves.

Your Offensive Gauge is a lot simpler to use. You can spend it to rush forward by hitting Strong Punch and Strong Kick, and you can cancel your current move into it. This means that if your attack misses and it looks like you’re about to get smacked, you can possibly launch this attack to stop your opponent and keep pressing your own attack. You can also spend one bar on doing a jolt Attack, which is unblockable and can launch your opponent into the air for a juggle combo.

The Rumble Fish 2 still has more things to do with those meters. You can enter a Boost state by spending one of each bar, which enhances your special moves and can give them new properties for a while. Finally, if you have three of each bar, you can do a Critical Art for a ton of damage (and a heck of a flashy attack). It’s rarely worth saving up for as the other moves are great in a pinch, though. Still, who can resist the flashy finish?

These bars mean you’re rarely without some neat extra options throughout the game. If you’re getting flattened, you can turn the whole fight around with the Defensive Bar. If you miss a swing, you can possibly keep that combo going by spending some Offensive Bar. It also means you have a lot of possible options and states to keep track of, though, so learning you character can take longer as you have access to a lot of options. It made for a bit of a steep learning curve as someone who’s a novice with fighters, but the inputs were fairly intuitive.

Speaking of inputs, as a former arcade game, The Rumble Fish 2 definitely feels better suited to a Fight Stick for Critical Arts and most damaging specials. The game makes use of a lot of down-forward and down-back motions, which aren’t too bad whether you’re using a Hitbox (only buttons), Fight Stick, or regular controller. However, pulling off a down-back then back-forward on anything but a Fight Stick can be a real pain without a lot of practice (although I’ve only been using a Hitbox for a few months, so more experienced players may find it easier than I did. Controller was serviceable on both PS5 and Switch, but Stick players are likely going to have the easiest time with these moves.

rumble fish 2

Not that you need to be able to use all of those complex mechanics and moves to enjoy the game in its single player modes. The game features an Arcade story mode where you battle through an extremely brief story. The last boss, Beatrice, will keep you there for a while as, unlike you, she starts the round with full Offensive and Defensive bars and will use them to cheaply maul you for a good while. There’s a Time Attack mode to see how fast you can finish the game, a Survival Mode to see how many opponents you can beat without losing, and a fairly decent training mode where you can learn your moves.

An odd element that’s missing is that The Rumble Fish 2 doesn’t explain many of the Offensive and Defensive bar mechanics outside of loading screens throughout the game. I had to do a fair amount of research online (and thankfully there are some good resources) to learn about these tools. The loading screen explanations disappear after a few seconds, making it hard to read them. It’s also hard to learn a mechanic just by reading about it on a loading screen, so you’ll want to do some reading on the game before you start.

Once you know what’s up, though, it comes together quite well. The battles move at a good pace that doesn’t feel sluggish, but still gives you some time to think about what’s happening. It’s also fast enough that you can catch an opponent with a quick attack as well. The character movements feel a bit odd though, as their animations are done in such a way that they look just a bit strange. They’re done in a kind of 3D that I just didn’t much care for. Some of them almost look like there’s this weird ripple effect flowing across their bodies. Once the hits start landing, you stop caring about these visual quirks, but they are weird when you start to notice them.

Finally, you have the character damage. The Rumble Fish 2 offers persistent clothing and character effects between rounds. If you beat someone hard enough, you’ll tear up their suit a bit, as well as rough up their faces and features. It adds a neat touch to the combat to see the effect of your beating on your opponent. It can also be pretty funny to see your character looking rough after a near-loss in one round as well. You may go through the rest of the game looking kinda messed up, which made for an entertaining little detail.

Those details look quite nice on both the PS5 and Switch. Naturally, the PS5 looks a bit sharper, but I found it easier to notice the odd quirks to the character movements because of that. I almost preferred the less-detailed look of the Switch in handheld mode, as it was harder to pick up on the visual details that I didn’t like. I could parse the important tells and moments in combat on the smaller screen, but things weren’t blown up quite as large so it looked a little better to my eyes. Even docked, the Switch version looked fairly comparable to the PS5 version to me.

I would like to tell you a bit about the online play at the moment, but as of publication, I have not been able to find a single online match. That wasn’t surprising, as there wouldn’t be many players before launch, but unfortunately that means I can’t weigh in on this vital element just yet.

The Rumble Fish 2 is an enjoyable romp through a bit of fighting game history. It’s got some solid character designs whether you want to look cool or silly, some great moves to make each character compelling to play, and a vast set of special abilities that will tweak your character in all manner of situations. While I don’t think it’s going to cause a massive shift in the competitive scene, I think it’s going to make for a lot of fun nights beating the shirts off of your buddies in your home and down at the local tournaments.

The Rumble Fish 2 launches on December 8, 2022 for the PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

The Rumble Fish 2

7

The Rumble Fish 2 is a fun fighter with a slew of interesting mechanics that give you many options to use on defense or offense. Mixing these mechanics with some compelling characters makes for a solid fighter, although not one that will likely stand against the giants of the genre.

Food For Thought
  • Two separate special bars ensure you always have some special move you can do whether you're being beaten or are doing the beating.
  • Fun characters with neat movesets keep combat interesting. Hard not to enjoy beating someone down as a retiree whose vacation got interrupted.
  • Some of the moves can be pretty hard to pull off unless you practice a lot or are playing with a fight stick.
    If you want to know more, check out Siliconera's review guide.
    Joel Couture
    Joel has been covering indie games for various sites including IndieGamesPlus, IndieGames.com, Siliconera, Gamasutra, Warp Door, CG Magazine, GameDaily, and more over the years, and has written book-length studies on Undertale, P.T., Friday the 13th, and Kirby's Dream Land.