When it comes to old 2D fighters, the name Power Instinct (known as Goketsuji Ichizoku in Japan) isn’t likely to ring a bell with too many people. It was overshadowed by the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters, and with good reason – despite the cast of goofy characters, including a kung fu fighting granny and an anthropomorphic dog, the gameplay was somewhat sloppy and couldn’t stand up to the more popular games. But someone at Evoga must have had some fond memories of it, and created a sequel called “Shin Goketsiuji Ichizoku”, more commonly known as Matrimelee, for the Neo Geo. Three years later, a port is finally making its way to the Playstation 2, courtesy of web portal Excite, oddly enough. While it still doesn’t have the depth to stand against more serious fighting games, casual fans will find a lot to like here.
The crazy atmosphere is really what makes Shin Goketsiuji Ichizoku so enjoyable. The entire soundtrack consists of strange vocal songs, ranging from peppy Japanese pop to heavy metal to heartfelt enka. Each of the levels has a background that correspond to each of the songs, making it feel like you’re fighting in the middle of concert. Although there’s a distinct shortage of fighting arenas, each of them is meticulously detailed, with actions that sync up with the music. The fighters are a motley crew, with the roster consisting of two old women, one old man, a magical girl, an American Indian, and a young princess named Sissy who has buzzsaws hidden in her feet. After each match, the winner gets to doodle on the loser’s face, resulting in some silly post-match win quotes. Even though there are a number of unique and interesting characters, the rest of the cast is rounded out by the usual generic ninjas, street punks and karate fighters. All of the original artwork was done by famous artist Range Murata, so at least the generic characters exude a bit of style. With a total of eighteen characters, there isn’t exactly a lot of variety. Still, the fighting engine is fast and smooth, even if it lacks some of the depth or gimmicks of other games.
Several changes have been made from the transition to from the Neo Geo to the Playstation 2. Two characters from the older games – scary whip-wielding wrestler Angela and annoying little kid Kintaro – have been added, and several existing characters can transform into alternate forms. The old grannies can change temporarily into beautiful young lasses by grabbing their opponents and planting a nice wet one on their lips. The character Poochie has been removed from the selectable roster and now acts as a transformation for Kintaro. The designers have also added a completely new character – Bobby Ologun, a real-life boxer who’s somewhat famous in Japan for his comical routines. He has a number of strange attacks, the most bizarre being the “Bobbeam”, a super move where he fires a huge blast from his chest. Bobby has replaced Sissy as the final boss of the game, and while he’s still cheap, he’s also far less annoying.
Most of the in game graphics look exactly like the Neo Geo counterpart, except for high res portraits and redone polygonal special effects. All of the endings have also been redrawn and look much cleaner. The lame intro has been replaced with a semi-animated movie of Sissy and Bobby, complete with flying character portraits. Unfortunately, some of the coolest presentation aspects have been given the axe – the character select moves from static screen to static screen, devoid of any of the exuberance or random explosions that made the mid-match intermissions so engaging. There are also a number of strange things that have been completely removed. The Neo Geo version had four Rage of the Dragons characters, who were guest stars from Evoga’s other fighting game – all of them are missing. Not only that, but neither their backgrounds nor their music appear anywhere in the game. Additionally, you can no longer remove the little ninjas that stand in the background and toss them at your opponents. In fact, they’ve been removed entirely. They were a pretty minor aspect of the original, but if you’re going to port a game, why remove features?
In addition to your standard arcade mode, there’s a mission mode where you’re challenged to specific goals. Most of these just consist of beating a certain character, although a few of them have some pretty obtuse requirements. (Whoever thought it was a good idea to have “score a double KO” as a goal is an idiot.) In both modes, you get Bonnou points, which can then be used to unlock various cards. Many of these are ending galleries or alternate colors, but a few of them can be used during Versus matches for extra effects. They’re equipped before each match and can be used to increase your strength or regain health. Ultimately, it’s a somewhat unnecessary addition.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
All of the endings and pre-match quotes are in Japanese, but most of the menu text is in English. Figuring out the goals for some of the missions can be a bit difficult.
SNK has enough problems releasing their own games for the Playstation 2 in America. There’s practically no chance that a smaller game from an even smaller publisher will make it over here.
+ Pros: Fast, fun gameplay, with amusing characters and great music
– Cons: Some characters have been removed, and the game is ultimately a bit shallow
Overall: Shin Goketsiuji Ichizoku is a bit simple compared to other fighting games, to the point where many enthusiasts call it broken. But this game isn’t for them – it’s a light-hearted and fast paced fighting fest, which is more likely to attract people who are just looking for a fun game rather than a serious competition. Some of the removed aspects are questionable, but there’s more than enough cool new stuff to balance out. The bizarre tone does eventually wear off after awhile, leaving a solid but unremarkable game lying beneath. Still, 2D fans should take whatever they can get, especially since certain import retails are reporting this was printed in limited quantities.
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