Girl Fight PS3 Review
In a business as popular as the video game industry, you are always going to get games copying mechanics or developers making entire clones of successful games. It’s inevitable, as good ideas are taken by other people looking to grow as a company and make better games, or in the worst-case scenario, see it as a quick way to make a bit of money on the less informed public. Apple’s App Store is full of downloadable games that have no shame in ripping off existing properties, but it’s not often you see it as obvious in the console space. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but with Girl Fight, a digital-only title from Kung Fu Factory, I’m not sure if Tecmo Koei, the creators of the Dead or Alive series that Girl Fight is clearly heavily influenced by, is a game that they want to acknowledge exists.
With that mention of Dead or Alive, and with a title like Girl Fight, you have probably already come to the conclusion that this is a fighting game that features an all-female cast. I have nothing against this concept – Skullgirls was a great fighting game that was based around the idea of a roster that was made up women, yet the difference between that game and Girl Fight is massive. But, to be honest, having girls dressed inappropriately during battle is the least of the game’s worries. It mechanically falls flat on a lot of levels, with only one decent concept, the psionic abilities, which could have been a great mechanic if it was featured in a better game.
Fighting games aren’t exactly known for their brilliant stories, and Girl Fight is no exception to the rule. The gist is that all eight combatants were kidnapped by an organisation known as The Foundation, who is forcing the victims to train in the use of psionic powers, special abilities that make these girls stronger in battle. The Foundation is able to enhance these abilities by pitting them against each other in a virtual simulation, with each stage based around a character’s history. In the single player mode, small sentences are spoken after each battle that tells a bit more about what’s going on with your selected character. These are awful lines that don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the voice acting for the spoken dialogue sounds like it’s ripped straight from a text-to-voice software available on the internet. It’s an atrocious story, but what’s shocking is that there is an amazing amount of backstory you can unlock in the bonus content with points earned from participating in battles – and it’s actually interesting. It’s a shame that the care that went into creating a personality for all these girls isn’t shown in the main story or in the character design, as I’m sure hardly anyone is going to spend time reading all this twisted insight into the game’s characters.
Success of a good fighting game revolves around one thing, how it plays. Girl Fight plays like a stripped down version of Dead or Alive. The combat buttons are roughly the same, with a punch, kick, grab and counter/block button used for defence and offensive options. Unlike Tecmo Koei’s title, Girl Fight doesn’t have enough combos or special moves to make the fighting feel satisfying. A lot of the eight characters, while having different stances between them, fight similar. The game focuses heavily on stun, which is often initiated with a direction and the successful hit of a kick or punch. This allows fighters to continue with a series of punch or kick combinations without having it countered or interrupted.
There’s no juggling in Girl Fight, and unlike the game it tries so hard to be, Girl Fight removes the middle hit attacks – high or low is all you can do, which makes its counter system easy to perform, since all you have to do is press up or down and the button to counter high or low attacks of any kind. The engine created for the combat isn’t good. Controls feel incredibly stiff, the animations are robotic and its limited moves make this an unexciting fighting engine to play with. That’s a huge problem for a fighting game, where its main staying power is how great it feels to fight within the game’s mechanics.
I will give credit when due, and Girl Fight does deserve a little for its implementation of the psionic abilities. Two powers need to be equipped before the start of battle (or before you begin the single player portion of the game) and can be activated once you’ve built up enough metre. These have a variety of uses, such as Steel Body that allows the fighter to take more damage, or Life Leech, an ability that will take a percentage of the opponent’s health and add it to yours with each hit. While there isn’t a huge selection to choose from, these psionic powers do give Girl Fight a piece of individuality, a sense that the developers aren’t just mindless zombies that can’t come up with their own ideas. Sadly, while those powers are a good mechanic, they’re trapped in a poor game with a bad combat engine.
The developers have made a bizarre design choice with Girl Fight in the game’s arcade mode – it only offers you one character when you first begin. After overcoming the game’s eight fights and getting an “ending” – which really is nothing but something blowing up and an eyeball of a girl, then an unlocked picture of the winning combatant in a sexy pose – you gain access to one new character. You have to repeat the process to unlock all the characters in single player. I have no idea why this is done, because the story – what little there is – certainly doesn’t justify having the game forcing the use of a specific character. Thankfully, everything is unlocked in the multiplayer, so the developers do have some sense when it comes to designing a game.
Apart from arcade mode, other modes include training, local multiplayer and online multiplayer. Training mode is basic as can be, and it doesn’t do anything out of the way to teach new players, let alone learn them the moves with on screen inputs. It reminds me of the days of old when training modes were in fighting games to let the player beat up a standing puppet. I’d love to talk to you about my online experience, but I couldn’t even find a game with anyone on the PS3 version. I left it for one afternoon for 10 minutes, and no one joined a game. I tried again in the evening for another 20 minutes, again, leading me to no matches. It seems no one has bought this game, but to be honest, I don’t blame them for not checking it out, as there are so many other better fighting games in the digital space.
Currency is constantly being rewarded to the player in battle, and is offered for successfully hitting, defending, and pulling off combos. This is used to unlock character bios and background profiles, new costumes (which are colour swaps), character artwork, which is similar to the ending art – once again mostly sexy bikini shots and Page 3-esque calendar pictures that you can pan and zoom. Psionic buffs can also be unlocked through the currency; this is something you’ll want to do, as they offer stronger takes on existing psionic abilities in exchange for using more metre to cast them. For example, a move that once buffed attack by 150%, will now buff it by 175%. It’s a neat idea, but those options are locked away, which is a bad thing for balancing, as it rewards people who have somehow managed to stick with the game for a few hours.
If you look past the terrible menus, the game doesn’t look all that bad. The character models look okay, even if as a design they’re terrible, and it manages to keep the action fluid in regards to frame rate. Animation comes across robotic and awkward, like a budget version of a real fighting game, and there aren’t any special effects to go with the fighting. One thing I must stress is the atrocious commentary in the game, which throws out random words like “crisis” and “worrisome,” but I had no idea which on screen character this lifeless voice was relating to.
Fighting games are titles that grow over their lifespan. The depth on offer in that genre is something that takes time to discover and master, but with Girl Fight, it felt like there was nothing deep to find within its simplified Dead or Alive mechanics. It’s extremely hard for me to recommend a fighting game that suffers from stiff animation, poor controls, horrible character design and dull gameplay. Thanks to Street Fighter IV’s rebirth of the genre, there is now a wealth of options to pick from when it comes to fighting games, so there are no reasons to buy the generic sounding Girl Fight, because this is a bad, budget fighter with no redeeming qualities to enjoy.