With a Dream and a Prayer

22 Jan , 2011,
Crimson
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It’s awesome when you’ve got a friend in Japan. It’s even more awesome when he’s willing to hit up conventions for you just to get ahold of exclusive releases like Ougon Musou Kyoku, 07th Expansion’s doujin fighter based on characters from “Umineko no Naku Koro Ni” – a popular visual novel and animation series famous for it’s deeply involved storyline, complex plot twists, and supernatural themes.

Ougon Musou Kyoku - Opening Sequence

Initial Impressions:

Aptly titled “Symphony of Golden Dreams”, the biggest draw about this game has definitely got to be the score, hands down.

From the outset, you are blasted with solid, orchestral music and smooth vocals that play compliment to the mind-blowing introduction sequence.

Again at the character selection screen, you’re regaled by the game’s female ensemble as they vocalize a catchy, if sinister tune, nevermind that its in ear-grating Engrish, and this trend continues throughout the game, as you play through seven stages (called Movements, in true musical fashion) of intense, arcade fighting action.

Character Select - Take your pick!

Gameplay:

Ougon players get their pick from a plethora of characters from the franchise, including Battler, Ange, and Beatrice,  as well as the Lucifer, the leader of the Sisters of Purgatory, Beatrice’s manservant Ronove, Kanon and Shannon, and the enigmatic Virgilia.

This line up might seem a little skimpy at first, but like all doujin games, there’s little doubt content patches will introduce additional characters and options in months to come.

The controls are easy enough, and fairly intuitive. Ougon Musou Kyoku works with three primary buttons corresponding to a Light Attack, a Medium Attack, a Heavy Attack, as well as a Tag button for you to switch between your primary and reserve combatants, as well as a taunt button for health recovery. Pressing two or more buttons in tandem with specific keypad commands initiate enhanced attacks, and pressing all three Attack buttons at once activates Meta World mode.

The real mechanics come from how battles are structured.

Each bout is team based – you pick two characters, who share a common health pool, with an additional caveat – you don’t stock up your own power gauges each time you deliver an attack. You stock up that of your reserve partner’s. This forces players to master not just one character or play style, but a good mix.

Tag System

Tag, you're it!

Each time you tag in and out, your character also enhances their partner with a short lived buff.

Battler, for example, has the power of Resurrection, which recovers a small amount of health, while Eva-Beatrice increases the damage your character inflicts, if only for a short while.

Lucifer prepares to unleash her Meta World attack.

The Meta World:

Activating Meta World mode causes the background to subtly shift and gives you a quick boost for some 20 seconds, but there’s an additional benefit.

With at least 3 stocks in your power gauge, you can also deliver your most devastating attack.

This attack not only wipes out three quarters of your opponent’s health bar, but also comes with requisite cut-scenes, flashing lights, bells and whistles and magic circles as well.

How cool is that?

Characters & Graphics:

While the character designs for Ougon are true to the anime, and a lot of work was put into the animation for enhanced moves, rush supers and Meta World ultimates, there’s little to set them apart mechanically from similar, fireball tossing, uppercut inducing archetypes in the genre.

Battler plays like a typical, balanced protagonist with his four moves – a projectile, an anti-air move, a downward attack from mid air, and a charging attack, while Chiester410 is a projectile spamming turtle with an uninteresting moveset, rather than a cuddly gun bunny (or precisely because she’s a gun bunny). The game’s witches, such as Ange, Beatrice and Virgilia are a little more dynamic, but there’s truly little to write home about.

Despite slipping up a little on the mechanics aspect, Ougon redeems itself in every other way. Character sprites are crisp and beautiful, stage backgrounds are detailed, and little things like wisps of smoke and butterflies that flit about as you beat the crap out of your opponent is always a plus.  All in all, it’s visually top notch, and it’s hard to imagine that this is 07th’s first fighting game. It certainly looks like they’ve been doing this shtick for years!

Conclusion:

My real grouse about this game is a purely technical one. It’s just not keyboard friendly. Enhanced moves, Meta World Activation and the like require you to jam two or more buttons together, and these buttons, such as those defaulting to Z, X, and C on your keyboard, suffer from something called Keyblocking. This means, of course, that you’re best served with using a controller pad, or a console controller pad with a USB adapter or you’re at the mercy of the keyboard gods and bereft of your most potent moves.

Otherwise, it’s a fairly good buy. It’s something new and fun, and if you’re a fan of the franchise, something to tide you over till your next Umineko fix.