By Isaac Sagoe (AfroMania), OnRPG Journalist
When it comes to fighting games this year, it has been a drought. Other than the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us on the consoles, there has been a lack of games to quench my brawling thirst. This goes double when it comes to fighters on PC. Now I understand that the PC is dominated by MMOs and FPS, but a lot of my best memories of PC gaming were playing crap shareware versions of fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and knock-offs like Body Blows and One Must Fall (true PC gamers will know what I'm talking about and for you kids that don’t: google that *bleep*). With that in mind, it’s very interesting to hear of an ex-Capcom developer by the name of Tomoaki Sugeno (Suge9) tried his hand at bringing a fighter to the PC. Thus, we have been bestowed with Vanguard Princess, a 2D fighter about pixelated women that want to go all highlander on each other.
Right off the bat, Vanguard Princess’ opening menu reveals a lack of modes. The start menu only gives players the choice of story mode (which is really an arcade mode) and 2-on-2 versus. With the control options available, players only have the option to use a keyboard or a game controller, with both giving you the ability to configure your button layout. There's no option that allows players to adjust the video resolution so they can’t customize the game to fit their monitor’s resolution, and the fact that you’ll have to press F4 to go into full-screen mode and Alt + Enter to return to window mode is just inconvenient. And on top off that, the menu does not offer an escape key, which I am pretty sure is standard for almost every PC program, unless pressing the ESC key to exit a program is going out of style.
Jumping into the story mode, players have the choice between ten characters, as well as five assist characters that aid you in battle. They all fit under the standard generic anime female stereotypes. I had a choice between the casual Japanese schoolgirl, the conservative Japanese girl, the underage ten year olds and everybody’s favorite: The overly revealing sexy chicks (all of them ranging differently on the pixelated bouncing cleavage scale). The character sprites are clean in design and well animated, but I felt that they are a little too big, almost to the point that they take up the entire screen. While playing a match, the camera felt so up close to the characters that when combined with some of the animated backgrounds with bright color palettes, the lack of contrast would make it hard to follow the action. There were times in matches where my eyes lost track of my character for just a second, and that can be enough to cost you the whole match. Mix that in with some flashy rainbow pop special effects and you have a game where button mashing can be the best option when squinting through the blinding mayhem.
Even though Vanguard Princess characters come with their own unique playstyles, their differences are only there to mask the standard quarter-circles and charge moves found in every standard 2D fighter. This is not to say that familiarity is a bad thing, as fighting game fans will get a hang of the controls fairly quickly. There is diversity to be found when your have a pick of strikers, zoners and your up-close grapplers. Players are also aided by assisting characters that can deal damage, give you defense buffs, and grant you some vitality. My issues with the core gameplay is that the move sets lack depth for players to really dive in, explore and experiment like you see in games such as Guilty Gear, BlazeBlu, and JoJo’s Bizarre adventure. I also found out that the game’s practice mode could only be activated through the game’s versus mode.
Overall, Vanguard Princess is a bare bones fighter that lacks a lot basic essentials to be a tournament worthy game. Suge9’s visuals were the strongest element in a game with its polished character design, but it feels like the product was going by a standard anime requirement sheet, which makes it feel plain and uninspiring. Its overall presentation misses that “WOW” factor that makes fighting games enjoyable to play & watch. In the end, it feels like the developer took the lazy route by not having a proper option settings or an exit button within the game’s starting menu. Even with its five dollar price tag, it’s really difficult to warrant a purchase with so much missing from its surface. With better used fighting games that you can find in a bargain bin, Vanguard Princess should spend more in the gym before stepping into the ring.