Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Examu)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
Visual novels are very niche in North America. Most people will turn a blind eye to these so-called ‘games’ since it’s vastly different from anything they have played before. Since the story and the choices you make are the majority of the genre, it’s hard to adjust to the cultural differences in the tone of these Visual Novels. Now try mixing this up with another, seemingly niche genre, fighting games. That’s what Examu decided to do with AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match .
Fighting games never have a solid story that makes remote sense. Though, there’s never been need for a convoluted setup when it comes to one person wanting to pummel another. Aquapazza’s story, while simple, made sense for someone that doesn’t know the characters that are pulled from various visual novel games. The evil witch Ma-Ryan tries to create a love potion to have every man in existence fall in love with her. Something goes awry and a secret concoction called Aquapazza is made instead. This renders anyone to be controlled by Ma-Ryan. This also cause multiple universes to merge. Using characters picked from multiple visual novel games, you set out to stop Ma-Ryan and set the colliding universes back in order.
Not having remotely any knowledge of the 18 characters in Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match didn’t hinder my experience when it was time for some action. The game consists of 1v1 fighting with assist characters that is reminiscent of the Marvel vs Capcom series with the difference coming from the assist characters being on screen always. Worries can be put to rest that having the assist characters on screen all the time is a recipe for chaos when trying to keep track of your character. Having them not on the same plane as the characters fighting was a smart design choice by Examu.
Running on empty
What wasn’t a smart design choice, however, was the lack of any sort of tutorial. Most fighting games usually have some sort of mode that will show the player basic and special moves alongside some basic combos as well. You’re on your own when it comes to learning anything in Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match. You’ll spend quite some time in the pause menu looking at the moves list and trying to apply them into your matches. Now this won’t affect players with some experience in the genre but this leaves the barrier for entry a little high for casual players.
Having two story modes is a great way to stretch out the content for when going online to participate in matches is not something you’re looking for. You will have to complete the first story mode with your favorite characters to unlock for use in another story mode. What makes this a painstaking task is how seemingly overpowered the final boss is. Using every cheap trick in the book that I knew of still wasn’t enough to suffer the fate that is repeating the final fight eight times before getting a lucky last hit. Only the brave few will want to tackle unlocking all the characters for another story.
Online matches went as smooth as one would want. It was very simple to jump into matches with very little lag when the action started. It seemed that not a lot of people were online at the time I was playing for review. I checked back multiple days and it would match me up with the same people in those days. It would be great for more people to be online to challenge but with how fast it is to find opponents in Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match, I was ok with the sparring partners I ended up with.
With a story that helps with the basic understanding of the characters and solid controls, one can forgive Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match for a non-existent tutorial for casual players and slightly unbalanced boss fights. I hope to see more examples of mixing niche genres and making them work like Examu has done here.