With EVO fresh in our memories, it’s abundantly clear that fighting games are still quite popular. They range from the two dimensional classics like Street Fighter 2 to fully 3D brawls like Dragon Ball Xenoverse. But for some, fighting games are more than just slugfests with various characters. As EVO shows, there’s both an art and a science to mastering the most demanding of these games. Inputs have to be entered at precise moments, and even the character animations factor into the timing and strategy. Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm is a fighting game for those gamers who want to test their skills at the most technical level, and there’s enough depth to the mechanics that it would take a lot of practice to master everything.
Yatagarasu is a traditional two dimensional fighting game, with sprites and animations reminiscent of King of Fighters and other such games. In terms of visuals, the animations are excellent and very fluid, and most of the character designs are unique. While it’s true that all but one of them are fairly normal-looking people, the anime-like art style does a good job of making them stand out from each other. I do still wish that there was a wider variety of them, as well as more unusual characters, though. As I like to say, I’m a normal-looking person in real life; I like when I can be something else in a game. But that’s just a personal preference, and the character designs are still very good.
The stages look wonderful too, though they could use some more animation to make them more interesting. As with most fighting games of this sort, the stages don’t have any mechanical differences, so it wouldn’t affect the game play either way. The only real problem is that the graphics are too low resolution. This accounts for both the game itself, which doesn’t even seem to run in 720p, and the character sprites. The character portraits are very clear, but in game, they are far too pixelated. You can still tell them apart, of course, and the unique animations and design mean they still look alright, but it would be so much nicer if this game entered the HD Era like so many others have started to.
Especially for fighting games, though, the mechanics are the most important part. Yatagarasu is a fighting game’s fighting game, designed for people who study move sets religiously and determine on which frames of animation to enter new commands. To really make use of every mechanic in the game, practice is required. Besides guarding, Yatagarasu uses two buttons for parrying, in addition to all of the other detailed tricks you’d expect. While the art style evokes King of Fighters or Guilty Gear, I think the closest game play comparison would be to Street Fighter 2. Fortunately, this means that not everything is out of reach to more casual fighters; each character’s special moves are activated with familiar Street Fighter-inspired inputs, so if you have even just a bit of fighting game experience, you’ll be in a decent place. Even the “ultimate” moves just require entering these commands twice in quick succession.
Everything runs smoothly, and it’s very rare for inputs to not register correctly. Beyond that, there is not too much for me to say; the game’s technical nature means that you really do need to try it out and see if it fits for you. I’m far from being an expert on such things, but friends who better understand this level of game play have told me that they greatly enjoyed the game.
Even though Yatagarasu is aimed squarely at the technical demographic more than any fighting game I’ve seen recently, it’s not multiplayer-only. It does allow for single player in both Versus and Arcade modes. The storyline is about what you would expect from a fighting game; a bit hard to follow, and not all that interesting, but enough to move things around. There are actually two different arcade modes, but the main menu is a bit confusing in that regard; they’re both just listed as “Arcade,” so it looks like they put it on there twice. The story is told with no frills; mostly just text and character portraits. For a game like Yatagarasu, though, I’m just glad it has one. There’s a training mode as well, which is a must for figuring out how the game and each of its characters work.
For Yatagarasu, it ultimately comes down to this: while fighting game fans of all types will have something to look forward to here, it doesn’t do enough uniquely or excitingly to attract more casual gamers. If you’re looking for a new experience to test your technical skills, though, I recommend it highly. Again, this is a fighting game for people who want to dig in and make the game work for them. The graphics and characters are more than sufficient to make that exercise rewarding. The characters are compelling enough that you’ll likely be able to choose a favorite, but I wouldn’t expect them to reach the pop culture status of Ryu or even Terry Bogard. Granted, the hardcore fans won’t worry too much about that. For the rest of us, though, we should probably stick to other franchises.