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AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match
Score: 83%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Examu
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Online)
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
If the characters in AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match aren’t familiar, rest easy – you’re not alone. Although the game’s roster features characters from various visual novels, few (if any) of those games made it to the US. This should not deter potential players from a fun, if fairly standard, budget-minded fighting game.

AquaPazza looks great. Characters are large and the 2D sprites show off a lot of detail. The colors really pop off the screen and the game has a fun, anime look. I also loved the big, splashy special attacks, but everything was sort of marred by some stilted animation. It isn’t horrible, nor does it make the game any less playable, it is just a bit more noticeable compared to the rest of the package.

Anime fans rejoice – AquaPazza retains its Japanese voice tracks. The rest of the audio is great for what it is, though nothing really stands out as memorable.

AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match comes packed with a handful of modes you would expect from a fighting game. Story Mode is the main single-player mode, while Versus (online and local) gives you something to do when you’re tired of beating up A.I. characters. Rounding out the modes is a useful Training Mode and Score Attack, a sort of "survival" game type pitting you against a series of opponents for points.

If you’re not familiar with the game’s source material, you won’t have too much of a problem getting into AquaPazza. You won’t know who anyone is, but at the same time, everyone seems to fall into one anime trope or another (school girls, fighters with large swords/ hammers, fantasy characters…), so you’ll find someone on the roster. The only advantage a fan of the collected series would have is a better understanding of what is happening in Story Mode. On the same token, I’ve played plenty of games based on anime I knew and still had a hard time figuring out what was happening.

A neat aspect of Story Mode is there are actually two different stories to play through. One is unlocked at the start, while the other is unlocked by completing the game. Plot points are the same regardless of whom you choose to play as, though there are a few slight variations depending on your chosen main and assist characters.

The number of online matches available surprised me. It wasn’t like logging into a Call of Duty match or anything, but compared to other downloadable titles, I was expecting a wasteland. From what I was able to play, online play was smooth. AquaPazza also includes both ranked and unranked matches, as well as a spectator mode. All are nice touches.

I usually make it a point to mention I’m not good at fighting games, so any comments in regards to difficulty should be taken lightly. What I find hard/ easy won’t matter depending on your personal experience with the genre.

In all, I had a fun time coming to grips with AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match’s various systems. Training Mode is an amazing mode, especially for players in my boat. In particular, I enjoyed the playback options. Watching what was happening without worrying about which buttons to press is a useful tool, as are the mode’s libraries worth of feedback information.

As far as I can tell, AquaPazza seems like a well-balanced fighter. No characters stood out as over/ underpowered, with the only real difference being player skill.

Game Mechanics:
Before a match you select two characters, a main fighter and an assist character. There’s no "tag" system; instead assist characters are only in matches for support. This can include extra attacks or some other in-match bonus. There are no limits on who can team with whom, though finding the right pairing of main and assist characters is important. Some assist attacks can help balance out a main’s shortcomings, while others pair well, such as unlocking longer combo opportunities.

AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match uses a four-button attack system. It is reasonably easy to pull off a few basic moves and combos, though there’s a lot more going on under the hood. The most obvious is the timing required to launch into some of the more advanced combos. Try as I might, it is incredibly hard to button-mash your way into any combo of significance. Timing is everything, which should appeal to fans of more technical, timing-based games. Downside, AquaPazza doesn’t do a great job explaining many of its more advanced mechanics. Training Mode offers tips on a few combos, though you’ll either have to scour the Internet or put in some serious trial-and-error learning time.

Thankfully, AquaPazza’s most interesting mechanic, the Emotion System, requires little explanation. Passive, defense-driven play drops your character’s "emotion," imparting negative stat penalties (such as weaker attacks). Meanwhile, aggressive play is rewarded with stat boosts. The system encourages active, fast-paced play, which is really cool and enjoyable – at least if you know what you’re doing.

AquaPazza is a fun entry in the fighting genre, especially considering what you get for the price. The anime look and unfamiliar license doesn’t make it the most immediately appealing of games, but fans of the genre looking for something new will enjoy it, particularly if you want a break from other fighters.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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