AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match Review: A Surprisingly Accessible Niche Fighter

by David Sanchez November 19, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

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AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match is a weird game. It’s a weird game to play, and it’s most certainly a weird game to review. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, though. Quite the contrary. The fact of the matter is that AquaPazza is a pretty good fighting game with unabashed niche appeal. Despite said glaring niche appeal, however, this 2D fighter is deceptively inviting, and even if you’re not the biggest anime and manga fan or the biggest fighting game aficionado, there’s a chance you’ll enjoy playing AquaPazza, because it’s both inviting from a mechanical standpoint and pleasantly crazy.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the source material, AquaPazza is a crossover fighter featuring various characters from publisher Aquaplus’ brand of visual novels. In addition, Aquaplus subsidiary Leaf is notorious for more adult-oriented content that includes eroge, or erotic games. It’s easy to see how folks who aren’t highly invested in anime and manga may not instantly be attracted to AquaPazza, but ultimately, the game succeeds due to its inviting fighting engine, which isn’t too complex but still offers its share of intricacies.

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Like so many fighters that have come before, you can get as much or as little out of this game as you want. Taking the time to learn combinations, special moves, and grapples is a no-brainer for fighting game enthusiasts, and getting to know the game will certainly make you a better player. That said, if you’re a casual fighting game fan and just like mashing on buttons, you’re bound to have fun, too. You can even switch between normal and simple control options, with the latter removing most of the strategy involved in utilizing a heavier offense.

You’ve got the standard health bars, time limits, and round-based gameplay you’d expect from a fighter. What really stands out about AquaPazza is its emotion system. Dish out successful combos and perfectly timed blocks, and you’ll eventually be able to deliver higher amounts of damage per hit. On the flipside, if you’re blocking too much, your morale will go down, and you’ll take more damage with every hit. This helps to make bouts more action-packed, and it encourages against spam blocking.

The roster of fighters in AquaPazza spans several series including Comic Party, Tears to Tiara, To Heart, Utawarerumono, and White Album. Quite a bit of care and attention has gone into making each character offer something different. You’ve got fighters who are best equipped to get in the faces of your opponents. Some work better at a distance. Others mount a strong grappling offense. A vast array of fighting styles is supported here, and though you may need to test out a few characters to see which one’s the right pick for you, you’ll undoubtedly find one that’s a perfect fit for your fighting style.

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In addition to your character, you also get to pick one partner before starting a match. These aren’t exactly traditional partner characters, and instead they act as super powered attacks. You can’t always summon a partner, but when the specific meter fills up, you can unleash a devastating attack that takes a huge toll on your opponent. Or it can totally miss. Sadly, not all partners are created equally, and you’ll soon discover that a few of them border on being completely useless.

Surprisingly (and unfortunately), for a game that has a story-driven visual novel publisher behind it, the writing in AquaPazza is ludicrously dull and uninspired. It’s funny, because there are two separate story modes, and they’re both hideously weak. Nothing makes the characters stand out, and the storylines are uninteresting. Thankfully, if you’re desperately hoping for single player thrills, Score Attack will let you chase high scores as you take on opponent after opponent.

Fighting games are at their best when played with others, and the inviting mechanics of AquaPazza make it an easy title to pick up and play with your buddies. You can also jump into the serviceable online component. I say “serviceable” because it doesn’t exactly offer anything remarkably fresh or novel — it simply lets you enjoy the entertainment of playing a fighter with another person, which is pretty much what you probably want anyway.

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Speaking of things that are serviceable, the graphics of AquaPazza won’t blow your mind, but they do the trick. For what it’s worth, it kind of looks like you’re playing an anime, which is definitely cool. The sound design is also quite standard. You’ve got nonthreatening J-pop tunes and a Japanese language track. The presentation gets the job done, though nothing will blow you away. If it does, chances are you haven’t played very many games that actually look and sound amazing.

There are definitely better anime-style fighters out there. BlazBlue instantly comes to mind, as does Persona 4 Arena. Those games have more video game familiarity to drive them, as well as solid story modes. What AquaPazza offers is accessibility. In a sense, it has its own brand of familiarity, though, specifically for fans of Aquaplus and Leaf products. The $30 price tag is enticing, but even more inviting is the gameplay, which is fast, fun, and easy to get into. This Atlus-published, Examu-developed fighter is a nice choice regardless of whether you’re a fan of the subject matter or just enjoy the fighting genre.

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