| Thanks to emulation, the average gamer's exposure to Japanese import games has gone up. Unfortunately, the numerous Engrish names often bewilder the impressionable into wasting precious time downloading games with somewhat misleading titles (Ooh! Bishojo Sexy Derby!). Good games with crazy Engrish titles exist, but they're few and far between. Of course, many of the good ones are really good (Armed Police Batrider, anyone?). So, I was pleasantly surprised when I started playing Joy Mech Fight and it didn't immediately suck.
Joy Mech Fight's storyline is more or less ripped off Megaman. Dr. Ivan Warner and Dr. Little Ermin were working on fighting robots. Ivan turns evil, steals the robots, and holes himself up in a big evil-looking tower. Not one to be messed with, Little Ermin (who looks like Dr. Light if Dr. light looked like a caveman) reprograms Super Comedian Robot #1 Skapon into a fighter.
The gameplay is something akin to what would happen if there was no Street Fighter II (or, god forbid, Mortal Kombat) to act as a precedent to fighting games. It's similar to a cross between Galaxy Fight and the somewhat obscure Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer (yet another game that doesn't quite live up to it's wacky Engrish name). You start the game with one mech; you earn the other seven in the first seven battles. The fights themselves are extremely well done, especially considering that the game is on Famicom hardware. Instead of relatively complicated sweeping motions, most special moves only require two buttons to pull off. And, even though the stages scroll infinitely, like in Galaxy Fight, turtling is made very hard to use effectively.
The most unique part of Joy Mech Fight is, by far, the animation. All of the mechs consist of simply drawn disembodied parts, animated similarly to Gunstar Heroes' Curry and Rice. This allows for incredibly smooth "animation". Also, since the sprites that make up the body parts are interchangeable, Nintendo managed to cram in 8 playable fighters and around 28 non-playable ones.
When a game gives you so many mecha to fight, it'll probably have a lot of replay value. While Joy Mech Fight doesn't have any fancy extras, its two difficulty modes, player vs. player option, and it's length give it - at the risk of sounding cliched - lasting appeal. However, it's a shame that you can't play as other fighters (unless there's some code I don't know of).
Strategy in Joy Mech Fight is done uncannily well - it's there in droves, but you won't spot it unless you look closely. You can choose a different character for each battle, and the character chosen makes all the difference. A mecha's abilities, as opposed to an RPG-like elemental advantage, determine whether or not he has an advantage over his opponent. For example, Eye is great against very aggressive mecha, but has trouble with turtlers. On the other hand, Tiger's Rising Uppercut can cut right through any projectiles thrown at him, but its huge recovery time makes him vulnerable to aggressive mecha that can jump over it easily. The fact that each character only has 4 attacks only helps to further the strategy involved; it causes every character to do one thing well, and completely suck at everything else, making it all the more important to choose the right one.
Of course, Joy Mech Fight has its flaws. With the limited number of moves for each mech, it's very hard not to cheese the same few special moves over and over again; if you don't, you'll have a very hard time winning. Also, the battles take much too long. The round system is similar to King of Fighters - each character gets three lifebars, and some life is refilled every time you knock down your opponent. Unlike KOF, however, you can only choose one fighter rather than 3, and there is no timer to keep battles from taking too long. This wouldn't be all that bad, but it can get annoying considering that you have to fight over 20 mechs without a save feature.
Still, despite some major shortcomings, Joy Mech Fight is still an enjoyable game, and it's a shame that more games haven't tried to improved on its strategy aspect. Now, if only they would think to put Skapon in the next Smash Bros....
Rating: 3.9 out of 5
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