Import Report is a monthly column where community writer, Taylor, talks about things involving the Japanese gaming industry. Industry news, major and indie releases, import reviews, and personal essays are just a bit of what you’ll find here.
A while ago I wrote a list of 5 of my favorite fighting games. It’s a genre that’s near and dear to me, and a major part of the reason I started importing in the first place. It’s a topic I like to revisit because of the vast amount of weird fighters out there. We’ll be looking at 4 games this time instead of 5 though. The rules for this list are pretty simple:
- Cannot list a game or sequel/prequel of a game from the first list
- Can only have 1 game per-series
- Games on the list don’t have to be import exclusive, but they have to been made outside the Western market (although, I guess an import for me would be anything developed outside the US). This column is called “Import Report” after all.
1) Tales of VS.
I’m honestly kind of surprised this wasn’t a game before the PSP happened. The Tales games build themselves on combo-based battle systems, so a fighting game felt like an inevitability, and this one is pretty good for a single-player experience. There are plenty of stupid and cheesy combo locks in here that would make this game a living nightmare competitively…. Just like in most actual Tales games.
Combat is 2D, which sticks with the franchises origins. The button layout is more in line with 3D Tales games, where you have an attack, block, and jump button, then can use various commands and shortcuts to attach your special moves to. If you ever played Tales of the Abyss, Vesperia, or Symphonia you’ll quickly feel right at home. Characters level up in an RPG-like fashion whenever you complete a match, and this is your primary way of unlocking new moves. I like this approach, it makes it feel rewarding to stick with a character.
This game’s pretty old, from 2009 to be specific. This was way before the series revival that happened outside of Japan with Graces and Xillia almost 5 years ago, so don’t expect anyone who showed up after Vesperia to be making any appearances. That said, the roster is pretty big, and you unlock characters in a view similar to Smash Bros by completing different tasks and challenges. One thing I’m not a fan of is that characters don’t have their own individual stories, meaning it can be a chore to level of some of the characters you unlock closer to the end of the single-player campaign.
Tales of VS is a PSP exclusive, and unfortunately came out before the huge digital download market we have now. This game was not ported to work on the PSP, so the only way to pick up an official copy is to track down one through a re-seller. On the other hand, this game is pretty cheap, and when I checked while writing this most of the copies were going between $10-20 USD. The game is pretty heavy on the Japanese since all the moves are listed that way, but it doesn’t take too long to get adjusted to what all your moves do, and there are plenty of translation guides out there if you need a little extra help.
2) Gundam Wing: Endless Duel
Number 2 on the list is another Japan-exclusive fighter; albeit, a pretty old one. Gundam Wing: Endless Duel was one of the last games to come out on the Super Famicom before the Nintendo 64 dropped in June of the same year. Gundam is a pretty huge IP, and this game came out at the end of Gundam Wing’s run on Japanese TV when it first aired.
It’s a pretty unique fighter, most notably in that you start with a full super meter rather than at zero. The playable mobile suits run off of energy, so it’s assumed that they start at full and use up their power as the fight drags out. It’s an otherwise standard 2D fighter outside of that, and plays a bit like Street Fighter II: Turbo or DarkStalkers.
The graphics are great, as should be expected of one of the last games in the SNES’ shelf life, and the amount of detail works well with the fast-paced battle and combos you can pull off in the game. The roster is comprised of the show’s 5 main Gundam units as well as a few of OZ’s Special Forces. This is the game that got me to go out and buy a SNES Super Advantage because it felt really bad trying to do combos and inputs on a pad (that, and I’m a big baby who sucks at using controllers in fighting games).
Endless Duel has a lot going for it. I already mentioned the gameplay and graphics, but the soundtrack is pretty good too… well, at least one track is. Unfortunately, this game isn’t nearly as affordable as Tales of VS. The SNES has been out of style for well over 2 decades now, and this has become a bit of a collector’s gem for importing. There’s never been an official re-release of it on any console and the eBay prices for it run up into the $30 and higher mark, if you want the game with the original box. I do recommend giving the game a spin though, regardless of how you track it down.
3) Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax
So uh, fighting game or bad adult movie? If you ever needed more proof that Japan has some of the best and worst titles for games you don’t have to look much further than Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax. There’s a lot more to this game than its odd name though. This is a fighter developed by French Bread, the team behind the Melty Blood franchise. Fighting Climax shares some qualities with these games, such as short hops and universal inputs across characters. It makes the game easy to pick up and play, and adjusting to characters is less about memorizing their specific inputs and more about learning the properties for their moves.
Fighting Climax pulls its roster from the library of light novella owned by the publishing house Dengeki Bunko. All of these characters have appeared in popular anime such as Sword Art Online, Durarara!!, and A Certain Magical Index. The game is published by SEGA, so it also features a few characters from Valkryia Chronicles and Virtua Fighter as well. It’s an odd game, for sure.
It follows the recent trend in a lot of fighting games to have a built in auto-combo that makes the game easy to pick up and play. Matches move at a brisk pace, Fighting Climax is a combo-heavy fighter, and most characters can do 30-50% of someone’s health bar if given the proper setup. The game also uses assists which do a variety of things from extending combos to healing your fighter or providing strong wake-up after you knock someone down. It’s one of my favorite games to play with my friends that aren’t as familiar with fighters due to its low skill floor and weird cast.
4) Guilty Gear XX Accent Core+R
I’m pretty sure most people would put Xrd here, but you know what? Xrd doesn’t have all the characters I like. Accent Core was the last Guilty Gear fighter Arc System Works made before losing the franchise rights to Sammy, and for a lot of people it was THE fighting game. I remember old internet arguments about whether or not Accent Core or Third Strike was the “most balanced” fighting game…. Which I’m pretty sure a good chunk of people would still fight about.
I’d be willing to wager that Accent Core is one of the best fighters in terms of art, music, and gameplay. I love Xrd’s soundtrack, but I still find myself enjoying the myriad of tracks and remixes that have come from Accent Core and its predecessors. The game’s high detail sprites still look really good today, and Daisuke Ishiwatari’s portrait illustrations add a level of personality that’s not present in any other fighter.
There is a great amount of depth to Guilty Gear’s roster, and even characters with similar play styles feels vastly different from one another. It’s actually hard for me to pick a favorite character, as even those I don’t enjoy playing as are fun to watch. Accent Core is a gem of a fighter, and probably one of the longest-lived titles out there. Even when it seemed Arc System Works had moved on from Guilty Gear when it lost the rights, its fans stuck with it. Even now, I still find Accent Core matches and combo movies fun to watch.