Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle

Platform:  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

Developed by:  Atelier Double

UK Distributor:  Ocean

ELSPA rating: N/A

Original Retail Price (SRP):  49.99

Current Value:  6 (approx.)

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

Anime games were a rare breed on UK consoles for many years, but there were a few that inexplicably hit our shores.  Often these games lost some or all references to the original anime in the transition to Western markets, but occasionally they retain enough to make them recognisable.

Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle is one of those games that made it to the West largely intact, despite both the anime and manga it's based on being unavailable here when it was released.  As expected from a game based on Rumiko Takahashi's kung-fu comedy, the game is a straight one-on-one beat-em-up featuring a decent roster of characters drawn from the series massive

and colourful cast.  Playable characters in this game are: Ranma Saotome (male), Ranma Saotome (female), Akane Tendo, Shampoo, Mousse, Ryoga Hibiki, Genma Saotome (panda version), Ukyo Kuonji, Gambling King, Gosunkugi, Pantyhose Taro (human) and Pantyhose Taro (transformed).  The story sees the Hawaii-obsessed headmaster of Furinken High School trying once again to impose discipline on the rebellious students by making them fight each other, and roping in some other characters to spice things up.  It's a beat-em-up, so you don't expect depth, but weak as that sounds it does kind of fit with the original manga's anarchic plotting.

Believe it or not, on the surface there's a lot to like about this game.  The sprites are large, colourful and easily recognisable from the manga and anime.  The backgrounds are similarly colourful and themed well around the characters, whilst the special moves are drawn straight from the original source material as well.  The music is ok and the voice samples are recognisable, plus there's a great simplicity to the controls.  Instead of the usual array of buttons and combinations, the game features just four buttons - light attack, hard attack, block and jump.  Special moves are triggered by pressing the two attack buttons together, or by pressing hard attack and back and forward on the d-pad.  The buttons for the specials are pretty much identical for each character, and it's a good touch that you can increase the power of some specials by holding the buttons down.  It's also good to see that the character roster includes some characters than never cropped up in other Ranma games, such as the Gambling King (who looks like the King you get on playing cards) and Gosunkugi, a voodoo-obsessed depressive who has candles strapped to his head and fights with a giant voodoo doll.  Presentation-wise the game is decent as well, with some nice little cut scenes between bouts that stick closely to the style of the anime in terms of content.

Despite all this there's some obvious flaws, the biggest of which is how painfully slow it is.  Continents drift apart and mountains rise and fall in the time it takes a character to complete a jump, and they walk like they're moving through treacle.  Attacks lack the speed and satisfaction of other fighters around at the same time, notably Street Fighter II, and the selection of special moves is limited.  One of the biggest drawbacks with the sluggish movement is that it's incredibly hard to string together any sort of combo, and the collision detection isn't the best either.  Sadly, with such a rich and varied source material to draw from, there are so many missed opportunities.  

The humour that typified the manga is largely absent, but worst of all it's just not that fun to play.  It's got a great character roster but doesn't get the best out of them, and despite varied looks and moves they feel strangely similar to play as.  There's also some strange quirks in the game too - for example both versions of Pantyhose Taro are playable from the start in versus mode, but must be unlocked in one player.  Even stranger is the inexplicable change of Ukyo's name to Frederic, despite the other characters retaining their Japanese names.  It's also probably the only game I know where a hidden character is only accessible through a debug cheat, and losing when playing as that character causes the game to crash!

It's a real shame that the technical quality of the game doesn't match the presentation.  The game looks great, but it's just not that fun to play.  The problem is that a game like this is going to have to be something exceptional to top Capcom's 2D beat-em-ups.  If it can't beat it technically then it has to rely on the Ranma license to make up the gap, and sadly on both counts it fails.  Even for Ranma fans it will only hold your interest for a limited time, and the sluggish gameplay takes away much of the replay value.  There are many things that would have improved the game - it screams out for super moves for example - but as it stands it's another sub-standard Street Fighter wannabe which isn't as good as it looks. 


There's a few cheats and a single hidden character in the game.  Playing the game through once in one player will unlock Pantyhose Taro for the one player mode (as previously mentioned, you can play as him from the start in versus mode).  However, inputting a code on the title screen will open a debug mode which allows you to play as the game's final boss Happosai.  This is the only way to play as him and comes complete with the crashing glitch mentioned above, plus he has no ending sequence in one player mode.


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