Genre: Beat-’Em-Up Developer: Almanic Corp. Publisher: Vic Tokai Players: 1 Released: 1993
The hybrid beat-’em-up, 2D fighter Mazin Saga Mutant Fighter was originally based off the Mazinger Z manga of giant robots by famous Japanese manga author Go Nagai. Brought over to the states by Vic Tokai INC, this action packed title finds you in control of the famous Mazinger Z robot as you battle against hordes of evil bio-chemical mutants. In a genre that was already crowded in 1993 when the game was released, would this manga-inspired brawler have the chops to hit the streets with the best of them? The answer is a resounding… almost.
Having a wealth of back-story that could have been played from the original manga, the game’s story is actually fairly limited. There is a brief cut scene at the title screen that explains by the year 1999 civilization has fallen to bio-chemical mutants and now Earth’s only hope is the powerful bio-suit Mazinger Z. There are no cut scenes between levels, so really the only story that appears is at the beginning and ending of the game.
But that’s ok, I mean, this is a walk along beat-’em-up after all. Story can play second fiddle to what is truly important in these types of games, namely, the gameplay itself. Mazin Saga’s core gameplay is split up into two major sections. Across the five levels of the game there are three sections of traditional beat-’em-up action, and then the fourth section of each stage is a one-on-one fighting segment. Yes, everyone and their Japanese imported robot was trying to milk the mega success of Capcom’s Street Fighter II, and so this game also features such traditional boss fights.
The beat-’em-up parts are great and control very well. Mazinger-Z is fluid and responds with no complaint. Collision detection seems pretty good, and he’s got a surprising amount of moves under his robo belt. I was very impressed with how well these sections played out and how much fun it was to plow down the various enemies. With the A button being used for a special attack, B as the general attack button, and C as jump, I really wasn’t expecting much. However, Pressing the attack button in midair and while running produces different moves, so it’s actually quite varied. Also, as the game goes on, more and more strategy is required to overcome the baddies. Their attack patterns are pretty unique and certain moves are better suited for fighting certain foes. Mixed in with these sections are auto-scrolling stages where you must constantly run to avoid being killed, and these sections offered a nice change of pace and kept things from getting too repetitive.
So awesome, I’m playing a cool beat-’em-up that controls well and requires a bit of thought. I’m liking this! Then I got to the first boss. The game shifts to the aforementioned Street Fighter II knockoff and everything just goes down the toilet. Not only have the controls awkwardly changed where what was once your special attack is now a guard button, but Mazinger-Z seems to have forgotten all of the sweet moves he was just pulling off. You also find yourself against some incredibly cheap bosses that hurt far more than you and have longer range. Oh yeah, the later bosses also love to guard everything, and there’s nothing you can do to guard crush them, but of course when you try and block something you still take some damage. Add the fact that you’ll have to replay all the boss fights at the end of the game before fighting the true final boss, and this becomes a major problem. These fighting sections are sloppy, difficult, have awful collision detection, and end up as a real black eye on an otherwise solid game.
One redeeming aspect of the fighting sections is that the sprites look absolutely wonderful. They are large and full of detail. The graphics in the bulk of the game are nice, but nothing spectacular. Everything kind of looks small, but there can be plenty of different enemies on screen with little to no slowdown, so that was a treat. While the graphics may not constantly illustrate an exuberant shine, there are plenty of little touches in the sprites’ animations that make this a visually pleasing game. The soundtrack of the game is the standard drum heavy techno that brings to mind Bio Hazard Battle. All of the enemies have death cries as well when they are defeated, but they sound a bit on the muffled side. Nothing really stands out in the sound department, but it works decently when you are playing the game.
With five levels to go through, it doesn’t take too long to get through Mazin Saga. Although be warned: even on easy mode the latter boss fights are absolute torture. Only the hardest of the hardcore should dare attempt to pick up the controller and try to take on these hollow and shameless fighting sections. With these sections either improved or removed altogether, and a much needed two-player mode added, this had potential for being a real winner. As it stands, the game remains a curiosity for those seeking life after Streets Of Rage 2, or perhaps it will be remembered only by those with a masochistic love for unfortunate Street Fighter II clones.