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Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm

Crowdfunded on Indiegogo back in 2013, Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm has been hotly anticipated by the fighting game community thanks to the trio of former KOF developers at the project’s helm. This week finally sees the game’s Steam debut, and we had a chance to get hands-on.

Yatagarasu Yatagarasu

It doesn’t take much to discern where Yatagarasu draws its design ideas from; in fact the three-man team proudly admits to taking heavy inspiration from Third Strike. But while there are enough differences between this and Capcom’s old classic to make Yatagarasu its own beast, basic control and the flow of combat will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a Street Fighter title.

Most specials are activated with quarter and half circle motions on the D-pad, back will block, supers can be used with enough meter, etc. But the real emphasis here is on the parry system, with Yatagarasu dedicating two separate buttons to it. Successfully connecting either a high or low parry will initiate a freeze-frame moment and a chance to counter attack. Mistime or hit the wrong height though, and you’ll leave yourself open to punishment from longer combos at increased damage.

Learning to read your opponent and capitalising on their mistakes really is the key to success here. As a result, matches are genuinely tense and consist heavily of players feeling each other out, before pouncing on narrow windows of opportunity. It’s real high-risk, high-reward stuff, and feels as cathartic as the fighting games of the nineties it tries to emulate.

Yatagarasu Yatagarasu

A roster of eleven characters (all of which are unlocked from the start) offer plenty of variety to choose from, with only the two sword-wielders being re-skins of each other. And in perhaps a nod to the game’s roots, two fighters in the group are essentially Shoto characters, for those Street Fighter players looking for a natural ‘in’ to Yatagarasu’s system.

The usual selection of offline game modes are readily available (arcade, versus, training, etc.), but most fans of the genre will be keen to jump on the all-important online mode, which (thanks to some beautifully smooth netcode) runs exceptionally well. Optional fluff like customisable icons and comments are available too, as well as Twitter integration to announce when you’re up for a match. Lag-reducing GGPO was intended to be active at launch, but unfortunately hasn’t yet been implemented. It’s an addition that’s still on the cards though, and will hopefully be added in a later patch.

Yatagarasu Yatagarasu

Unfortunately, while Yatagarasu’s combat has proven to be a tremendous success, the package as a whole is one that’s let down by some truly appalling presentation. The mandatory 4:3 screen ratio helps maintain the ‘retro’ aesthetic, but some character-art borders for 16:9 monitors surely wouldn’t have hurt. The menus are bland and unhelpful, even failing to distinguish between the two different arcade modes, and repeated use of the same finite selection of assets makes the UI look cheap and lazy. Perhaps most jarringly are the inconsistent art styles across the game’s 14 stages, where for every gorgeous pixel-art backdrop there is, there’s another that looks like a speed-painted concept sketch.

The ‘Dynamic Commentary’ system is at least an interesting idea, attempting to recreate tournament-style narration by a selection of familiar fight-circuit faces. But the number of comments which have been recorded are limited, and you’ll quickly find yourself listening through the same tedious lines of dialogue over and over again ad nauseam.

But while Yatagarasu’s various presentation issues are sure to discourage some players, there are plenty of FTG fans out there who simply won’t care. The three-man dev team have gotten all the important stuff absolutely right, and the visual issues shouldn’t detract from the core gameplay. Those after a more polished experience with decent single-player options will likely be left feeling disappointed, but £10.99 is still a fair price for the solid fight-system if nothing else.

Now that the game is out and the hard part is over with, hopefully we’ll see some patches for Yatagarasu’s visual faults and foibles, to polish-up this otherwise excellent little fighter.

7/10

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

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