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SummaryAction-packed and feature-loaded
The GoodRival Schools is a living oddity in Capcom's gaming library, and then again it's just logical progression. After the wildfire success of their over-the-top Marvel Vs games and the popularity of 3D polygonal fighters it seemed only logical to combine the both of them. That's Rival Schools in a nutshell, a polygonal fighter with Capcom's over-the-top flavor, and it's actually quite good.
The story is set on modern Japan and deals with some mumbo-jumbo regarding a strict principal that has taken over an important school district and has some dastardly plot to do something uh... evil, and of course the kids ain't gonna stand for that so everyone's got to fight each other!!! Anyway, yeah it's a typical cookie-cutter action game plot (told via great looking animé cutscenes) but it suffices. The main characters are all teenagers attending these schools and following the Japanese tradition, each one of them represents a certain "club" or gang and thus you have the Volleyball club leader, the typical "badboy" punks, the geeks, the glamour queens, the Kendo club leader, and other assorted characters all inspired in the diverse fauna that populates the Japanese highschools... (ever seen Slam Dunk or a similar animé? Think that, except now they are all fighting each other, or if you've seen Volcano High School well, this is just the same) They all represent different schools also, hence the "Rival" Shools, as rivalries of all kind take place among the characters and each has their own idea of how to deal with the big threat at hand, this adds a nice level of interaction between the several characters and the outlandish and comic-booky designs of each of them makes them truly unique and a joy to play with.
The gameplay could be described as a faster Tekken except it incorporates fully arcade mechanics instead of falling somewhere in-between (as Tekken does) and doesn't revolve around button mashing combos but instead uses the same system as Street Fighter EX with a more comprehensive chain-combo system so that's good for the most part. Also thrown into the mix is the team gameplay from the Vs series, which means you can call upon different characters to fight at the same time and combine them into team super moves. These later (as well as the regular super moves) are of the same over-the-top quality as the ones in the Vs games, with the added bonus of polygonal and particle effects to illustrate the assorted explosions and shockwaves that occur whenever the fighters fly around and strike their enemies. I dare say the supers are actually MORE over the top than those in the Vs series, at least more than those found in the original Marvel Vs Capcom with characters drawing upon giant hammers, shooting gigantic fireballs and unleashing million-hit scoring combos. As on the Vs series, it's really fun to let loose with one of those babies and it usually results in a "Uhhhhh!!!" reaction from your friends, (except for the one that gets nailed by the super, of course).
The main draw to Rival Schools however, is the assorted collection of extras that come bundled with the game. The arcade original allowed for only the single and vs game modes, but the PSX version includes a full-blown story mode (that sprawls around two discs worth of cinematics), different team and single game modes, tournament options, galleries, practice modes, challenges to unlock secret bonuses, etc. etc.. Heck, if you can hunt down the original Japanese release you will find on the second disc sport-related minigames that star said sport's representing character! Done kicking ass? How does taking some time off doing batting practice or football training sound?
The BadThe graphics take a toll from the memory-hogging use of multiple characters and the spectacular super moves, so this is really NOT the best looking game for the psx, with the Tekken-like, neverending backgrounds being particularly lame.
The game is also very hard to target properly; the 2D Vs action crowd usually only avoid coming anywhere near a 3D fighter fearing their brains will leak out from their ears when they find out they can't button-mash or hadoken their way to victory (unless we are talking about Tekken), and 3D aficionados only seem to like games with intrincate technical controls and realistic fighting action... So what do you do with a 3D fighter with the heart of a 2D fighter?? Unless you are really open-minded about your particular fighting gameplay Rival Schools is just not going to interest you in any way, which is what happened to most people that heard of it...