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Atari Gravitar
Written by  :  Elliott Wu (44)
Written on  :  Jun 16, 2010
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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The dev team have managed to hit the sweet spot between diversity and simplicity

The Good

Gosh, where to begin...

Let's start with the controls. First of all, all of the characters are controlled more or less the same way. (save for special circumstances like Skate's overhead throw or Max's inability to pole vault over enemies) That is you learn the controls for one character, you pretty much know the controls to another character.

What this means is that the entry barrier to learning a new character is actually fairly low. But this doesn't mean the characters don't PLAY differently. Oh no sir. That cannot be more different from the truth.

In fact, considering the control scheme is so uniformed, the characters play like night and day in terms of tactics and strengths.

What's even crazier is that despite this massive differences in gameplay, ALL of the characters are viable even at the highest difficulty.

Which leads to me to my next point: the difficulty.

I have never seen any game able to ramp up the difficulty so smoothly with such drastic differences. Try playing the game on hardest and then on Mania (the highest difficulty). The difference is HUGE. And yet, the game does an excellent job prepping you for it so that the skip in difficulty is not one that will just overrun you and make you throw down your controller.

Often times, you will get a situation where the added difficulty is just giving the players more numerical disadvantages and the enemies more numerical advantages. This game? The enemies will actually behave differently depending on the difficulty level. Higher level enemies will be far more efficient in their movements and attacks, and will try their best to surround you ASAP.

Which leads me to my next point, the AI.

For a game with this fairly simple attributes (simple by today's standards), the game AI is incredibly well put together at pushing the limits on those attributes.

The AIs all react to situations differently, and you can tell they have wildly different personalities, which combined with their existing movesets, make those differences even more stark.

Combining all of these attributes together, and you have a brawler that has rock solid tight gameplay, with incredible polish. This is one of those games that deserves to played again and again, not because each time you play you see new content, but because each permutation you make (i.e. character and difficulty) creates a whole new experience on the game.

For a game that only uses 3 buttons, it is incredibly deep because it is apparent that the devs have really made sure every move they put in there is accounted for in the game play experience.

In a lot of games, people will just add more content just to add more. But this game is a textbook example on how to use what you have and make it all count.

Designers now a days can learn a thing or two from games like this.

The Bad

one minor nitpick: the attributes you see in the character picking screen is more or less useless beyond the speed and stamina attribute. (The rest are highly dependent on the move you're using and the fashion you play) Imagine playing Street Fighter, and seeing a "strength" ranking on ryu's profile. Sure, you can certainly do that, but chances are it will mostly be irrelevant and meaningless. It's not even useful as a barometer for beginners because it doesn't even tell you that much. i.e. what does having a high "technique" score mean?

The Bottom Line

This game is the textbook example of milking every bit of game play out of a relatively small set of attributes. A lot of games out there will add more for the sake of more, not realizing it doesn't always add to the game play experience. This game is different.

Chances are, you will never find a better brawler with this streamlined of a system.

Atari 50