Hands-on with Yatagarasu, an indie 2D fighter from former SNK employees

Posted on Aug 13 2013 - 10:37pm by Jeffrey L. Wilson
0 Hands on with Yatagarasu, an indie 2D fighter from former SNK employees

Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm, a 2D fighter from three former SNK/King of Fighters developers known collectively as Circle Edge, received some buzz after reaching its $68,000 Indiegogo crowd-funding goal. The upcoming game isn’t an entirely new title; it builds upon Yatagarasu, an existing Windows PC game, by adding new characters, features, and English localization. In light of the the project’s success, I decided to take a look at the original game to learn more about the title. Full disclosure: I contributed to the Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm Indiegogo project.

Before I dive into Yatagarasu, allow me to openly state that I enjoyed my time with the game. Circle Edge’s members obviously possess fighting game chops, having worked for SNK. My criticisms, I am aware, are toward the work of a three-person development team that crafted Yatagarasu without a proper development budget.

Vanilla Yatagarasu features eight playable characters that represent an array of fighter types, so you’re likely to find a bruiser that fits your play-style. The small roster includes the shoto (Crow, Kou), boxer (Jet), kicker (Hanzo), grappler (Chada), all-around striker (Jyuzumaru, who play like Gato from Mark of the Wolves), and weapons-based (Hina, Shimo) archetypes. That said, the roster feels even smaller than its true number because Crow/Kou and Hina/Shimo are nearly clones. I recognize that Circle Edge is an extremely tiny dev team, but clones have no place on a lilliputian roster.

2013 08 11 00008 Hands on with Yatagarasu, an indie 2D fighter from former SNK employees

But it’s a nice looking roster. The actual character designs aren’t particularly inspired, but the anime-like visual style and solid animation give the fighters personality. The 2D sprites aren’t the hyper-animated HD character models found in the likes of BlazBlue, but the standard-definition 640 x 480-pixel resolution graphics are throwbacks to mid-’90s era 2D fighters such as the Street Fighter Alpha series. The pixelated edges and heavy outlines remind me of the unrefined “rugged sprites” of yesteryear that SNK excelled in producing for its NEO GEO hardware. Backgrounds, on the other hand, aren’t quite as attractive — they range from decent to extremely bland. They’re lifeless, too, lacking onlookers to cheer on the fisticuffs.

The sprites move at a decent clip, too.  Yatagarasu is faster than some gameplay clips have demonstrated, but isn’t overly speedy either. The measured gameplay is more about spacing and tactics than wild Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 flashiness (although Hanzo certainly leans in that direction). It isn’t as deep as many modern fighters, but you can dash, guard crush, parry, air parry, throw, and unleash one-of-two selectable supers (the bar fills as you give or take damage). In a way, Yatagarasu feels like a stripped down Street Fighter III. Not bad for a three-person crew.

Still, the lack of resources — be it time or money, and hence the Kickstarter — is on display in this vanilla version of Yatagarasu. The game cries out for a team play to spruce up the fighting. Not necessarily tag, either; a King of Fighters style system would work equally as well. Rolls and sidesteps would be nice additions, too.

Yatagarasu utilizes a six-button control scheme, but it’s an unusual spin on the button layout. There are two light attacks, two heavy attacks, and the twist: not one, but two dedicated parry buttons (known as Button Locks) designed to counter high and low attacks and temporary stun the attacker. Like Street Fighter III, you’ll flash blue and negate incoming damage with a well-timed input, but the window is slightly more forgiving than Capcom’s game  (and not as simple as Garou‘s Just Defend). Circle Edge includes a cool addition: If you tap a parry button as you eat a punch or kick, your character takes less damage. Button Lock is a much-welcome mechanic that deepens the combat. 

2013 08 11 00017 Hands on with Yatagarasu, an indie 2D fighter from former SNK employees

Yatagarasu supports Xbox controllers and arcade sticks — just plug them into your PC before launching the game and begin playing. You can remap the buttons, tweak network settings, play online, and practice in a training mode. I had some difficulty in connecting to the online multiplayer mode, but I will chronicle my experience when I drop the full Yatagarasu review.

Yatagarasu also features something I’ve never previously experienced in a fighting game: running commentary. Tokido, KSK, and Kokujin, three gamers who are big in the Japanese fighting game scene, provide Evo-like commentary. Gamers can select which one of the three calls their matches. The chatter is supposed to be dynamic, constantly shifting to reflect what’s happening on-screen, but the Japanese prevents me from accurately judging its accuracy.

All in all, Yatagarasu is a decent, if unspectacular fighter. The dull backgrounds and somewhat bland character designs don’t immediately suck in potential players, but those who give the game a go will discover a solid fighter with growth potential.

Best of all, it makes me eager to see what Circle Edge will do with the $100,000+ it raised via Indiegogo.

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Jeffrey L. Wilson is the former Big Boss of 2D-X.com. Now retired, he spends his days as a man of leisure. Kinda.

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