Pocket Fighter is totally irresistible! Capcom’s eminently-cutesy little caricatures have been squeezed, flattened and super-deformed into a game that embodies an approach to fine-tuned gameplay rarely equalled in rival beat-’em-ups. Ryu, Ken and a few other Street Fighters are back, along with a couple from Darkstalkers for a battle royal – in miniature. Capcom has simply lifted the eight original characters from the outstanding Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, added the rest for variety and the result is (in the short term) a supremely playable 2-D one or two-player fighting game. Trying to encourage Capcom to radically change its unique approach to beat-’em-ups is akin to Wales winning the World Cup, ie extremely unlikely. What usually happens is certain aspects evolve over time – usually after months of testing, so as not to alienate the legions of die-hard fans. And Pocket Fighter is no different in this respect, as many of the classic moves such as Ryu and Ken’s classic Dragonpunch, along with Zangief’s earth-shattering Pile Driver and Chun Li’s Spinning Bird Kick have been beautifully recreated with impeccable finesse.
The difference lies in the inexplicably disappointing reduction of moves across the board. The six-button fighting system has been dumped for a simpler three-button setup – one for punching, another for kicking and the third for an unblockable special. The latter utilises the very same exploding coloured gems from Puzzle Fighter consisting of three power levels. Small globes appear as well (fire, ice, etc) and can be tossed at opponents to stun or damage them. Gems fly everywhere in a crescendo of colour and the mad dash to hoover them up is sooo satisfying. Pocket Fighters has another ace up its sleeve and that manifests itself with the introduction of the hilarious Flash Combos. Here, the diminutive slap-happy duellers change costume with each successive hit ending in a spectacular finishing combo. We can only assume that the game is geared towards a younger audience – which is tragic, considering the outstanding quality of the graphics and tight controls.
Fair enough, they squeak, bare physical resemblance to and gesture Manga styles, but if Capcom had gone the full monty and chucked in the total range of moves this would have, in the words of dear old Saddam, been the mother of all battles. As it stands, the longevity has been severely impaired. Regardless of the usual flawless presentation, varied modes of battle and option to create your own fighting method by means of gaining ‘cards’ for a Pocket Monsters-style showdown, you won’t be playing it half as long as Street Fighter Alpha 2. It’s funny though, the damn thing is so addictive to play. Why? Because you can’t help becoming hopelessly attached to their cartoony antics and the backgrounds are chocka with familiar faces messing around – most noticeably M Bison and the human laggy-band, Dhalsim. Technically, Capcom hasn’t broken into a sweat putting Pocket Fighter together, but the lack of originality is superseded by yet another satisfying 2-D showpiece, marred by the lack of moves.