DSiWare | Abylight | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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3rd February 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
The game stars four intergalactic heroes who are on a mission to prove they're the best fighter in the galaxy. You'll take control of one of these characters and engage in fights against friends and CPU's to prove you're the best in the bunch. Rather than getting caught up in a convoluted story or character differences, Cosmo Fighters sticks heavily to an arcade approach. Each fighter controls the exact same way, with the colour of their outfits being the main element that distinguishes them apart from each other. Plus, there's no big objective to aim towards regardless of what mode you play in. Abylight has decided to develop Cosmo Fighters purely with a pick-up-and-play focus, using as little filler stuff as possible.
As one would expect, all movement is done using the D-Pad. Holding one of the arrow keys will cause your character to walk in a given direction, while quick presses and holds of the same key will get him to actually run across the arena. A single press of the B Button is used to Jump, while two presses will cause your character to perform a Double Jump. In terms of attacks, the Y Button is used to Punch, and the A Button will execute a Kick. Holding Up or Down on the D-Pad while either of these buttons are pressed will perform a low or high alternative of the same ability.
Holding the L shoulder button will put your character in a defensive stance with both fists held upward. But in order to block incoming low kicks and punches, you'll need to hold Down on the D-Pad as well to change your position. Many times during battles your character will be thrust into the air, and if you're not careful you can lose additional health by bouncing off walls or landing on the ground uncomfortably. So when your character has been forced into the air, you can instead press B and Y to cancel the effects and either land on your feet, or perform aerial attacks from that height.
From time to time, a series of items will fall to the ground including weapons, ability power-ups, and bombs. You can pick up said items by pressing the X Button, and in the case of swords and hammers, pressing X again will actually put the weapon to use. You can also throw items at opponents who are in your direct line of sight by pressing the A Button. If you press A while running, the effects will be even more significant.
Aside from the normal attacks, there are also special combo moves that will inflict much more damage. There are three main special attacks to be aware of: Fire Punch, Fire Kick, and Fire Somersault. Take the latter one, for example. This aerial move is performed by quickly pressing Left or Right twice then the Y Button. This spinning move can have a continuous pinball-like effect, causing you to leap off of nearby opponents and heavy pick-ups. Each of these require quick button presses, so obviously practice is needed. But it's important that you get used to these since it'll be extremely hard for you to survive without them as your opponents become fierce.
If you exert too much energy either by executing too many combos or running all over the place, your character will tire out, leaving you vulnerable for a while. Obviously, it's important to pace yourself accordingly; making sure to take a breather once in a while (even just by walking) will automatically restore both power and even health. The bottom screen displays meters that indicate how much energy you have in relation to other rivals. There are also miniaturized versions of the same bars along the header of the top screen. The fact that your character can even become fatigued brings a small degree of strategy to the game.
The Main Menu presents you with four choices. First up is the single-player mode which has you facing off against CPU's in aiming for a high score. Second is the multiplayer component: you and up to three friends can participate in a battle where only the strongest will survive. Then you have the in-game Help manual, and even a special "Share Demo" option. Similar to what was done in Pop Island, this feature will allow you to temporarily pass on a transferable version of the game to any DS system. This demo will grant interested persons the ability to join in on or even host a multiplayer game using DS Download Play. Although they won't have the Help function to assist them in learning the controls, it's nice to see that first-time players can still acquaint themselves with the controls in One Player mode.
The setup for multiplayer fights is pretty straight-forward. After all players have signed themselves up as a participant for the upcoming match, you can choose from one of two modes: Battle or Team. When four players aren't present, you can opt to include computer-controlled opponents that can be set to four different skill levels. Then each player will select from the four available characters, and the battle will begin. I didn't like the fact that there wasn't really a Practice area, or a Tutorial option to help you get used to the controls on your own terms. Or even have a demo reel that introduced the controls to you that way. Admittedly, playing the first couple levels in the single-player experience create an opportunity to do just that. But I still would've liked something more user-friendly, especially for those who only have the demo to work with.
When playing by yourself, you'll be put through your paces across a series of rounds. With each passing match, the number of CPU's you play will increase in addition to their respective skill levels. However, it doesn't take long for you to realize that the AI in this game is very unbalanced. While the first two rounds are relatively easy to pass, subsequent rounds are much more difficult. It wouldn't be so bad if this were the only major setback to the game, but there are additional flaws that really tear down what would otherwise be a good game.
Melee attacks as a whole feel very weak, especially in comparison to the computers who always seem to land more powerful hits on you. An even more persistent issue is the fact that the game feels really slow. Just walking around the arena at normal speed almost makes the characters seem as though they're being pulled down by heavy boots. Even with the ability to dash in a straight line, the only time when the game's pacing feels right is when you start to cancel attacks instinctively, regularly executing combos while in the air. Of course, the fact that the power bar limits how much you can do doesn't help the fact that the action feels very dragged down.
In line with what was stated at the outset, Cosmo Fighters feels very generic in its visual execution. The menu screens are basic in the way they are presented with no hint of quality whatsoever. The models look pretty good during gameplay, as do the little special effects that occur when bombs explode or special attacks are made. There are three arenas in the game that randomly change each time you play. Each of them have their own make-up in the way they're organized, like being able to jump on top of cargo boxes. These also look decent in the way they're presented, albeit there's nothing memorable about them. The same goes for the game's menu presentation and character artwork - they're decent but they could be better.
All things considered, Cosmo Fighters doesn't do anything special that sets it apart from typical fighting games. With multiplayer as the main highlight of this title, you would hope that even this would satisfy the $5 price tag. Sadly, that's not necessarily the case. Almost all the same flaws that drag down the single-player experience carry over to multiplayer battles as well. Probably the best part about playing multiplayer is the ability to face off against a team of two computers. In four-player matches, it's highly likely that at least one person will demonstrate a lack of continued interest after just one or two matches. And that's largely because the game doesn't feel right in some respects; there's nothing compelling about it that gets you to keep playing in spite of the flaws. If you manage to rack up major experience and start executing combos like crazy, the game becomes even less enjoyable as the slow pace becomes much more evident.
In theory, the relative accessibility available in this game should make it a good choice for those looking for DS-based multiplayer experiences. But instead of standing out, Cosmo Fighters blends in, becoming something that's oh so easily forgotten. The system feels very clunky, if only because of the slow nature of the gameplay. Even with the option of Download Play, it's hard to say if the average gamer will see this as worthwhile. Honestly, there are far better multiplayer experiences to be had on DSiWare for the same price. Cosmo Fighters had potential, but unfortunately, gameplay and presentation design choices have ultimately limited how enjoyable this game can be.
16/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Controls work well but the system feels clunky, special combo moves for experienced players, fatigue meter emphasizes need for strategy
Presentation 6/10 - Looks generic with little, arenas aren't memorable, character models look good during gameplay, the artwork could use some work
Enjoyment 2/5 - Not very fun to play because of the pace, unbalanced AI, multiplayer won't provide lasting fun unless participants can forgive its flaws
Extra Content 3/5 - Share Demo feature is great for providing accessible multiplayer, can play team battles, simple leaderboards, no Tutorial features
Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)