3/04/2012

RAKUGA KIDS


 The mid to late-nineties were a pivotal time for videogames. Home consoles were growing ever more powerful, and for the first-time, it seemed as though the consumer would have a true arcade experience available to him in the comfort of his own home (this actually wouldn't become true until the Sega Dreamcast, but that's a yarn for another time). Unfortunately, for all but the most hardcore, convenience is a greater virtue than experience; many consumers eschewed the arcade scene, figuring ''Why walk a few blocks when I can play X-Men in my living room?". The decline in patronage lead to the cataclysmic downfall of the American Arcade industry...

The death of the American arcade lead to a severe decline in several genre's particularly, Shmups and Fighters. Shmups would eventually reinvent themselves thanks to the Japanese Indie scene, around the turn-of-the-century, but Fighters were hit much harder. A combination of the death of arcades leaving most players without any central hub to find fellow players to compete with, combined with the many small-fry companies over-saturating the market with gimmicky, shallow Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat clones, lead to a much longer hibernation for the the genre. 

It was during this era, that many, ever increasingly gimmicky games were being released, both in Arcades, and on Sega Saturn/Playstation. There was a third major console, however, that for whatever reason, wasn't granted a robust gallery of fighters (although, that's not all it was missing). Aside from some butchered ports, and Smash Bros, the only true fighter the N64 had to call it's own was a strange little gem called Rakuga Kids.


Konami has reserved all rights, and don't you forget it, motherfucker.

RAKUGA KIDS (N64)
Developed & Published by: Konami
Released on: July 23, 1998 (Japan) & December 4, 1998 (Europe)

RAKUGA KIDS couldn't have come out at a worse time; it was released pretty much smack-damn in the middle of the end of the Fighters' reign, and was merely one of many no-name fighters coming out. There were also an assload of now-legendary titles released during this period, including Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Sonic Adventure, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Silent Hill, Banjo-Kazooie, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Konami's own Metal Gear Solid. Think about that for a second. It's no wonder Rakuga has been subjugated to the annals of obscurity. Even being created by the prestigious Konami wasn't enough, and it was sorely over-looked, not even getting release in the US. There's not much more to say about the history of Rakuga Kids, since Rakuga Kids doesn't have a history. So let's jump into the fun part. 

 Captain Cat demonstrates capoeira, as well as several ethnic stereotypes.

For those of you wondering, rakuga is Japanese, roughly translating to graffiti, or some close approximation.  A fitting name, as you'll notice, pretty much immediately that the game has a very unique art-style, reminiscent of Yoshi's Story, another 2D game for the N64. Rakuga sticks pretty closely to it's visual motif, as everyone is bright, and vibrantly colored, with most stages taking place close to a brick wall. Virtually every attack has the combatants either whipping out, or transforming into zany, mostly irrelevant objects, adding to the idea that they are just abstract works of art. Fortunately, the attack animations aren't arbitrary (Captain Cat's cr. Punches all produce basketballs; Mamezo's jumping Punches transform him into a spoon, fork, & knife), so it won't be confusing to learn your pokes. The game really delivers in the animation department, as well; each character moves like silk, consisting of thousands of frames each. These screenshots don't do Rakuga justice, so be sure to watch the videos near the end of the article.


WUT?



Left: Konami sets the civil rights movement back.  Right: Memezo orders a pizza. No, seriously.

All his talk about mobility, actual brings up the game's worst flaw: pacing.  Rounds can last up to two minutes a pop, as the characters, slowly SLOWLY drain each others seemingly endless life-bars with brief, 4-6 hit attack strings. Everyone simply leisurely moseys around the rings at a snails' pace; even dashes take a few dozen frames from start to finish, are agonizingly slow, can't be cancelled, and are totally unsafe. Capt. Cat & Beartank are a little more mobile, but only in brief spurts, thanks to said, unsafe dashing. Many attacks have a great amount of knock-back, and very few of them flow, let-alone cancel into one another, further slowing the game down. With the exception of Astro's combo loops (more on that later), combos are  rarely spectacular. This game is for slugs.

.I photoshopped this, just in case you couldn't tell.

The game also suffers from technical problems, that lead the game to being- THAT'S RIGHT, say it together now- SLOWER. I mentioned the games consistently fluid animation as a plus earlier. Unfortunately, due to  the N64's cartridge based format, that perk comes back to bite  Rakuga right in the ass. The game is not only slow mechanically, but technically as well, with load times lasting up to 30 seconds, on a console where the average load time is zero-flat. This is due to the game having to load & cache literally thousands of animation frames & textures into the 64's itty-bitty RAM (4 megs).  Rakuga's beastly cartoon stylings really push the machine beyond its limits, and it shows, and not always in the most flattering way.

But getting back to gameplay, the roster consists of seven characters, and two bosses:
 
Astronot & Andy

 Astronots is a vintage sci-fi spaceman, and Andy is the nerd who drew him.

Astro, for all intents and purposes, is the Shoto of Rakuga. While not a perfect Ryu-clone, he follows the format in broad strokes, with his fireball, uppercut. and variety of pressure inducing lockdown attacks. strong zoning; 
Good for beginners.

Specials:
BLASTER SHOT = D,DF,F+P
ROCKET UPPERCUT = F,D,DF+P
COMBO KICK = D,DB,B+K
BALL SPIKE = F+ MED. P (< ) 

Magic:
#1 / SHOOT POOL = F+R
#2 / TO THE MOON = B+R

Captain Cat Kit & DDJ
Captain Cat Kit is a racist caricature. DDJ is also a racist caricature.

CCK has really good pokes. Use him to relentlessly pressure you opponent into a corner, and stun them. Also, he's a racist cat.

Specials:
UPWARD KICK = F,D,DF+K
??JUMP?? = D,DB,B+K
BUDDY KICK ATTACK = B,D,DB+K
BASKETBALL SMASH = F+ MED. P (< )
LOW ROLLING ATTACK = D,DF,F+P
MID ROLLING ATTACK = D,DF,F+K
STRAIGHT AIR ROLLING ATTACK = D,DF,F+P ( IN AIR )
DOWNWARD AIR ROLLING ATTACK = D,DF,F,+K ( IN AIR ) 


Magic:
#1 / BOOM BOX ATTACK = F+R
#2 / FIRE! FIRE! = B+R
Marsa & Nola

Marsa is some dumb-bitch who's hat is a chicken. Nola is a little girl, who needs therapy, because she drew a bitch whose hat is a chicken.

Her hat is a chicken.

HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = D,DF,F+P
HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = D,DF,F+K (WHILE JUMPING)
HER HAT IS A CHICKEN? = D,DB,B+K
HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = F,D,DF+P
HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = F+ <
HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = WHILE JUMPING PRESS ^ or < or > or v (YELLOW BUTTONS)



MAGIC:
#1 / HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = F+R
#2 / HER HAT IS A CHICKEN = B+R 

HER HAT IS A CHICKEN
(Actual Command List is Here)


Robot C.H.O & Jerry 
 Cho is a giant, glorified Zippo. He was created by Jerry, a fat boy wearing overalls.

Cho is Rakuga's resident grappler. Unfortunately, for him, he has precious little techniques for dealing with fireballs etc. Poor, poor Cho.

Specials:
ELECTROCUTE & SLAM = F,DF,D,DB,B+K
ELECTROCUTE = D,DF,F+P
TRAIN RAM = D,DF,F+P
OVERHEAD JAB = F+ <



Magic:
#1 / GRIND, CUT & PRESS = F+R
#2 / TOY CRANE ATTACK = B+R

BearTank & Clione

Beartank is self-explanatory. Clione is awesome, since she's the author of BearTank, which I believe was picked up by DarkHorse.

BearTank, in addition to being a bear that turns into a tank, is a technical character. Many of his specials involve shooting out tiny BearTanks, to take control of space. He can also make a body-double that makes it easy to trap an opponent. 
Specials:
LITTLE BEAR SHOT = D,DF,F+P
FLYING HEADBUTT = D,DF,F+K,(K,K) *UP TO 3 HITS
TWIRL ATTACK = F,D,DF+P
CLONE BEAR = D,DB,B+K
GRAB & JUMP OVER OPPONENT = D,DB,B+P
FLIP KICK= F+ v 


Magic:
#1 / LION SUB ATTACK = F+R
#2 / ELEPHANT AIRPLANE ATTACK = B+R 




BearTank is arguably Rakuga's legacy, being one of the few, if not only character to cameo in other Konami products.

Cool Roy & Regular Roy

Obviously an homage to the Fried Chicken guy, Roy is a cowboy.

Roy really know how to wrangle up some territory. Roy has alot of zoning options, making him the best got-dang keep-away character, I tell you what.

Specials:
GATLING GUN = D,DF,F+P
BIG KICK = F,D,DF+P
RIDE EM' COWBOY HORSE KICK = D,DB,B+K
BALL & CHAIN ATTACK = D,DF,F+K (WHILE JUMPING)
HORSE KICK = F+ v



Magic:
#1 / BULL CHARGE = F+R
#2 / TIED TO THE TRACKS = B+R   

Memezo & Val
Memezo is a...uhhh... John Kricfalusi-looking-thing. He was drawn by Val, who incidentally isn't John Kricfalusi.

Remember when I said Roy was the best keep-away character? Well I lied. Every single offensive special of Memezo's is a projectile. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Plus, one of his supers has be initiated from the opposite end of the screen. In fact, it kind of has to.
Get in on him, he can't handle close-quarters. 

Specials:
WAIST BOMB = D,DF,F+P
BOWLING ANYONE? = D,DB,B+P
GROUND ROCKET ATTACK = D,DF,F+K
AIR ROCKET ATTACK = D,DB,B+K
WARP = B,D,DB+P
BUDDY PUNCH = F+ <
AIR RAID = D,DF,F+P (WHILE JUMPING)



Magic:
#1 / PIZZA BOY = F+R
#2 / GOING DOWN = B+R 

Rakuga's sub-boss is in fact an EX version of Memezo, named Inuzo.

Darkness & George
George is the final Boss of the game, who commands the graffiti known as Darkness.

When he's not busy listening to Morissey, Darkness likes to footsie and exploit your mistakes.
Darkness is kind of a bitch, and goes down easy. Perhaps George should return him to the Boss store. 

Specials:
BUZZ SAW UPPERCUT = F,D,DF+P
BURP ATTACK = D,DF,F+K
SPIKED BALL ATTACK = F,D,DF+K
HAIR BALL ATTACK = D,DF,F+P
CLAW ATTACK = B,D,DB+P
WARP = D,DB,B+P
TONGUE FLICK = F+ <



Magic:
#1 / "GET EM' BOYS!" = F+R
#2 / DOGGIE DO-DO = B+R 


But enough formalities. This is where to article culminates: Gameplay vids.
 




You may have noticed a detail in those videos that I have yet to harp on, is the music. Rakuga Kids sports an extremely impressive soundtrack, both in terms of composure, and technical achievement. The N64 was a bit... lacking to say the least when it came to audio specs. Running off of cartridges, N64 games were forced to use midis, unlike the optic-based games of the Playstation/Saturn & Arcade. Some games fared better than others, but Rakuga's audio capabilities are nothing short of a marvel.


And that's only speaking of the technical aspects; the music itself is catchy and endearing, sticking to a strange SoCal surfing theme. The music, being midi-based, is not actual recorded music, but rather, is composed of audio samples. You'll barely notice, though. Have a listen:





Overall, Rakuga is definitely worth at least checking out. I spent the past day of my life on Rakuga Kids and I don't regret it, so neither should you.



THIS ARTICLE WILL RECEIVE UPDATES AS CURLEHMOOSTACHE & I LEARN THIS GAME.
 WE WILL POST MATCHES & BnB  FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE.
WE'RE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FINISHED WITH RAKUGA KIDS.


That said, I leave you with this...



1 comment:

  1. You are such a faggot.

    Love you! You're my favorite butt!

    ReplyDelete