Angel Eyes (PSX/Tecmo)
by brandon sheffield
And by popular request – the Angel Eyes review. (full title - Touki Denshou: Angel Eyes, roughly translated this means Fable of Fighting Princess.)
For those of you who thought that Tecmo had somehow changed course with their release of DOA – that their buxom beauties masking surface gameplay was something of a departure, Angel Eyes is here to make you rethink your position. I’m going to take a sidestep from my usual position here and say that cute girls can make a mediocre game ever so slightly better. It’s just the reality we have to face. This is the one and only time you’ll hear me say that, so mark it well!
Alright then, here’s where my credibility falls to shambles: I must say that I am predisposed to like ‘gals fighters.’ I think it’s the general fast pace and appealing character designs that draw me to the genre. With this in mind, the first hurdle to surmount in Angel Eyes is the simultaneous use of rendered CG and cel graphics. Check out this shot of Lina and you’ll see what I mean. Tecmo has seen fit to couple very decent looking anime styled girls with these visual atrocities. It’s quite baffling really. The saving grace is that for every CG character there is an unlockable cel-based counterpart.
But...do you want to play through this game enough to unlock them? It takes a fair bit of doing. The answer will really come on a person-to-person basis, as the theory of the gameplay is far superior to its execution. I remember as a kid – the idea the characters in the SFC Dragon Ball games could fly all over the place was terribly exciting. Then came the playing, and the equally terrible disappointment. Angel Eyes is essentially that next step in the right direction.
Side note - One thing I feel those early DBZ games accomplished quite well is the whole ‘goku is powering up for five episodes’ feeling. Slow as mo-lasses!
You can dash and superdash anywhere you wish on the screen. You can dash in the air, on the ground, you can even hold your position in the air at any time, then super dash out of that. All characters can double jump. You can dash out of a fall, homing back towards your opponent for a counterattack. To illustrate, please look at this video of me putting that last bit to work (and again in slow motion). Another nice element – most of the time when you get a knockdown on your enemy, ‘attack chance’ pops up on screen. A couple of quick button presses and you follow up for a wall smash and a great end to a combo. All of this is on top of the usual special moves and supers.
If done right, all of this serves to speed up gameplay to an incredible rate. But you never need to use any of it. This is good in many ways, because one likes to be able to shape gameplay with ones own technique. But the A.I. makes very sparse use of the above tactics, which really doesn’t inspire you to do much with them yourself. That said, it makes for some quite interesting two-player match-ups.
The really unfortunate thing about this game is the balance. Some characters are just far too over-powered (see my horrible defeat by Akane, in spite of a rather decent effort on my part). And the already questionable A.I. certainly chooses its battles. The difficulty seems determined not by the options but by the random luck of the draw.
But on paper, there’s a bit more to like about this game than dislike. You can choose your damage level at the character select screen, for one thing. And the combos flow very naturally and are quite organic. Check out the excellent angel eyes combo faq for more on this. It’s very easy to pick up and play, and does have a shade of depth to it. But to be perfectly honest, I only played through it to get the eleven extra characters and illustrations.
There’s just something missing, something mediocre about Angel Eyes. The production is sloppy, that’s undisputable. The menus are archaic. The CG/cel duality is bizarre and off-putting. More than that, the game doesn’t value your intelligence in the slightest. It doesn’t challenge you per se, but rather throws cheap infinites and unavoidable specials at you.
The game is a port of Tecmo’s arcade title of the same name – I’ve honestly no clue as to what if anything was lost in the conversion. But I do know what was gained. In addition to the already mentioned gallery and characters, there’s a quite well thought out story mode. Each character’s storyline is fully voiced and illustrated, and while none of them are truly engaging, they’re worth playing through. In spite of this, the incentive to beat the game feels like negative rather than positive reinforcement – not so much to see the endings, but to not have to play as those damned CG characters ever again.
It may well be obvious to you by now; I just don’t know what the hell to think of Angel Eyes. I’ve quite a love/hate relationship with it. There’s so much you can do in the game, but it’s as though it were put together with masking tape...it doesn’t gel as a whole. Yet the bottom line is that Angel Eyes makes for a quite enjoyable, yet terribly flawed gameplay experience. Don’t pay over $20 for it, and I think you’ll find yourself...moderately satisfied?
Brandon Sheffield wants you to know that in the CG/cel vid he's playing first as Reika, then against her. Just to be clear.
Thanks to Teruhiko Fukaya for the title translation help. Touki was the tough bit - the first character is incredibly uncommon, which is why I couldn't find it in my dictionaries. The other three characters use the more common chinese readings, but according to Fukaya, this 'tou' character may well have been brought back just for the game, as it's out of the contemporary Japanese lexicon. The more you know...