Asuka 120% Burning Fest. Limited (1997, Fill-In-Cafe)

Now we come to one of my all-time favorite Sega Saturn videogames. Asuka 120% is a series that began on FM Towns and SharpX68000 and later migrated to PC Engine CD-ROM, Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. The Saturn edition is widely considered the series’ best. This is an intensely fast and furious fighting game that rivals the best from Capcom and SNK. There are a dozen characters with their own unique moves (representing different high school clubs such as chemistry, ballet, tennis, cheerleading and wrestling), lots of furious attacks, reversals, crazy multi-hit combos and miraculous come-from-behind victories.

The character designs and animations are absolutely gorgeous. The lines curve and flow gracefully, and look terrific in motion. The fighters are just the right size, filled with color and move just like buttah. I had a lot of fun taking screenshots for this game (using the “2P watch” mode).

The fighting engine is simple but carries a lot of depth, allowing easy counters and reversals, and it’s easy to cancel combos into specials with ease. In fact, you can do pretty well just by mashing buttons, which is good for novice players. Experts will learn the proper skills and master the art of those 20-hit air combos. Battles are always intense and victory is never assured for anyone.

Graphics, again, are quite excellent and show off the Saturn’s 2D powers. There are some very impressive visual effects, including some polygon flashes and sprite transparencies, lots of exploding red and blue flames. The screen shakes when players are slammed to the ground, just like Mike Hagger’s brutal throws in Final Fight. The backgrounds are not animated, and that’s probably the game’s only fault, but the action is so intense, you’ll barely notice. Music is a collection of chirpy and cheerful anime songs, with endless chantings of “Ganbare!” whenever someone pulls off a big hit or combo.

Most “girly” or “bishojo” fighters are terrible, especially on the Saturn. Asuka 120% is not only a great exception, it’s one of the best 2D brawlers on the system. There are days when I’d rather play this game than the Capcom 4-MEG fighters. There’s a freewheeling sense of speed and fun, a real sense of freedom. It’s satisfying and frustrating in just the right measures.

I see the prices on this game are creeping up a bit, hovering almost $50 on Ebay. It was stable at $30 a couple years ago, but demand has been rising as exposure on YouTube continues to grow. This is a true cult classic, and if you love fighting videogames, high school anime or cartoon violence, you’ll love this one. Get it now before the prices become seriously jacked.

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