3/2 God Bless The Ring And The Beach And The Stupid Dungeon

Evil Zone

     You may have been exposed to this game and not even known it. Search your brain for the mental picture of an evil sorceress, with a closeup of a schoolgirl miniskirt and a hand clutching a sword. Yup, that was Evil Zone's magazine ad.

      Like most people, that faded completely from my brain until I found a few dozen copies of it littering the bargain rack at Meijer's. My friend and I passed it back and forth a little, having a good laugh at the generic title and artwork. Even though I didn't buy it then, I was already getting a good vibe off that little green disk. It was obscure, cheesy, and more than likely poorly produced. In short, a real gem for guys like me.

     Evil Zone is a fighting game that tries its hardest to be anime. So hard, in fact, it makes it seem American. But it really is Japanese. So Japanese in fact, that Titus felt the need to change its original title ('Eretzvaju') to something less interesting for domestic release. Transformers Armada springs to mind too, since the crappy animation and line work made me think it was some American-made cartoon trying feebly to ape anime style and starring a Canadian-dubbed Mexican kid. Also, I swear one episode had a scene of Optimus grappling with Starscream while their token non-combatant was gripping tightly onto his thigh.

Seriously, what the fuck is going on with Red Alert in the background there?!

Worst. Hold. Ever.

     I digress; there's enough in Transformers: Armada to make an entire new article off of. (It also turns out it really was Japanese after all, go figure.) As I said, Evil Zone is packed to the gills with 'anime' vibes, but it doesn't work right because everyone seems to come from a different show. And it's not just a storyline problem- I'll get into that later- few of the characters look like they belong in the same ring for some reason. It's just a sort of innate weirdness, like the game was burned with really bad feng shui, or every time it loads someone is standing behind you.

     The characters aren't the most awful batch to look at, but the graphics rob the better looking ones of their charm. Long-haired characters look fine when their hair hangs straight down, but once they're in motion it looks like they have dozens of tiny, badly-clipped insect legs trailing behind them. Anyone with short hair looks like one of those cosplayers with foam hair. All the models have soft light/shadow effects that tend look more like the side of a freight train than shading. One of the worst-looking characters period is the wizard-in-training Al. Al is incredibly feminine-looking, and wears huge, loose shorts and a cape. And he's implied to be one of the main characters.

     Matches are at least fun for bystanders; they're two parts Toshinden and one part Final Fantasy VIII. Triggering a special 'capture' attack leads to an extended animation with dramatic amera angles, ranging from good old super combos to one that cuts to outer space as the fighter commands an orbiting cannon satellite to bombard the ring. It's purely flash, though- the controls are so simple a housepet could kick your ass if it laid across the controller the right way. All the special moves are triggered by hitting a direction and the attack button. Notice I said button. Singular. EZ uses a two button control scheme. Attack and Guard. So, each character has pretty much four special attacks, two normal ones (close and ranged) and their captures, set off by pressing/holding down and attack. Holding the attack button down charges up your power, and once you fill your life bar up once you get a red crystal to use for a super. These are usually like doing a regular attack only holding down the attack button. Everyone has a 'finisher' type super triggered by tapping back twice and then attack, which gets an extended animation if used to finish off the enemy.

     The ultra-simple fighting style could be good or bad. On the one hand, you can learn all the moves quickly, which would in theory lead to matches determined by sher skill over the ability to memorize elborate key presses. On the other, which happens to be the hand the game actually has left after a hideous industrial accident, it means that every character is basically the same. Everyone has a 'stun' projectile that you use to set up a Capture. Sure some may have more close range attacks, or invisible dashes, but in the end it's all the same crap. Which brings up the next topic:

     This game has tons of extras to be unlocked. Extra costumes, voice gallery, a comprehensive encyclopedia of character and game information, and even an option to swap the announcer's voice for your favorite character's. Too bad they couldn't put this sort of bonus into a King of Fighters or Street Fighter title, or any other game with replay value. Unlocking everything in Evil Zone is a test of patience like few other things. You have to beat every story mode, every arcade mode, AND play about ten vs. mode mirror matches per character. That adds up to around a hundred matches. That's valuable Real Bout Fatal Fury time it cuts into, and I somehow spent a depressing amount of time actually unlocking most of the junk. I gave up halfway through the voice galleries.

     The story mode is the summit of campy hilarity. Each character's story plays out like a series of anime episodes, complete with 'next episode' bumpers. Unfortunately, in spite of having opening animation and character designs farmed out by anime studio AIC, most of the interaction scenes are just the same crappy CG models. The most noteworthy stories I can think of include Danzaiver, who looks, sounds, and tastes just like a VR Trooper; and Keiya, the dark sorcerer whose segments are told almost in the style of a radio talk show.

     All of the storylines do ultimately converge, though not exactly as well as one would hope. All the characters have been summoned from their respective lives and dimensions to battle Ihadurca (pronounced EE-HAW-DOH-KAH.) I'm a bit sketchy as to just why she's considered ultimate evil and sealed away in the Evil Zone by the people of Happy Island. Yes, HAPPY ISLAND, and EVIL ZONE. Her power is described as the ability to appear in multiple place at once, which doesn't really seem all that evil. It's like a bunch of people just got together and said, "HOW DARE YOU BILOCATE, WICKED WITCH!!"

     I haven't even touched on the wonderfully horrible voice acting yet! The bounty hunter Gally "Vanish/Banish" Gregman chortles the following in one of his winposes: "I love my missile-launching technique. Heh heh hehhh." Say that out loud in the most suggestive manner possible. Danzaiver's guarding voice bite is him repeating over and over "I'm not easy!" Every character's vocabulary is just jam-packed with deliciously corny sayings:

  • "I want to drink the coffee that Yuri makes."
  • "Don't make fun of me- I'm Midori!!"
  • "No, no, no!" (repeated ad nauseum)
  • "Your ultra-death attack! Karin... you're too much!"
  • "Ew! What are you looking at?" (girl in slutty armor's modest moment)

     And so much more. If you love basking in the cheesey afterglow of a really bad anime or B-movie, I strongly reccomend getting a copy of this game. Yes, you heard right- after spending all this time yammering about how awful it is, I'm actually reccomending others to run out and buy it. It's like the Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster of PSX fighting games. It's sheer cheese, diced and served over a half-baked concept.

"We're all gonna die anyway, so let's blow our minds!!"
-twerp from Godzilla vs. Smog Monster



EZ screen from ladydragon.com

Just to clarify: she's the one throwing him.

EZ screen from ladydragon.com

Erel looks like she bumped into some wet paint boobs-first.