Psychic Force Retro Review

Year: 1997

Platform: Playstation 1 [Reviewed] | Dreamcast | 

After the advent of true real-time 3D rendering, the market was about to become saturated with Fighting games from all directions for both the arcade and PS1 home console. Tekken débuts in 1995, the same year as the arcade version of Psychic Force. However, the console releases of Psychic force won't arrive for another year, so very few people know of Pyschic Force's existence on the home consoles due to Tekken and Mortal Kombat 3 being the current leading competitors in the genre for the console.

The next few years will see a slew of fighters on the PS1, [...]

The next few years will see a slew of fighters on the PS1, if we ignore the Tekken sequels, then we are still looking at a large array of games to follow. From entries such as Bloody Roar, to Soul Calibur [Soul Blade] and my personal favourite; Rival Schools. My point is, that the next few years would hold a huge amount of games within this genre, much how the FPS had become the dominant force of the decade leading up from 2004. So does Psychic Force differ itself enough to deserve remembrance over the following years, or is it part of the first wave of Fighting games to simply vanish into the background behind Tekken and other major genre pioneers?

Verticality is something other games in the genre wouldn’t really engage with beyond a couple of jumping attacks, and even today many still shy away from it.

Most fighters take place on a 2D plane of some sort, moving from left to right or vice-versa towards the opponent on the opposite side of the screen, trading blows. Some Fighting games would later on change this trope, and introduce 360 combat with the ability to circle your opponent, but this 2D plane still exists even today as it has been established as the best method of delivering this type of gameplay. What Psychic Force did brilliantly at the time however, was introduce complete 360 degree movement within the confines of the vertical and horizontal vectors of this 2D plane. Verticality is something other games in the genre wouldn't really engage with beyond a couple of jumping attacks, and even today many still shy away from it.

[...] back then this was quite liberating as a player to be able to move as freely as you were allowed to.

Instead of simply moving left and right, the player was able to move towards or away from the enemy, and also up and down to circle them by flying through the air. The only way to describe it vividly would be to imagine the Fighting scene between Neo and Agent Smith in the Matrix: Revolutions, but if it had been fought in a 2D plane similar to a Fighting game. The player has the capability to speed dash around the arena and dodge the opponent's attacks, and even possibly gaining a position behind the enemy ready to launch an attack from the rear. It might sound like something quite minor, but back then this was quite liberating as a player to be able to move as freely as you were allowed to.

The combos are very reflective of the genre, with a mixture of simple and complicated button sequences required to execute, there's enough on offer that you can find out most of the combos by simply button mashing, whilst others require reading of the manual and practice. This has already given Psychic Force a fighting chance against its competitors, since any Fighting game that is able to establish a good combo | move system that caters for both amateur and professional players is a success to some degree. Where this succeeds immensely however, is in the combination of the excellent combat system, mixed with liberating movement, and a high degree of control over how that movement is played out.

Dashing is the easy solution to dodging attacks, but with a mixture of blocking and using certain defensive moves, the complexity of control for dealing with situations is increased further than most Fighting games of the time. I wouldn't consider this a masterpiece in fighting gameplay, as better systems were developed later by other games. For the time though, this was incredibly fun! With a Story Mode | Arcade Mode to get through, an excellent and well balanced final boss, and of course a great roster of characters and different psychic abilities to choose from, the game stands the test of time for even the most prolific of players. Throw in a great 2D animation art style and you have a solid Fighter.

The music is the highlight of the game alongside the design.

The music is the highlight of the game alongside the design. As mentioned, the fighting mechanics have been designed incredibly well, but the visual style shines through just as well. Characters are vibrant and creatively imagined, each with very unique powers and all share a sharp and well presented anime styling. The music in a Fighting game is usually an afterthought these days, throw in some generic drum beats with some shredding guitar to get the adrenaline pumping, and it's usually good enough to serve its purpose. The only other game series that springs to mind that I'm able to remember music from is Tekken, with Tekken 3 in particular standing out above the rest around this period.

Psychic Force follows anime in its approach to music, with the music being themed and as imaginative as the characters, being reflective of the environments the battles take place. Very rarely does a game's soundtrack have such identity alongside the visuals and characters, they never really merge together as perfectly as they could sometimes, but Psychic Force stands tall in this consideration. The music will stay with you long after turning the console off, however the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired and is poor to say the least. The dialogue follows the stereotype as its anime visuals, where some anime are known for their terrible dubs, this game also delivers some cringe worthy one liners which bring down an otherwise amazing audio experience.

A game that was possibly made before its time, as it was short lived with only one sequel.

A game that was possibly made before its time, as it was short lived with only one sequel. Sure, other games would come along and perfect the formula, but this is one of the games you could come to for a truly unique Fighting experience. With a friend, this game could give you hours of fun. Alone it manages to do just as well. Repetitive is a word not in Psychic Force's vocabulary, even when played religiously the game still manages to hit a sweet spot not hit by many other Fighting games. I think this definitely stands within the top 10 Fighting games of all time, if only for its valiant attempts to differentiate itself as unique before the incoming wave of generic fighting games that came in the following years.

It’s a shame the game received what would become a mediocre sequel [...]

It can be said though, that the game relies on a certain novelty that wears off after a few hours of play. I would definitely agree in this regard as well in contrast, as the game tries to take an established gameplay genre and add its own unique spin on it. For some people I would certainly think that the novelty would wear off after finishing the game a few times, but for those who appreciate its visual flair and music taste, this could be a personal favourite for quite a few gamers. It's a shame the game received what would become a mediocre sequel later on [and possibly what killed the franchise's chances for continuation], as this original served as a good example of a fighting game done right and kept relatively simple with room to develop your style further.

You may find its take refreshing and exciting, or you may become frustrated that it deviates from what you already know, love, and expect from the genre. Either way, whether the novelty of its gameplay will leave you quickly or whether you find a new personal favourite, it will certain surprise you the first time around. There's a few skilled moves to pull off that require timing, opportunity, and dexterity to pull off, but generally the game does cater for a more simpler form of casual based play. The higher difficulty will push you quite far, so don't underestimate the challenge offered here for those of you seeking such a thing.

It’s incredibly friendly towards new players, and doesn’t take that long to learn your first combo.

Here you'll find a quirky and fun Fighting game that you'll love from start to finish. It's incredibly friendly towards new players, and doesn't take that long to learn your first combo. You'll find a favourite move or two and you'll most likely spam like crazy, but the game is fairly well balanced to boot so friends playing multiplayer shouldn't feel any frustration if they know what they need to do to escape certain situations and attacks. Story Mode can be quite a challenge, so stay persistent and practice more if you feel you can't quite cope.

I highly recommend you find the song "Burning Storm" from the game's soundtrack to get a good idea of how awesome the game's soundtrack is.