ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Tomas Barry 26.03.2017

Review for ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 on Nintendo Switch

As part of the ACA NeoGeo range of the Arcade Archives series, Hamster Corporation has released a port of the original MVS arcade edition of Waku Waku 7 for the Nintendo Switch. How does this bizarre, but fondly remembered, 2D fighter, made by Sunsoft in 1996, hold up today? Does its parody, prodding, and distinct mechanics still produce a vibrant and relevant arcade fighter experience, and how does it compare to the offerings from the ACA range, such as Shock Troopers and World Heroes Perfect?

At a time when fighting games were immensely popular, but perhaps also very saturated and indistinct, Waku Waku 7 was quite the antidote for those burned out on the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters and others. Although on the surface this bears many of the technical trademarks of SNK fighters, such as particular use of screen zoom and the same four-part attack mechanics, it's also distinctly different.

The incessant parodying of various other games and cultural influences, largely achieved through the delightfully odd cast of seven fighters, is an intriguing and playful source of inspiration, which also quite expertly fuses the charm of Waku Waku 7 with a familiar-seeming and gratifying set of fighting mechanics. Despite the game's age, there's an inherent appreciation for its origins and conception, which came about as a sort of reflection and commentary on the saturation of the genre at the time.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 on Nintendo Switch

Looking back, perhaps it would be fair to say that 2D fighter games were one of the first genres to become overtly over-saturated. Developers tend to cash in on the flavours they know audiences like, rather than producing more creative and experimental fighting projects. In this sense, it's quite easy to appreciate the conceptual origin of Waku Waku 7, whether or not anyone has any knowledge of the genre. Fans who loved the game back in 1996 will see this MVS arcade port as a bit of a revelation, particularly as only the console AES version seems to have been readily available up until the Nintendo Switch release.

The rather obscure plot of Waku Waku 7 is simple and strange. A legend says that whoever collects the seven Wheenisian balls will have their 'dearest wish granted,' so anyone in possession of one becomes insanely obsessed with gathering the rest. Seven characters take on the task of winning the full set, defeating anyone who stands in their way. A swiftly raised eyebrow is all that's required here before moving on into the action, since this familiar story-line is clearly poking fun at well-known and loved show of the time. The characters themselves establish even clearer parody connections.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 on Nintendo Switch

Rai Bakuoh is a parody of Sie Kensou from The King of Fighters, a BMX freestyle rider with double-jump ability and a special move conjuring huge electrical charges. Arina Makihara is a half-animal half-human, a nod to various characters from manga and anime. Dandy-J is a treasure hunter, who has a girl and a cat 'Rampoo' following him around and helping out with attacks, a nod to Indiana Jones and Joseph Joestar. Mauru is a purple Snorlax-like creature parodying Totoro from Miyasaki's 1988 animated fantasy classic. Politank-Z is a slow but powerful police tank controlled by Chief and his dog called 'the Mechanic,' the same machines as seen in Dominion. Slash is an elf with a laser-sword, a reference to various sword-wielding heroes in various anime and manga. Lastly, Tesse is a robot harbouring a dream of saving her creator from an illness and also becoming human.

Each character has a very distinct feel, move-set, and special move, which makes discovering the full roster and experimenting with each fighter one of the key strengths of Waku Waku 7. In addition, the very odd but liberating tone of the title enables this more obscure and wacky range of skill-sets to be absorbed and appreciated. The special moves, which need to be charged before being unleashed, but also produce quite devastating damage, introduce a weighty tactic to be mindful of. It's possible to gain huge advantages with these special attacks, but talented players can also evade and counter-attack them leaving the attacking player vulnerable.

In other words, this is not a game that relies on its tone, humour, and ingenuity alone. On the contrary, underneath the unique playfulness are resolute fighting mechanics that can be taken just as seriously as other more serious fighting games of the era. Particularly since the Switch offers both a big screen option, as well as the possibility of a frenetic, table-top, two-player version with the Joy-con, which works surprisingly well on testing despite the less than ideal form factor of those controllers. Undoubtedly, though, Waku Waku 7 is best experienced via the pro controller, since its more functional D-pad makes quite a significant difference to performance.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 on Nintendo Switch

In addition, Hamster Corporation has integrated the same set of useful additional options that is seen in other Arcade Archive titles. It's possible to launch in the original Japanese version or the English, and there's also the self-explanatory hi score mode, as well as caravan mode that tasks you with competing for scores earned within a five-minute period, without using saves, which seems a largely pointless feature to include, but it is there nonetheless. Scores from these modes can be posted in online leagues, but there's no online competitive mode to speak of, which fans no doubt will have dreamed of.

That, like many other retro offerings brought to the Nintendo eShop, represents the largest disappointment in this re-release. It really doesn't seem like there's any good reason why an online multiplayer mode could not have been included, especially since this would enhance the overall experience significantly. Had that been included - particularly at this price or even with a reasonable increase - it would have been impossible not to recommend this game, regardless of genre preference, particularly since it is such an outlandish experience. It's quite a nice introductory 2D fighter to help gamers contextualise the genre from that time, even if it's achieved via what this fighter experience does differently.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Waku Waku 7 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Overall, Waku Waku 7 is an almost perfect port, which more than successfully transmits the spirit of the original arcade hit. While it does lack an extra layer of effort, which would elevate this piece of content amongst some of the best on the eShop today, this is still a captivating and unique experience that is well worth checking out regardless of experience with the genre. Avid fighter fans will find something nostalgic and refreshing about it, even today, and those with no prior experience will still find something unique and memorable at the heart of this retro beat-em-up. This is definitely one of the more exciting offerings from the ACA NeoGeo range.

Developer

SNK Playmore

Publisher

Hamster

Genre

Fighting

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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