Reality Fighters

Reality Bites

Reality Fighters proves to be so troubled that even Mr. Miyagi himself is at a loss to save it.
Author: Vincent Ingenito
Published: April 7, 2012
When developers try to incorporate new kinds of tech into their games, results tend to be a mixed bag. Remember the full motion video craze around the mid 90's? It gave us games like Night Trap, Sewer Shark and Ground Zero Texas, each one worse than the last. They were all horrible messes of games. Heck, they were barely even “games” at all. They were tech demos - software endoskeletons with synthetic game skins gruesomely stretched over them. Fortunately, developers realized that such cheap parlor tricks would only make them so much easy money, and the FMV genre died a well deserved death. But there will always be new forms of technological gimmickry, and as such, we will have to suffer through the gaming schlock they inevitably hoist forth. Augmented Reality (AR) seems to be the new ringleader of cheap thrills, and Reality Fighters doesn't do much to convince me that AR is anything more that the latest short lived, forgettable side show of the video game world.


Reality Fighters is a one on one 2D fighting game in the same vein as Street Fighter or King of Fighters, only with an eighth of the depth and even less of the fun. Unlike other fighting games however, the game heavily emphasizes customization, encouraging you to literally put yourself in the game and then use the front facing camera of the Vita to set your surroundings as the backdrop to the action. For a moment, let's perish the thought that no one outside of a toddler would find such a novelty amusing for more than five minutes. Let us instead assume that this would be an enthralling experience so long as it were well executed. Reality Fighters would still have no leg to stand on because it begins mucking up its one novelty right from the word “go”.

The very first thing the game has you do is create your character, who is for all intents and purposes supposed to be you. The problem is that the creation options are so limited that you can hardly put together an interesting avatar, let alone one that looks anything like yourself. You can use the Vita's cameras to scan your face into the game, which works well enough, but the choices beyond that are scarce to say the least. You get a simple skinny/fat, strong/weak slider for your body, no height control of any sort, and a handful of tops and bottoms to dress yourself with. You can pick a hair style, but for some odd reason you can't specify a color. Worst of all is that the game dangles tons more selections for each category right in front of you, but the only way to unlock them is by playing countless matches and earning the points to do so. This even extends to your selection of fighting style, which is initially limited to a paltry 4. So essentially, in order to customize my character in this game about customizing my character, I have to play and beat the game several times before I can truly customize them the way I want?

This would make a lot more sense if I were unlocking new powers or upgrades, but all I want is a damn shirt to go with the one pair of jeans I actually liked. Granted, the game claims that different bits of clothing give you stat boosts, an idea that sounds like it has a lot of potential, but to have such limited cosmetic selection in a game whose main selling point is supposed to be the character creation is absurd. And as for the stat boosts from different outfits...lets just say I had trouble seeing any difference in how my character performed. What's more, the game doesn't even show you what stats will be affected by what pieces of clothing, leaving you to buy them blindly and try them on to see if it makes a difference. It's an altogether sloppy implementation of a system that needed to be the bread and butter of the game.

And yes, it becomes very clear as soon as you start actually playing it, that Reality Fighters' only redeeming value was to be the character creation. As a fighting game, it fails on every conceivable level from its basic playability to its limited depth and shoddy mechanics. This is where the final piece of the AR puzzle enters stage left, stumbles over its shoelaces and belly flops into the audience. At the start of the match you can either use an augmented reality background, using an AR card as the reference point, or choose to fight on one of several static backgrounds. Regardless of what you decide, the camera perspective will only follow the movements you make with the Vita itself. So to be clear, if your character moves all the way to the left side of the stage, you won't be able to see them unless you physically rotate the entire system to the left. In fact, depending on how you orient yourself at the start of the match, you may get locked into a camera angle that makes following the action all but impossible. One time I even managed to get a tight, top down view. Yes, a top down view in a fighting game. Imagine playing Mortal Kombat from a Gauntlet perspective and you're starting to get the picture. You can't even reset the camera during a match, instead you have to back out to the menu and start a new one. How a game can reach store shelves in this state honestly baffles me.

Equally confounding are the game's actual fighting mechanics, which aside from being understandably simplistic, are quite frankly, broken. Block stun is unbelievable in Reality Fighters. Not only is it impossible to punish after blocking a special move, but your liable to get thrown if you do anything but jump afterward. Collision detection is all over the place too, as moves often miss at point blank range, going straight through the opponent as if they had no hurtbox for a moment. None of this really matters though since the AI has no idea how to handle being knocked down. Land a sweep and the round is effectively over. You can simply do any meaty attack you'd like on their wakeup to knock them back down until they are KO'd. The character designs drive home the final nail in Reality Fighters' coffin. This cast is stacked from top to bottom with some the most literal, straightforward, and downright uninspired pugilists ever to grace a fighting game. My that boxer sure does...uh...box! And that cowboy certainly can “yeehaw” with the best of them. /eye roll. These parts all come together to form an experience that I simply cannot imagine anyone enjoying. Not even the disembodied head of Pat Morita could make this game bearable, but don't worry, that doesn't stop him from trying! Yes, really.

Sometimes, a game starts out as a good idea, but just can't execute well enough to get off the ground. This isn't one of those times. Reality Fighters was, I am convinced, a bad idea right from the drawing board. Poor execution only made it worse. Even had everything gone to plan, AR has absolutely nothing of value to offer the fighting genre, and in this case has only taken away from it. It isn't surprising or even very off putting that it fails so badly as a fighting game. That was to be expected, as there are few companies, if any at this point, who can enter the genre successfully without significant prior experience. But the true failing of Reality Fighters is in how it incompetently bungles its chance to at least be a fun, if disposable piece of gimmicky entertainment. With a handcuffed, watered down character creator, and an augmented reality element that makes the actual fighting near unplayable, Reality Fighters will only be remembered as another failed attempt to contort new technology into a gaming experience, assuming it is indeed remembered at all.
The Verdict
2.5

Reality Fighters is an unmitigated disaster. It begins with a questionable concept and meets a fiery, disastrous end at the hands of poorly implemented AR and botched fighting mechanics. If you are looking for proof that AR is the future, look on.

3.0Graphics:

Low fidelity special effects, horrible looking static backgrounds, and some of the poorest looking characters seen in the fighting genre in some time combine forces to make Reality Fighters look like a low grade PSP title.

3.5Sound:

Tinny, dull sound effects play against an excruciating pop/vocal soundtrack like nails on a chalkboard. Jim Ward does the voice of Miyagi Sensei servicably, lending the game what little character it has.

2.0Control:

Button response is fine, but the fact that you must constantly struggle with the Vita itself just to keep your character in view is unacceptable. In some cases, it's impossible to get the action centered on the screen.

3.0Gameplay:

Inordinate amounts of block stun keep combat from flowing as it should, while the terrible hit detection and computer AI suck any chance for fun right out.