Review - Ultra Vortek
Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:40 am
Saying that Ultra Vortek is the best fighting game on the Jaguar would actually be a back handed compliment (Kasumi Ninja and Fight for Life offer little in the way of competition ) and I would hardly want to insult this game, as I enjoy playing it. So instead I’ll say that Ultra Vortek is a solid fighter by any measure. Even though it has shortcomings I find it fairly easy to overlook what its lacking. When push comes to shove, the determining factor of a game's worth for me, and surely many others, is if it is fun or not. This game is fun.
Ultra Vortek borrows heavily from other fighters, mainly Mortal Kombat. I won’t go into all the similarities, but I will say that if you are going to copy a popular franchise you better do it reasonably well. Thankfully Ultra Vortek does. In fact, in several ways I think its superior to MK.
Let me explain that last statement, by saying that I mainly refer to the cast of Ultra Vortek. With just 7 to choose from, this admittedly could be considered a weakness. But I’ve always liked fighters that had unique characters as opposed to those that churn out more of the same Street Fighter rejects. Ultra Vortek’s fighters just seem to be fleshed out better than the bulk of MK's crew. This, of course, is purely my opinion and quite possibly will be scoffed at by some. But I really do like how the game has a mix of not just standard humans, but creative non humans as well.
The contestants from ‘The Society Of Machines, Androids, and Cyborgs’ (long name huh?) are the best in my opinion. Cool fighters with their mechanical looks and attacks, these robots are quite fun to battle with. Likewise, the ‘Powershifters' (shape shifters basically) offer some different fighting fare from the norm, and they are also fun to use in combat thanks to their diverse moves and fluid animations. Each group of characters even has a (*shock*) half way acceptable story to back up the fighting (although the main tale will make you roll your eyes ). Again, totally subjective worthy of mention.
Besides being unique, the fighters in Ultra Vortek look good. They are colorful, have interesting designs, and for the most part are animated pretty well. The same and can’t be said for the levels they fight on, at least not all of them. Some are too interesting for their own good, to the point of near distraction. (ex –The Stoned Poseidon with its variety of statues, and fish leaping from the water) Others are bland and uninspired (ex - The Shadow Zone … a lone brick wall is just plain lazy ) Several have elements of poor taste too, and I admit I did miss some of the more traditional locales found in other fighters. But still, despite not taking true advantage of the Jag’s hardware, Ultra Vortek is a good looking game overall.
My favorite backdrop is ‘The Land Of The Storm Bringer’. You fight on a mountain cliff as a purple sky rolls by in the background, a lighting storm taking place within. The skulls of strange animals hang above the archways looking out to the storm. And pillars on either side of the archways have ... moving eyes? Whatever, it is my favorite of a weaker bunch.
The music in this cart is predictable in that it’s pretty forgettable (a common occurrence on the Jag, sadly) but it does have strong sound effects. All the punches and kicks ring clear, and the announcer (though a bit cliched) is appropriately chilling. Even the fighters chime in with occasional speech. No need to hit the mute button on this one.
Ultra Vortek controls well, in spite of the Jag’s less than ideal standard controller (the pro pad is my choice … not that you need the extra buttons, but the d-pad just seems looser) You’ll never have to wrestle with the control pad or have the feeling that your commands are being ignored. The special moves hit the spot and are mostly easy to pick up, and there are level specific finishing moves too. I’m sure the latter will prompt repeated plays for many. Everything clicks so to speak, and it makes the game satisfying to play knowing that it controls very well. You can even configure the controls to your liking as it is included along with other options (eliminating blood, changing the time limit, etc…)
I will call out the game for a couple things, although not too much. I mentioned the bland shadow zone level earlier. Here, you fight the shadows of previously defeated foes. This is not only mid-numbing in my opinion, but it is a cheap way to make the game longer. No thank you.
The other knock is the games challenge. It is much too easy in its default mode. You’ll need to up the difficulty in the options or risk disappointment as you fly through the game with little trouble. Even the much touted end boss was cake. Ultra Vortek is just too easy.
However, bumping it up to hard should prove to be suitable for most, although it isn’t implemented as well as it could be. I like how the characters will use more special moves and all (it just makes sense) but I really don’t like the noticeable increase in their speed, or how my own attacks don’t seem to do as much damage (uppercuts often won’t result in sending opponents in the air) I also don’t like how I can continue to pull off the same specials over and over without the cpu reacting differently. Smarter AI would have been welcome. Oh well …
A clone fighter with a small cast, weak music, and too easy to boot … the faults are clearly out there. But it seems I just don’t care. The game is fun, pure and simple. And it is one that I can pick up and play often without it ever feeling stale. The replay is strong. Despite falling short in some respects, Ultra Vortek is a cart that pleasantly surprised me, and it may just surprise you too.