Have you ever been on the losing side of a bar fight? Your hands hurt. Your eyes hurt. It seems like hours have gone by when in fact only a few seconds have passed. And when you look at the mess that is your face, you ask yourself “How could THAT possibly be me??”
Welcome to Reality Fighters.
Reality Fighters was a launch window game for the PS Vita, and it came out at a time when augmented reality was going to be the next big thing in gaming. Much like 3D games on the PS3, it was a push to discover a new way to play, and just like 3D games, it never took off.
The promise of Reality Fighters is that it’s going to allow you to create a virtual avatar of yourself to be placed in the middle of a fighting game. The premise sounds interesting, but sadly the game fails on almost every one of these ideas.
The first thing you do in the game is create a fighter. The PS Vita will use either the front or back camera to take a picture of your face and place it on a fighter. The result is a hideous abomination that may (or may not) resemble you at all. But that’s nothing compared with the tools used to sculpt the body, which for me was off in every manner. There’s no option for “average” but rather very muscular or very fat.
A big feature is that you can customize your avatar in hundreds of different ways. There are a number of different clothing options you can unlock or purchase during the game that can make your fighter slightly better looking. It’s a lot like how LittleBigPlanet gives you a plethora of options in customizing your character to match your personality. It’s hit or miss since some of the clothes are genuinely cool while others are silly just for the sake of being silly.
Once you have selected a fighting style (choosing from a list that includes Boxer and Karate to absurd styles like Ballet or Disco) it’s time for the pain, I mean game, to start.
The Story Mode has the fighting master Mr. Miyagi (yes, from The Karate Kid) guiding you through fight after fight against a series of racially stereotyped fighters. Each fighter is so painfully horrible that I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief before each fight. The game tries to be funny. It tries to pass off an African-American break dancer or a German garbed in lederhosen as silly, but it’s just a little too over the top. All people from Bavaria are the size of mountains and dress like this? According to Mr Miyagi, yes. Ugh. To make matters worse, the fighters just look downright horrible.
It’s when the fighting starts that things generally fall apart. Each fight pits you against another fighter with a backdrop of your choosing. This might be one of the included panorama photographs, or you can choose to dust off the AR cards that came with your Vita and watch the fight take place on your kitchen table.
The main problem here is the camera. It uses the Vita’s motion sensors to make the screen act like a window that you peer through as though you’re viewing a real fight right in front of you. It’s a neat idea, but as the fighters move from left to right you have move the Vita to follow them. If you don’t, you lose vision of what’s going on. Or perhaps your arms get tired and you drop them somewhat. Suddenly your characters are off screen, nowhere to be seen. It also has a horrible tendency to be really jumpy. At times it gets so bad that it becomes almost impossible to even frame the fight correctly.
The controls also fall flat in a big way. Now I will be the first to admit that I’m not the best at fighting games, but it seems to me that when each fighter has over a dozen moves, you shouldn’t be able to just mash one button over and over and win every fight. That is exactly what happens in Reality Fighters. I never bothered learning all the available combos because I figured out pretty early on that if I just kept pushing square I could win every fight without ever getting touched. That takes away a lot of the fun in the game. I was able to play the “Survival” mode and make it to 42 victories using nothing but the square button. In the end, I only lost because I was too bored to keep going. The one nice touch is that you can actually use the touch screen to complete a number of the special moves (should you choose to even use them) and that makes it much easier than trying to manipulate the sticks in the correct patterns.
So the graphics are pretty bad, the controls are not very good, but what about the sound? That was actually one of the bright spots to the game. While there isn’t anything magical happening with the sound design, one of the neat features is that the game allows you to record your own voice to customize your fighter’s trash-talking lines. It always brought a smile to my face at the end of a match when my avatar would shout (in a muffled voice that vaguely resembled my own) “THAT’S WHAT YOU GET!!”
Perhaps the most redeeming bright spot to the game is the trophy list. While I wouldn’t recommend anyone put the time in for a Platinum, there are a number of Gold and Silver trophies that can be obtained relatively quickly with only a minimal amount of effort and a lot of button mashing (I recommend pressing square a lot). It seems like a generous trophy bounty is the game’s way of apologizing for getting so much of the other stuff wrong.
Reality Fighters is a game that should be applauded for its aspirations to create a new and unique experience that wouldn’t be possible on a traditional console, but that’s about it. Almost everything in this game is a train wreck, and while there’s something oddly appealing about staring at a disaster, it should probably just be avoided. The easy trophies make the pain somewhat more manageable, but there’s not a lot of joy in getting them. After a while it all becomes one boring, repetitive mess.
There are a lot of great games for the Vita, as well as a lot of good fighting games, but sadly Reality Fighters is neither.