From the amazingly perverted mind of Kenichiro Takaki comes something that isn’t all about the ladies – on the surface at least. Uppers is a game about two best friends that end up on an island with some of the world’s best fighters, pitted in a perpetual battle… to impress those ladies the game doesn’t seem to be about. That’s right, even when almost all the playable characters are men the game is still all about the females; and let me tell you why that’s A-OK in my book.

Disclaimer: Being a Japanese language import title, I wasn’t able to glean the finer points of the story and ended up only catching bits and pieces. As such, this review will deal with the game from the perspective that aside from the basics I’ve got no idea about the story.

That said, the story was light on text – leading me to believe that it’s more of a tie-together than a large part of the game. Complimentary, the active gameplay seems like it’s where you’ll spend 90% or more of the game… so this game is one well suited for import despite the language barrier.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back into that review. πŸ˜‰

In Uppers, you’re put in the shoes of Ranma and Mitsuru – two childhood friends that have attained the status of local bad-asses. Together they end up on an island lovingly called “Last Resort,” having to tag-team battle their way through a slew of other fighters. That’s pretty much all we know about the story, which seems to be quite light in nature as – for the most part – it’s only a few lines at the beginning and end of each mission. The story isn’t what fuels this game though, as the gameplay is where it’s at.

In the beginning, you only have access to the two main characters and a very limited amount of missions. You’ll take on some enemies and learn how to play in the process, getting the confidence to move up in the world and maybe some stuff from the One Point clothing shop in the process. You’ll learn that the game is basically a 3D version of the classic side-scrolling game Double Dragon – putting you against enemies with some simple attacks and a swap mechanic. Where Uppers shines however, is in making the gameplay over-the-top; where Uppers shines is in embracing its simplicity.

Using the square button to deliver light attacks, the triangle button to deliver heavy attacks, the circle button to grab your opponent, and the left and right d-pad directions to swap between teammates, you’ll take on each level as a chance to beat the pulp out of a bunch of enemies. You’ll be able to unlock some extra power once you’ve built up your power meter, which can then be unleashed using down on the d-pad for some super button-mashing finishers.

Sometimes beating up all the enemies will lead to a stronger level boss (or Street King, if you will), which are tougher, more aggressive, and less prone to taking your beatings lying down than the others you’ll fight. That said, in the end they’re probably still no match for you what-so-ever…

That’s ’cause while Uppers is certainly a fun game that’s simple, it’s also quite easy. It wasn’t until the very final levels of the game that I started having trouble, and I played the entire game taking on both hard and normal difficulty missions. I wanted to experience the entirety of what was there, and in doing so I saw just how easy the game could be; very. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with the game, or that I wouldn’t go back and play it even once platinumed, ’cause I would – but it’s not as hard as I was expecting to say the least.

As I said though, it’s a fun game that’s simple – and where it shines is the ability to glean some difficulty from the challenges you’re given aside from just “beat the pulp out of your enemies.” With the help of some internet translation, or a translated guide (I haven’t found a good one yet), you’ll learn that each level has cheerleaders and each set of cheerleaders will have challenges you can complete to get a reward. The challenges they issue seem to be different depending on what cheerleaders you’re around and what difficulty you’re playing on, so obviously the point is to “impress” them all. Good luck without a guide!

Aside from the active gameplay bits and the cheerleaders, there are a few other elements that a player should be made aware of; like the mission select menu, your support queens, the gym you unlock later in the game, and the “Prime” menu.

The mission select menu is laid out like a map, with the player able to choose different locations based on what chapter they’re on and how far they’ve gotten in the game. There are also different levels of missions, with each endeavor offering the options of normal and hard. Personally, I think hard’s the way to go if you’re only going to play each level once… but at the same time I had a lot of fun playing them both. Being that the game isn’t overly long, and you’ll be needing lots of cash if you want to pick up all the costumes and upgrades, I recommend playing all the options you’re given.

Your support queens act like buffers between you and the act of failing. When you are beaten until your health bar reaches zero your support queen will “catch you” in a unique way, and power you back up for a bit of extra fighting with some renewed health. This isn’t a full revival though, as you’re left with only a partial health bar and no more “strikes” before you’re out. As for what happens if you get your health bar drained again, well… you get a nice view at least. πŸ˜‰

The “gym” you unlock part way through the game is a means by which you can power up your character, their abilities, and their move repertoire. Purchasing skills and upgrades at the gym will enable you to take on tougher enemies easier, though being that you don’t really have to grind for it (especially if you’re playing all options) makes it a bit moot in the end. They could’ve just as easily upped the power of your characters after a certain point in the game, but I suppose this way makes more sense as some levels (like the cage match one) require your character to be at a certain level before participating. This gives you more things to aim for, aside from just clothing at One Point.

The alley between the One Point clothing shop and the arcade holds the “Prime” menu which allows you to select your primary characters, check the status of your characters, view details on the revealed ladies, check the database (which includes experienced events), save the game, and of course change some configuration settings. It’s sort of like a progress hub for your characters instead of the levels you need to take on. I didn’t use it much myself, but I definitely see how it could come in handy – so it’s worth checking out if you get the game yourself.

As for the presentation you’re offered with Uppers, it’s no less than stellar… aside from a few slowdowns in high-action sequences. The characters look crisp, the motions are swift but fluid, and there are flourishes everywhere; what’s not to love, right? Kenichiro Takaki and his team have definitely got skills when it comes to visuals on Vita, and Uppers is a perfect example of that.

Looking to the audio, there’s some edgy guitar riffs that are both hype-inducing and non-obtrusive, tons of quality sound effects, and even some decently acted Japanese voice-overs. All of the sound cues are completely on point, and you really couldn’t ask for too much more; there’s even a music menu for listening to the tracks at your leisure. If you’re in this one for the audio, then you won’t likely be disappointed.

As I come to the end of my playtime with Uppers, the verdict seems to be that the game is repetitive but strangely addictive. Despite the implied language barrier, you’ll find yourself wanting to up your ratings, unlock more content, and conquer hard mode before long; drawn in by the 3D Double Dragon feel of it, and hooked by both the spectacular finishes and fanservice-friendly ladies. There are other beat ’em up action games out there, but Uppers makes you feel like part of the best action movie ever – one you can act out however you want.

How many people want to kick some ass? I do, I do!

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This review was sponsored by Play-Asia, who kindly provided the import copy for us to review. If you like the look of Uppers we suggest you give them a visit – both because they’re a quality import dealer, as well as because they’ve been kind enough to help us out!

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Presentation
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
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Kyle Wakeling is the Editor in Chief and Jack of all trades here at The Vita Lounge. A long time gamer and aspiring writer, he's just hoping to spread the word of PlayStation Vita to the darkest corners of the internet - and beyond.
  • Will E Alsobrook

    I’ve actually been playing it as well..it’s so hard to find a good translation site, I almost wanna get another vita just so I can hack it and get the partial English patch that’s floating around..I want to do it with my primary..but I worry it’d wreck my system..still only in chapter 3 but fun game

  • MrBBB

    HA why am I not surprised you would review this game Kyle πŸ™‚ I have this on the way via Amazon.com and I also love playasia, I have Hollow Realization physical on the way from them too.

  • cannedpete

    Any hope for localization?

    • At this point I’m leaning towards no.

      • Will E Alsobrook

        Yea, I tweeted at marvelous on both either an English translation patch at least, or a localization, and they snuffed me on both, that’s so teasing since the achievement s are in english

  • James Preen

    Brilliant fun game I got this on release and loved it; it’s a shame the game was a little too easy but it was so much fun!

  • moreover

    Hopefully PQube will soon pick this one up just like they did with VD. They don’t really have any reason not to and achievements are already translated if it’s of any indication.

    • The Atom

      Don’t bet on it, actually. PQube didn’t pick up VD, it kind of went the other way around. PQube was hired, basically, to localize VD.

      • moreover

        I’m not sure where this information is from but:
        1) either way nothing stops them to be hired again if XSEED are busy;
        2) VD sold quite well for a vita game being the top selling PQube game on both their site and Amazon for quite a while, also selling out LEs faster than any other PQube game.
        3) Takaki himself expressed full support for the localization of Uppers and even once mentioned on his twitter in the middle of 2016 that he’s “actively working to make it happen”

        So… I kinda don’t get where all these doom and gloom are coming from.

        • Unlike Valkyrie Drive, Uppers has no driving force around it. VD has an anime to give it a presence before localization (many people watch anime, even before it’s officially localized) while Uppers has literally nothing. IIRC it hasn’t sold well so far either, which always bodes badly for whether a title will be localized. There are many reasons this one isn’t likely to be picked up, despite the people behind it wanting it to happen.

          Localization is a business, and if the title’s not immediately viable then it isn’t likely to be localized. Not saying it’s not going to happen, but looking at it from a logical perspective it’s definitely not the “lock” you’re making it out to be.

          • moreover

            Sure, it’s not a lock but by all signs the chances are lot higher than “most likely not”. As XSEED staff often mentions, viability is rarely that big of a hurdle nowadays, when you can easily port a game on PC if something goes wrong with the console release, the main thing is for the parties involved to want it to happen.

          • The Atom

            Viability is meant as financial viability right?

            Please link me to a source where XSeed says they don’t care about that…

          • moreover

            I never said they “didn’t care”, I pretty much said “thanks to pc nowadays it’s not as hard as before to break even so being vita-exclusive won’t hinder its chances in any way”. Of course they wouldn’t localize a deliberately dead game but Uppers is as far from that as you can get, even simply being by Takaki easily helps it to avoid a fate of being hopeless. Not exactly the post I was looking for but still works as a relative example.

            http://www.xseedgames.com/forum/index.php?threads/valkyrie-drive-bhikkhuni-psvita.28071/page-7#post-926274

            >It’s been determined that the game wouldn’t sell well enough to justify the cost we’d have to put into it. This, I think, is where the “XSEED has given up on Vita-exclusive games” point of view stems from — but rest assured, a game being Vita-exclusive isn’t nearly enough to preclude it from being a viable business venture. We’ve had a lot of luck with Vita games to date, and the Vita install base is certainly big enough to support the kinds of numbers we need to survive. A game’s platforms of availability certainly do factor into our decisions on these sorts of matters, but it’s rarely the deciding factor — especially in this day and age where porting games to PC is almost always a viable option, given enough time and budget.

          • The Atom

            That really just means that Vita exclusives aren’t dead by definition, and Takaki’s name didn’t save it in Japan either.

            In my opinion, the combat system looks boring and repetitive, the characters have little unique fighting styles, and you mostly play missions with the two main characters anyway. There’s no challenge besides your patience defeating waves and waves of enemies in the bonus survival missions. The animation looks wonky and Daidouji looks horrific.

            By comparision, VD looks absolutely gorgeous with smooth animation, flashy and colorful special effects, an interesting story to tell with well-developed (admittedly, purposely left ambiguous) characters that undergo interesting changes. Beyond that, though not hard, it definitely held a challenge at times and it had an incredible in-depth combo system reminiscent of Blazblue at times.

            I’m not saying it won’t happen, but next to the points Kyle mentioned (VD’s anime is getting a dub even), VD has so much more going for it…

            Difficulty, depth and visual polishing could’ve made this a hit, but that requires budget they probably didn’t have….

          • moreover

            Japan is a different market, as I already mentioned, they are much more dependent on the “cute girls”, while Uppers might even be in a winning position in that regard in the west. Not to mention that VD anime is horrendous, I don’t know a single person who liked it, almost anything can get a dub nowadays.

            And you are too hard on Uppers, it’s simply different from the rest of Takaki games. There are only a few English reviews but most enjoyed it more than VD. Like this guy, for example.
            https://youtu.be/e1GcO4hVjJE

          • The Atom

            I’m really just going by my what I’ve seen from gameplay and a few personal opinions and this review here. Despite it getting a good rating, thinking of the positives and negatives mentioned here, I personally am not interested the slightest bit… But hey, it’s all up to personal preference of course.

        • The Atom

          I guess the fact that it initially got delayed in Japan due to low preorders is not very inviting for localisation teams, but of course it may just happen.

          • moreover

            Localization teams don’t really care about japanese pre-orders, it’s a completely different market here.

          • The Atom

            Don’t care seems like an overstatement, but sure, the markets differ. And PQube has given reason to think they may be localizing this via their twitter.

            I meant that also as a sign of quality of the game though

          • moreover

            Sales are rarely a sign of the quality of the game though and Uppers is considered way better than VD by most accounts. I’m just saying that the idea of “hey, we will never see the localization if it sells badly in Japan” shouldn’t be used the main point of the conversation, it has been proven untrue way too many times. Hell, we’ve even seen the localization of Lost Dimension and now that was a failure of the century sales-wise in Japan.

          • The Atom

            Fair enough, fair enough. Lost Dimension was awesome too.
            Not sure by which accounts but this positive review doesn’t make me excited…

      • Will E Alsobrook

        Pqube said they aren’t at the moment

  • Lester Paredes

    Awesome game. I just got it myself last week and have been enjoying it. Still hoping for a localization, as that’s what usually happens after I import a game, but it’s looking less and less likely.

  • The Atom

    It’s amazing how upon reading a review, I can see many of the author’s points, and then be incredibly surprised by how high the grade ends up being.

    Also one thing I seem to notice in every gameplay video is how incredbily SLOW everything looks, compared to SK and VD… Can anyone show me something different, or is that really it?

    • It’s not a musou style (fast, sweeping action moves) game – as I say in the review is more akin to a 3D Double Dragon (which isn’t very fast-paced).

      • The Atom

        Not familiar personally, but that could explain it. Perhaps that’s just not for me then.

        Well written review though!

  • Andromeda

    This actually looks like something I would play and enjoy. But its an import, so sadly I wont be getting it anytime soon.

  • Kaboom

    Hoping for a translation, one of these days. And hey, if it works out, they already got quite a few buyers.