Developed By: QUByte Interactive
Published By: QUByte Interactive
Category: Arcade, Action, Multiplayer, Fighting
Release Date: 11.27.18
Double Dragon. Streets of Rage. Scott Pilgrim. Beat-em-ups are a staple of gaming history and it’s fans are more than willing to put up a few bucks for another worthy entry in the genre’s ledger. The original release of 99Vidas was successfully crowdfunded by beat-em-up fans around the world, paving the way for 99Vidas Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch. It reminds me the most of Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game, both in terms of gameplay, character progression, and overall aesthetic. That’s a good thing in my book.
I got 99Vidas – Oh Wait No I Don’t the Evil Boss Stole It
Story has never been the strongest point of any brawler. While some have given us some memorable lines (“Welcome to die!”), the writing and narrative scale of beat-em-ups has always been pretty limited. 99Vidas is more of the same in that regard. An ancient artifact called 99Vidas has been stolen by the Evil Boss. That’s his only given name, to give you an idea of how deep the story gets. The guardians of the 99Vidas embark on a quest to beat up all his guys and get the 99Vidas back. That’s it. That’s the whole story. So, like I said, it’s pretty light. When there is dialogue, it’s fairly plain and mostly solely for the purpose of exposition. If you’re interested in games that challenge gaming narrative conventions, this ain’t the one.
Punch All The Guys
99Vidas Definitive Edition, like all brawlers, gives players one goal, and one goal only; beat everything to death. The basic gameplay is pretty similar to other beat-em-ups you may have played. You can punch, kick, jump, and walk around the screen. You can string punches and kicks together to create combos, you can double tap a directional button to run in that direction, and add an attack during the run to perform a running attack. The jump attacks are a little disappointing, as the jump kicks don’t really have the range of other games I have played, making them less useful for getting out of jams where enemies have you surrounded.
There are two types of special attacks; one is activated by hitting jump and an attack button simultaneously. This special depletes your health bar, so it should really only be used when you’re surrounded or in otherwise serious trouble. The other special attack has its own button, and is related to the blue gauge under your health bar. There are two bars to this special, and the bars regenerate a little after you defeat a wave of enemies. A level one special hits every unit on the screen for a good amount of damage;even enough to one-hit kill lower-level foes. A level two special still hits everyone on screen, but it does way more damage; it essentially insta-kills everyone but the bosses.
Some People Make Good Decisions, Some… Don’t
Enemy AI is somewhat confusing; sometimes enemies use a very effective strategy of dividing themselves and surrounding you, while moving back out of your range if you attack them. Sometimes enemies just group together and run right at you then stand there while you punch them out. They would switch between these strategies on the same level, and on the same difficulty setting. It varied the difficulty of the game somewhat, which made it interesting sometimes but frustrating at others. Since the strategies didn’t seem limited to a certain type of unit, it was more difficult to identify a strategy to employ against each different type of units.
Furthermore, it didn’t really vary the gameplay enough; likemost beat-em-ups, the real problem is that the gameplay doesn’t really evolve over the course of the game. Combined with the lack of a deep narrative, there just isn’t much incentive to stay with the game for more than one playthrough. I mean, sure, there are unlockable characters and achievements, but different characters don’t really play that different and I’m not a chievo chaser. While I had fun at the start, after beating the game once, it felt less and less rewarding to go back and play again unless I had someone else to play with.
Levels have crates and/or barrels scattered throughout, and when you smash them they will drop items. There are weapons that you can pick up, food that will replenish your health, and game consoles that give a big point bonus. You also get points for beating up baddies. Between levels, you can spend these points to upgrade your combos or buy extra lives. It’s a little annoying that you can only access the store after beating a level. That means that if you’re having trouble with a level and want some extra lives, you pretty much just have to suck it up and plow through with what you’ve got. Plus, if you run out of lives you lose all the points you may have accumulated, so there’s no way to get more lives other than just starting the game all over again and buying more lives on the second playthrough. On the other hand, any combos you unlock are unlocked permanently across all game types, so you definitely will have more points to buy lives.
La Vida Local is Fine, But La Vida Online es Mejor
99Vidas Definitive Edition can be enjoyed by yourself of with friends. Both online and couch multiplayer are supported. I preferred playing with my buds, because I have friends, who said I don’t? Anyway, there are a few different game modes, but they’re all kind of the same mode, actually. Arcade and Story mode are the same thing, you just play through the levels in order. The only difference is that Story mode has some dialogue occasionally, whereas Arcade is action only. Remix mode is basically Arcade, except you play the levels in a random order. Versus is a little different; it’s a free-for-all battle between up to four players. Weapons randomly drop from the sky to make things more interesting. Finally, there is a survival mode where you face an endless wave of enemies. Versus requires at least two players, but all other modes support both single and multiple players.
I Miss the 80’s and 90’s Too
99Vidas Definitive Edition’s graphical style most reminds me of Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game. It has that modern retro flair to it; where everything is deliciously pixelly, but way more detailed than the actual 16-bit games to which it pays homage. The backgrounds in particular are fantastically detailed; the number of references to 80’s and90’s culture alone would be worth scouring the scenes to find, but there are a few original jokes that make their way in there that are clever independent of any nostalgia. The character models are more in line with what you would have seen on an SNES, but they’re still wonderfully sharp and smoothly animated.
The music consists of some up-tempo chiptunes jams, which jack up the excitement of the action to the next level. The music reused a lot of riffs in different tracks, which created a pretty cool thematic unity to the score, but also made it hard to pick a favorite. The sound design team gets extra points for adding low-fidelity grunts and groans from enemies when they get hit and die. 99Vidas’ art design is just on the ball all the way around.
99Vidas Definite Edition has no touch or motion controls, so you can play it docked or undocked according to your preference. The controls are simple enough to fit on one Joycon, so you don’t need to get any extra controllers to play it multiplayer. I liked the way it looked best on my TV, especially with more than one person playing, so I guess I’d give playing it docked a slight edge in my recommendations.
TL;DR: Solid, nostalgia-fueled beat-em-up that’s better with friends.