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by Capcom

rancopy.gif (6502 bytes)Those of you familiar with Capcom’s Rival Schools on the PlayStation know that it came seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the most creative and fun fighting games on the system. The much delayed sequel, Project Justice, has finally made its way to the U.S. It seems fitting somehow that in the twilight hour of the Dreamcast it still effortlessly dominates the competition by delivering the highest quality fighting games available, due in large part to Capcom’s tremendous support. It’s like I’ve always said; you can always count on Capcom to deliver the goods.

10201-11-2-01.jpg (8310 bytes)And Project Justice is, of course, no exception. To the contrary, Project Justice epitomizes the Capcom style, capturing the anime flare, flavor and over-the-top hyperactive action and weaving it into a game that reminds us of all the great Capcom fighters we have seen over the years, while still managing to stand out as a wholly unique game.

10201-8-2-01.jpg (8344 bytes)The story begins one year after Rival Schools. A series of unexplained conflicts threatens to spiral out of control and send our group of heroes and heroines into oblivion. Your job, no matter which school you choose, is to unravel the mystery and save the day. This mystery can be solved in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, providing beatdowns, smackdowns, brutal pummelings, or ass-kickings. Whichever method you choose to unravel the subtleties of the mystery, the story will still be a hoot. There are various branching paths to choose from, depending on which fighter you choose in a particular battle, and new characters can be unlocked in this way. All roads lead to the same confrontation in the end: a mean, mean, demon with a bad attitude and a mean streak. On the down side, none of the dialog in any part of the game has been translated, and the subtitles are rough and unpolished. Yet even this seems somehow to work for Project Justice, giving it a nostalgic, genuine feel full of comic relief and the knowledge that the story can't possibly be taken too seriously.

scrn03-01.jpg (8792 bytes)Let’s face it. Fighting games are about skill, competition, and copious amounts of fun. The story is there to add cohesion to the game modes and give an easy excuse for a sequel. Even Soul Calibur’s much lauded story mode is more accurately described as a sequence of incredibly well designed mini-games separated by a paragraph or two of inane text. The most enjoyable story ever written in a fighting game has to be from Dead or Alive 2, where the absolute absurdity of the incomprehensible text brought me much laughter and more enjoyment than any number of Mortal Kombats or Street Fighter Alpha 2nd Chance Turbo Remix 3’s. My point here, and I am going to arrive at one, is that I am willing to look past story/translation issues if the gameplay is there.

scrn05-01.jpg (9900 bytes)And the gameplay is there. At the beginning of the game you choose three fighters. One primary fighter and two support fighters that can be called in to provide various attacks on your enemy, or help you out with healing or filling your power gauge. While tagging in a partner to perform a special attack, the opponent may also tag in a partner to stop your partner. The two secondary characters duke it out, and the first one to land a blow wins. If your character wins, the special attack goes off as normal. If the opponent wins then the attack has been successfully countered. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but it is a hell of a lot of fun moving at extreme speeds for fast paced anime style action. At the end of the round you can choose to stay with the character you have, or tag out with one of the two support characters.

scrn06-01.jpg (10143 bytes)As much fun as this all is, the real shinning light of Project Justice is found in its amazing characters. The initial line-up of twenty characters provides a masterful variety in speed, power, and size. What’s far more important is the variety in how the characters look and feel. Each of the seven schools has a different vibe to it. From the jocks who do combat with baseball bats and soccer balls to the deadly violin music of Yurika or the picture snapping journalist/warrior Ran, Project Justice is brimming with innovative, varied, and fun characters. This alone sets Project Justice well above the competition.

scrn01-01.jpg (10244 bytes)The control on Project Justice is very good as well. It takes a little getting used to, but ultimately the joystick on the Dreamcast controller becomes very intuitive and simple to manipulate. There are a variety of relatively standard patterns that reappear throughout the characters, so learning button and direction manipulation for special moves isn’t very difficult. However, given the huge variety in characters, each one performs a unique move and so the intricacies of each character must be mastered. The four basic buttons represent two punches and two kicks, while the two shoulder buttons represent a sidestep and a throw.

scrn04-01.jpg (10450 bytes)This looks to be a long dry summer for fighting games, especially for those poor souls without a Dreamcast. Project Justice is the relief you need to make it through the long months ahead. Frugal shopping will reveal many places retailing Project Justice for as little as $19.99, making it one of the best bargains ever and skyrocketing it to the top of my recommendations list. What’s more, Project Justice is one of the most creative fighting games around, and true fans of the genre will want to check it out. Project Justice is one of those rare games that succeeds in large part because it shows us something more and different, and in so doing it shows us what we didn’t even know we were missing.

Jeff Luther   (06/05/2001)

Snapshot

Ups: Great variety of characters; innovative moves; cool counter system; deep gameplay.

Downs: Mediocre graphics; thin storyline.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

 


1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine