We’ve been through a lot with Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm. From the genesis of the beast, to the crowdfunding hype, to the whole indiegogo fund embargo, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotion for Yatagarasu fans. What matters though, is that it’s made it through to the other side and we can now get our teeth into it.

So, total disclosure – I’ve been working on this review since launch because it’s quite a tough game to rate. In short, it’s the weirdest blend of incomplete yet perfect that you can imagine.

The fighting is razor sharp and, for a 24/7 fighter fan, that’s all that a lot of people are going to care about, especially at the top level.

A lot of gamers and reviewers are making the obvious comparisons between 98/2002 Kof and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, but I feel it’s more like a combination between KoF’s unspoken cousin, Garou:MotW with smatterings of an early Samurai Shodown title. There is a lean towards big juggles and weapon-enhanced pokes that I haven’t felt in a long time and the polar differences between L and H normals and specials means that the art of constructing a decent combo will literally keep you up at night.

Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm delayed until fall

The character selection is sparse, but mechanically the range features something for everyone, even mix-charge fans like myself. Furthermore, despite the complaints I’ve seen online, my cheap, fake, Chinese fightpad hooked up automatically, as did my notoriously PC-unfriendly RAP VX-SA fightstick – something that some fancier PC fighters have struggled with.

The hitboxes are tight and tidy, which again separates it from its KoF siblings, and it means that you’ll often find yourself trading and, as a result, relearning trade-tactics, even at a low level. Other nice features include KD recovery and the much desired KoF hop options. There’s 2 buttons dedicated to the game’s Third Strike inspired parry system, which I feel would have been more valuable as a direct rip-off – utilizing the forward & aggressive crouch positions like its origin. As buttons, it just feels a little detached, but it’s still an appreciated feature that forces you to bet on your reads.

In-fact, with the ranged pokes, the parries and the KD recoveries, its fair to say that they’ve really captured that old-school “reads” mentality. Every throw, every hop, every meaty is a solid statement that you know the fight better than your opponent – something that’s missing or diluted in modern fighters.

Next up, the online is pretty slick. Despite lacking its previously promised GGPO inclusion (still allegedly on the dev roadmap), I’ve been getting some pretty great, seamless fights in, with only the occasional “underwater” match occurring. Furthermore, you can view pings, adjust frame delays and mess around with a bunch of other stuff to customize your online experience for the better.

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Another good sign of a thoughtful online mode is the ability to dip into practice mode without leaving a lobby, so you can work on those special cancels between bouts.

So, as an exercise in making a perfect fighting game, there you have it – Yatagarasu AoC is about as good as it gets. It takes inspiration from the greats, melds them together and comes out with something that’s nostalgic yet new, punishing yet rewarding.

However, that’s coming from the perspective of somebody who cut their adult fighting teeth on the alpha series and Third Strike.

Mechanically, Yatagarasu is all there, and that’s all that matters to me, but if you put it up against almost any other fighter, the presentation of the entire thing is pretty jarring. From the minute you hit play it feels like you’re in some kind of debug mode on an arcade cabinet, with a range of options and essentially dipswitch functions being the first thing you come into contact with.

The menus and in-game navigation is also pretty funky and learning your way around training mode options and the two different, but never explained, arcade modes may leave the casual fighter fans and the capital G gamers yearning for a more polished experience.

Personally, I like it and see it as another shoutout to the kind of player that knows the smell of burning silicone on a CPSII board, but it’s not something for everyone.

Likewise, the characters are almost at a Mortal Kombat level of pallete swappy (and a little goofy), but their styles are unique, they match up nicely with their movements and the hitboxes and hurtboxes are all in the right places, so the game exercises as a great fighter, regardless of how creative the character design is.

There are some nice, thoughtful design features in among the rough bits, like the assist commentary and the Samurai Shodown style hype-factory of an announcer, that will keep putting a smile on your face throughout with their comedy one liners and old school Akihabaran hatred towards throw tactics.

Jumping straight into this game, guns blazing, it took no time at all to find a few links and combos with some bite, with the standard KoF build of jump in heavy, crouchy-standy mix-up into a special/overhead. Specials can often beautifully cancel into other specials, but there’s no meterburn or drive cancel cost to do it, which will undoubtedly lead to some awesome acrobatics when Yatagarasu picks up competitively.

My verdict here, despite its presentation, is that Yatagarasu is a top tier fighter. If you’re begging for a new era of Third Strike and the like, this could be it. It keeps that old techy stuff alive, it’s a future classic, it’s both beauty and the beast. Just make sure to look for the diamond beyond all that mud.