Through PC development tools such as MUGEN and Fighter Maker, from time to time we see some pretty amazing homebrewed fighters. The flavor of the moment, hailing out of Japan and getting a ton of recognition, is ヴァンガードプリンセス, or Vanguard Princess if you’re more apt to the English tongue. The game is credited to Sugeno Tomoaki, rumored to be an ex-employee of Capcom, and features a unique setup for 2D fighters, but, best of all, the game is completely free for your PC.
At face value, the game appears to be a run-of-the-mill doujinshi (self-published) moe (showing strong interest in a particular type of character) fighter, featuring a cast of 10 selectable female brawlers that feature a range of fighting styles, weapons and techniques. Of course, as is typical with some fighters of this nature, the title is ripe with schoolgirl skirts, revealing clothing and panty shots, however, this hook doesn’t hide horrible gameplay. The title is set up similar to an SNK fighter or, more appropriately, Arcana Heart, with a four-button scheme. Three buttons serve as attacks ranging from light to heavy, but the fourth button activates one of four support characters that follow your character around during the fight and provides the game’s mechanic of “2 on 2” fighting.
Players can choose from four different support characters (although in versus mode, lucky players can hit a hidden fifth support through the random roulette wheel), which offer up a number of different techniques. The magical brush-wielding Kanae is a versatile support with a few unblockable moves and a spell that can slowly drain away at an opponent’s special move meter, the cybernetic Shiera uses firepower and shields to launch long-range attacks and open up combo opportunities, the spunky fighter Eko is a very popular choice due to her ability to stun and elongate combos and juggles and the maid-like Juliet is a slow, but very powerful physical attack assist that uses a spiked flail to punish advancing opponents. Every support character also has a defensive stance that negates projectiles and attacks from the opposing player’s support and a proper balance of defense and offense is needed since if the main character is hit while a support technique is being executed, they will lose the ability to use support techniques for a short time. Since the support characters play such a large role in opening and extending attack opportunities as well as defending the player against certain attacks, knowing how to properly manage your support will very well determine how successful you are in Vanguard Princess.
The main characters also sport a rich variety as while you’ll have the typical sword-wielding school girls and tonfa-carrying cheerleaders, Vanguard Princess also features the barely-clothed Luna who chain fights with pistols and variety of different stances that make her a challenging character to learn, the child Lilith carries around a Teddy Bear but also sports a wide variety of professional wrestling maneuvers, Kurumi has the strange ability to merge with her support characters, Ayane is an archer who lost an eye during training and, of course, you’ll have your assassins and secret agents mixed in here and there too.
Much like many other Japanese-develop fighters similar to Vanguard Princess, the title features a very versatile and robust combo system that is pushed even further for players that can grasp the concept of having the support characters. Unfortunately, many of the videos you’ll see online are captured from the original release, but a quick patch to version 1.01 removes many of the infinites and stun combos that players will find in FAQs. Many of the combos still work, however, they are nerfed to not stun within a single combo and some of the biggest nerfs include Eri’s inability to combo her Smash Bees special from a standing medium attack. Still, players will be able to piece together some impressive strings and some of the corner combos that involve super moves can whittle away more than half an opponent’s life meter.
If you’re a fan of 2D fighting games, you can’t pass this one up as the gameplay is pretty fresh and the animation, graphics and sound are extremely top-notch. You can grab the game from Sugeno’s Web site for free and enjoy the bliss of schoolgirls beating the crap out of each other from the comfort of your own computer. Players up to downloading the game should know, however, there may be some Unicode issues stemming from the Japanese format, especially in Microsoft Windows Vista. Luckily for you, we won’t just throw out a link for you and not tell you how to get the program working unlike those other sites.
If you open the .exe application and the program box immediately closes, start with these steps: 1) Open vanpri program folder 2) Open ヴァンガードプリンセス (Vanguard Princess) folder 3) Locate the ヴァンガードプリンセス.exe and ヴァンガードプリンセス.kgt files 4) Rename the files as vanguardprincess.exe and vanguardprincess.kgt (really, it doesn’t matter what you name these as long as they are named identically and you keep the exe and kgt extensions)
Sometimes just renaming the files will work for people, but, sometimes that won’t be enough because of Unicode. You can just alter the settings for it using Windows, but if you’re coming here for help, odds are, you’re not comfortable in messing with those settings. Fear not because a simple program from Microsoft will allow you to adjust the settings on a per program basis.
1) Download the Microsoft AppLocale Utility – http://www.microsoft.com/DOWNLOADS/details.aspx?familyid=8C4E8E0D-45D1-4D9B-B7C0-8430C1AC89AB&displaylang=en 2) Install the application 3) Open AppLocale 4) Select “Launch an application” and browse for the vanguardprincess.exe application (or whatever you named it earlier) 5) Change the language of the application to Japanese (日本語) 6) From the next step, you can create a permanent AppLocale shortcut for the program, which is initially stored in your AppLocale program folder 7) Run the program from your AppLocale shortcut and enjoy!
Just to make you jump through an extra hoop, sometimes the AppLocale Utility will spout an error dealing with user account controls prohibiting the action. If you get this message, do the following and then re-launch the utility: 1) Click on the start menu on your desktop and select control panel 2) Go into user accounts 3) Click on Turn User Account Control on or off 4) Untick the “Use User Account Control …” box 5) Click OK
You can enter a training mode by starting up a versus match like you normally would with a second player, but when the match is starting, type “P” then “E” on your keyboard. You’ll notice the HUD change to reflect training mode conditions.
If you want to soft reset the game, pause the game and press your A,B and C attack buttons at the same time.
Your Vanguard Princess program folder will have a manual (マニュアル) folder inside of it that contains a command list card if you need to reference special and super moves outside of the single-player character selection screen.
Learn to use the reflect stance (A+B) to defend against attacks. The stance works similar to parries from Street Fighter III – if you use the stance as an opponent hits you, you block the attack but immediately cancel your character’s block animation in order to counter.
Make sure you practice using your support characters as well. Each support has four attacks – neutral + D, forward + D, down +D and down-forward + D – as well as a proxy guard – back + D. Each attack requires a specific amount from the support gauge and it is crucial to learn how to pay attention to not only the main characters, but also to what the support characters are doing.
The secret support character used in versus mode is Hilda, the game’s final boss. While Hilda doesn’t do anything directly, she will command her two support characters to perform the support techniques players see when they fight her in the story mode. While selecting your character and support, put your cursor on the character you want to choose and use the random select function (move left while on Kanae or right while on Juliet). Occasionally, you’ll see a shadowy support character and the goal is to press a button to select the character as the figure appears onscreen. It will take a lot of luck and timing to get this right, but Hilda has her share of devastating support techniques.