PSP Review: Sunday X Magazine (JP)

There’s just something about a crossover game that gets the blood boiling. Marvel Vs. Capcom and Capcom Vs. SNK still stand as some of the most memorable fighting experiences, Super Smash Bros. still sells like hotcakes and who could forget when the Battletoads and Double Dragons settled the score with the Shadow Boss and Dark Queen? With a variety of series, though, licensing issues and unfamiliarity can make the journey to the United States next to, if not, impossible – Wai Wai World, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, Namco X Capcom, DreamMix TV: World Fighters, Jump Superstarsand more continue to pile up as import-only titles. Konami was the team behind two of the series mentioned in the previous sentence and the publisher returns to pay massive fan service in its newest PSP fighter, Sunday X Magazine Shuuketsu! Choujou Daikessen.

The premise behind the title is a familiar one, serving as the PSP’s answer to the blockbuster Jump Superstarsseries. Kessen is the Japanese word used to describe a decisive battle and the game is host to the decisive dream battle between two of Japan’s successful manga publications, Sunday Shounen and Shounen Weekly. As each publication celebrates its 50th anniversary, the two companies clash bringing together some of its most popular characters from current and past manga creations. While Shounen Jump houses most of the definitive names of anime and manga recognizable to U.S. audiences, Sunday and Shounen are no slouches, running manga series such as Air Gear, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Fairy Tale, Hajime no Ippo and Hayate the Combat Butler with each having a rich past of classic anime that includes known names like Cyborg 009, Devilman, Tiger Mask and Ashita no Joe. With such an appealing cast, manga and anime fans in the United States will no doubt want to jump at the chance to brawl with the likes of Inuyasha, but does the game play like a champ or buckle under the weight of so much promising content?

While nothing in-game suggests any sort of a story for Sunday X Magazine, who ever needed a reason to gather warriors together to beat the holy hell out of each other? The game opens with a very nice movie detailing all of the game’s characters, but, still, no real story elements are present. I couldn’t find anything that resembled a story in the game’s instruction booklet (although, bear with me as my kanji recognition is horrible), but one could maybe assume the warriors are called together to tackle the game’s quest mode to defeat the original creation, Boss. Fighters have customarily been thin on story and the collaboration may very well just be a 50th anniversary promotional effort, but, still even without the direction of a story, Konami manages to pack a lot into this portable.

As opposed to Superstars’ arena format, Sunday X Magazine opts for the tried and true one-on-one 2-D fighter mechanic. With the classic mechanic, the game features the standard arcade, versus and training modes one would expect to find in a fighter. While the title isn’t the first to offer up a feature in this vein, gamers also get to tackle a quest mode, which operates more like a linear brawler packed with waves of enemies. It’s unlikely U.S. gamers will find another PSP owner with the game in their library (hell, I can’t even run into someone who has even heard of the game around here), but in the even they do, the free battle versus mode allows for two players to fight via ad hoc and the quest modes allows a party of up to four players to tackle missions together. In all, the modes serve up a variety of action and provide a little more depth than the average fighter, with ad hoc features chalking on a little more fun for up to four players.

Being based off a visual art form, Sunday X Magazinehas a lot to live up to in the graphics department and, thankfully, Konami pulls off a visually appealing title thanks to the cell-shaded graphics the PSP makes possible. The menus are full of graphical touches such as the option to choose which manga character greets you at the main menu, animated borders and the characters portraits are huge and detailed in the style which the original creators of the manga intended them to be drawn. During matches, most of the varying backgrounds (based off each series represented in the game) are rich with graphical flare and animations that do not distract from the action. The characters themselves are decent in size and detail, however, the single biggest drawback in the graphical department is in the character animations. While the fights a bit fast-paced to make up for the shortcomings, it grossly becomes noticeable during the slow motion triggered by the final attack of a round and longtime players of fighting games might have to adjust a little bit. Aside from the shaky animation, which in itself doesn’t ruin the game, Sunday X Magazine is a very eye-catching title.

Thankfully, the title sounds just as good as it looks with full voice acting that accompanies all of the characters’ special moves, fighting intros and battle cries. U.S. gamers will be happy to know all of the menu selection voice work is in English as a female announcer calls out character names, selected game modes and the very good news of “battle character get!” after unlocking a character. The music is very appropriate according to the situation and provide a range of styles that reflect the current environment. Battle sounds feature your usual smacks and thuds and, overall, you just can’t go wrong with the title’s audio.

While nailing the presentation of a manga/anime license is critical, sometimes developers stop right there and fail to flesh out the game play. Many fighting purists are turned off by the simplicity of most of these titles meant to bring in the series’ casual fan base, but, thankfully, Sunday X Magazinelooks to please both crowds. When choosing a character, players can opt to use either simple mode or technical mode – simple mode plots a chain combo of strikes to the square button while mapping special moves to single presses of triangle, circle and triangle and circle at the same time. This gives beginners a way to jump straight into the game but fighting game pros will feel more at home with the technical mode’s spread of weak, medium and strong attacks and direction and button combinations to execute special moves. At the same time, eventually any beginner can look forward to graduating on to technical mode where the expansion in commands allows them double or even triple the length of their combos.

Aside from your standard mix of attacks and special moves, players also have super moves usable when they have the appropriate amount of super meter in stock, as well as a stock of support characters that can buffer the player, hinder the opponent or outright send out an attack. The X button allows players to execute evasion rolls or recover from the ground or mid-air and pressing both triggers activates an aura mode in exchange for one super meter level, boosting the abilities of the fighter for a short time. Overall, controlling the character isn’t overly complex and fighting game junkies should be able to dive right in with comfort as commands such as backstepping and blocking should be second nature.

Tackling the game’s modes and unlockables, on the surface there is a lot to do. There are about 80 new support characters to unlock, 18 characters and experience orbs earned in quest mode can be used to unlock new special and super moves for each character. If you rush through the game, it will still take an average player around 10 hours to complete the game 100 percent, but most should be able to squeeze 15-20 hours out of the game before everything is said and done. The downside to the girth of the unlocks, however, is in its execution as the player grinds through the same modes multiple times. The arcade mode has players running through seven fighters while the quest mode only features 13 short stages and unlocking the game’s material requires the player to jog through these modes multiple times. Most fighting fans should be used to the treatment, but, still the modes could have been fleshed out a lot more, especially since both modes offer no formal ending scene.

As stated earlier, the quest mode does grant players experience, which is used to purchase new moves, adding an extra dimension to the game. Each character can house one support character, three special moves and a super move and opening new moves allows the player to swap different maneuvers and level three ultra moves, into the character’s move set. This means even if two of the same character are going toe to toe, they can have different special and super move sets, creating even more variety among the 30 fighters. Experimenting with combinations just adds an extra element of replayability and if you have a friend to fight against, formulating combinations to best them heats up the versus mode even more.

That being said, the balance among special moves can be at some times questionable, especially among the magic users who tend to have really cheap long-range moves. On that same token, there are other special moves that hardly do any damage whatsoever. While for the most part things tend to be even across the board, there are same glaring instances where a move might not exactly seem fair, especially when simple mode allows players to spam a special move repeatedly with a single button press.

Being a 2-D fighter based off manga licenses, Sunday X Magazineisn’t exactly the most original game on the market, but it separates itself away from Superstars enough to warrant having both in your collection. Manga fans will no doubt go nuts over the prospect of having their favorite licenses duking it out against each other, but there is still appeal in the game for gamers just looking for a decent fighter on their PSP. Tackling the game is a healthy 15-hour ordeal and the multiplayer aspect offers both versus and cooperative play that can take the game beyond its single-player offerings. While the title isn’t the most solid fighter on the market, players will no doubt be glued to their PSP as they whittle through the game’s lengthy list of unlockables.

GemuBaka Final Review Score: 4 of 5

To sum Sunday X Magazine up, the title finally gives PSP owners a taste of the manga crossover action that they previously missed out on with the Nintendo DS’ Jump Superstars series. While the allure of playing as manga characters is the main ticket for the game, there is still a solid fighting game running underneath the hood. True to form with licensed games, the title has great presentation and the long list of unlockables and multiplayer sessions will have players glued to system. The premise isn’t wholly original, there are some animation issues during fights, the balance is slightly off at times and the replayability of the title feels forced, but anyone looking for a good import for the PSP can’t go wrong with Sunday X Magazine, especially those who are fans of manga and/or fighting.

The title is extremely import friendly as well as most of the menus feature icons that clearly indicate what the option is and the quest mode isn’t overly complicated. A good majority of items are featured in katakana, making them easy to translate. There’s nothing players shouldn’t be able to figure out with experimentation, however, we are also posting an FAQ for the title, which should answer any general questions site users may have in regard to the title.

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