Review: Asuka 120% Final

Game preservation is a contentious topic. Of course, the only people you find on the side against preservationists are the companies, who love their 90 year copyrights, on the off-chance they can make 5 bucks off something made in 1925. For now, it’s a legal gray area, because games are only 50 or 60 years old (or really, a black area, since copyright law doesn’t really make an exception just because you ‘want’ something you can’t buy). And the ones people want to preserve are only a couple decades old.

But more than that, there are games that come out on certain systems, or only in certain regions, which are hard to find or reproduce. Maybe a lot of these aren’t appealing anyway, or obscure enough that no one notices. But from a preservation perspective, those are the ones that need to be preserved the most. About every game collector probably has 10 Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridges, but there are other games that less than 5 copies have been found worldwide.

Asuka 120% Burning Fest. is a fighting game series with 11 games released in Japan - and none in America. Not a single port anywhere. Those 11 games are across various Japanese consoles and computers, and they’re relatively obscure by emulation standards. The latest in the series was Asuka 120% Burning Fest. Final for the PS1. The developer has since gone out of business, so any hopes of getting a new release (especially here) got turned into black hole spaghetti.

There is nothing else that plays quite like this game. You can cancel normals (that is, do another move in the middle of your normal punches and kicks), do huge rushing combos (regularly 7+, with an occasional 11), knock projectiles out of the air, do repeated EX moves (when your meter is at 120%), and more. It plays incredibly fast and is more frantic than almost all other fighting games. I would say all, but I’m going to weasel out of it just in case. Despite all that, you never feel out of control. But you’d better think and react fast.

It’s a 4 button game, and the move execution ceiling is pretty low. Dragon punch moves are done with down twice (instead of F-D-DF-F). Probably because that motion is just too long to work in this game. Matches are fast and hectic, but moves don’t do a lot of damage, so they can frequently be timeouts instead of KOs.

If you’ve never seen any of the series, check this video out for a gameplay sample. Warning: it’s a very Japanese game, character design-wise. I would say borderline-NSFW. No nudity (that I’ve seen), but I wouldn’t watch it at work. If you have a job. Who’s to say? No assumptions here.

Since the games are Japanese exclusive, and all for systems I don’t own (save the PS1), I’d never had a chance to play it. But after seeing footage of it (relatively recently), I knew I had to find a way. Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Japanese - and I’m not that guy that’s going to learn. So I didn’t know how to buy one, and I couldn’t find a copy to download. eBay searches didn’t turn up much. At least not that I was willing to shell out for. I’ve looked in uh, “game preservation” sites (like archive.org), but none of the Asuka 120% games are there that I can find.

Then I was watching a YouTube video (which I watch a lot of, because I don’t have a life), and the dudes in it brought up some Japanese sites that will import things for you by buying from Japanese auctions. But then, they went on to say that you can actually shop in English on Amazon Japan, and have things shipped to a U.S. address. Hey! I’ve got a U.S. address! It’s all mine, even! Finally, after literally an entire few minutes of searching, I found a way to import the game. (To do this yourself, click the “globe” icon next to Account & Lists, and change to EN.)

Of course, PS1 games are also region locked. So I’d need a Japanese PS1 to play it on. As it turns out, I happen to have one of those from about 18 years ago, and had just never imported Japanese games for it. Technically, a plastic container in my closet had it. So I logged onto Amazon JP, on the internet, and despite my buying about 5 packages a week from Amazon (I have a problem) (okay I don’t have a problem, I just don’t do shopping in physical stores anymore), it turns out that you need a separate Amazon JP account. So after much consternation (of setting up an account and entering a credit card and address - the horror), I found a copy for the incredibly reasonable-by-my-standards price of $35 USD, plus about $6 shipping.

So I ordered it. And it arrived about 3 days later. Now that’s good importin’.

jewel case and disc of Asuka 120% Burning Fest. Final

I took my PS1 out of carbonite and found a Dual Shock, composite cable, power cable, hooked it up to an HDMI converter, and I was in business. …And it looked like blurry crap. Turns out the PS1 looks terrible over composite, on an LCD monitor. Then, I realized I had the disc, so I could rip it and just play it in an emulator. That works a lot better.

So now I have exactly one Japanese PS1 game, and at least I know now where I can buy more. Not sure that there are any others I’ll go down this rabbit hole for, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve been wanting Famicom games for a long time too, and I’ve got a ReTRon 5 to play those on. Of course, I can’t name any Famicom games that I don’t have another way to play already.

Anyway, that’s the story. I would consider this an informal review. Review: it’s good. You should find a way to play it. Someone should also figure out who has the rights and port it to consoles in HD, and do an English translation so I know what in the world is going on. And, uhh, maybe get these girls some looser shirts.

- Nathan