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War of the Monsters – Second Opinion

In his review, Brad made an apt comparison between War Of The Monsters and melee-based games like Power Stone and Ehrgeiz. While these comparisons were fitting, I found myself more reminded of Super Smash Bros. Melee while I was playing. Instead of featuring established Nintendo franchise characters, War Of The Monsters features established B-movie stereotypes, each with their own distinct fighting styles and personalities. The simple, two-attack-button control setup belies a deeper strategy, another feature that gave me a sense of Smash Bros. déjà vu.

I also found having to hold down a shoulder button for the lock-on feature annoying, but I did like the fact that the fighter's attention was not constantly focused on the opponent's position. Most of today's "true 3D" fighters allow a fighter to pivot around his or her opponent, but make it nearly impossible to totally disengage and run freely around the environment. The option to uncouple myself from my opponent and explore the detailed environments made War Of The Monsters feel more like a platformer at points, a welcome feature that reminded me of Smash Bros.' Adventure mode.

The Smash Bros. comparison falls flat when it comes to War Of The Monsters multiplayer modes. Almost any fighting game is going to be passable against a decent human opponent, but War Of The Monsters did nothing special to make its multiplayer stand out. The frequent transitions from split-screen to one-screen fighting were especially annoying. While it was an interesting idea, I found the implementation more distracting than helpful.

But the most frustrating part of the multiplayer fighting is the lack of a four-player mode. With it's easy to learn, fast paced action, the game is practically screaming for multi-tap compatibility, but two humans and two computer-controlled players is the closest the game gets. I suppose it's good to leave something to add for the sequel.

The appeal of War Of The Monsters for me came from the game's one-player mode. Even though the same characters appear in the same order every time, this does not mean that the one-player story mode lacks for variety. One foe brings in a fleet of tanks with him as a distraction; another fight features dozens of weaker mantis creatures followed by a larger foe. One boss can only be defeated by his own bombs, a la Mouser in Super Mario Bros. 2. Each new battle brought with it a new and interesting scenario, and forced me to think up new strategies on my feet. Even without any person-eating mini-games, the one-player mode was engaging.

Brad's point about using multiple lives in a "war of attrition" is a valid one, especially on some of the tougher bosses. But I think he went a little far when he said that this feature turned the game into "a blizzard of hyperspeed button mashing." Despite the fact that opponents can often be whittled down slowly on the easier difficulties, getting good enough to beat the game on Hard mode requires a great deal of strategy. Knowing how to use the environment for cover, how to manage special attack energy, and when to back off and use long range attacks can make a frustratingly tough fight into an easily winnable one.

The artificial intelligence that Brad found "irritating" I found rather realistic and engaging. Fighting two opponent monsters felt like fighting a highly organized team that worked together to wear me down as quickly as possible. Learning how to exploit this team dynamic, to lure both opponents into one special move, for instance, added another level to the game's strategy.

War Of The Monsters is by no means a perfect game. Some elements, like the unlockable mini-games, lack polish, and the balance between the fighters could use some work. With a little bit of tweaking for the sequel, the characters of War Of The Monsters could well spawn a franchise series of their own. Rating: 8 out of 10

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Incognito  
Publisher: Sony  
Genre(s): Fighting  
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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