Augmented reality is definitely a cool technology but so far it’s been under-utilised in the world of console and handheld gaming. When we first set down our AR card in front of the PlayStation 3 and witnessed the EyePet bouncing around on screen like it was in our living room we were highly entertained, but after a few hours we were yearning to play a game that brought us back to normality.
The fact that we’re males over the age of 20 – and don’t really care too much for games that involve caring for virtual pets – probably has something to do with that, but if truth be told, Augmented Reality also freaks us out a bit.
But with the arrival of PlayStation Vita on the horizon, we better get used to it. As more developers get used to the handheld’s variety of AR technologies we can expect a wide variety of games that blur the lines between what’s real and what’s computer-generated. AR gaming is on the rise and Reality Fighters is one of the first games on PS Vita to really utilise the technology with a core gaming experience.
Reality Fighters is, predictably, a fairly average one vs. one fighting game with the major twist being that players can do battle against an array of real backdrops, from a Russian forest to the English countryside. As fighters physically move around their virtual space, players can tilt the PS Vita display to follow them around. This combination of animated characters and photo backgrounds is quite a feast for the senses.
What’s even wackier is that you can create these backgrounds yourself using PS Vita’s camera. If you’re on holiday, for example, you might photograph an idyllic beach scene, save it, and then use that background at a later date as a fighting arena. Then, of course, there’s the option to choose Augmented Reality battles wherever you are.
The AR card that comes with the game can be placed on any surface. You then point the rear camera at the card and as if by magic the two fighters appear and battle across the chosen area like they’re actually part of that physical space. The only limit is your own imagination because the fight can, quite literally, take place wherever you want it to.
While using the AR card players get a full 3D 360 degree view of the action and can move the screen around and walk around with PS Vita to get a multitude of different camera angles. It’s a very cool effect that will have your non-Vita owning pals shaking their heads with disbelief, though in no way does it actually enhance the gameplay.
Things get even weirder with the opportunity to put a clone of yourself into the game. Take a photo with the front-facing snapper and your mug now appears as the head of an in-game character. OS Vita’s camera doesn’t take a great picture, so don’t expect to be wowed by the facial capture technology, but we could definitely tell it was us, even if others couldn’t. Players can then customise their new fighter with a wide range of options, from the size of their body to the haircut, clothing and fighting style.
Alongside your own fighter, there are a range of wacky playable characters each with unique special moves, colourful costumes and fight styles. From Ton Ton the zombie, who uses a ‘gravedigger’ move to pick his opponent up and toss him into a shallow grave,’ to Nicole the ballerina and her graceful nutcracker speciality (which is a painful as it sounds, and culminates in a bow, a round of applause and the closing of a pair of theatre curtains) there’s a great variety of characters and some unique special moves and fight styles..
Though Reality Fighters does hide somewhat behind its humour and silly characters, the combat is actually more in-depth than we thought it would be. A range of combos, grabs, counters, kicks and punches, with some traditional quarter circle-style moves with the analogue stick, ensures that the options are there for some strategic and visually stimulating bouts.
Even so, we fairly easily ploughed through half of the story mode doing nothing more than jumping in the air to avoid attacks and bashing any button like crazy to rack up combos, but the fights do get tougher and strategy does come into it during the latter stages. It’s not Street Fighter by any means, but there’s a nice balance between accessibility and challenge which may appeal to those fairly inexperienced at fighting games.
And let’s not forget the iconic Karate kid master, Mr. Miyagi, who makes frequent appearances throughout the story mode. He crops up between each bout with some great tips for doing well in battle, but mainly he tries to inject some humour into the game, and mostly fails with cheesy one-lines and an accent that sounds like someone doing a Mr.Miyagi impression down the pub. His inclusion in the game definitely isn’t as cool as it sounds.
Nevertheless, Reality Fighters does well to keep your interest in other ways, with plenty of unlockables and an enjoyable points system that allows you to buy more items to customise your player with a range of accessories and weapons. There’s also a decent training mode, as well as time attack and survival modes, not to mention the ad-hoc and online component where you can battle against real players.
Not being able to play online during the period leading up to the launch of PS Vita has been incredibly frustrating as we haven’t been able to assess the multiplayer of any of the gamers we’ve played. It’s therefore hard to second guess how Reality Fighter’s online system will hold up, but it looks likely to be where the game’s longevity lies and it should be good fun seeing the characters that others have created.
Overall, Reality Fighters is a decent fighting game that you’ll want to show off to friends, who’ll no doubt be majorly impressed with the fact that the characters are kicking ass in a real-world arena. The novelty soon wears off though, and despite a solid combat system, a range of entertaining customisable options, and a few laughs along the way, it’s likely to be nothing more than a time-filler before the real fighting games arrive.