A game that probably needs no introduction among doujin game players, Eternal Fighter Zero is a series of doujin fighting games based on the Japanese visual novels (some would call them ren'ai) Moon., One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, Kanon, and Air. This series dates back as early as 2001, when the game first surfaced during Comiket 61. Eternal Fighter Zero consists entirely of super-deformed female participants with exaggerated special powers that revolve primarily around the characters own distinct personalities. Strangely enough, while the games the characters of EFZ are based from were adult titles, EFZ is generally suitable for all ages. While many people acknowledge that there were some nice doujin games before this one, most won't argue that EFZ was so good that it set the proverbial bar for quality ever higher. It's no conundrum then, that EFZ is arguably the most famous and well known of all doujin fighting games! While the EFZ series is comprised of several games (EFZ, EFZ: -Renewal-, Blue Sky Edition, & Bad Moon Edition), they all were a prelude to the most current game in the franchise, Eternal Fighter Zero: Memorial.
What does this game have to offer? Well for starters, it offers loads of beautifully drawn "Now Loading" screens like games like Rival Schools, so you often have something interesting to look at while you wait (and they also second as pictures for the games' viable art gallery). The graphics of this game as a whole are pretty amazing. From some of the character animations that even rival some of the industries best such as SNK (who are noted for their incredible character animations) to excellent backdrops with flowing mist and gushing water fountains, to non-circular character shadows and more, this game is an eye-pleaser. Everything is lightning fast and some of the things in this game have to be seen to be believed.
Next, the creators went out of their way to provide this game with an outstanding soundtrack. This game brings forth subtle tunes remixed from the original visual novels that fans of Key and Tactics' work may be familiar with as well as rockin' beats, jazz, a pinch of metal, and much more for the casual fighting game fanatic. My only qualm is that character voices are a little lacking, though it brings the benefit of having less distractions during a fight. This game has great audio, all left in .wav format to provide some of the best in quality around.
What more could you want? Well, how about a nice fighting engine? Well, Eternal Fighter Zero: Memorial delivers, and why wouldn't it? The creators had years to perfect the game from its earlier renditions by slowly adding characters and modes, fixing bugs and creating more music tracks, among other things. EFZ:M features an amazing roster of characters for a doujin game, supplying you with over twenty characters each with their own unique abilities and strange quirks. The characters from past Eternal Fighter games have altered skill sets and EFZ:M seeked to balance out characters to please the fans. Toss in such things as conventional and easy to use control schematics, loads of special moves, super moves, counter tactics, a replay feature to revisit epic bouts, little surprises and you have the makings for a great fighting game.
As the title of this game sort of alludes to, this game takes many elements from many great fighting games including (but not limited to) King of Fighters, Rival Schools, Last Blade, Samurai Showdown, Darkstalkers, Guilty Gear, and of course, Street Fighter Alpha (called Street Fighter Zero in Japan...surprised?). I wouldn't hesitate to say that this game tried to take the best of all worlds, as is clearly evidenced by all the fighting styles and funny satirical moments thrown throughout the game. Of course, we need to tell you more about the gameplay and provide a few examples, now don't we?
The fights are primarily one-on-one brawls (though some characters have friends they can call on to aid them) with the typical small talk via post-victory segments and nearly indomitable ladies going at it. You have a super move gauge that consists of three levels, as well as a secondary gauge that fills up automatically over time. With your three primary attacking buttons (light, medium and heavy), you can use them to perform a level 1, 2 or 3 super move. Almost all super moves have three levels, which is mostly the same deal with Street Fighter Alpha.
The secondary gauge is for upgrading special moves with the fierce button. Everytime you do an upgraded special move, it drains your bar to empty. However, if you wait long enough, the bar will flash when it reaches maximum, allowing you to do several upgraded attacks without waiting. In addition to performing stronger special moves, the secondary gauge also acts as a counterattack gauge and a means to disrupt special attacks. Whenever you are hit by your opponent, your secondary gauge takes a hit as well. Using special moves and super moves to your advantage can help you string together nasty combos and bring you closer to victory.
Still, there are several other elements that make this game stand out. Each character has different statistics, ranging from power and speed to combo potential. Certain characters are even very unorthodox, such as the "Sleepwalking" version of Nayuki Hinase (presumably a big fan favorite, since there is more than one version of her along with Rumi Nanase who has a doppelganger). She is a very tricky fighter who eats lots of jam to perform various functions in battle. Another fighter is Ikumi Amasawa, the fighter who is the only person to draw blood from her enemies, which she needs if she is to reach her true fighting potential. If she gets enough blood, she can even go berserk like Sol Badguy! The last example of a strange fighter is my personal favorite, Mio Kouduki, who spoofs famous characters including Indiana Jones, Akari Ichijo (The Last Blade), Shinnosuke Kagami (also The Last Blade) and more! This game has a lot of variety and enough parodies and good times to practically write a book about it.
Alas, every game has its faults and every beautiful rose has its thorns. Eternal Fighter Zero: Memorial could still have used a few more modes like a Tournament Mode and a Survival Mode. The computer A.I. is cheap to the point of being too predictable. It wouldn't be bad if each character has a way of fighting, but a lot of the computer's A.I. primarily consists of your foes trying to get in with air dashes and get you conered. There seems to be almost no difference from standard difficulty to the highest difficulty either. While they can break out of this pattern, I found the game relatively easy because of it.
While this game has no real story, it would also be nice if the game had at least one general ending, instead of just getting a staff roll. Yes, the people who made the game are very important (the staff is in large part illustration artists and quality assurance folks), but it's all about going the distance. My last issue with this game is that there isn't really anything to unlock, since everthing is available from the beginning. There will likely be a sequel to this game in the future which addresses some of my concerns. When that time comes, I will be happy to write about it.
In the end, EFZ is a great fighting game that just needs a few minor tweaks here and there, but it is still one of the greatest doujin fighting games currently available. It is certainly worth playing many times over and a fine tribute to the respective games in which the characters hail from in general. I have one parting note however (particularly for those who created the game): Kanna seems to have a bug (or an unfinshed animation) where she displays white background in one of her attacks. I believe this is because she wasn't edited completely during some of her frames, which leaves a sort of white triangular spot towards the upright corner of her sprite. Just putting it out there. Until next time everyone.- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -