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North America

Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation

by Rick Powers - January 17, 2003, 12:13 pm PST

6

AKI's new cel-shaded wrestling game has a bit of a surprise in store for wrestling fans, but not in a good way ...

AKI is back with a new “wrestling” game based on the “Kinniku Man” cartoon, known as Ultimate Muscle in North America. The cartoon revolves around Kid Muscle (Kinniku Man) and the Muscle League and a group of evil wrestling villains known as dMp. If you’re not familiar with the cartoon, but the characters look familiar, it could be because the tiny pink wrestlers (under the name M.U.S.C.L.E.) were popular toys back in the 80’s, and are experiencing a bit of a resurgence due to the popularity of the wacky cartoon.

Despite everything about the game being dressed up like a wrestling game, and AKI’s reputation for creating one of the best wrestling engines in No Mercy for the N64, Kinnikuman is nothing more than a simplistic 3D fighter. Wrestling moves are pulled off by basic button presses, with the wrestling moves being very simple, albeit very cartoonish and over the top. The “specials” are a lot of fun to watch, and are part of what makes the game so entertaining to watch

There is a lot of Japanese in the story mode, and it’s going to be fairly impossible to follow unless you know Japanese. That said, there are no choices to be made other than which character you want to complete the story mode with, so you can simply keep pressing “A” until you get to the fighting. If you’re a fan of the cartoon series, it would be a good idea to wait for the US version so you can follow the story.

Finishing the Story Mode with each character will unlock more characters to play with, as does collecting a certain number of “Toy Capsules”, those little bubbles you get in vending machines that have the pink toys in them. That’s a nice touch, and it adds decent replay value.

The game engine is pretty fast, and the characters all have a cel-shaded look very faithful to the cartoon. When spectacular moves are performed, the game will cut away to a more energetic camera angle, or go into a quick fully animated cut-scene. These can be skipped, but considering they are all that really sets the game apart, you would be ill-advised to skip the animations.

The music is very Japanese in style, and quite goofy. The opening “song” is sung a cappella, and is about as goofy as anything you’ve ever heard. The music in the game is fairly non-descript and boring, and the few sound effects are overused.

The game’s one saving grace is the multiplayer mode, which is fast and furious in four-player mode. Being a fairly simple fighting engine actually helps keep the action high in this regard, but four-player fighting is handled with more care in many other games. This might be a good rental during a gaming party, sort of a palette cleanser in between games.

That’s where this game ends up when everything is said and done, you have a game that really doesn’t do anything well except exploit the Ultimate Muscle license. Much like Dragonball Z Budokai, this game will probably be well received by fans of the show. Everyone else will likely let out a resounding yawn. AKI fans looking for the next coming of the No Mercy engine are going to have to wait and see if Def Jam Vendetta will fill their needs, as Kinniku Man II seems to be just a chance for AKI to make a little money cashing in on a popular license, rather than the heir-apparent to AKI’s wrestling series. There is very little depth, and although the multiplayer mode holds promise as a fun pick-up-and-play diversion at parties, there are better wrestling games, and better fighting games to be had.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 6 7 7 7 6
Graphics
8

The characters are cel-shaded and very faithful to the cartoon. The game engine is very quick, and the animated cut-scenes are fun.

Sound
6

The sound is largely non-descript and dull, and does nothing to set the game apart. One bonus point for the wacky song at the beginning of the game.

Control
7

Control options are very basic, but they get the job done. Nothing special or innovative here, but the game does control responsively and well.

Gameplay
7

Fairly simplistic. There are several modes of play, the best of which are the multiplayer modes.

Lastability
7

If you enjoy the game, there is a lot of replay value to be had, with over a dozen “wrestlers” to be unlocked through the Story Mode and by collecting toy capsules.

Final
6

While Kinniku Man 2 is decent enough as a four-player fighting game, it’s a reasonable assumption that a large segment of the game’s buyers are going to be suckered into the purchase on AKI’s profile as a top-notch wrestling game maker. The Ultimate Muscle license only serves to further goad players into thinking that they’re getting a great wrestling game, which will certainly lead to an "ultimate" disappointment when they realize how shallow this game really is. However, fans of the show will likely get everything they’re looking for, as the game is very faithful to the series. Overall, the game is no better than any of the other fighting games on the market, and a fair bit worse than most. If you simply must have this game, wait for the domestic release so you can at least understand what’s going on.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent use of the Ultimate Muscle license
  • Multiplayer mode is a riot
  • “Specials” are very fun and entertaining
Cons
  • No depth as a fighting game
  • Not the wrestling game that people expect from AKI
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Fighting
Developer AKI Corporation
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation
Release Jun 05, 2003
PublisherBandai
RatingTeen
jpn: Kinnikuman Nisei
Release Nov 22, 2002
PublisherBandai
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