You ever heard of the young poltergeist detective "Yuusuke Urameshi" boys and girls? Without going into too much detail, it's about a boy who once took life for granted until a series of unfortunate events causes him to become a "spirit detective" of the spirit world where he does various jobs for Koenma while also learning the real meaning of what it means to be alive...not to mention learn martial arts and kick superlative demon butt in the process. Throughout Yuusuke's various escapades, he befriends various humans and demons as well as make some really brash enemies and eventually becomes a mighty force capable of almost anything. This great series became known as Yuu Yuu Hakusho. It originally started as a manga series but became a popular television series soon after and the rest is almost history. Its popularity grew like wildfire in Japan and even has many followers in other regions of the world including the U.S. Yuu Yuu Hakusho is not just limited to manga books and T.V. shows though...it has A LOT of memorabilia and of course, videogames (woot!).
The U.S. saw a scant few Yuu Yuu Hakusho games, but Japan has as many games based off of the franchise as it has fans. Okay, besides the blatant hyperbole, there are a lot of games in the YYH franchise and this one is called Yuu Yuu Hakusho Tokubetsu Hen. Typically called Yuu Yuu (or Yu Yu...) Hakusho Special by my English-speaking peers, Yuu Yuu Hakusho Tokubetsu Hen isn't like the other YYH games on the SNES/SFC (which were typical 2D fighting fare like the legendary Street Fighter or King of Fighters games). No, YYHTH takes a different approach while still keeping most of the core elements of a fighting game intact. It incorporated loads of impressively animated slideshows, a few cool tunes and a gameplay engine that cleverly works despite the game's design.
The graphics of this game are amazing even given the offbeat setup. The fighting is done with interestingly sequenced and well done snippets of various attacks and commands. While several things like the hit-and-run segments will quickly become repetitious, the overall presentation is excellent and there are some instances that inventively illustrate the SNES/SFC's capabilities. You'll see many of your favorite characters (or new faces if you don't know about YYH) and lots of trademark YYH moves done in glorious fashion. The audio is far less impressive though. It's not that it sounds bad, but the # of BGMs are very finite. The audio is fitting for the theme of the game though.
Speaking of the theme, this game isn't called "Tokubetsu" for nothing (which roughly equates to "Special" in English). As this game has no real story in and of itself, one such as myself can only surmise that the game is based around the Dark Tournament Saga of the manga and T.V. show due to the settings, arenas and config data. However, the thing that makes it special is that you get to reenact that point in YYH's history with a few characters who weren't present during the main tournament, such as Itsuki and Shinobu Sensui for example. This aids the game's evaluation in a positive manner because it boosts the already impressive character roster to a mighty seventeen...and that's not including the transformed state of characters! Players use the upper-middle portion of the screen (in a widescreen display of sorts) to do all of their actions, but you can't merely run over to your opponent and annihilate them or trap them in a corner or keep them at bay with a rhythmic "Hadouken" session. This game has a sort of rock-paper-sciscors scheme that makes battles more intense and unpredictable.
Each character has an impressive array of abilities that need to be charged by holding one of four directions (up, down, left, right) and executed with the A, B, X or Y buttons. Different buttons specialize in different types of attacks such as close-quarter attacks, fireballs, support techniques, defensive moves and other skills. Doing special moves drains your spirit gauge and landing successful attacks grant you more spirit energy at the end of a turn. Each character also has different statistics so you can play them accordingly. You must attack before the opposition gets carried away or you'll forfeit your turn and be left defenseless. All the variables, beam clashes and power battles make this game feel almost as intense as the T.V. show itself!
There are a few major downsides however...there are only four battle arenas (though it's to be expected since it's relating to the Dark Tournament Saga), and the game is almost pointless as a one player title...you just fight everybody and the game ends...and it won't rock your boat when you listen to the same lousy assortment of music. However, the game can be a real crowd pleaser due to its great visuals and dynamic action. This game is good to play with friends and for drawing in a crowd of YYH fans. It's also easy to get into since it's not the sort of fighter that requires a complex understanding of the controls and it doesn't give the player many distinct advantages by default (you won't get much better training in this game for months like you may in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 or Soul Caliber) due to the way it's designed.
Yuu Yuu Hakusho Tokubetsu Hen is a fun game to play in spurts and always keeps me coming back every once in a while to see all the pretty pictures and flashing lights. Still, I wouldn't expect anyone to run out and pay what's typically asked for a copy of this game...it's just not worth it IMO. This game would be one of the greatest YYH games if it only had a few more bells and whistles. If you ever find it cheap and you're a fan of YYH or just want to try a fighter that's a little different, give this game a go.
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -