Thursday, November 29

Review: 99Vidas - Definitive Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Arcade brawlers, slashers, and beat-em-ups have really come out of their shell over the past year on Switch, with some exceptional titles boasting some very different core gameplay built on the classic genre. Some have gone for sheer intensity, some for racking up your score using insane combos, some have mixed with other genres to create an experience that feels new, but what many of them have had in common is a desire to extend the classic arcade experience into something more. Then there are titles like 99Vidas which has some merit and plays particularly well if you’re able to get a group together, but also perhaps feels a bit too comfortable sticking to the tried and true formula.


In the game you’ll choose from an eventual roster of 11 different fighters that have a variety of attributes and elemental powers. You can choose one of a variety of modes but for the most part they just recycle the same content in different orders and ways so that may be a bit of a letdown if you were expecting each to have something unique to offer for playthrough. For the most part the action follows the classic formula. You have punch and kick attacks, a jump that you can combine with either, a grab you perform by getting up-close to an enemy, a dash move (though the dash felt a little dodgy to execute consistently), a panic special move to get you out of a bind that costs you some health, and a special. There are some ways to combine these into light combos, which works, though you’ll likely get into a rhythm of using only a few of them as you go. All of these moves are unique per character but to be clear for the most part they’re just visual differences and fundamentally work in pretty well identical ways.


Where 99Vidas tries to differentiate itself a bit is first with an assortment of some unusual bosses and boss fights. Yeah, some of them are a bit crazy or silly and will make you take some time to work out how to beat them. That’s cool. Second, it has a sort of light RPG element of upgrading your characters, which is nice but creates its own problem I’ll get to shortly. Last, it has some incentive to play through more than once if you want to not just unlock new characters but take them for a spin as well, though whether there’s enough different about the experience to make it worthwhile would be a fair question.


Aside from being very comfortable with the classic tropes of the genre and throwing in some nods that are at least momentarily fun it has some issues. For one, the upgrades are nice and help you feel a bit more powerful, and that’s a plus. However, as you get one of your attacks more juiced up than others you’ll also find yourself using it more as a crutch since it’s more effective and that also makes the experience even more one-dimensional in many ways. It boasts online play, which is great, but with a few attempts I have yet to find anyone playing. That’s not an uncommon problem for smaller titles so it’s not a major dig, just noting that having online functionality is only a benefit if you have a community strong enough to support it.


While 99Vidas puts some effort into the proceedings it’s also trapped in being a bit too ordinary among multiple titles that manage to be more ambitious and deliver more of a value-added experience. With some friends it would make a great game for everyone to enjoy for a playthrough or two but in particular as a solo experience it’s impossible to ignore that it doesn’t do much to break away from the same games it has so much reverence for. Throwbacks can be fun but 99Vidas just seems to be an amalgam of elements from well-known games that fails to put the pieces together to make something more. It’s not a bad romp, but its staying power is questionable.

Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Mechanically and in terms of gameplay it is very reminiscent of beat-em-ups from the late 80s and 90s
  • Nods to classic tropes can be cute and funny for a little while
  • Loaded up with 4 players it feels more like it hits its stride than as a single-player experience

Cons:
  • In terms of making a big splash in a very competitive genre on the system it feels a bit ordinary
  • Though it has many modes they’re not much more than a shuffling of content and a few details
  • While in principle online support is terrific for the moment it feels like a ghost town and whether this game could sustain a community for any length of time would be a fair question