Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ehrgeiz (Playstation, 1999)

1999 was a big year. People partied like it was, well, 1999. It was Bill Clinton's last full year of being president, most of which he spent battling impeachment charges over whether or not he lied about having sex. While many men lie about having sex, it is a rare thing indeed for a guy to lie about not having sex. But I digress. In the game world, the Sony Playstation was in a roll, riding a momentum wave that was driven partly by Squaresoft putting out the same kind of quality games that had been a huge boon to the Super NES years prior. Meanwhile, over on the other side... the Nintendo 64 existed, and was riding high with...uh... Ocarina of Time and Other.

Ehrgeiz is one of Square's better Playstation efforts. It isn't an RPG (well...mostly) but rather a fighting game. Square has always flirted a bit with the fighting genre, releasing Tobal No. 1 and Bushido Blade prior to this. However, I'd argue that Ehrgeiz was their best run at it for a long time.

Like all 32-bit 3D fighting games, this one starts out with an FMV montage showing all of the characters doing the one thing they're known for. The girl with the yo-yo is seen spinning her yo-yo, and so forth. The one with real personality is Dasher Inoba, a Japanese pro wrestler. Here he is angry that his ramen dinner has been interrupted.

Speaking of which, another thing about 1999 is that wrestling was bigger in 1999 than any other year in history.

"God Bless the Ring, Kang!"

Here we get a glimpse of the big bad of the game. I think. I'm not sure what this thing is supposed to be. It's got the sword called Ehrgeiz, which is the holy grail of this game. All of the characters want it. Why? I'm not sure. This game seems like it gave a lot of inspiration to Namco for Soul Calibur, including the "special guest characters".

Right away, Ehrgeiz overwhelms the player with options. What are all these mini-games?

One is a puzzle type deal where you "flip" the CPU's squares by changing the colors around them. It's an interesting minigame and I could see this being a lot of fun with a second player. Not sure why Square felt the need to include these minigames that could well have been the genesis of their own separate games, but good on them. Square making an extra push of effort above and beyond what is needed is something that I think most of their fans sorely miss.

There's also a beach obstacle course minigame. This one isn't as good as the puzzle game, and would have honestly been at home in that arcade in Final Fantasy VII.

"A beach obstacle course minigame!? Finally!"

There's also a "race" minigame, but it isn't much of a race since the CPU spends all of it attacking you.

Now we come to the not-so-hidden gem of the game: Quest mode. This could have definitely been a separate game in and of itself. Tobal No. 1 also had a quest mode, but it...wasn't very good or playable. It was nothing compared to this.

In this mode, you play as Koji Matsuda, badass professor, and... well, I'm not sure who his pantless female cohort is. Probably one of his students. Why don't you have a seat, Koji.

There's a full-fledged town to explore, but other than that, it's a multi-level dungeon crawl that can go on for quite a while and has really good music on the first few floors. It's very simple and very rewarding. You go in, fight battles for experience and loot, leave to recover, and repeat.

As you get more powerful, you progress further into the dungeon. I played this a bit in 1999, but didn't get very far. I'd really like to play through this mode, and have been interested in doing just that for 14 years. Well, someday I'll get to it.

There's a well you can jump down that shortcuts you to floor 13 of the dungeon. If the distant sound of Japanese girls moaning wasn't a giveaway, you soon discover that this floor is home to a tentacled boss. Given that this is floor 13 and you're at floor 1 strength, anyone playing for the first time is going to meet their doom here.

Fall with one character, and the other takes over. You can go back to where the first character fell to gather up their equipment and keep using it. It's an interesting idea. In any case, that's enough quest mode. Time for the meat of this post: Arcade mode.

Super-badass music plays as you select from a bunch of fairly cliched fighting game characters... and a number of Final Fantasy VII characters that I, and likely most people, went straight for. Included are Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth, with others unlockable later. This is no doubt what sold this game for the vast majority of the people who got it. I know I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance if the FFVII characters weren't in it. This was long before the likes of Dissidia, and if you wanted Cloud Vs. Sephiroth in a fighting game... well, THIS was the place to find it.


Wrestling sensation Dasher Inoba is always the first guy you fight. I think the game wants to get all of the charisma out of the way early. This guy is hilarious, bellowing "SHASHASHASHASHA!" as he charges across the ring (which may or may not be blessed).

"By Gawd look at that big hoss!"

The second battle is always the same, as well. They probably could have randomized this a bit, but it's all good. In this one, you fight Jo the cat lady on a rooftop.

Godhand is one of the cooler characters in the game. He's got Dragonball Z hair and apparently knows explosives. I'd probably play as this guy for the most part if the FFVII characters weren't in the game.

Shuwen seems to be the requisite "quirky old man character". Since this is a Japanese game, he's like 28.

There's Yoyo Yoko. She fights with a yo-yo, and it's pretty fucked up the way she broke up The Beatles.

It's hard to see here, but Cloud does his signature sword-spin after winning a battle. Rad!

One of my favorite stage themes is found in Prince Doza's stage. Also like the background here. Injecting some Middle-Eastern flavor is almost always a good thing in a game like this.

Han Daehan (that's his real name) is a martial arts master. Like most Asians, he does battle using his feet. Here, he can be seen attacking Cloud with quite the kick.

"Bah Gawd Cloud got turned inside out with that vicious kick!"

You can draw the sword and attack with it, which is a lot of fun in this game. Given that you can also charge up and summon meteors, it seems like this was the genesis of Dissidia in a lot of ways.

Sasuke is one of the cooler characters. He's a ninja...of course.

The final boss (...mostly) is Django. No relation to Django Unchained. He's basically a silver Red XIII who lurks in a laboratory. I've never brushed up on Ehrgeiz's story, so I don't know what the deal is, but when you defeat Django...

"He runs like a scalded dog!"

...and then he apparently comes back as this huge, vicious Chimera From Hell. The Ehrgeiz sword is in this arena, and I presume you have to grab it to win this fight. Seems like Django is the final boss, because this weird.

For one, it seems unwinnable. You can't get another shot at it if you lose. The credits roll the entire time. It's all...very bizarre. Since I've never actually slain this beast, I'm not sure what the end result is. Gotta say though, it tarnishes a great arcade mode to have the final-final boss be a nearly-unwinnable credits fight that you have one shot at.

Back to the character select. I mentioned other FFVII characters. Here's Tifa, who really wants the player to look at her shoulder.

"That Tifa is a damn Jezebel!"

POW! Leg kick to Dasher Inoba! GOD BLESS THE RING!

Tifa is fast moving and fun to play as. Here we see her kicking high as she battles Jo the transforming cat lady.

"They're Divas!"

There's also Yuffie, who gets unlocked by playing through Arcade mode once (or as Cloud...can't be sure). She's looking sly as ever.

Here she is completely manhandling poor Dasher Inoba. Why does he always have to be first?

There are other characters on the select screen too. Here's the fearsome Godhand.

 Unimpressed Lebron James: Not impressed.

And now back to FFVII!

This guy is pure money, maybe even moreso than Cloud. Who didn't want to play as this guy after battling him throughout FFVII?

Here he is battling Godhand. Sephiroth uses some familiar sword-stances that are right out of Bushido Blade.

Sephiroth battles Prince Doza somewhere in the Middle East. If the Prince wins, he becomes King Doza.

That concludes my look at Ehrgeiz. Great game.

"That was quite the slobberknocker."

UPDATE: I've been told that Vincent Valentine and Zack Fair are also unlockable FFVII characters in this game. Not too shabby!

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  1. "Speaking of which, another thing about 1999 is that wrestling was bigger in 1999 than any other year in history."

    Yeah, WWF was riding high while WCW... existed.

  2. Didn't know about this game. Definitely wanna check it out, it looks like Bloody Roar.. STONE CLOUD

  3. Wrestling got onto regular magazine covers like U.S. News back in 1999. This -does- look like a fine minor title, and they gave you PLENTY of FF7 characters to be honest.

    Don't forget to play through that mini-game some time. And grab the sword and try to kill the final-final boss with it.