Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm review – the FGC finally got the puppy it said it wanted for Christmas, but did it really want a pet at all?

Posted by Ryan 'Tryken' Tullis • July 10, 2015 at 11:59 a.m. PDT

'09er! This insult meant to humiliate someone for joining the FGC almost six years ago continues to appear with all the charm of such classics as "n00b!" and "newbie." These internet warriors continue to lament X-Factor, Ultra attacks, and input shortcuts. "If only someone would make a game that played like the classics," they say.

I don't mean to be too hard on those nostalgia-chasing traditionalists for wanting this--after all, there are plenty of days where I miss the gorgeous pixel art of fighters from the 1990s. I even bought a Vampire Savior machine because at the time the idea of Capcom ever creating a remixed version of the game seemed impossible.

But what if a game did come along and create the definition of a classic fighter? Better yet, what if it went to the buffet of the greatest fighting games in history and picked out the most loved mechanics and character designs in order to piece together a game that would even rival the ones in our memories?

I present to you Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm.

Let's get the good part out of the way first: Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm's core gameplay is one of the best I've experienced in years. This should come as no surprise. It cherry picks some of the best concepts out of the history books of fighting games. For example, Street Fighter 3's parries are back. Not content to let their game simply mimic, they actually took it a step further. Parries are now activated via buttons, so no more having to sacrifice charge just to tap forward and grab a parry. It also contains staples like universal overheads, guard crush attacks, and more.

The return and tweaking of these mechanics may seem confusing at first. Fortunately, JuiceBox of Street Fighter 4 and later King of Fighters fame has created tutorials breaking down every aspect of the game. While this is for a previous iteration of Yatagarasu, almost all of these features should be the same.

Because you'll have high and low parries attached to buttons, you'll have a total of four regular attacks (light and heavy) instead of Street Fighter's traditional six (light, medium, heavy). This isn't particularly a problem, but it took me a while as a Street Fighter player to adjust to not having the traditional low forwards that made characters like Ken and Chun-Li so dominating in Third Strike. King of Fighters veterans should feel right at home, though.

Speaking of character design, even the fighters in Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm borrow from the all-stars of design. Jet, a blonde boxer, will instantly remind Street Fighter players of Dudley with much of his offense being based around command dash moves and landing big juggles. Characters like Crow and Kou both possess dynamics familiar to anyone who has played a shoto. Of course, this is not all they are, but they are probably the best starting points for those just starting the game.

Most--but not all--of these characters will seem somewhat familiar in a way that doesn't feel boring or repetitive. They're certainly all fresh takes on the concepts we know. Chadha possesses many elements of Zangief and Hugo, yet I was surprised to find him uniquely exciting. Jyuzumaru somewhat resembles Fei Long through his rekkas, but again this similarity didn't stop me from calling clone on him.

Yatagarasu walks a difficult line with finesse. It wants to assemble many of the concepts we love in classic fighters while still being more than the sum of its parts. Most games with retro inspirations tend to jump on two different sides of the fence: so familiar to what inspired them that they're not interesting or the retro aspects are only used as a coat of paint to trick potential buyers into getting what is essentially a new game.

In terms of gameplay and presentation, Yatagarasu manages to walk perfectly down the center of old and new in brilliant fashion. A friend and I used to spend a lot of time at Rocky's Replay on King of Fighters XI. Both the arcade and the machine are long gone, but when he came over to play some sets, I felt that exact same elation I had when wasting all of those quarters and Friday nights a decade ago. Simple nostalgia doesn't accomplish this alone. Playing Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition didn't give me the exciting feeling of playing Third Strike for the first time. In fact, this game brought back more of those feelings than a simple remix ever could.

You'll see that I keep bringing up the same two fighters. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Yatagarasu AoC handles like the offspring of King of Fighters and Third Strike. In art and design, it might look a bit more like classic King of Fighters, but the gameplay is like the fusion of Vegeta and Goku. It's neither one. It has high damage and fast stun. At times, its extreme offense will make you think you're playing King of Fighters, only for your brain to click with parrying, then it convinces you that you're playing Third Strike. You'll never mind the extreme pacing differences between matches because it'll constantly feel fun and interesting.

What if you are one of the dreaded '09ers that everyone keeps talking about? Will you still enjoy the core game? Absolutely. Despite the retro inspiration, Yatagarasu's engine is as good and clean as ever. The high damage output makes you feel like you always have a chance if you can just land that one combo you have in mind. It's no surprise Street Fighter 5 is running with his concept. It's a great compromise for a comeback mechanic.

It's not all happiness, though. Yatagarasu's greatest misstep comes in the form of its archaic UI. When you first click on your newly purchased copy, you won't get to hop into the game. Instead, you'll immediately be shown a gray box full of options and and unexplained check boxes. I immediately thought, "x2 Zoom? Default Size? Screen Refresh Method: Flip? Global IP Address for Lobby Matches? Title Redemption Key? What am I looking at?" Even getting both my stick and fightpad to work at the same time proved to be frustrating.

Only after clicking on it did some of it become clear. 2x Zoom or full screen is an absolute must on modern day monitors. This is because Yatagarasu's default resolution is 640x480. Those classic graphics come at a price. You can't simply drag the screen and have it scale to size, either. You can double it or put it in full screen. That's it.

The online proved to be agitating to set up. It wants the player to port forward in order to host matches. This isn't a concept that I'm unfamiliar with, but I found myself still having trouble even after forwarding the proper ports manually and using Portmapper. It was only after, in a final attempt to just play my game online with friends, I directly connected my PC to my modem did the problem resolve. This could simply be my router, but I shouldn't have to be haunted by PC attempts at rollback netcode from a decade ago to get into an online match.

Once you're online, though, you can easily change the input delay in the character select screen to get a smooth connection. I usually found that delay of 3 frames was more than enough to fix any lag issues. In fact, once I was playing with someone, playing online felt hardly different than playing with friends offline.

That's really the greatest problem with the game. It's as if the developers spent all of their money on making the best core game, then realized they still hadn't coded a single thing for the UI or netcode of the PC version they promised everyone. I imagine one designer said to the other, "Well, my uncle wrote a program for Windows 3.1 once. It was a digital tax book, but, hey, he'll probably do it for a free meal at Waffle House." Everyone nodded and programming began.

But despite all the frustration in getting the online set up and having to work through some awful options menus, Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm is more than worth it. It's the classic fighter everyone has wanted. If the FGC can manage to keep a scene for this game, I can see it becoming one of the best indie success stories and a staple in the catalog of every fighting game fan.

Within reason--and by reason I mean not expecting a AAA studio to invest millions in a pixel art fighter just to commit financial suicide--Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm is the answer to everyone asking for a game created on the concepts many of us fell in love with back in the day.

But this also brings up my final concern, and it's independent of my review. I think we need to have the puppy responsibility talk. Classically built fighters from small studios are a big responsibility. They don't have large corporations and publishers to invest $500,000 prize funds into. Their advertisements won't be played in commercials at major sporting events. There will be no Yatagarasu Pro Tour. Much like the grassroots history of the FGC, keeping a game like this alive means the community will have to actively take care of it we want it to succeed (and I do).

Much like the parent of a child that gets the puppy they've asked for, I'm nervous the FGC will take a few selfies with their cool, retro friend, only to ignore it after. Then I'll find it a week later, unfed and in need of grooming. The forum posts will come back with people calling out '09ers (or whatever the new "noob" term is) and lament over how there are no great classics like there used to be. It brings to question whether the community really wants what they've asked for or if they've just wanted nostalgia as a means to leverage their complaints against every new fighter. The lifespan of this game should provide the answer.

Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm is the classic you've asked for, FGC. It answers the desires of so many fans throughout the last six years. However, if you don't take care of it, and it fails, you're not going to get another puppy.

Note: I want to give my gratitude to Juicebox for allowing me to share his outstanding videos on Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm. For anyone migrating to the game, you can find top level play and fantastic guides on his YouTube channel.

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