Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament brings another licensed fighting game to the PS2. Being an intermediate fan of fighting games, I was interested to see how this would turn out. The style, based on what’s on the box, would seem to be similar to Dragonball Z: Budokai, which had a moderate following due to the popularity of that series. Does this mean we have another in depth fighting game, or a marketing tool for a popular anime series? Get your spirit gun ready, prep that rose whip, and we will take a closer look at fighting in the afterlife. Graphics are passable, using cel shaded techniques. All the characters are decently modeled allowing people to easlity recogninze their favorites from the show. They suffer from some detail due to the shading technique that is used. The backgrounds are somewhat blurred out, as is most action occuring outside the arena. Overall, I felt the graphics didn’t really do justice to the PS2’s graphical power. I believe the programmers could have done more to make the game look much cleaner. Sound is good, utilizing music and voicework from the Funimation production of the series. The music is unremarkable. The voicework isn’t bad, per se, as it is in line with the lines used in the Dark Tournament story arc of the television series. My only complaint with the sound was that some of the cut scenes started off much louder than others, causing me to reach for the remote to turn the game down. I would then have to turn it up again to hear the instructions for the match. While this didn’t occur with every cutscene, one out of every four would be this way. During my play of this game, I spent more time fighting the controls and the timing of the game, trying to get it to process the moves I was inputting on the controller. I would, in the pratice modes, complete a chain of moves as directed to perform a super chain. The game would mark each section of the completed super move chain and once I completed it, would tell me I failed the move. I would have to rapidly attempt the move multiple times for the game to call the move successful. This was aggravated by the fact that my character was completing the move properly onscreen (with requisite slow motion action indication a super move) and hitting my opponent. There is a method to their timing that I was unable to master in the period I played the game. This made my playing of the game difficult and frustrating.
The move structure was similar to Mortal Kombat, with a basic move usually being a direction and a button pressed simultaneously. The more complex moves combined two to five of these basic moves into a specific chain which resulted in more damage, and the aforementioned slow motion with camera pan to show off the move.
The game presented a single player mode based around the Dark Tournament story arc of the Yu Yu Hakusho anime series. It starts off with Yusuke’s special training for the tournament, and moves through each fight as if it were an episode of the series. To my knowledge, each fight represents one episode of the Dark Tourmanent arc. Each fight is prefaced with a short video clip from the episode in question. You are then presented with the rules of the match you are in, with varying goals. In one match, you simply have to dodge your teacher’s spirit gun attack. In another, you spar against the Masked Fighter, completing moves at your teacher’s request. As the tournament story progresses, these instructions become more information on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses rather than complete information on how to finish the round. As you complete each round of the tournament, you earn playing pieces for the token game.I was unable to determine for certain whether the pieces are a fixed reward or not, but they did not seem to be random. The game also saves your place in the progression of the tournament, so it is easy to play through several matches and then step away.
The other gameplay modes offered are pretty straightforward fighting game modes, such as Arcade mode, Versus, Token match, and Training. The arcade mode is slightly unique, as you pick which one of the four main characters will be your final opponent after you choose your fighter. The fighters in between seem to be randomly generated. Token match was a mode I only worked with peripherally. The tokens were based on characters from the series, and you place them on a hexagonal ring board. Depending on what they were placed next to, they would take damage or do damage to neighboring enemy tokens. The person with the most tokens after the board was filled wins. Aside from the collector value, it didn’t seem to be that fufilling of a strategy game.
The most basic unlockable for this game are the tokens for the Token Battle game mode. You can also unlock some thirty other characters to play in Arcade mode and in Versus mode. There wasn’t much else in terms of replay value built in to the game, but fighting games tend to have a longer replay time as players hone their skills.