It's been seventeen long years since Rumble Fish officially debuted in arcades. It would eventually receive a home console release, in Japan only, on the PlayStation 2. Now the sequel, The Rumble Fish 2, marks this 2D arcade fighter's first worldwide release. I originally played the first game in 2005, after buying it on a whim from an import gaming website I frequented. The announcement that Rumble Fish 2 (and its original predecessor) would return was a welcome surprise. Confused by the name? It is a direct reference to the Siamese Fighting Fish, most commonly known as Betta fish, elegant fish that will fight to the death when put together.
It's important to highlight the developer of this game, Dimps, was founded by Takashi Nishimaya, the original Street Fighter executive producer (you would not have Ryu's "Hadouken!" if it weren't for him) and the Fatal Fury franchise creator. If you are a fan of fighters, especially arcade fighters, Dimps' team comprises some of the best developers in the fighting genre, as Takashi Nisimaya (sometimes credited as "Piston Nishimaya") built the team from fellow former SNK colleagues.
Story and Characters
Like most fighters in this genre, The Rumble Fish centers around an illegal fight club. There is an incredibly well-done, flashy anime intro trailer introducing the characters, all dwellers of Zone Prime. The game includes sixteen characters, three bundled in the collector's edition. Greed, Beatrice, and Hazama can otherwise be purchased as DLC. You will have all your traditional fighter archetypes: grappler (Orville), zoner (Bazoo), shoto (your most well-rounded character, this would be Zen), and rushdown (Garnet), among many more.
There are six main gameplay types, along with the addition of a gallery that unlocks original game art as you progress:
・Online Multiplayer (utilizing Rollback Netcode to mitigate lag)
I mostly played the traditional Arcade Mode, switching up characters. Survival (an endless mode where you play until you die) is typically my favorite mode besides playing Versus with a friend, and I had a good amount of fun trying to make an entire run. If you are familiar with Fatal Fury, Rumble Fish will be an accessible difficulty for you; it will be challenging but not to a level that will make you want to rip your hair out. For example, I didn't experience any input lag when playing, which was a big issue with Tekken 7, at least for me.
Since Rumble Fish will be available to play via Online Versus mode, it's important to note the game uses rollback netcode, something that is becoming standard for most fighting game releases now. In theory, this should allow for as close to an arcade play experience as possible since it helps significantly with input delay and latency while playing online with friends or when paired. For someone unfamiliar with 2D fighters and the tech in this game, check out training mode to familiarize yourself with the characters and their move sets. In Arcade mode, I noticed a ramp-up in difficulty after about four fighters. Survival mode is inherently more difficult as you retain the damage you take between matches with minimal health bar recoup.
Another notable mechanic of Rumble Fish is its use of two power gauges, one for offensive and one for defensive. The offensive fills by landing hits on your opponent, allowing you to perform Impact Blows when filled. There are also Offensive Arts that cause a basic super move. The defensive bar will build up by blocking and generally avoiding damage, allowing you to recover quickly. An additional Guard meter will also weaken if you continuously block. Besides memorizing a move set (which is a skill) these additional mechanics add to the fun of the gameplay without making it just another button masher.
Graphics and Sound
The Rumble Fish 2 still captures the fun and fluidity of the original release, just optimized. It still looks like the fighter I would play back in 2005, which is welcome. It is flashy and colorful, and the character design stays true to each character's origin story. The music is upbeat and tonally matches the stages, and I didn't find any of the tracks to be grating. The characters have a fluidity in their movement, likely thanks to the fact that it's powered by S.M.A (Smooth Model Animation), which made this game memorable many years back.
This would be a great addition to any fighter aficionado's roster, and it was the most fun I have had playing a fighter in a while. Rumble Fish 2 will be available on all major platforms, including Steam, on December 8th, 2022. A Collectors Edition will also be available in a physical form containing both games for the Switch and Playstation. For review purposes, I played on Steam, and it's important to note that if you are playing on a PC, you will need a controller.
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