If the cast of Street Fighter decided to play a drastically modified version of Pong or baseball in the skies above, Ultra Space Battle Brawl would probably be what such a scene looked like. Taking on the guise of a sporting event, this Indonesian-developed title is at its essence a fighting game. From boot-up it’s blatantly obvious what Mojiken Studio has been inspired by, so how does it hold up in battle?
For starters, the template mirrors any classic fighting game. There’s a story mode, versus mode for 1v1 or 2v2 battles and a gallery to view the game’s artwork. The ten characters on offer all have a different story to work through, with each one intended to help you interpret the super-silly intergalactic universe the game is set in as best as possible. Just like a lot of other games of this type, none of these stories are particularly riveting.
The real focus here - shockingly - is on the space brawling. With this in mind, each character has unique stats covering power, speed, attack range and attack speed. Choosing the right character for your playstyle is important. When you finally make it out to your opponent, the fun begins. Each battle starts off with a single ball in the center of the arena. When the fight begins, the players smash the ball back and forth - increasing its speed - with the aim to connect with the wall behind the respective opponent, protecting a gem-like object. This acts as a life bar and every time this object is hit, the health meter above is lowered. The controls also make the game simple to pick up and play, with the dash and hit actions easy to perform while moving about. The objective does somewhat vary depending on the fight.
Each battle is broken up into three rounds, just like Street Fighter. The longer a battle goes on, the more each fighter builds up their special ultra meter. Once this gauge is filled, a special ability can be unleashed, providing the edge in battle. This can range from a character being able to perform a barrage of hits all at once, to other fighters who charge up the ball to deal extra damage. Over the course of the story mode, you’ll take on the entire cast, and even indulge in a few bonus rounds like taking aim at birds with a ball. The design of levels can also slightly change throughout, with the gems (representative of the character’s life bar) taking on a bigger or smaller size, and the barricades protecting it often changing formation and shape. Occasionally, there are also bumpers and other hazards in arenas, which can cause problems when attempting to make contact with your opponent’s gem.
The main problem with this title is the lack of depth and how unpredictable battles can be at times. You can dictate which direction the ball will travel, but it’s not exactly enjoyable when the A.I. is able to guess your every move. At times it seems to know every angle the ball will travel, despite the ‘random’ angles. Adding to this is the fact the ball flies about so quickly you’ll often be taking a wild guess yourself as to where the ball will travel next. Unfortunately, it’s this one major aspect that feels unjust and does not correctly contrast regular fighting games. Luck is always a welcomed element, but within the limitations of this game, you’ll feel hard done by.
If you can see past this, what’s available is still a well-designed game. Not only is it a fun concept, but it’s one that’s a competitive blast with three friends or family members in the versus mode. The production values only reinforce this, with awesome neon-pixel artwork that comes to life when characters perform their ultras and a catchy soundtrack and SFX – like the in-game voices and announcer - reminiscent of Street Fighter and other popular fighting games.
Even though Ultra Space Battle Brawl has no extensive move-sets or combos, it still has plenty of appeal. It’s a fast-paced and futuristic hybrid of baseball and Pong that anyone can play. There is indeed a lack of predictability when it comes to guessing which direction the ball will travel at times, but much like any sport - including fighting - there’ll always be that added element of luck present. This is something you’ll either appreciate or feel cheated by, depending on the kind of person you are. If you can overlook this, what’s on offer is a good little brawler for yourself and maybe even three other people.