As bad as licensed games have been in the US in Japan they were even worse if you can believe it. With so much anime airing on TV even to this day there are legions of bad games released almost every week. Mostly they were terrible because they came from Bandai, who were the Akklaim of Japan. Every so often a decent game would slip through the cracks. Ranma ½ Hard Battle beat the odds and was actually localized for America alongside the anime from Viz surprisingly. While most licensed fighting games from Japan are trash I had some fun with Hard Battle although I fully acknowledge it isn’t for serious fighting game fans.
Ranma ½: Hard Battle is actually the second game in the series to come to the US. The first, Chōnai Gekitōhen, was badly localized by Irem as Street Combat. Localized is being generous; that game was butchered to hell and back. I regret ever playing that game but that is a story for another day. I don’t blame publisher DTMC for skipping out on it as even in its original form it was a bad game. This is a much better attempt
This game is actually what sparked my initial interest in Ranma ½. Although I was vaguely aware of the anime thanks to the Fatal Fury OVAs Hard Battle was my introduction to these characters and their strange relationships. Even without any familiarity with the series the goofy humor still comes through and makes the game entertaining. That being said this one is strictly for the fans as it lacks the depth to be taken seriously.
Ranma ½ Hard Battle boasts a very large roster of most of the principle characters from the series. The story mode sees the school principle course each fighter into roughing up the others for the flimsiest of reasons. Honestly he just wants to see kids beat each other up. The single player is disappointing in the sense that regardless of who you’ve chosen you’ll fight the same opponents in almost the same order every time.
The controls use an odd but simple setup that can thankfully be changed in the options. There are only two attacks, light and heavy. There is a separate button for blocking and one for jumping. That last one can be assigned to Up on the D-pad like every sensible fighting game. I detest block buttons but you can still block by holding back as well.
Much like the controls button inputs for special moves have been simplified. You’ll find no quarter circle motions here. Most attacks use a charge based system. These aren’t the Guile style charge moves either; simply holding an attack button and pressing a direction will suffice. It’s easy to execute and allows novices to jump right in and (ideally) kick ass. Most characters have three to six special moves which is quite a lot but the simplicity helps keep the game accessible.
That ease of use comes with a cost. Charge motions are not conducive to comboing which the game has none of. In many ways it reminds me of Eternal Champions, minus the insane production values of course. This is more of a brawler than a technical fighter like Street Fighter. There’s nothing wrong with that aside from the fact that there is no depth. What you see is what you get. Once you have mastered one character you’ve mastered most as there special moves are not only performed identically but function similarly. Most fighting games have at least 2 clone characters but this takes it to another level.
With no advanced techniques to master and only one hidden character to unlock you will mine all of the game’s content quickly. Even two-player battles grow old fast. The game does a good job of bringing the comic to life with its graphics and sound but falls short in gameplay. Fighting games live or die by their systems to keep players coming back and Hard Battle falls short.
I like Ranma ½ Hard Battle but that is also because I like the manga and anime as well. It’s interesting as a curiosity but does not have the kind of longevity of similar titles. Only fans of the manga will be interested and even then I would recommend the far superior Ranma 1/2: Chōgi Rambu Hen which is a legitimately great game all around.