I’m really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed Banpresto’s Great Battle series. Normally I’m not a fan of the super deformed aesthetic but somehow this series has a charm that I can’t resist. The first two SNES outings were good but flawed little gems. It is here with the third game that it really hit its stride. The Great Battle III is one of the better brawlers for the system despite its high difficulty and a game I feel is worth tracking down.
After their adventures in the last game the Compati heroes are cruising through space when a random asteroid hits their ship. The quartet crash on a medieval planet where they are immediately captured and brought before the king. Rather than tossing them in the dungeon the king enlists their aid in dealing with a nefarious sorcerer out to rule the world.
A number of mechanical changes have been made to the core gameplay that improve the experience a great deal. My biggest problem with the Last Fighter Twin was the short reach of each hero. Now that they are all equipped with weapons it solves two problems: reach and distinguishing characteristics. The Gundam F91 with its long sword has decent range and is the best-rounded. In my opinion Ultraman is the strongest but slowest. Kamen Rider RX has the longest reach and can toss bad guys with his spear which is insanely useful. Fighter Roa occupies a weird spot in the lineup. I found his attacks to be the quickest and his strength average. However his charged attack fires arrows that cover the length of the screen and can be used to cheese encounters.
New to the Great Battle III is currency used to purchase items in shops. The items available range from an increase in attack power, life refills, different levels of magic, and invincibility. Unfortunately the shops are the only way to regain health which I’m not a big fan of. You can re-enter shops multiple times and carry a potion for later use which sort of makes up for it. Shops aren’t available on every stage and some are hidden to boot. For such a crucial game element there should have been at least 2 per level to balance things out. I preferred the magic system of the previous game whereby you collected stocks and manually set how much you would use in order to ration it out. It wasn’t so overpowered that it needed to be changed and considering the difficulty would have alleviated some of that.
To go along with the gameplay changes the level design has also seen an upgrade. There are far more gimmick stages along the lines of the disappearing bridge of Last Fighter Twin. Whether it is hopping from raft to raft down a waterfall or competing in a mock tournament these distractions are a welcome change of pace from the standard brawling action. Most stages also feature convenient holes that enemies can be tossed in to speed things up. But alas, you won’t receive any money for such cheap tactics. While in most cases you would abuse the hell out of this to move on gold is especially important considering the high challenge.
Seeing this through to its conclusion will be quite a task as it is incredibly difficult. Choosing the right character for any given situation goes a long way toward surviving with as little damage possible. Since there are no health or item drops you have to work with what you have until a shop appears. It breaks nearly all the typical conventions of the genre but not in a good way. Even with your increased reach enemies will still counterattack and they love to circle around in groups. This is a pretty long game and your limited credits will disappear fast. Do yourself a favor, grab a cheat device so you can plow through the game and see all it has to offer.
Visually the Great Battle III is spectacular, especially for a game released in the middle of the system’s life. The Last Fighter Twin was decent but this is a cut above and competes with later through good art direction. The fantasy setting might seem limiting but the range of environments offers up a ton of visual variety and makes the game seem like one cohesive whole rather than the obvious mish mash of characters and settings of its predecessors. Seeing the various villain cameos from each series redesigned in medieval attire is a riot. With its beautiful backdrops I’d say this remains one of the strongest in the series visually.
Each title in the Great Battle series steadily improved and this third installment is one of its best. Had the difficulty been toned down a little bit the Great Battle III would have been a near classic. It will simply have to settle for just being a spectacular beat em up and one of the system’s best.