The video gaming scene was once dominated by the side-scrolling beat-em’-up. There were many classic titles in this genre but they all shared similar gameplay as you constantly walked to the right of the screen while beating down the thugs in your way until you reached the final boss. The best of these titles added in ways to keep the gameplay fresh. Some used power-ups you found throughout each level, others used magic or ways to upgrade your characters. 99Vidas takes all of what made the most classic beat-em’-ups great and puts them all together in one of the best games of this style I’ve ever played.
The story here isn’t exactly mind-blowing, but it is certainly enough to set the stage. There is an artifact known as the 99Vidas that grants the ability to live 99 lives to whoever is in control of it. An evil man known only as The Boss has taken control of the 99Vidas and it’s up to the artifact’s 4 Guardians to retrieve it and stop The Boss. Each Guardian is attuned to an element, water, fire, earth, and lightning. They must use these powers in conjunction with their own unique fighting styles to beat their way through six stages of challenging combat until they finally reach The Boss.
Along their adventure, the Guardians run across a few different enemy types, but if I have a problem with this game then its the fact that you see these same enemies in each level. Rather, I would have liked to see enemies reflect their surroundings a little more and be based on the style of the level you’re in. Luckily the bosses at the end of each stage make up for this by having not only unique personalities but also individual strategies you have to figure out in order to beat them.
Keeping this style of gameplay interesting is difficult but 99Vidas manages to make it fun and interesting by giving characters different combinations determined by button press. It really feels satisfying to pull off flawless combos on a screen full of enemies. Along with these combos are special attacks that will knock an enemy down in one hit and determining when to use these moves in conjunction with your combos adds a little depth so that you’re not just continuously hitting the same attack button. Players also have a screen-clearing ultimate attack based on the character’s elemental alignment. Similar to games like Golden Axe, how much energy you have stored for the attack will determine if it is a level 1 or level 2 attack, with 2 obviously being the stronger version. These attacks look very cool and can be especially useful if you are playing single-player.
Further expanding on its combat, 99Vidas has a simple but satisfying upgrade system as well. As you progress through a stage, you’ll earn points for defeating enemies and picking up what looks like old gaming consoles. At the end of each level, you’ll find the upgrade store and use those points to make your attacks stronger or purchase extra lives for the battles to come. Upgrading your attacks don’t just make them stronger but changes up the animations in subtle yet noticeable ways and later upgrades even add extra hits to your combos. Small things like this really show the attention to detail that was put into making 99Vidas
In addition to its surprisingly fun combat, 99Vidas is full of charm as well. From its art style to references made to past games of this style, you’ll be smiling through all 99Vidas has to offer. Having enemies say things like “I’ll see you again…many more times” shows the self-aware humor present in the game and you can tell you’ll be playing a game with character right from the beginning. As humorous as it is, 99Vidas has a slickness to it present in 80’s action flicks and Kung-fu movies. While I felt some of its jokes fell a little flat, overall, 99Vidas is a charming game that will keep me coming back for its gameplay as well as its style.
Something else 99Vidas does right is multiplayer. Offering both online and local co-op is never a bad idea and the versus mode here is just icing on the cake. There is also certainly enough challenge in the gameplay to warrant tackling it with a few friends. Running through the classic gameplay here solo is still fun but having a few friends along reminds me of playing games like X-men the Arcade Game where the more the merrier really applies.
Further adding to the excellence of 99Vidas is its replay value. Unlockables to include extra characters to play as really keep you coming back to see and use all the powers and abilities of each character. Toss in a New Game + mode and 99Vidas really is the full package of what you’d want out of any game of its type.
I truly can’t say enough positive things about 99Vidas. Side-scrolling beat-’em-ups went away for a reason back in the late 90’s. They became stale and with emerging technologies, they really couldn’t keep up. 99Vidas, on the other hand, resurrects one of the most popular genres to grace arcades and home consoles alike in a fresh and very fun way. Its charm, tight controls, multiplayer capabilities, and replay value are second to none and the passion its creators had for the game is clearly present. If you want to see a great example of a new twist on a classic genre, 99Vidas won’t disappoint.
99Vidas is available now on PlayStation 4 (cross-buy with Vita) and Xbox One for $9.99. The game is also available on various other platforms/mobile devices. A copy of the game was generously provided by our friends at Qubyte Interactive.