Stake: Fortune Fighters
Developer: Gameness Art
Released: May 2003
Genre: 3D Fighting
Capabilities: Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks Support
Review Written: June 2, 2003
Metro3D debuts its first title on the Xbox with a four
player fighting game by the name of Stake: Fortune Fighters.
Unfortunately, Stake is the quintessential example of how not to make
a fighting game. With a cumbersome control setup, a clumsy camera system,
and very little extras apparent whatsoever, things aren’t
looking bright when you put all the pieces together.
The storyline for Stake is that it is an combat event that is held every two years where the world’s best fighters enter in a tournament and the winner goes home with an abundance of wealth and fame. Stake isn’t going to get any points for innovation, but what little story there was sets the groundwork for the game.
Stake does have a unique set of controls, as a matter of fact there is only one other fighting series that it looks like it derived from. That is the pair of Power Stone titles that appeared on the ill-fated Dreamcast console. As a matter of fact, think of Stake just like it is Power Stone but stripped down to the most basic control setups, and minus all the other things that made Power Stone fun such as Smash Bros. Melee-esque shifting levels and four players fighting on one single screen.
Where do I start with what went wrong with Stake. Let’s get the controls out of the way. Each of the eight fighters has only two basic attacks that are simply dubbed “Attack 1” and “Attack 2.” No “sonic summersault kick” or “super thunder fire punch” just simply Attacks 1 and 2. What you’ll be trying to do instead is fill up your power gauge which will allow you to do one of two “Anger” attacks or an even more powerful “Rage” maneuver. Also, just like in Power Stone you have interactive environments. For example, there’s this one stage where if a fighter lands in this one gigantic pot, then they will be magically transported to this medieval-ish dartboard lying prone for several moments to be bashed upon. There are also various weapons to pick up and use against your foes such as pots and bombs and special power-ups such as invisibility and health packs to use to your advantage.
Now all this may sound fine and dandy so far, but once I started up my very first round of Stake I wandered around aimlessly due to the horrific camera that is used in the game. You can only partially focus it around with the right analog stick and shoulder triggers. I continuously kept getting lost in the stages, and even the enemy icon arrows didn’t aid me much in my quest to kill. My opponents kept nailing me from all directions, and their computer AI isn’t the most thrilling thing either. It’s like a freaking cat and mouse chase. They’d wail all over me, but once I’d start connecting with a couple hits of my own they started running away from me, and that was when I only had a trickle of life left and they had damn near a full energy bar. All this only left me pondering what the developers at Gameness Art were thinking while they made this game. It probably went something like this….
“What else can we do with Stake….I know….we’ll implement an even worse camera than Batman: Dark Tomorrow, strip away most of the controls so that a simple 2D fighter like Smash Bros. looks like an in-depth game, and make the computer AI as smart as a bunch of monkey’s on crack!”
The main mode of play is simply titled “single player.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m use to most other fighting games labeling their main gameplay options something along the lines of Story, Original, Quest, or just simply Arcade, but when I see a game’s main mode of play dubbed “single player” I start to get worrying. I was hoping at least for a cut scene of some sort to introduce me to the storyline of Stake, but I didn’t even get that. I was just thrown right into a random match up against a couple opponents and I started my quest in the Stake tournament. The only other way to play is multi player where up to four players can duke it out in free for alls, or team play battles. Those are the only two ways to play with no extra modes here whatsoever.
The graphics are actually Stake’s strongest point right here. There are some surprisingly good visuals to gaze at during gameplay. The character models have a close resemblance to the way they were designed in Power Stone. Each character model has fairly detailed texturing, albeit slightly dated, and is animated fluidly with no choppiness being apparent. The same thing can be said for Stake’s eight levels that all have their own unique themes that’ll have you dueling in a circus all the way to castles and temples. The few special attacks that each character has also are a thing of beauty. Shockwaves that erupt from underneath the ground and waves of fire glaring across the arena look too good to be true.
There is also a very clever “blur” effect worked into the game engine where far distanced parts of stages have a blurry look as it would be in real life if you’re looking at something from a far distance. This has got to be one of the first fighting games I’ve seen to utilize this graphic effect throughout gameplay, and it’s just astonishing at how well they pull it off and managed for it to not intervene with the billion other elements that screw up the gameplay. All the other goodies round off a solid graphics package such as a constantly fast frame rate, and short loading times. Now if only the developers would’ve put as much effort into the gameplay as they did the graphics.
The audio leaves a lot to be desired. The sound effects are decent at best, with many of effects used for punches, kicks, and special attacks having a rather generic feel. The background music consists of some stringy techno beats which match the medieval-ish atmosphere of Stake to a certain extent. They do grow tiresome after a while though, but mercifully there’s custom soundtrack support included so we can listen to our own tunes. It isn’t utilized the greatest though, and it comes off as seeming tacked on to the game near the end of development. This is because once a track is picked it is played repeatedly until you manually choose another song from your soundtrack. I was actually a bit surprised to see the custom soundtrack support included in Stake, it is the only fighter on the Xbox I’ve seen to feature it so far.
There is support for up to four players split screen. It is one of Stake’s main drawing points, heck it says it right on the box cover. Good luck trying to get your buddies to play this with you for more than ten minutes. You might end up losing friends if you choose this as your main four player fighting game over big hits like Smash Bros. Melee, Power Stone 2 and to a lesser extent Kung Fu Chaos. A few more extra gameplay modes couldn’t of hurt. I was surprised there weren’t any of the usual suspects such as the training and survival modes that usually make appearances in almost all fighting games.
Replay Value: 2.4
Stake had a lot of potential to be the next big party/fighting game on Xbox, but it failed in spades. The atrocious gameplay elements and complete lack of extras are what ruin this title. While it does have some damn fine visuals, everyone knows it’s not the graphics that make a game. If you’re a big fan of these fighting/party type games, you’ll probably be better off with Kung Fu Chaos in your Xbox library than this.
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