on 11 February 2005
Ulltra Vortek is a great antidote for those depressed by the lackluster "Kasumi Ninja." Taking the style of a side-scrolling fighter, Vortek has several great characters, stunning backdrops, and an attention to detail that unfortunately didn't quite make it to the combat system. Still, it holds its own against any platform 2D fighter because of its uniqueness.
Starting with a well-rendered, evil-looking demon known as "The Guardian" who holds you and your opponent in his huge, clawed hands, you get to choose between about eight characters. Unfortunately there are only two hidden characters - a shadow creature which takes on the aspect of the other characters (lame) and the demon guy himself, who has tail you can whip opponents into submission with. Other characters include Dredloc - a rasta with a halberd-like weapon who can blow clouds of smoke with a "Hey, mon" at opponents to 'stun' them; Lucius, a lightning-wielding street fighter; Volcana, a fiery lady who when knocked down literally burns up and rises from her ashes like a phoenix; Mercury, a ratchety robot whose limbs can turn to spinning weapons at any given moment; Grok, a huge rock-monster that can cause earth tremors to knock down his opponents; and my favorite Mercury, a being made entirely of liquid metal who splats on the ground into a silver puddle and reforms like the terminator when he gets back up.
The fighting system is quick but is less exciting than other games and is probably the weakest element of the game. There aren't a lot of moves or combos to engage in. Sometimes characters feel a bit unresponsive and the animation is unconvincing at times but this is more than made up for by their variety and the humor involved in creating them. While the combo system is limited, when you are whipping your oppoonent it will gain the Guardian's approval, which he will signify with an "AWESOME" or a sinister laugh which adds great ambience to the game. Even better, an uppercut at the end of a fight while your opponent is helpless will send him flying off the screen, down into a spiked pit where he will suffer a final, gruesome fate of your pummeling. The backdrops are nothing short of exquisite, with the subway setting being my personal favorite, containing flashing busted TVs, subways screaming by at random intervals and other great details.
Ultra Vortek is also the only Jaguar game certified to allow man-to-man combat via the JagModem, which only made it to the beta stage before the Jag got scrapped. Since the peripheral wasn't released you have to use secret character codes to get at it.
If you must own one fighting game for the Jaggy, this is the one to hunt down. The creativity of its design more than makes up for the weaknesses of its fighting system and makes it well worthy of inclusion amongst some of the other fighters of its day.