This is the era of brawlers coming to the Switch, I guess. There’s nothing wrong with that: sometimes we go through gluts of one kind of game or another. We just finished riding the wave of JRPGS onto the Switch, which still isn’t totally over, and we’ll be riding a massive wave next year of Animal Crossing and its clones. Isn’t it crazy awesome that Nintendo has had the Switch out for just over a year and a half, 2018 is considered the “weaker” year, and yet I can’t even name all the great games that got released? Anyways, brawling is in, indie brawlers are in, and I’m in the thick of QuByte’s love letter to retro brawlers, 99 Vidas. The verdict? Good, but bring friends and patience.
99 Vidas is a game all about an artifact called 99Vidas, which supposedly gives the holders ultimate power and 99 lives. Naturally, something this awesome can’t exist without someone trying to screw around with it, and, surprise, it goes missing. Which isn’t that surprising: if the artifacts were safe and sound and nothing was going on, why would we even be playing the game? Anyways, there are a number of Guardians of the 99Vidas, who each wield Power of the Elements, and are also adept at Punches to the Mouth. With no real direction, several of the Guardians depart at once to beat up everything in an attempt to get the artifact back!
Firstly, you should know that the lynchpin of this entire game is the fandom that helped bring it to life. 99 Vidas is actually the name of a Brazilian video game podcast that is so popular that an actual game developer/publisher worked with them to make a tribute game to the 80s and 90s that incorporated many of their likenesses. There are plenty of original ideas and designs within the game, but most of the enjoyment hinges on one of two things: love of the people involved or love of the genre. If you’re not really a brawler fan, this is a difficult place to start simply because it does incorporate a lot of the more beloved tropes of the games. Enemy swarms are thick, the best damage comes from clean combos, teamwork makes the dream work, and you throw a ton of dudes. The translation is spot on, however, so don’t let things like point of origin scare you off. I know we’ve had some incredibly wonky translations recently released, but 99 Vidas isn’t one of them.
The character and NPC design is one of the few places where I’m going to openly and honestly take umbrage with 99 Vidas, so let’s get that out-of-the-way at the start. There is a surprising number of brawlers to choose from in this game, and even more than can be unlocked through achievements and general replay to make the game more varied. That’s awesome. However, more than a few of the grunts that you have to deal with look very similar to the playable characters, albeit with different clothes or hair types. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, wait until the screen is thick with enemies and you’re trying to do anything more than single player. The game allows for local co-op and online brawling together, and, when you lose track of who you are during particularly intense sessions, it gets a bit frustrating. I don’t even mind playing as a female character, but when that’s your only recourse to prevent getting lost in the crowd, you have to wonder where the miscommunication came in.
Anyways, back to the game itself. 99Vidas has so much to offer, and I recommend everyone try everything if brawlers are your deal. There’s your arcade mode. There’s story mode, which has more cutscenes and exposition and a ton more humor, so definitely look into that. There’s versus mode, if your friend is talking trash and thinks he’s better than you so that you can PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE. And then there’s remix mode, which is such a gorgeous rendition of the game that should saved for after a single playthrough of one of the main gaming modes. Seriously, it’s got this great aesthetic, better enemy design and cool music and it just pops so much more if you’ve already gotten into the main title. There’s also a survival mode that’s a reward for playing through the story mode, and I totally never understood that. “Hey, you did a great job playing the game! Your prize is a version of the game that’s super punishing.” Bragging rights, pure and simple, enjoy, not for me, whatever.
The combat for 99Vidas is something beautiful to behold and I highly encourage players to test out all four of the elemental types. Things like lightning infused strikes and turning into stone to plow into enemies makes this feel like if Captain Planet went full vigilante mode. When you get into a great groove for comboing and moving between enemies, it feels like poetry in motion and you just glide easily from knockout to knockout. Interestingly, when my combo is interrupted, I pick up an iron bar off the ground and beat people with it, which is how I feel when anyone interrupts anything that I’m doing. Players can really deal some serious damage with some elemental sweeper hits that come at the cost of some of your HP, so it’s a great gambit if you’re confident that someone is going to drop a whole roast chicken any day now. Baking in these old tropes of the brawlers with the new school approach to versatility makes it clear why the generation that Haggar inspired is still going strongly with innovative takes on the genre.
The boss fights, additionally, are where things come together in a the co-op sense. Let’s be clear: you won’t find a boss that’s impossible to handle alone. Heck, just to be safe, I did manage to play all the way from start to finish on normal by myself, and it’s doable. But the bosses feel a bit monotonous without a friend in tow. Let me explain: an early boss, Roberto, has a clear attack pattern that you can map out and deal with through jump hits, combos and running away at the right time. He also has a health meter that slowly dwindles down under this pithy assault. In contrast, having an extra player means constantly raging on him from different angles, trying different ways to keep things lively and having the benefit of not being afraid to get knocked out because someone else is picking up the slack. You want to have someone else for the boss fights available just because it feels better.
And that’s the big takeaway from 99Vidas. This is a game that was developed, with love, by a group of people who saw a group of people working together and thought “Yea, that’s how it should be.” And they’re not wrong. When you have a full crew wrecking together, it’s addictively fun, and you can fill the screen with mayhem and fire and all sorts of fun stuff (and mute the voices because I couldn’t stand some of the voice work). You can throw on these awesome filters to make the game look retro or incredibly retro, like this was somehow released for the GameBoy and ported to the Switch. I hope that there’s a big step forward in match making for the Switch, because I was never lucky enough to find another reviewer online to play with (I mean, I’m antisocial, so that’s another thing). But I can see this becoming a great hit, especially for the crowd this was designed for that hasn’t already purchased it. Brawling fans rejoice: the indies are bringing the heat this month.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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99Vidas - Definitive Edition Review
User Review( votes)
A brawler with such versatility that it might just be worth playing 99 times, as long as you don’t go it alone.