Reviews | Naomi

Jingi Storm: The Arcade

By Alex Kierkegaard / December 7, 2006

I first heard about this game back in early June while browsing the Madman's Cafe BBS. One of the site's owners who goes by the handle the "Professor" had just attended the initial location test and was reporting back with bad news:

First up, the game is 3D. The quality of the graphics... looks like something that's four-five years old. They are not terribly bad, but there's nothing standing out at all. It reminded me a lot of Sammy's Force Five, which just disappeared during development and never came out in the arcades. In fact, some of Force Five's backgrounds look suspiciously similar to those of Jingi Storm...

[...] To sum it up, Jingi Storm is a mediocre 3D fighting game with mediocre stripping at the end of each match. It feels more or less like some budget, Simple 1500 series game. (And apparently, I wasn't the only beta tester that thought so.) It's as if the developer figured out that the game sucked and wouldn't sell, so they just sloppily slapped on a stripping feature on it.

At that point the game's developer was for some reason still withholding its identity, but there were rumors that Yuki Enterprise (maker of the last two Samurai Spirits games) was behind it. Then a couple of weeks later, around the time of the second location test, the Professor reported that the developer was in fact a little-known company named Atrativa, whose only previous work had been the mahjong title Touryuumon -- apparently developed in conjuction with Yuki. Moreover, thanks to some detective work from insert credit's Brandon Sheffield, it turned out that the chairman of Yuki Enterprise and the representative director of Atrativa were one and the same person.

No more substantial information emerged on Jingi Storm after that, apart from a couple of cellphone pics taken from the location tests and whatever scant details were eventually offered on the official site (which had the tendency to go offline, and to have images pulled and replaced without warning). Moreover, when the game was finally released it received very limited distribution, and almost no coverage by the Japanese press. And so a few days ago, after looking for it in every arcade joint in Akihabara for the better part of a week, I finally found it in Leisure Land, and sat down with a stack of 100-yen coins to see what the fuck is up with this game.

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Jingi Storm is a 3D versus fighting game were each of the nine male fighters is paired up with a female, whose only purpose is to deliver the winning/losing lines at the end of each match. According to the Professor, during the first location test the girl on the losing side would strip, and her clothing would dissapear in four levels depending on how badly the losing player was beaten (we are talking about simple ilustrations here -- the girls aren't actually modeled in 3D). However, this feature has been removed from the final version which I played. I repeat: THERE IS NO STRIPPING IN THE FINAL VERSION. I eventually beat the snot out of each and every opponent and the illustrations were always the same. The thing is that adult games are not allowed in Japanese game centers anymore, but apparently Atrativa's designers somehow missed that memo. Once they got it at some point after the first location test, they decided to drop the feature. This little fiasco probably has something to do with the fact that the game ended up receiving such limited distribution.

But the lack of stripping was not the only shocking discovery I made. It seems that Jingi Storm and the ill-fated Force Five are, as the Professor had surmised but not quite realized, the same game. If you scroll down to the very bottom of this article on Game Watch and look at Force Five's Shin (pictured in the third screenshot), you'll see that he is basically the same character with Jingi Storm's Arashi (the guy on the left in the second screenshot of this review). Moreover, the backgrounds in both stages shown in those Game Watch preview screens are nearly identical to two of the stages in Jingi Storm. Of course the game obviously underwent many changes during its long development (including the drop of AW-NET support), but there's no doubt we are talking about a single title.

So a game that was announced by Sammy for the AtomisWave back in 2003 is finally released in late 2006 for the Naomi, with heavy cosmetic changes and lacking AW-NET support, and without its originally touted stripping feature, by a virtually unknown and somewhat shady publisher run by the same person who runs Yuki Enteprise. Now all I want to know is where to find the blood money and the dead bodies. As far as intrigue in the videogame world goes it doesn't get much better than this.

But joking aside Jingi Storm is worth at least a few credits, and certainly amounts to a couple hours of fun -- at least to those of us who enjoy this type of game. Its main attraction is, I believe, that it doesn't belong to an established franchise. And I say this because, with the Virtua Fighter, Tekken and Soul Calibur series dominating arcades, the 3D fighting genre is in even greater need of original efforts than the 2D variety is. That's not to say there's anything wrong with endless sequels for established franchises -- that's how a good game gets honed to perfection, after all -- but it's always nice to discover a new setting, and to get to grips with a completely new set of characters and moves.

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Now on the plus side Jingi Storm is easy to get into and has responsive, snappy controls, which are perfect for beginners. It uses three buttons (guard, punch and kick), and the movelists consist of a mixture of mostly combination attacks together with a few command moves, like those used in 2D fighting games. These latter moves are rather unusual for a 3D fighter and are kind of hard to pull off here, but they are an interesting addition nonetheless. Apart from that there are three kinds of guards (high, low, medium) as well as a guard break technique and a basic dash move, and each character seems to have at least one ranged attack and a couple of showy throws. It's an unusual mix of moves, to be sure, but it works ok in practice -- though you'll probably find that the rather awkward command moves and throws are not very useful.

The single player mode is quite a bit of fun while it lasts (i.e. not long), and involves several boss fights. When you clear the required number of regular opponents you get to a selection screen, which prompts you to chose one out of three female bosses (Fenrir, the blonde buxom killer from Norway is the nicest-looking one -- check the last video). You don't have to beat all three of them to progress -- just the one you select. After that there are a few more surprises, but I'll leave those for you to discover. On another note, by inputting three different commands in the title screen you can unlock the female bosses for regular play. At Leisure Land all of them were unlocked, but if you find the game at some other arcade (or if you buy the GD-ROM) you can get the codes from Atrativa's website.

And really that's all there is to Jingi Storm. Practically no one else was playing it, so even though I must have put in a good three-four hours over the weekend I only got to fight against two other human opponents, and I wasn't impressed by the experience. The system is just too basic (despite the odd mix of techniques), and the movelists too short to keep your interest up for more than a few fights. So the good news is that you can get good at it quite fast, but then you'll have no one to fight against, and my guess is that even if you did manage to find willing opponets you'd all get bored of it quite quickly. The fact is that a fighter as simple and rough as this just doesn't cut it in 2006 (it would have done very well in '96-'97), and Atrativa or Yuki or whoever decided to resurrect it knew this quite well when they decided to add the stripping. Which as I mentioned had to be dropped. Quite the fiasco, indeed.

I guess I forgot to mention the graphics. The Professor described them as looking like something that was "four-five years old", but four-five years ago it was, like, 2001-2002, and by then we had already had Soul Calibur for, like, two-three years, and Soul Calibur looks so much better than this it's not even funny. So, more accurately, I'd say that the backgrounds are rather nicely detailed (a busy boxing gym, a torch-lit underground arena, etc.), while the character models are very rough and low in polygon count, though they get the job done alright (watch out for the half-naked Yakuza thug and the Geroge Washington cosplayer). Overall the visuals are basically low tier for a Naomi game, but it's nothing that might actually damage your eyesight (as say, other recent Naomi titles like Radirgy or Triggerheart Exelica). The illustrations aren't half-bad either. Apparently each of the nine girls was drawn by a different artist, though you'll have to excuse me for not giving any more information on this as I don't seem to have heard of any of them.

Note: As of the 22nd of January Excellent Com has slashed its price for Jingi Storm to $118.