English Review: The Eye of Typhoon (Neo.Geo AES)
The Eye of Typhoon (Neo Geo AES) 02.18.23
The Eye of Typhoon (''TEOT'') is the second fighting game developed by Viccom (a Korean development studio) for the Neo Geo, after the infamous Fight Fever (released in 1994 and only in the MVS format), which is sadly known as one of the worst games ever released for the MVS system!
The release of TEOT was limited to PC CD-Rom and 3DO versions in 1996, exclusively for the South Korean market. As for the prototype, initially planned for the Neo Geo, it was never published and disappeared into the ether... The story could have ended there, but Balek Corp (with main members including OzzyOuzo in charge of the game code and Johnny16Bit for the overall design) decided otherwise! They were helped in their quest by ElRayzeur for ripping and retouching the stages, Format_c (who gave them a hand at the beginning of the project), and Catoblepa, an Italian artist notably responsible for certain illustrations in paper format.
Without having access to the prototype, Balek Corp took inspiration from existing versions by carrying out a complete overhaul. This unofficial homebrew remains based on the graphic and sound materials designed by Viccom (gfx & sfx). But the team definitely boosted the formula with steroids and tried as much as possible to free itself from the original gameplay, in order to ensure that their game was worthy of the almighty SNK console... "Bigger Badder Better!"
The primary goal of the TEOT project was to bring this good old-fashioned arcade production from the first half of the 90's back to the Neo Geo, the platform it was originally intended for... Keeping 2 underlying ideas in mind: combine the expectation and excitement of a brand new game with the unique feeling of getting your hands on a long-lost treasure!
When you insert the cart in the slot, you'll get this message, "Winners don't use drugs", a nice nod to arcade games released in the 90s in the US. The classy intro in black and white under a stormy sky introduces in turn the 12 main protagonists of the game:
The introduction also goes over the storyline: there was once a mysterious martial art called Kuk-Cho-Ho-Kwon that flourished during the Myoung dynasty. However, this fighting technique died out and soon only a legend remained. Many years have passed and Asian nations such as China and Korea are in a state of chaos. Hearing about the mystery of Kuk-Cho-Ho-Kwon, the major Western powers desperately try to recover it…. Will Kuk-Cho-Ho-Kwon be resurrected? By who… ?
Then, the “How to play” presents the main gameplay mechanics. TEOT uses the formula of most versus fighting released on Neo Geo with the use of 4 buttons: A for light punch, B for light kick, C for strong punch and D for strong kick. Pressing A+B simultaneously will perform an overhead. Main feature of the software, after being stunned, your character enters “Typhoon Mode” (symbolized by an eye located just below the life bar). He can then take out a special (jumped) attack by pressing C+D, which can be used at will. But above all, he has a devastating secret attack that can only be triggered once per match (not per round), by carrying out the following manipulation, which remains the same for all characters: Down, Diagonal Down Left, Left, Right + CD. In short, that's the equivalent of a desperate move, which generates enormous damage and therefore potentially large reversals of the situation. A great add to spice-up the fights!
The roster, very heterogeneous, is essentially made up of shotos (with a few exceptions):
• Hoya, the equivalent of Ryu but in Korean, the main character of the game.
• Jarkill, a Belgian mask fighter, who is reminiscent of Vega.
• Chohong, a relative of Hoya, inspired by Chun Li.
• Dalma, an old man of small stature but who remains very powerful, with his reduced hitbox and his considerable reach thanks to his magic staff. Undoubtedly a god-tier fighter!
• Natasha, a huge Russian who moves through the air mainly thanks to her flatulence (!!!). She is particularly imposing and spectacular, like Jack Turner in Art of Fighting. Besides, she shares a few moves with him...
• Nelson, a British aristocrat who wields the whip like no other.
• Mui, a mysterious warrior living in the jungle, a real brute!
• Musasi Taro, a ninja who would look great in Samurai Spirits or Ninja Master's!
• Roy, very similar to Terry Bogard (he uses the main special moves and even the very same desperate move). He links to taunt his opponents by screaming ""Kiss my ass!".
• Sauri, a shinobi woman who defeats her opponents using an umbrella.
• Thaloc, an Aztec warrior whose one of the special attacks copies E.Honda's Flying Headbutt.
• Wangchang, an overweight Chinese man who will instantly remind you of Chen Sinzan from the Fatal Fury series!
Below, here is the move list for each character (taken from the manual):
You will also find it here, on Johnny16Bit's French blog:
2 bosses complete the cast, Powell and Mahesvara. Finally, like Powell, another character can be unlocked by achieving a 1cc: Kim Hoon, taken from Fight Fever and a nod to Fatal Fury!
Tip: To play Powell and Kim Hoon, stand on Natasha/Hoya, hold Start and do a 360° clockwise.
The stages have been really polished: the colors are bright and vibrant, the colorimetry shows very good taste (only Cho Hong's is a bit of a stain, I think), a nice job has been done on the shadows and environments all have a very strong identity (eg Nelson's with a hangar full of biplanes). Bravo for the job done, the overall aesthetic is in line with arcade games from the first half of the 90s! Some stages could even appear among those of Samurai Spirits or Ninja Master's! Here are “a few” shots to see for yourself the work done by the Balek team:
When you take a beating or beat up your opponent, a guest appears at the bottom right of the screen in the form of an easter egg, a nod to Mortal Kombat. So you will have the pleasure of seeing Chuck Norris, Hulk Hogan, David Hasselhoff, Jean-Claude Van Damme (from Bloodsport movie it seems to me), Eddie Murphy, the libidinous old man from the Robocop commercials ("I'd buy that for a dollar" ) and Rocky Balboa with his famous line, "Adrian!!!"… No doubt, the Balek team knows their classics! Only the presence of Elvis Presley denotes... Some players may consider that these many easter eggs break the immersion a bit, but personally, that didn't bother me too much.
More problematic, the roster is too unbalanced for my taste. If you choose Dalma, Natasha or even Wangchang, you will knock out your opponents in no time ! Obviously the difficulty has been lowered compared to the beta versions of the game, as you can easily beat the game by repeating certain moves over and over, typically jump followed by Down + D (it can be chained several times in the same phase). Unfortunately, the collisions lack precision sometimes and the animations of certain characters can give the impression of being jerky, due to a lack of decomposition in the movements. For the defense of the team in charge of the project, there is undoubtedly nothing more difficult than developing a fighting game, as the collision masks must be precise and the roster balanced. A particularly complex and delicate exercise!
Despite the few flaws mentioned above, I took great pleasure in playing TEOT again and again, testing new characters and special moves... I pretty much lost track of time, which is clearly a good sign! TEOT has a feeling quite close to Double Dragon Neo Geo fighting game, and I can't wait to try it facing a real human... That's where it will reveal all its flavor and its long-term interest! The music is generally quite good and efficient, as are the very rough sound effects (you can really feel the impact of the blows) and the excellent voice of the speaker. Too bad so many samples come from Fatal Fury... Some vocal digits break the immersion a bit, like those of Nelson, Jarkill, etc. There is even a character who will insult you by shouting “Vieille Catin! ". I'll let you use Google Translate on this one... I imagine it's a Balek team bias, as well as putting the Lambada music when you have to enter your initials to appear in the high score table (featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the background)… I agree moderately but at least the developers were definitely off on a trip of their own! On the other hand, I really liked the cover of Gangnam Style in the end credits. A welcome little Korean touch that fits perfectly with the history and background of TEOT!
To my great regret, I had missed the first release (limited to 20 AES and 10 MVS copies) but I was able to order this second batch. So certainly, the price is substantial (400€) but the overall level of finish is remarkable: crystale case, impeccable instructions and cartridge, Neo Geo seal exhibiting the shape and colour of the South Korean flag, T-shirt, key ring, many postcards, sticker, coasters, personalized note. Congratulations!
In conclusion, TEOT does not look out of place compared to the Tier 2 - Tier 3 Neo Geo fighting games, and I sincerely think that this is the best compliment I can give to the Balek team. You have to keep in mind that this is a job done by amateurs in their free time, with a fairly small team. The game has been completely rewritten in C language. If the stages of the PC and 3DO versions have been slightly improved, the animations have been revised from top to bottom! The game clearly has more punch than its counterparts on 3DO and PC, and has a real arcade feel to it. To give you an idea of the work accomplished, here is a video posted by Ozzy which briefly presents the 3 different versions:
So certainly, there are obvious flaws (weird collisions, missing animation frames, roster not sufficiently balanced, some vocal digits off the mark) but the desire to do well is obvious and the title exudes the passion of old school VS fighting games! Resuscitating a game that unfortunately has not seen the light of day more than 25 years later on its original system AND in physical format, this deserves a big tip of the hat!!! Can't wait to see what Balek Corp has to offer in the future!
My objective score: 13/20
My not so objective score: 14/20
As a bonus, for french speakers, here's an interesting interview given by Johnny16Bit on the Cathodic Spirit forum: