For one of his special moves, the baseball player – a crazy dude named Shoma, who wears his spiky hair from the opening on his backwards cap – takes his bar and wails his opponent with a satisfying crack, sending them flying across stage, with the camera forced to zoom out until both characters are tiny little figures, just to give you a scope of how big of a home run you’ve hit.
Known as Justice Gakuen: Legion of Heroes in Japan, Rival Schools is a 3D fighting game by Capcom, which should tell you that it’s not a particularly magnificent game. It is, however, better than the mediocre Street Fighter EX series, or the forgettable Star Gladiator games, or the shameful Final Fight Revenge. The controls are clunky, the animation is slow, the jumping mechanics feel off, and the fighting system isn’t exactly overflowing with depth. But it’s also pulsing with more pure energy than practically any fighting game ever created.
Now, if the Japanese school system is anything like the world of Rival Schools, all kids do all day is run around, scream things very, very loudly, and beat the hell out of each other for little-to-no reason. It feeds off of all of this absurd energy, and creates a hilarious self parody of both anime and fighting games.
Even though the graphics are 3D, Rival Schools plays just like a 2D fighter, so it’s more like Street Fighter than Tekken. However, the playing field is essentially endless, so there are no walls or ring outs or anything. The combo system is pretty simplistic, but that’s not really where the fun lies. Taking a note from the chaotic Marvel Super Heroes games (and later the Versus series), your characters can propel themselves several dozen feet into the air, either to rain down attacks from above or pummel your opponent with an air combo. You always have a partner, although like King of Fighters, you can only switch them in between rounds. However, you can call them out for backup attacks, if you have enough power bars. These team-ups are some of the coolest attacks in the game – a few of them restore health, and others grant you even more power bars, but most are just some incredibly cool attacks.
Rival Schools also had some of the most well packed home ports of any fighting game out there, surpassing even the World Tour mode from Street Fighter Alpha 3. There are tons of mini-games and tournament modes, plus several variations on creating your own character, usually done through some kind of life sim mode. Alas, these were all left out of any Western releases. But it still goes to show how much Capcom cares about their interesting cast of characters.
This crazy school girl can set her opponents on fire. Her little post-battle victory dance reminds me a lot of Data the Save Monkey from Mega Man Legends.
The tough-but-cool guy, who seems to use electricity based attacks. Probably there for the drooling fangirls, so they can write embarassing fan fiction or wail on people with their yaoi paddles or whatever it is they do all day. He’s the only playable character from Rival Schools in Capcom vs SNK 2, which makes me bitter.
Man. Why did Kyosuke get added into Capcom vs SNK 2 when awesome baseball player Shoma was obviously the superior choice? That bandage on the nose is some kind of cliche.
Roberto plays soccer. He can also dribble his opponents like a soccer ball.
Seeing a trend? Natsu is the volleyball player. She’s a bit tomboyish, but has a thing for Shoma.
The guy with the gigantic fists is an American football player. His hot-headed American attitude clashes with Batsu’s hot-headed Japanese attitude in an amazing cross cultural rumble.
Bowman is supposed to be a….uh…preacher? Have you ever seen a preacher with hair like that? And what religion, exactly? Church of the Latter Day Face Punchers?
Every fighting game needs a big stupid guy – it’s as much as a cliche as the “old guy” (of which seem to be absent from Rival Schools, if you don’t count Raizo.) Anyway, Gan is big and dumb, and a member of a gang.
This mysterious biker hangs around with Edge and Gan, and usually wears a helmet with an image of a skull. Little do people know that there’s actually a kinda cute girl under there. It’s possible that this was meant to be a dramatic revelation, but she’s playable right in the beginning of the PSOne version, which lessens the surprise.
The quiet and imposing gang leader who has to put up with Edge’s and Gan’s shenanigans all day. Also Akira’s older brother.
This bad-ass school teacher is also a pretty standard Ryu clone.
The standard fantasy of a Japanese school nurse being a middle-aged hottie. Kyoko also (inexplicably) has her own back rub mini-“game”, and also has a thing going with Hideo.
If Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown was reincarnated as a Japanese high school gym teacher, he’d probably end up like Hayato, who wields a mean kendo sword and can destroy opponents by demanding they execute a series of push-ups.
The average high school principal would probably have been eaten alive by Raizo, the commander-in-chief of Justice High, with teeth and hair that would put Blanka to shame. He also has a monocle!
You should all know Sakura, the Ryu worshipper first introduced in Street Fighter Alpha 2. It made sense for Capcom to tie together the universes, so Sakura made a cameo appearance as one of Hinata’s friend in the PS1 port.
Hyo is the true mastermind behind all of the crazy events. He dresses like a soldier and wields a sword, making him the odd man out amidst the rest of the cast.
Ran loves to take pictures. Really, really loves to take pictures. She’s introduced in the “Nekketsu Seishun Nikki 2” pseudo-sequel and all she does is run around obnoxiously and snap photos.
This swimmer dude, who dresses in a cap and a pair of speedos.
It’s not clear what the Chairperson’s deal is – her name is never given, only her title (which is “Iincho” in Japanese). She doesn’t appear to have any great powers, except she dresses in a skimpy gym uniform, upping her popularity factor with creepy old men.
Yurika looks like she stepped out of the shoujoest of shoujo mangas, what with that impressive hairdo. She’s a bit of a priss and attacks with music from a violin.
Zaki (Aoi Himezaki)
Do Japanese schools have S&M clubs? Potentially not. She’s actually a gang leader and friend of Akira’s.
Momo is the anti-thesis of every little girl character in existence – she’s conniving, mean-spirited, and out for blood. She can also play tennis.
Appears to be the main bad guy of Project Justice. He looks older but he’s actually a student, and a member of some kind of warped dark student council. Watch out, he has claws.