Rival Schools: United by Fate is a fighting game featuring bubbly cheerleaders, soccer players, hadoken-firing school teachers, devious principals with plans of country-wide domination, lots of animated images of burning flames, and one very pissed off baseball player.
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, I have little knowledge of the Japanese school system, but if it's 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 plays 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.
Project Justice (Dreamcast)