It’s always a treat for me, a Brazilian, to find out that a company from my country has managed to release a game for the current generation of consoles. Based off a podcast I have never even heard before in my life, 99Vidas (portuguese for “99 lives”) is a retro-style arcade beat-em-up that tries to emulate the old-school vibes of titles like Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Double Dragon.
Leaving my patriotic pride aside, 99Vidas is indeed one of the better retro beat-em-ups out there.
Right from the get-go, you’ll notice how 99Vidas is loyal to its sources of inspiration. The game legit looks like something you would have seen 25 years ago on the Mega Drive or the Neo Geo, with excellent colorful 16-bit visuals and tons of visual easter eggs for the more detail-savvy out there. There are lots of old school Neo Geo logos scattered around, garage doors a-la Double Dragon, a train level just like Final Fight, old consoles acting as bonus cash, and so on. While some elements seem too much like their sources of inspiration (looking at you, subway level), the overall visual department is pretty good, with one exception being some wonky animations.
While not being analyzed as something to be judged upon score-wise, I really liked the fact some of the levels had a really typical Brazilian setting, something rarely seen in games nowadays, as well as a very strong Brazilian influence in some of the characters, such as footballers who fall on the floor when touching them, a reimagining of Mônica from the comic book Mônica’s Gang, and my personal favorite, an Argentinean as a boss.
The sound department, just like the graphics, is also a big fat nostalgia bomb, given the fact the game sounds a lot like the Streets of Rage games, which is definitely a good thing. The game also features a bit of voice acting, performed by each of the podcast’s members, both in English and Portuguese. While I have to admit that hearing the expression “é nóis” (you can consider it our way of saying “we’ve got it”) coming from my controller is quite amusing, there aren’t many voice samples per character, which results in lots of phrases being used over and over again.
The game does a good job recreating both the visuals and sounds of old arcade games with its own twist, but what about its gameplay? The controls in 99Vidas are actually pretty straightforward: you have a punch button, a kick button, a jump button and a “special” button, in which you can wipe out everybody onscreen at once. That’s pretty much it. It’s as simple as it sounds and very responsive as well. Despite the fact that the tutorial section tells us to try lots of attack combinations, there aren’t many. It usually resorts to you punching four times in a row and ending either in a kick or, in later stages and after buying some upgrades, a (very satisfying, may I add) power punch. I had one gripe with the game’s combat system, however: while simple and fun to play, there were some moves you can perform which are basically unavoidable and can, therefore, “break” the game, with special emphasis on the “jump kick” technique. Then again, that will only be an issue if you spam them all the time.
After talking about its visuals, sound, and its (flawed) gameplay, is 99Vidas a fun game? YES! Not only is the game a nostalgia bomb, playing just like the beat-em-ups of yesterday (and to a certain extent, that gaming adaptation of Scott Pilgrim), but it also features great level design (it deserves an honorable mention for its hand drawn level, a much better “notebook” level than the entirety of Drawn to Death), challenging but beatable bosses, and funny dialogue, with lots of references to classic video game franchises. To top it off, the game also features co-op for up to four players, both online and local, with very decent connectivity and no glitches, as well as a “versus mode,” which acts more as a straightforward fighting game. And 99Vidas is filled with content and unlockables, which encourages multiple playthroughs.
If you’re craving for a new beat-em-up that successfully brings back the visuals of the 80s and 90s while updating the gameplay to a more bearable 2017 standard, unlike the incredibly disappointing Arc System beat-em-ups Double Dragon IV and River City: Knights of Justice then 99Vidas is the game for you. It doesn’t bring a lot of new elements to the table, besides a few expressions only us folk from south of the Equator will understand, but it succeeds at being a good new version of a classic genre and a very decent nostalgia bomb for those out there thirsty for some arcade fun. Not to mention that the inclusion of 4-player co-op, both online and local, was an excellent idea.
Also available on: PS3, PS Vita, PC
Copy of 99Vidas was provided by publisher