Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action is the sort of game that would have blown my 10-year-old mind.
It’s like a lost classic brawler gem that’s been hidden in the back of an arcade for years. It plays like a hyperactive beat-em-up with the sensibilities of a saturday morning shonen anime. At its core it’s a fairly simple button masher, but it moves so fast and has such a ludicrous amount of style that its basic mechanics never stuck out to me, at least at first.
Aces Wild’s strongest asset is how it feels. The game moves with a bombastic confidence, every character being powerful enough to knock another person around the room like a human pinball and stay in midair by the sheer power of their attacks. If you’re ever on the ground in Aces Wild you’re probably doing something wrong, as fights are almost always structured around your ability to zip around like a rocket, sometimes removing the floor entirely as it forces you to chain attacks to stay afloat.
The combination of free-form movement afforded by your ability to go in any direction quickly and accurately, and the perfectly timed slowdown when you take out an enemy creates a feeling of power that is truly something to behold. Functionally you only need to hit one attack button and time enemy strikes so as to dodge and counter, but Aces Wild bombards you so heavily with visual and mechanical feedback for those basic actions that I found it difficult to keep my composure as each fight one-up’d the last with how over the top things could become.
Aces Wild’s weakness is that it doesn’t realize when it’s time to end before the feeling of embodying a speedy anime badass wears off, with the second half of the game exposing issues of counter timing and some rather cheap enemy patterns. Aside from some interesting level designs, there’s very little new to see in these later stages, which instead of introducing new enemies simply inflate the health bars and quantity of old ones, leading to drawn out repetitive fights. The bosses also become progressively less inspired, relying on a dull AI pattern of beginning in a disinterested state and then closing every opening as it feverishly beats you down. It was in these fights that I had to control myself from hurling my controller at the screen, as I was placed into fights that sucked all the energy out of the game and seemed almost broken even on the easiest difficulty.
Even at its worst though, Aces Wild never stops being fun. Its later stages are far less balanced and creative than the first half, but its fighting system is such a finely tuned machine that even in its weaker moments there’s just something awesome about landing a perfect hit and watching an enemy three times your size bounce wildly around the room. When the action is this outrageous, it’s hard to blame the game for not wanting to stop.