New release Review

Review – Them’s Fightin’ Herds

Them’s Fightin’ Herds from Mane6 is a 2D fighting game that is a spiritual successor to the developer’s original game Fighting is Magic, which was met with a cease-and-desist letter from Hasbro as that 2D fighter was based on the Hasbro toys and television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Mane6 went on to drop all assets and references to the My Little Pony franchise but kept the frantic fighting gameplay and non-bipedal characters. They then created new characters with assistance from Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and created the remarkable 2D fighter in Them’s Fightin’ Herds.

Them’s Fightin’ Herds has made a lot of good choices with a robust tutorial mode, an entertaining story mode and online play that is smooth due to its net-code. The best thing about this 2D fighter is in its combat, only using the four Xbox face buttons for a light, medium and heavy attack, with the fourth button being used for specific magic abilities. These abilities vary per character such as Arizona using her lasso to pull enemies in to be combo’d upon, compared to Oleander who charges magic from her spell book to make her special attacks stronger. Magic can only be used until the magic meter is drained while it is filled up in various ways depending on the character. Using magic and attacks also builds up the special move meter which can be levelled up three times during the game which provides the player with larger special attacks and spectacular finishers. Blocking is simply done by holding away from enemy, such as the likes of the Street Fighter games.       Them’s Fightin’ Herds has a fantastic in-depth tutorial. While teaching the basics, it also has a lot of strong features, such as learning about each character and how unique each one is gameplay wise. It also tests the players’ ability in different scenarios, provides challenges to be completed against AI and helps the player learn specific inputs for brutal combos. This a perfect for beginners and even 2D fighter veterans, who I believe will thrive with Them’s Fightin’ Herds’ gameplay.

The story mode is a nice distraction from the fighting as players take the role of a cow named Arizona who must travel the land to become champion and rid the world of an ancient evil. What took me by surprise was that half the gameplay is presented in a 16-bit retro 2D perspective, looking down on the world, much like retro RPGs. Arizona travels the land talking to its inhabitants, completing platform sections, searching dungeons, completing quests, fighting enemies while searching for secrets and cosmetic items that buff Arizona’s stats. Fighting enemies is done when Arizona bumps into them and it changes into the traditional 2D fighter where Arizona takes on ancient enemies in the forms of wolves, snakes, panthers, bears and more.  Fights can contain multiple enemies, either one at a time or with other creatures jumping in. The platform sections are terrible and having to perform certain small or large jump without a slight bit of error creates nothing but frustration. Arizona also has boss fights and while some are creative, the added circumstances made these bosses overpowered and infuriated me. I suggest the easy mode for the story, even for veterans. Unfortunately, there is only one chapter of the story, Arizona’s, that takes only a few hours to complete. Mane6 have confirmed more chapters are coming though.

The old arcade mode makes an appearance again, and the player can take control of any of the seven characters. Arizona the cow, Pom the sheep, Shanty a pirate goat, Oleander the unicorn, Velvet the reindeer, Paprika the alpaca and Tiahhus the longma (a Chinese fabled wing horse crossed with a dragon). While seven is a low number, each character feels, moves, jumps, and plays very different from the other. Characters come with their own playstyles and rating on difficulty to use, for example Tiahhus playstyle uses Rushdown/Aerial attacks and is easy to pick up, while Oleander is an allrounder with medium difficulty, and Pom uses summoning and is hard to use, and this is where the amazing tutorial comes in handy. Annoyingly, players just beat the other six fighters or enemies from the story mode and that’s it, no endings at all or a real boss fight. While seven characters is somewhat lacklustre, four more are on the way but in the form of DLC, unless the premium version of the game is brought.

This brings us to the multiplayer modes and while I prefer versus matches on the couch with banter, the online versions here are great. Them’s Fightin’ Herds has GGPO’s rollback netcode and crossplay, making lobbies easy to join and the majority of matches feel as smooth as they should. While the player can choose or create a normal lobby, it was the Pixel lobby I adored. Putting the player back in the RPG world like the story mode, walking around and challenging others.  Players can also set their character to matchmaking, and anyone can challenge the player without approaching. Treasure and currency can be found to purchase accessories but unlike the story mode it doesn’t give attributes that better the player.

For hardcore players, they can replay fights and have full control to fast forward, pause and rewind, frame by frame to improve their game. There are also options to emulate online latency in offline modes as well.

The animation and art direction are full of colour and beauty. The fluidity of characters in action and cuteness of each make it look like a Saturday morning cartoon. Even in still shots, it is hard not to admire. Mane8’s character design and stylised graphics is to be commended. The sound and music are also great, with each stage having catchy tunes matching the theme of the character the stage represents. Fighters are also voiced by some experienced voice over experts such as Tara Strong for the sassy Arizona. There is even an announcer who drops in some one-liners during battles.

Them’s Fightin’ Herds is very family friendly and button mashing with the family is a fun way to spend an afternoon, just be prepared for it to get competitive.

Adam Potts, for Adam’s full profile click here.

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