Ehrgeiz is a broken, old mess… and it’s fantastic

Recently, I’ve been reliving an old piece of my childhood: an old PSOne 3D fighting game that served as a collaboration between Namco and Squaresoft titled “Ehrgeiz”. It originally released in arcades in 1998, and it’s broken, has multiple bugs and glitches, and even reuses a whole slew of animations from Namco’s Tekken series of games. It’s an amazing example of a classic Good Bad game.

Ehrgeiz is composed of characters designed by Tetsuya Nomura, who you may know as the guy that designed Final Fantasy games VII, VIII, IX, X, and so on, as well as titles such as The Bouncer, Kingdom Hearts, and too many to list, so I won’t even bother. In 1997-1998, he was not the mega-star that he is today, and his designs were used for this modest-budget 3D fighter. The console version, appropriately, also includes a bunch of Final Fantasy VII characters including Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Yuffie, Red XIII, and Vincent Valentine. These characters all borrow basic movesets from the original characters, who also primarily use moves and animations from compilations of Tekken characters such as Kazuya, Law, and Lee, and… yeah. It’s a lot.

Many of the optimal combos in this game require extremely precise timing of strings of attacks. On top of timing your button presses, you have to be wary of the stage as elevations can be different, and both hitboxes and hurtboxes can be wonky with it. Basically, the game itself is a bit of a mess and some characters are extraordinarily busted. It’s also ridiculously addictive and insanely fun to play. Broken things tend to be.

At the time of release, Ehrgeiz was often compared to the Tobal series of games, which makes sense as they played very similarly and had the same developer and all. What makes Ehrgeiz different (besides the FF7 characters) is the surprisingly deep RPG game mode in it, which mixes numerical RPG elements with dungeon-crawling 3D fighting gameplay. You can easily lose hours upon hours in this mode, and it’s probably the primary selling point of the console version.

While training mode may be pretty barebones and terrible, it’s still there, at least. And the most fun besides the RPG mode? Battling other people. Pacing of each match feels a lot closer to Tekken 3 than the original Tekken, and most characters can hit for decent damage while full combos are difficult to execute but still yield solid rewards. It’s a simple-yet-difficult-to-master playstyle, and it takes a lot of time to truly get used to, but it’s fun and broken and reminds me of what makes many fighting games so fun. Many players in the FGC rightfully complain that balance is important and that finding a meta that makes most, if not all, characters competitive is the most desirable aspect of a fighting game, but I think there is a special place for these busted messes that remember what it means to reward those who invest time in it and explore what it has to offer. Fighting games don’t need to revolve around balance to be fun, and an old game like this that isn’t relevant to the modern competitive gaming field fills that perfect niche.

Is it a game to play main stage at EVO? God, no. It’s still highly unlikely to even see a side tournament at even the most obscure tournaments across the States, or even as part of a mystery game tournament, but it’s my sort of broken fun. I can sit back and play casuals for hours with chill people, and it’s a fun game to break into and explore even 21 years after its initial release. That intimate feeling of exploring something you love- despite its flaws, faults, and glitches- is part of what makes fighting games so great.

God Bless the Ring.

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