I knew it would happen when I started this journey. I knew, years ago, when I decided to go through and beat all of the games I own, it’d take me to some pretty dark places. While it’s true that I do have an extremely discerning taste and a big giant sexy brain, neither of those have really stopped me from buying some completely dreck games. And I’d be forcing myself to play them. This wouldn’t end up well.
I knew hell awaited me. I’d staved it off so far. No matter how poor the game was, I always found something to enjoy. Doesn’t mean there weren’t some games I played with a scowl plastered on my face, but for the most part, I’ve found some redeeming feature in every game I played. Yes, even that one. You know the one. The one you hate. To some degree, it’s been quite satisfying, and really justifies why I’m keeping this endeavor up. At the same time, it was frustrating, because I knew Damocles had left his sword hanging, only to drop at some future date. Eventually, I was going to run into a game so horrid, so abysmal, that even I couldn’t handle it, and I was still going to force myself through it.
Well, it has finally happened. I have stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back. From the darkest reaches of my soul it drew the antithesis to everything I held dear, my nemesis, the bane of my existence.
Specifically Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge. The PS2 version that’s somehow even worse than the Dreamcast original, reportedly. And ugh, even saying that name gives me the taste of bile in my mouth. People like this game. I know they’re out there. I’ve never met one, but I’ve seen their tracks. I will never ever understand these people. Fur Fighters is just like jazz to me. I may have played it, but there was never a moment where I thought it was fun.
Fur Fighters is part of a very unique category, that of “Games I Only Own Because Of My Love Life”. Intimate partners have brought me to games of wildly varying quality, but even so, this one blind-sided me. The girlfriend who had introduced me to this particular piece had previously scored high marks in her game selection ability, drawing me to the Hitman series on the grounds that “it’s really fun to play when you’re drunk” because I only date the classiest of ladies. So with that kind of track record, I trusted her when she said this game would be fun and cute. I have never known such betrayal.
So, let’s talk about the game. It’s a little hard to discern what’s honest enthusiasm from people who truly like the game and what’s just “OMG DREAMCAST GAME” fanism, but from what I can tell, the biggest thing that draws people to the game is its character and humor. And that, like everything else about the game, I just don’t get. In my view, the game only does two things that are truly clever; setting the story as a sequel even though this is the only game in the series, and, in a world where everyone’s an anthro-critter, making humans the housepets. Otherwise, everything just fell flat. The humor’s bland and uninspired, the references are cringe-worthy, and the characters… oh, how I hate the characters.
So, there’s seven lead characters in Fur Fighters, six player characters and the generic villain. Your team of Fur Fighters consist of Roofus the Dog, the weary, cool-headed veteran who takes center stage more often than not yet whose VA never actually seems committed to his lines; Rico the Penguin, a womanizer who gets smacked around by his wife because domestic abuse is hilarious; Bungalow the Kangaroo, whose IQ has dipped into the single digits on account of spending eight hours a day with his wife smashing his skull in because DOMESTIC ABUSE IS HILARIOUS; Chang the Red Panda, a martial artist on account of being Asian and a mechanical genius even though you’re going to forget about that part of his personality by the time it becomes relevant; Juliette the Cat, a busty mademoiselle and the game’s concession to the furry community; and Tweek the Dragon, who cannot speak and therefore has not been given any discernable personality whatsoever. Set against them is General Viggo, who’s pretty much every Saturday morning cartoon villain ever and therefore more interesting than the rest of the cast put together in spite of not having a single unique feature about him.
So, in order to keep the Fur Fighters from ruining his schemes to I don’t even care, Viggo kidnaps hundreds of their babies because these animals apparently spend all their lives in bed. And that kicks off the third-person shooter “gameplay” of this piece. I tried to give this game the benefit of the doubt. It came out in a pretty tumultuous time for video games as a whole, after all. All those changes with the new generation hitting, a lot of games were showing some growing pains. Yet, even compared to its contemporaries, Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge has… problems. It starts with the controls. I can forgive the twin-stick shooter controls being reversed, mapping aiming to the left stick and moving to the right. It does break a whole lot of muscle-memory, having the controls backwards, but twin stick shooter controls weren’t standardized this early in the sixth generation. What I can’t forgive is the controls being floaty as all hell. Which is a little funny. As slow as both the characters and the camera move, you’d think you’d at least get some precision out of it to make up, but nope, moving around is like steering a boulder. It takes a little while for them to recognize the input, then they’re moving along with a weird sense of momentum that ensures that stopping or changing course is a bit of a fight. Doing so while navigating the array of bullets flying at you or coursing around the platforming sections is an exercise in futility.
The camera, the aiming, works much the same way. The only saving grace this game has is its auto-aim function, which locks on to your opponent when you drop the crosshairs close enough. Without it, you’d never be able to connect with a single enemy. The camera is too slow to change and too muddy to hit precisely otherwise. As it is, it’s still way too unreliable, trying to arc your crosshairs over the enemy long enough that your character will lock on them. More difficulty comes from wrestling with the controls than fighting with your enemies.
Which is not to say the enemies won’t cause you problems. But here’s where the difference between a game being hard and a game being challenging come into play. There’s not really a whole lot you can do about your opponents. Dodging is useless, as you’re too slow and unresponsive to actually limit your chances of getting hit unless your opponent is using explosives. Proper aim is not exactly easy, but you’re relying on the same system each fight. Rather, it all comes down to hit for hit, whether you can do enough damage to your opponents before they do the same to you. No strategy, no technique, just standing there slugging it out with each other.
You can’t hold enough ammo for any of your weapons in this game. You’re constantly running out, having to switch between them. Which would not be a bad thing, except that only three weapons of the eight or so you’re given are actually useful. The rest are more a liability in a firefight than anything else. The ammo limits are really low, with some weapons not able to hold much of a sustained firefight, and a lot of your enemies, especially later in the game, can really absorb damage. There’s nothing quite like being forced to take an entire horde of foes down with a wimpy little freeze ray and your desperation melee attack because you just didn’t have enough ammo to bring the rest of your armory to bear. Some minibosses I kept pinned to the wall with an ocean of bullets for minutes, literally minutes, constant fire rendering them helpless and immobile, unloading my entire stock of most of my weapons before they finally went down.
The level design of this game is really crummy, as well. They’re pretty much a series of hallways that feel like they want to go open world, a la Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, but they never committed to it so the navigation seems really half-assed. It feels an awful lot like somebody had a really solid idea of what the player was going to do over the course of each level, but then some coworker scrambled up all of his notecards so everything was put in pretty much random order. It leads to a lot of double-back, trying to guess whether you skipped a section of the level because the game gave you no clue there was something important there, and a whole muddled feel to the level’s layout. It’s made even worse by the fact that the goals of the levels are to rescue your babies, but no animal can rescue another animal’s kid. So you can spend half an hour navigating a whole deadly obstacle course with one character, only to find the wrong baby at the end of it and have to switch to someone else and do it again. The game has no sense of what a platform is, either. The boundaries of a platform are really ill defined. In some cases you’ll find yourself sliding off when your feet are both firmly on the ground near the edge, in others you can almost stand in mid-air before it’ll drop you. It doesn’t help that the cel-shading in this game is really, really low-contrast, and actively makes it hard to perceive the 3D space and renders it impossible to tell how steep a slope you’re looking at.
So, is there anything about this game I forgot to savage? I hope not. If you can think of something, just do me a favor and pretend I said something bitingly hilarious about it. I was not able to find a single redeeming feature about this game. I hate it, and
if you enjoy it, that’s a wonderful thing because we all have different opinions yet every single one of them is valid and respectable you should too. And yet even so, I forced myself to beat it. There must be something wrong with me.