Destrega (Retro Review)

“A lost gem from the original Playstation’s era that more fighting game fans should be aware of.”

Back in 1998, I remember buying an official of the Official Playstation Magazine, the PS1 magazine that came with free demo discs. I remember skimming through the games on the demo disc, not finding a whole lot which I was interested in, but then I stumbled across a game on the rotating wheel of demos that had a peculiar name that stuck out like a sore thumb. Destrega. What an unusual name I thought at the time, but what’s truly unusual is how little known this gem is today.

Destrega is a fighting game by KOEI, a company that has never done anything truly remarkable for video games outside of Japan. I’ve always believed that KOEI usually had no idea what they’re usually doing, and Destrega is proof of that. The game is, as a whole, fairly competent and moderately enjoyable to play. However, the game received barely any marketing at all and, as a result, Destrega was released with pretty much nobody knowing it even existed and that’s a shame.

By 1998 standards, Destrega was a bit behind the competition in terms of roster size and rewards/unlockables. The game has a mere twelve characters and the only unlockables in the entire game are a few unlockable outfits. The available game modes are typical fare, such as arcade, versus, story, and practice. There is little to do in the game besides just fight or play the painful story mode. Still, I love this game an awful lot. How can a game that is apparently lacking in so many areas be loved by me? Well, it’s time for me to explain that now that I’ve mentioned what this game lacks.

Destrega has perhaps only one feature that is well above average, and that is the fighting system itself. The presentation is awful, the music is laughable at best, and the graphics are mostly just decent, but the core fighting system is enough to look past all of this game’s shortcomings. So how could a game with so many faults still be considered awesome solely for it’s fighting system? The answer is simple. Destrega’s fights are not just innovative, but they are also incredibly strategic. While a lot of fighting vets and tournament junkies will be obsessing over Street Fighter’s frame data and such, they are overlooking a game in which conventional fighting game logic and strategies are thrown out the window. This fighting game is, honestly, the video game version of chess.

Destrega is played on a 3D field that players can freely roam. This is usually hell in fighting games, but because of the strategy involved in Destrega, it works out well. You see, this game isn’t your typical hand-to-hand fighter and most of the actual “fighting” between characters will take place dozens of feet from one another. Destrega abandons movesets and special attacks and instead adopts a creative magic projectile attack system that operates using three buttons. To throw a quick projectile, the player simply presses square, while triangle is used for power attacks and circle executes ranged attacks. The X button? Why, that’s used for jumping! The shoulder buttons are also used. You’ve got a button for dashing and a button that functions as both a block for both physical attacks and magic projectiles. By pressing X to jump and then pressing the block button, a magic shield is erected around the player that repels any and all incoming projectiles.

The object of Destrega is to utilize the speed, power, and range projectile attacks, as well as the magic shield, in a way that will enable you to outsmart your opponent. Deciding what attack to perform is always the most important decision. Speed attacks will zip across the screen and hit the opponent almost instantly, power attacks travel relatively slowly but pack quite a bunch, and range attacks are a bit of a balance between power and speed but, as the name implies, only have a limited range. Below the player’s health bar is a stamina bar which ulimately decides what the player can do and when. You see, performing any attack will take a chunk of your stamina bar off. It regenerates automatically and rather quickly, but performing too many attacks and draining it completely will leave the player fairly helpless for a few seconds.

Adding even more strategy to the combat is a type of attack I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is the combo attack. Players can chain attacks together before they are thrown at the enemy, resulting in completely new attacks. Pressing the speed and then the power button will result in an attack that covers ground quickly and also hurts quite a bit, which automatically makes it more effective than the default range attack even though it is more costly to use. Players can also “power up” the default attacks by pressing the attack buttons three times in a row. Pressing square (speed attack) three times results in several fast moving projectiles while pressing triangle (power attack) three times will more often than not launch a huge wave of devastating projectiles at the opponent.

Each character also has what I like to call an “ultimate attack.” To perform one of these attacks, the player must simply wait until their stamina bar is full and then press square, triangle, and circle in any order. This will completely deplete the stamina bar, but it unleashes an attack that literally maximizes power, range, and speed. These devastating attacks will tear through any defense, forcing opposing players to run for cover.

There is so much potential and so many different attack combinations with each character that checking out each character becomes a lot of fun. Each character has their own element or attack type, which guarantees that no two characters feel the same. For example, the character named Gradd, who looks like Jin Kazama with a haircut, attacks with fireballs. Another character named Tieme, who appears to be a knight, shoots laser-like air attacks with his swords. Other characters attack with ice, rock, and shadows. A few others even use more obscure and unusual attacks. There is a ninja character who attacks exclusively with shurikens and large pinwheel-like “things” while a little girl character quite literally attacks with colourful neon shapes such as an X, a triangle, a circle, and a square. Hey, wait second… Those shapes seem awfully familiar!

Overall, the gameplay is incredibly solid and is very strategic. Out of all the fighting games I have ever played, reading your opponent was most important in Destrega. In fact, if you don’t read their movements and predict their attacks, you will most certainly lose.

So, while the presentation of the game isn’t the best and there are extremely few unlockables in the game, Destrega can still hold it’s own due to it’s fantastic fighting system that I fear was ahead of it’s time and went to waste. Had Capcom or Namco adopted a fighting system such as the one seen in Destrega, we would’ve seen the birth of a new famous franchise. I bet on it.

Destrega is available online from various retailers such as eBay, though I can’t always guarantee that you will find a copy. I was quite lucky to end up with a copy of this ultra rare game myself! So if you’re curious and want to check out this lost gem from the Playstation era, then I wish you happy hunting!

Final Score



The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim Wishlist

With the fifth TES game announced and due out next year, one can safely assume that PC RPG fans are excited. I’m one of those who are pumped for Skyrim, but I am a little bit cautious of the game since Bethesda seems to be a bit behind others in the industry when it comes to giving their gamers a lot of substance and variety in their games. Actually, they used to be able to stand toe to toe with other developers when it comes to nailing game design, and Morrowind is proof of that. Oblivion, despite improving upon Morrowind’s combat, graphics, and physics, was an inferior game in most other areas. With each new game release, Bethesda seems to be losing something and it is apparent in their games.

This article is not about Bethesda’s games becoming lower and lower quality though. This is about Skyrim, a game that could potentially kick ass.

Below is my “wishlist” of what I’d like to see in Skyrim. Most of these are issues I had with Oblivion, while others are things that bothered me in both Morrowind and Oblivion.

1. User-Friendly Menus
First and foremost, Bethesda needs to make sure that the menus in Skyrim are not difficult to navigate. Morrowind’s menu was about as good as a TES game required, and the grid-based inventory system was fantastic. Oblivion messed with a good thing though, forcing the players to click and scroll far more often than they did in Morrowind. The menu was very bulky and, more often than not, didn’t explain itself well. For instance, in Morrowind I quickly learned that to dispose of an item, you just had to click it and drag it outside of the menu. Oblivion did not allow this since you could not drag items in the list-based inventory. I believe that you had to hold shift and right click an item? I forget, as it’s been a while.

The point I’m trying to make is that Bethesda needs to re-think their menu design. Morrowind had a good menu, and I feel that Skyrim’s menu should be more similar to that than Oblivion’s. Simplicity is key, but so is user-friendliness. Minimize the amount of clicking and scrolling that the player has to do and everyone will be happy.

2. No More Auto-Leveling NPCs
In Oblivion, everything leveled with you. The only other game I can think of that did this was Final Fantasy 8 on the Playstation, but even that game only leveled it’s creatures a significantly small amount. Oblivion did not do this and decided to match the levels and stats of NPCs with those of the player. This made playing Oblivion a chore, since you never had the feeling of growing stronger. What was the point of even leveling when a mud crab that was challenging at level 1 could still put up a good fight at level 20? There was no feeling of progression, and every item that the player obtained just didn’t matter much. There was no reason to get the best armors and weapons in the game because, inevitably, the monsters would just match them.

Skyrim should return to have static stats for the majority of encounters the player will face. A mud crab should be a good fight at level 1, but by level 3 or 4, the player should honestly be overcoming them with ease. Leveled lists should also go away. The player should be at risk of encountering daedroths right off the bat. If the player wanders into a tough cave or ruin, let them die I say! To create a believable world, there should be lots of variety right at the beginning in terms of what the player can encounter and where.

3. Better Armor/Weapon Model Variety
In Oblivion, there was a significant lack of models for armors and weapons. Aside from a few unique items and such, there were many shared models and textures. Oblivion felt really backwards in comparison to Morrowind, which had quite a staggering amount of models after playing for even two or three hours. Oblivion was different, as it kept a lot of the models hidden away until higher levels. Even when they were all revealed, it wasn’t uncommon to see countless NPCs wearing the same armors, or for player characters to fall into the “same looks” quite often, as various armor sets shared models and such.

Every armor and weapon should have distinct and unique models in Skyrim. Not only does it give each item a personality of their own, but it also enhances immersion. Can anyone honestly say that it is immersive for there to be a suit of plain iron armor that looks the same as a high level suit of armor that is significantly better? No physical markings or textures on the models indicate any difference between the two. This is silly and was acceptable back in the 1990s, but today? I don’t think so. Bethesda needs to step their game up. Skyrim needs to have diverse armors and weapons, much like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Don’t be lazy or skimpy, Bethesda.

And the following are more minor issues that I don’t feel like writing detailed paragraphs about, but they are more or less just as legit.

Diverse Terrain: When it is up to modders to make your gameworld diverse and interesting, there’s a problem. Morrowind did a good job of having diverse landscapes, but Oblivion was essentially just a gigantic forest. Skyrim needs to have diverse landscapes. I fully expect to find snowy mountains, tundras, ridges, thick forests, serene lakes, and maybe even a few highlands in Skyrim. If I don’t see diversity, I will be disappointed.

Moddability: I don’t expect this to be a problem much, and it’s not a complaint. I really only want to see Bethesda include their typical modding tools which are, quite honestly, among the best in the industry.

Voice Acting: Oblivion had some weird moments. I recall a beggar once talking to me in a frail and weak voice as I walked by, but when I stopped and initiated a conversation, he had a healthy, strong voice. It destroyed immersion. Issues like that need to be avoided, and facial animations need to sync up better with the voices as well. I recall a few times when characters would laugh hysterically, but the on-screen character model wouldn’t even be cracking a smile. It is important to also hire more voice actors this time around. I would really enjoy it if there are several actors for each race, since having just one voice per race is pretty stale and harms immersion.

So those are a few things that I hope to see improved in Skyrim, and hopefully Bethesda will deliver. I’m sure that we’ll get an idea in the next few months.

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