“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!