Novarama’s one of the few developers that’s actively pushed the potential of augmented reality. Alongside Sony Studio London, the Spanish developer has been instrumental in driving camera-based experiences on the PlayStation Portable — conjuring up the inspired, but flawed, Invizimals series.
While the Pokémon-inspired franchise has struggled to reach its full potential worldwide, Invizimals has been a huge success in certain pockets of Europe — garnering a bevy of merchandise and even its own Panini sticker book, proving that augmented reality can be much more than a silly tech demo or online marketing tool.
Reality Fighters is Novarama’s first stab at the PlayStation Vita, and an obvious stop-gap between the system’s inevitable Invizimals title, but it’s also a cute little idea.
Ultimately, as its name indicates, Reality Fighters is a daft fighting game designed around augmented reality. The game allows you to create your own characters using the PlayStation Vita’s cameras — purposing a custom photograph on top of a polygonal character model — and face-off in real-world arenas.
While we didn’t get the chance to create a character of our own at a recent hands-on, we did get to browse some of the game’s wacky on-board creations. Combining the game’s photography element with custom body types and a slew of collectible clothing styles allows you to get really zany with your creations — we spotted a burly body builder sporting a fetching pink dress amongst the roster. Ahem. A representative told us that you could also use images of celebrities in order to create your own episodes of Celebrity Deathmatch.
Outside of the character creation, Reality Fighters’ biggest hook is its augmented reality gameplay. We tested the game in a specially prepared booth, that included four PlayStation Vita units spread around a single, enormous AR card in the middle. Pointing the PlayStation Vita at the card layered a four-foot tall character model on top of our surroundings with impressive stability.
The technology itself is largely similar to what we’ve already seen on the PSP, but we were impressed by the quality of the visuals. The character creation suite is extremely strong, and moving around the augmented character model allowed us to get up close and really explore the detail in the figure’s clothing.
Having sampled the game’s tech for a few minutes, we also got to test the gameplay in a multiplayer one-on-one match against a real opponent. Connecting to our opponent’s PS Vita using Wi-Fi was extremely slick, with a couple of button prompts transporting us into the action.
The fighting felt nimble and fluid, with surprisingly impressive animation complimenting the slick visuals. Because of the the game’s augmented reality technology, we were able to move around the fight, controlling the action from different perspectives and ranges. Keeping the main AR marker in view is key, but assuming you adhere to that rule, you can play the game from any angle you like. It’s a definite novelty.
We didn’t get long enough with Reality Fighters to make any detailed observations about the combat system itself — button mashing seemed to get us through the fight fairly unscathed — but the action was at least frantic and fun. It definitely feels like the game is going for the Super Smash Bros./Rag Doll Kung Fu model as opposed to the complexity of Street Fighter, but there appeared to be some depth there.
Given our adoration of anything augmented reality based we came away from Reality Fighters quietly impressed. Clearly it’s designed around showing off the PS Vita’s technology, but with a low price-point promised by the Sony representative on-hand, we think it could prove a nice novelty to pick up alongside the PS Vita’s other more “serious” launch titles.