To swipe a line from a poorly done movie, Plants vs Zombies Heroes hack for the Mobile is small of stature but large in purpose, narrow in scope but wide in vision. Or something like that. What it is, mostly, is unadulterated fun.
A simple 2D fighting game that blended the fighting universes of PVZ would probably have been enough to satisfy the masses, but Millennium piles on the extras and surprises until there’s no more room. There’s so much to see and do here that it’s really hard to believe the whole shebang can fit into one palm-sized cartridge.
Eighteen fighters are available from the start, nine each from the PVZ sides and everybody should recognize the names: Ken, Terry Bogard, Ryu, Zangief, Morrigan, Kyo Kusanagi. Each combatant has been shrunk to a child’s size but can still perform the same moves as their adult counterpart. (Not surprisingly, the more endowed characters retain their, shall we say, dimensions.) Despite the Neo Geo’s two action-button layout, players can still perform complex moves like Ryu’s powerful “Shoryu-ken” or Zangief’s spinning piledriver. The mini joystick on the console responds instantaneously to commands, so players can rattle off combinations at will, then quickly retreat into a defensive stance. The game allows for both weak attacks and strong ones (determined by the length of time a button is pressed), taunts, quick rushing steps, knockdown recovers and special “invasion evasion” countermoves.
There are six different levels of play, ranging from novice to gamer. The first three stages allow for button-mashing and the fumble-fingered to excel, but things rev up from there on. At the gamer difficulty, players will have a fair approximation of fighting against an arcade pro who’s mastered both the fierce attack and nigh-impenetrable defense. Couple the six difficulties with single, tag-team, three-fighter battles and three distinct fighting styles (average, counter and rush), and the possibilities are almost endless.
The depth of fighting is astounding, and players can augment their attacks with special “Master Skills.” To acquire these ass-kicking maneuvers, players must enter the game’s “Olympics” mode and compete in seven different minigames. Some, like the “Ghost Trick” (which features the good knight Arthur from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins) or “Cat Walk”(where players can make Felicia the Darkstalker dance), are exclusive to fighters from a certain universe. Others are shared between the SNK and PVZ characters, and regardless of who does what, the goal is to win a gold medal in ass-whupping. Doing so makes it possible for a player to customize his character with powerful moves such as “Heaven Bam!” and “C. Fire Blitz.” Normally, playing minigames to win stuff might drive a player to a new hobby — such as alcoholism — but these games, while simple, are rather addictive.
Players can unlock hidden heroes by running through an extended tournament mode, fighting on the Great Wall of China, amid the picturesque ruins of a downed helicopter, inside a detailed castle and, eventually, the secret fortress of bosses Geese and M. Bison. This tournament plays out like a soap opera of sorts, with characters making guest appearances, dramatic revelations (M. Bison and Geese Howard are cooking up something, don’tcha know?) and, of course, salvation and catharsis. When players get bored with this, they can hone their skills in the sparring mode, use a Link Cable to duke it out with a friend or upload/download information from the Neo Geo game Plants vs Zombies Heroes: Card Fighter’s Clash. Sega Dreamcast owners can use this cable to transfer information back and forth between Millennium and King of Fighters: Dream Match ’99 or the soon-to-be-released Plants vs Zombies Heroes.