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Retro Friday #6: Zero Divide

Retro Friday #6: Zero Divide

4 min

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Diving into the forgotten fighting game with cool robots.

It is another great Friday, so it's time for another Retro Friday. This one is a little bit special because I tried to make a nice thumbnail for these articles, hope you like it. I'm down to read any criticism or suggestions in the comments (btw we have comments ╰(*°▽°*)╯)

For the highlight itself, we are staying on PS1, but the game we will be talking about is, as far as I can tell, is even more obscure than Bushido Blade. Developed and published by ZOOM, Zero Divide is a 1995 fighting game where AI controlled robots battle each other in the cyberspace for the amusement of hackers.

Let's take a closer look!

If you thought the premise sounds interesting, I have bad news for you, it doesn't really go beyond the aesthetics. Zero Divide arcade mode is as basic as it gets. Beat up the dummies, get to the elite hacker boss, beat him up as well, and then you get a barely coherent message that comes down to "hey, you defeated bad guys, but oh boy, something bad is on the horizon!" It's impressive how hard they sequel baited with just a few slides of text.

Nevertheless, at least they did nail the aesthetic. The art style is one of the best things about this game, but as a fan of mecha and everything adjacent, I'm a bit biased. The roster of AI robots in this game is excellent. Despite the complexity of mechanical designs and PS1 limitations, there's amazing variety here.

You got a character like Zero, your classic main character type design that aims for a heroic and powerful look. On the other end of the spectrum, there are Tau and Nereid. The former is a massive mecha scorpion, while the latter is a bizarre, alien looking robot, and I mean Alien (1979) kind of alien, with that elongated head and something dripping from its mouth.

It's really hard to make a cast of machines that would be as charismatic and as likable as a cast of humans, but at least for me, they succeeded.

The gameplay, however, does not hold a candle to the great art style. It's fortunate that we had Fighting Vipers on these Retro Fridays before, because it is perhaps the most similar game to Zero Divide.

The control scheme is the same as Virtua Fighter. You got your punch, kick, and block, but the lack of more contextual attacks makes the characters feel less fleshed out, and combat not as nuanced.

However, I mentioned Fighting Vipers specifically for a reason. Remember the location damage in FV? Zero Divide takes it to the next level by letting you destroy the limbs of your opponent by targeting them over and over. Instead of giving you a damage buff against broken parts though, it lowers, and eventually disables parts of the opponent.

Stages don't have walls, but they're not too simple either. You can ring out enemies like you would in SoulCalibur, but with a rare ability for enemies to recover by hanging onto the edge. It's not as significant of a mechanic as something like ledge grabs in smash, but it's not a terrible addition either, just a neutral one that doesn't have much impact overall.

Is this game worth playing in 2023? Honestly, I don't think it has enough to excite any seasoned fighting game players, and for anyone else, it might just feel too outdated at this point. To me, its main appeal remains to be in the fact that I can play as a cool ass robot. Mecha fighting games are way too rare, especially these days, so I take what I can get, and hey, maybe the next Retro Friday will have an example of a mecha fighting game that is still really fun.

And now, as per tradition (I'm making this a tradition), I'm leaving you with one of the better tracks in the game. Future games have better OSTs in my opinion, by Zero Divide is still pretty good in this regard.

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