Review: Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted (Sony Playstation Vita)
by Mark B. on May 9, 2012

Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted
Genre: Fighting/MMA
Developer: Kung Fu Factory
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: 03/27/12

Mixed Martial Arts has come a long way from its roots in the earliest Ultimate Fighting Championship competitions. The days of the Gracies, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn and Don Frye have given way to stricter rules of competition and an expansion of popularity, as well as an explosion of popularity and presentation. While the modern sport is an excellent competitive affair for those who can enjoy two people beating one another into hamburger, there are those who long for the days of less rules, where people didn’t get warnings and disqualifications for ten-two elbows or pounding people in the junk or whatever. Supremacy MMA sought to be a game that changed that by way of removing the glitz and glamour of the modern product, instead setting real fighters in parking lots, ratty gyms and basketball courts, sort of like MMA meets Pit Fighter. The console release of the game, however, wasn’t especially well received, due to some stiff controls and a dearth of options in comparison to its competition, but there was room to expand on the concept in a sequel or, failing that, a port to another console. Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted does not manage this feat, unfortunately, in its transition over to the Playstation Vita, and the end result is a game that is essentially similar to its predecessors, with some minor additions, on a handheld console that has already shown it can handle better ports than this.

Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted does offer storylines for each of the fighters in the game, but the storylines themselves are mostly related to “why the fighter got into fighting” and “what drives the fighter to be the best” as opposed to any sort of big, involved storyline. As storylines go, the character stories are fine, though they’re not really anything exciting enough to drive the experience. Insofar as modes go, there are more than enough to carry the weight here, fortunately enough. Fight Now is your standard “fight as any male against any male” mode, allowing you to paste the CPU in exhibition matches. Wireless Match allows you to play locally or online against other players in various fights. Tournaments allows you to play through either Battle Royale tournaments, which are standard elimination tournaments, or Survival Ladder, which is similar to that of something like Mortal Kombat, where you fight one opponent after the next until you fail out. Supremacy Stories is the story mode, allowing you to pick any of the male fighters and plow through their plotlines, and the opponents therein. Femmes Fatales allows you to take on versus or story battles with the female characters in the game. The Training Gym allows you to free practice against the CPU, either against functional AI or a training dummy. Fighter Progression allows you to check each of the fighters to see how much progress you’ve made with them so far and what’s available as you progress. Finally, Tutorials and Options does what it says on the box, allowing you to play through the tutorial to learn the ropes (though the game starts this automatically when you first boot up) and configure various game options. Aside from the Femmes Fatales mode, which we’ll address later, nothing here is especially surprising, but there’s a good variety to the modes for players to have fun with, online and off.

Visually, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted does not fare as well as other games that have been translated to the Vita, as the visual fidelity is noticeably decreased. It’s not that the game looks bad, mind you, as the characters generally look fine and animate well enough, and the game environments, menus and cutscenes are all fine enough. However, the game does not hold up as well in comparison to games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in translation, as the game looks both notably less impressive than its console counterpart and less impressive than several of the games currently available on the Vita. The textures are unimpressive on the console, both in characters and environments, and the game is generally “adequate” at best in the visual department compared to other available titles on the system, which doesn’t help its case. The audio is generally fine enough, if largely only adequate as well. The background music consists of licensed tunes from bands that are generally so far underground they’re performing a real life version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and while the music is generally fine for the product, it’s not likely to inspire any greater feelings than that. The sound effects fare somewhat better, as beating the mess out of your opponents sounds pretty solid and the ambient noise is acceptable enough to make do. The voice acting that pops up isn’t bad either, though this mostly only comes up during the storyline segments, and the odd grunts and groans of the characters when attacking and taking damage are also fine.

Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted essentially feels like a cross between a standard 3D fighting game and the more technically inclined MMA games that have come from THQ and EA in the past few years, crossbreeding the technical elements of those games with simpler, faster mechanics. When you’re standing, the left stick moves you around, Square punches, Triangle kicks, X initiates grapples, Circle counters attacks thrown at you, the L trigger blocks attacks, and the R trigger “feints” an attack if you want to fake out an opponent. You can also modify your strikes by pressing specific directions with them to target specific areas, dive in by double-tapping forward and pressing an attack, and pull off combinations with the punch and kick buttons based on the fighter. You can also hold both triggers to charge up a power attack for huge damage, and huge risk if it misses. Once you initiate a grapple, you’re “in the clinch”, at which point Square and Triangle perform the same actions, X tries for submission moves, and Circle can release the hold. If the opponent grabs you, however, you can press X to block transitions and attempt to escape the move, Circle to block submission attempts, and L trigger to block strikes, whether on the ground or standing. If you manage to lock in a submission, both players have to wiggle the right analog stick as fast as possible to fill their submission bar; if the attacker succeeds, the move deals huge damage and can injure a limb or submit the opponent, but if the defender succeeds they escape the move. In the Vita version, the game also offers touch screen controls, allowing you to tap the top of the screen to punch and the bottom to kick, flick left and right on the screen for submissions or parries, press the front and back screens to grapple, and so on, though it’s not particularly well implemented and you’ll likely not put it to much use.

Mechanically, the game tries to become a sort of mental chess game, where opponents are attacking and countering one another consistently through the parries and counters, and you can pull off some very interesting chain sequences when the timing works out well. The game will generally pop up a quick prompt indicating when you can counter grapples, takedowns and submissions, with different timing windows for each, so a fast grapple attempt is harder to counter than an opponent attempting a suplex from the grapple, for example. As you fight, you’ll also build a stamina bar underneath your life meter at the top of the screen, which can be burned in a submission with the L trigger for an adrenaline boost to help you escape or lock down the move by exchanging stamina for added boost to the attempt, or by shaking the Vita to go into Rush mode, which increases the damage of all of your attacks for a short time and allows more time for counters, making it easier to come back from a deficit or put away a stubborn opponent. You can also see a display of your fighter’s body to the side of the life bar, indicating where they’ve taken the most damage, and opponents can zoom in on those parts to injure them. Once injured, the part in question takes more damage and leaves you more susceptible to being knocked or tapped out when targeted until it recovers, though you can do the same thing to your opponent if you’re focused. It also bears noting that you earn experience in any fights won through Fight Now, Supremacy Stories, online ranked battles and Tournament matches, which levels up whichever fighter you’ve chosen, unlocking new costumes for them to wear.

There are a solid amount of modes available to play through and have fun with if you’re enthralled with what the core game has to offer, and leveling up each of the different fighters (sixteen male fighters in all, including unlockable and DLC fighters from the console game) will take a good amount of time on its own. Each fighter has a different fighting style, which focuses on different inherent positives and negatives, so in theory, grappling and striking fighters have different play styles and can change up the tactics you’ll use going in, for added depth and challenge. There are also various challenges you can complete with the different characters, which will earn them more experience, and can be quite challenging to pull off, which is another interesting goal to aim for if you’re so inclined. Going through the different Supremacy Stories, Tournaments and such will also take a good amount of time, if you’re so inclined, as there are storylines for each of the fighters, male and female, in the game to go through. The game also offers multiple difficulty modes to play around with and Trophies to earn, for those who want to step up their game or earn everything a game has to offer. Also, the local and online multiplayer options are a nice addition, and while there doesn’t seem to be a large crowd playing the game online at the moment, the option is there for playing against friends should they pick this up, or playing a pickup game against a stranger if you can find one to take on.

That said, however, for all of the theoretical depth such a game could have, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted doesn’t have a lot of actual mechanical depth to its systems, making it harder to appreciate than it should be. Put simply, grappling is easy enough to pull off due to the timing associated with the counters, and moves done in the clinch are more damaging than simple strike combos, making grappling characters more interesting and useful than strikers. Striking CAN be useful, but the CPU opponents tend to be much more adept at countering strikes than anything else, and human opponents are few and far between, making it hard to appreciate why one would want to play as someone who wants to bang from a standing position when a takedown is so much more effective. The game also seems to have a noticeable delay between performing inputs and having the inputs actually take effect, as well as having the actual inputs perform the anticipated function, meaning that there can be a delay between intending to strike and striking, or a frustrating moment when you intended to strike the opponent’s knees and struck the chest by accident because the game didn’t register the downward motion. The inability to use the D-Pad, which seems like it would be helpful here, also compounds this issue. Further, the characters might have different strengths, but none of them feel especially different. You don’t feel like there’s a significant difference in how you’d play any character over any other because the characters seem mechanically interchangeable, and each character has similar tools to work with, which can be easier to understand, but doesn’t really help the game stand out. The online, from the extremely minimal exposure I was given to it, also isn’t very solid and is fairly laggy, though almost no one is playing so it’s hard to take a good sample size.

Beyond the mechanical inadequacies, however, there’s also the matter of the game’s general lack of balance. Once you finish the tutorial, you might feel inclined to jump into a Fight Now fight to get a feel for the game, which is huge mistake; even on the easiest setting, you’ll lose several matches in an exhibition match until you really get a feel for the mechanics of the game. The Supremacy Stories option offers the best “learning curve” for how to play the game, but all of the other modes basically going to tear you apart until you learn the CPU and how it operates, and while that’s fine from a challenge standpoint, the tutorials and practice gym aren’t especially helpful for adjusting to the game, which can make the first hour or so of the game annoying as you try to really learn the ropes. The game also really doesn’t have a lot to it in comparison to its competitors (in general, not on the Vita); there’s a dearth of characters, a lack of a character creation option, and the Femmes Fatales option is borderline laughable given that there are a whopping two fighters who can only fight each other. Granted, everyone in the game is, as I understand it, an actual fighter (or based on one), so from a realism perspective that’s fine, but when you have two female characters who can do literally nothing but fight each other, you have to question why the developer would even bother in that case, as there is no motivation to ever go back to that mode after you’ve seen how little it offers. Adding more “based on” fighters, or a creation mode, or SOMETHING would have given this mode some merit, but as it is, it’s wasted potential.

In short, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted gives you all of the content of its console counterparts, and more, but fails to provide a compelling product to make that added content worth investing time in. There are a decent amount of modes in the game, the game looks adequate in motion and sounds fine enough, and there are interesting concepts in the gameplay that give the game a theoretical positive appeal. There’s added content in the game over its console counterparts, and a solid amount of content and variety in general, and anyone who finds what the game does appealing will find the game to be robust enough to keep their interest for a while, especially if you’re lusting for an MMA game on the Vita. However, the visual textures look poor in many cases, the game doesn’t really balance between striking and grappling well, and grappling is significantly more useful in the end in most instances, making strikers feel problematic, and there are noticeable input delays and minor control issues. Further, the fighters all feel basically similar to one another in the end, the online component is barren of players and laggy when you can get into a match, and the AI can be punishing if you’re not prepared, which isn’t helpful to new players in the least. Finally, the game lacks a significant character variety or creation tool, and the positives of having female MMA fighters in the game fall apart when you realize there are a whopping two of them and you can do basically nothing with them, making them feel like a sideshow rather than anything special. If you’re willing to ignore the faults of the game, and there are several, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted can be a fun MMA experience, but it really needs more development and polish to be anything more than a discount acquisition at best.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: ABOVE AVERAGE
Graphics: MEDIOCRE
Sound: ABOVE AVERAGE
Control/Gameplay: ABOVE AVERAGE
Replayability: POOR
Balance: POOR
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: BAD
Appeal: POOR
Miscellaneous: BAD

FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Unless you’re seriously looking for an MMA game for your Vita, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted isn’t likely to be something you’ll find to be a good acquisition, as it’s unpolished at best and disappointing at worst. There’s a decent amount of modes in the game, and the game looks and sounds acceptable if unexciting, though the textures are lower resolution than one would hope. The gameplay is acceptable in theory and, when it works, can be fun, and there’s a decent amount of content if you find what the game does enjoyable. That said, the game feels emphasized towards grappling over strikes and makes strikers feel inadequate as a result, playing online is difficult due to a dearth of opponents and technical issues when you can find someone, and there are input delays and mechanical hiccups in general. Further, the characters feel too similar to one another overall, the AI feels punishing unless you take on things in a very specific order that the game doesn’t hint at, there’s a lack of variety when compared to competing products in general, and the Femmes Fatales mode is fluff that could really stand expansion the game isn’t willing to offer. If you’re dying for MMA on the go, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted is basically your best option, but it’s fundamentally flawed to a level that this shouldn’t be considered a recommendation.



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