99Vidas / 99Vidas: Definitive Edition

A game by QUByte Interactive for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2017, with the Definitive Edition released in 2018.
99Vidas is a beat ‘em up that centers around an ancient artifact that grants 99 lives to the person who holds it. Of course, the power of the 99Vidas is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands, so a group of fighters have established themselves as its guardians. These guardians were given elemental powers to defend it from evil, but a crime lord manages to take it and use it for his own terrible purposes. You must stop his evil army and take the fight to his doorstep.

You take on the role of one of four warriors: King, with the power of water and ice; Izzy, with the power of electricity; Fries, with the power of earth; and Oak, with the power of fire. Players can go it alone or team up for 4P online or offline co-op, and there are several other characters that remain locked at the outset, eventually allowing for an 11-person roster. Characters are based on a Brazil-based video game podcast entitled 99Vidas; thus the title screen which displays 99Vidas: The Game. The game also features numerous 80’s and 90’s pop culture references and nods to video games of that era.

In addition to their elemental abilities, each fighter has a different ranking in speed and strength. Characters fall into the typical breakdown of fast-but-weak, strong-but-slow, and those that are average in both categories. The overall pace of the game is fairly slow, offering slow default walking speeds, slow combos, and slow-moving dialogue sequences that take place before each of the game’s miniboss and boss encounters. As such, even a character with an average attack speed plays more slowly than other entries in the genre.

Each character has the ability to punch and kick. Punches are faster and can be strung together for a 4-hit combo, whereas kicks are slower and more powerful, and landing one knocks the enemy down. Double-tapping forward allows the player to move quickly around the area, and pressing the PUNCH button while dashing unleashes a strong attack. These dash attacks vary by character and are based around their elemental abilities. Some characters continue moving during dash attacks, landing multiple weak attacks in succession, while other characters come to a stop when the button is pressed an unleash a short ranged attack, but these ranged attacks take a moment to execute and leave the player open to retaliation.

Jumping and kicking knocks enemies back, as is traditional, but in a nice touch, the player can also jump and punch to stun enemies instead of knocking them down, thus allowing him to set up a combo to do more damage. Pressing the PUNCH and KICK buttons together unleashes an elemental attack that clears out nearby enemies but costs a sliver of health in the process (and drains no health if the attack misses). This attack comes in handy to escape a grab or to clear out foes who are attacking from both sides, which happens frequently, as enemies typically move in behind whenever you are in the midst of a long combo.

Grabbing enemies allows the player to deliver multiple attacks or throw them to the left or right, but grabbing is unreliable, as the player is just as likely to be grabbed himself or get punched in the face while attempting the maneuver. The player loses health quickly, and getting punched opens him up to additional attacks from the same enemy, or attacks from behind, and players can see their full health meters drained to half with a single misstep.

Lastly, players have access to a strong elemental attack that can be used to cause damage to every enemy on the screen. It’s very effective against large groups of enemies, as well as minibosses, but does very little damage to end level bosses. The attack has two power levels and may be used when the meter is half full for a weaker attack, or completely full for a stronger attack, with the game pausing to display these elemental-themed flourishes, similarly to using magic spells in Golden Axe. The player spawns with a half-full meter, and the meter is filled slightly upon the defeat of each wave of enemies.

Players can also smash crates and other objects to reveal food items that act as health restoratives, with apples and bananas offering partial restoration, and the genre-staple cooked turkey offering full health restoration. Smashed objects can also reveal weapons in the form of knives, bats, pipes, and beer bottles, and per genre conventions, these can only be used a certain number of times before they fall out of the player’s hands and disappear, and they disappear if the player is disarmed three times.

Smashed objects also reveal video game consoles, which grant the player points, as does picking up food items. Stringing together long combos also increases the player’s score, and the score earned during a level allows the player to purchase upgrades between levels, including additional moves, more powerful combos, and additional lives.

Purchasable combos allow the player to unleash elemental finishers on his standard 4-hit punch attack, and to alternate between the PUNCH and KICK buttons to deliver different sorts of attacks, as well as a secondary dash attack that is performed by double-taping forward and pressing KICK instead of PUNCH. Points are limited, and the more powerful attack tiers cost more to unlock. You must decide which abilities are worth the money… and whether you should spend that money on extra lives instead, as getting killed returns you to the start of the level, and levels are quite long.

While the game offers a wide variety of upgrades, it doesn’t offer commensurate variety in enemy types or behaviors, and thus gives the player little reason to spend heavily on these upgrades. Most enemies are introduced in the first two levels, and players spend the remainder of the game facing off against palette-swapped versions of these foes.

Many enemies have special attacks such as grabbing and punching you repeatedly, sliding along the ground to knock you down, or moving in quickly to deliver a series of strikes. However, their movement behaviors are nearly identical, to the point where enemies oftentimes overlap each other and move in tandem. Throughout the game, you’ll face these same behaviors and use the same techniques against the same enemy types, which is a design deficiency endemic of the beat 'em up genre.

Things change up a bit when players face off against minibosses that offer some increased challenge, but boss fights are handled differently than other genre entries. Rather than fighting bosses with your standard moveset and wearing down their overlong health meters, you instead need to look for limited opportunities to attack them while they are stunned.

In most cases, unleashing more than a single strike on a boss while it is not stunned will result in getting blasted backward by a powerful attack. Instead, players spend time running away to avoid attacks and waiting for the boss to become tired, at which point they can run up and deliver as many strikes as possible before the boss becomes functionally invincible again. There are some instances where the player can perform an action that causes the boss to become stunned, but otherwise the bosses are nearly immune to regular attacks. You have to fight most of these bosses a second time in the final area.

There are two bonus areas to be found in the main campaign, each unlocked by picking up a specific object in the preceding level. These bonus areas are mechanically identical but offer unique art styles for enemies and backgrounds, although accessing bonus areas provides no additional reward outside of increased opportunities for scoring. In addition to the campaign, the game offers a Versus mode, as well as an unlockable Survival mode and New Game+ once the final boss has been defeated. Sadly, the survival mode sees the player facing wave after wave the same enemies he faced within the game but on an endlessly repeating background, and with none of his special moves unlocked.

99Vidas was developed by QUByte Interactive, a studio based in São Paulo, Brazil. The studio was founded as QUByte in 2006 by Guilhermes Damian, Marivaldo Cabral, and Reinaldo Ramos, with game development beginning in 2009 under the QUByte Interactive label. The studio’s prior releases include HTR+ Slot Car Simulation, Recruits, and numerous mobile titles. The game was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign.