If I had to pick my least favorite video game genre, it would be fighting games. I cannot stand them in the least. I find them to be a crude blend of tired mechanics that rewards the player that can spam combos the fastest. I feel a game should not come down to who has the best button clicking speed and no other genre requires it to such an extent. All that being said, the fighting game Slice, Dice, & Rice has somehow worked its way onto my favorites list by being refreshingly unique.
From indie developer Dojo Games, Slice, Dice, & Rice challenges the standard conventions of the genre. It starts by kicking out the most universal of features: the health bar. Instead of whittling away at your opponent's HP, one clean cut with a weapon is fatal. This mechanic changes the combat, from trying to get as many hits in, to an exchange of dashes, parries, and clashing blades. It becomes a dance with your adversary where you are working to bait them to expose an opening while attempting not to do the same. Even the matches where you lose can be satisfying due to the intense exchanges that take place.
The cast consists of Japanese fighters that range anywhere from the quick and agile Tomoe with her twin hooks and rotational slices to Yoketsu who drags a sword so large and heavy it could be from Cloud Strife's collection. Between the eight choices, there is a character with a weapon and style that just about anyone should be able to relate.
While the versus mode immediately has all the characters available, the story mode requires that each of the characters be unlocked one by one. Each character's plot is a weak thread connecting the series of battles against all fighters in the lineup veiled as a journey through a Japanese-esque hell to obtain the "Divine Rice." Quite possibly the most frustrating thing about this mode is the fact that the story line for each character must be played in one go, making it a marathon if you want to advance to the next character. There are small doses of comedic jabs and pretend insight that elicits a chuckle from time to time, however, it offers little else.
One glaring weak spot of the game is the lack of online play. While playing against the computer is fun and a challenge, it's nothing in comparison to trying to beat up on your friend only to have them slice your head off with like it was nothing. Without it, there is only local play, and it doesn't quite cut it these days. There are plans to add online play in the first update, but there is no word on when that will be.
The game also has a random freezing issue when you try to replay a match you just lost. It is relatively rare, but, when you combine it with the story lines that you cannot save, it becomes a formula for rage quits.
While I can overlook most of the issues the game has and still find great enjoyment in it, there is one thing that I find excruciatingly painful: Ungai. The Ungai system is a feature of the game where occasionally the time will slow down for a few frames when one of the combatants is open to a killing strike. It is meant to give players a split second longer to react or to identify the perfect time to strike your opponent. At first, it does just that, and it does it to great effect. Ungai saved my life many times my first few matches. However, Slice, Dice, & Rice is a game where split-second timing matters. Over the course of learning your character, you learn the timing of your warrior, depend on it, AND THEN UNGAI COMES ALONG AND ADDS AN EXTRA TWO FRAMES JUST IN TIME TO LET YOU MISS YOUR PARRY AND IMPALE YOURSELF ON A SCYTHE! Sorry, I really needed to get that out.
Slice, Dice, & Rice offers a refreshingly new experience to a genre that typically feels to be held back by its tropes. Players can engage in battles where knowing when to strike is just as important as knowing when not to. This game is for anyone who finds the unforgiving concept of Dark Souls fun but could do with more action and flair. The few problems there that exist, while frustrating, are not game-breaking and do not substantially impact the overall game. I definitely recommend giving it a try.