What do you call it when you take a fighting game, slap an RPG on it, give it a healthy dose of anger-inducing mini games, and release it to the public? Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring.
Ehrgeiz is apparently a German word that translates to “ambition”, and this game had a little bit too much. It’s a multi-dimensional game that refused to settle on one style and scoffed at the idea of having a sensible story. You need to win a tournament to get a sword and everyone has different motivations. For example, a cloud of smoke ate a guy’s leg and now he wants to win a fighting tournament? Whatever, get him in there.
So, why am I telling you to play this game? If you look at the picture above, slightly to the right of the Michael Jackson lookalike with a gun arm, you’ll see Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. That’s right, he’s ready to throw down and he brought a bunch of other friends and foes from FF7 to fight, too. That’s the sort of absolute madhouse of ideas comprising this game, and the inclusion of those characters is just a taste of oddities that formed a pretty decent game.
While it did not win any awards for being a weird PS1 RPG and fighter hybrid, Dream Factory, the developer, partnered with Squaresoft and included so many cool ideas that it’s worth going back to play it. I’m going to start out with some things about the fighting portion and then show off some pieces of the dungeon crawler RPG.
By the time I’m done, I hope you want to check out this game for yourself.
You Could Fight as Final Fantasy Characters
The roster for Ehrgeiz was pretty cool without the Final Fantasy VII characters, but it was definitely made better by their inclusion. Originally, the game was released for arcade, and you had to unlock Cloud and Tifa. The PS1 port gave the fans what we wanted by providing Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth to start while also letting the player unlock Zack, Yuffie, and Vincent. Plus, Django had a skin that looks like Red XIII.
You don’t just punch and kick your way to success, either. You have special moves including some very familiar ones from the FF7 game.
Squaresoft and Dream Factory were brilliant for cooking up this idea to let you whale on each other with some of the most famous names in the FF series. Would the game have sold as many copies without them? I’d have to say no, but then again it’s not like Ehrgeiz sold that many copies in general.
Ehrgeiz wasn’t the first or last time that FF7 characters would appear in other games, but this was definitely an unusual, albeit pleasant, experience.
Also, this game’s graphics were pretty decent, so we got to see what Cloud looks like without square blocks for hands during in-game content.
Ehrgeiz Took the Fighting to a Whole Other Level…Kinda
In many of the fighting games that came out around the time of Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, the two combatants were stuck facing one another on a single platform or a couple levels at best. That wasn’t the case with this one, though.
Instead, you could run 360 degrees and jump onto different platforms while fighting the enemy. You could actually use the terrain to your advantage and even smash people with crates.
The fighting in Ehrgeiz had some really cool stuff going on, too. The game featured unique animations for the characters, like Dasher Inoba, who would charge at you and then beat you down. You could make your character push off the edges of the map, giving them a little more power for a tackle. The game even included some neat wrestling moves as well, a callback to Dream Factory’s Tobal No.1, a significant influence on this title.
The game literally took the fighting to another level with the interactive maps and approach to the fighting. However, it had some pretty serious flaws as well. You could button mash and come away with massive combos to get through the matches or annoy your siblings. Even if you invested in learning the right skills, you could still get beaten by a beginner and that upset some people for sure.
Let’s just settle for saying the fighting game was fun.
Quick Aside: The Secondary Outfits Were Awesome
Ehrgeiz was full of little secrets and hidden unlockables. Not only did you get extra characters, but you could get second and third outfits for them. While seeing Cloud and Sephiroth with their second outfits was cool, Vincent’s was my favorite:
That’s right, he was in his Turks outfit. The extra outfits were very cool, and I already mentioned that Django’s made him look like Red XIII, which I loved. The gameplay didn’t change as a result of the outfits, but it was cool to keep finding little secrets like these in the game. After all, you had to satisfy some pretty random requirements to obtain extra characters, outfits, and more. These bits and pieces kept me coming back for more of the game.
The Ehrgeiz Quest Mode RPG Was Pretty Cool, Too
As far as PS1 RPGs go, The Forsaken Dungeon portion of Ehrgeiz is really neat. It’s a basic dungeon crawler that is vaguely related to the story from the fighting game. You play as two different characters, Koji and Clair. Players can swap between them whenever they want, which is especially useful if the other character dies.
Quick spoiler: It’s a VERY good idea to level up both characters. They don’t level up sitting around the inn all day, and you never know when you’re going to get nuked and lose all your items. You don’t want to be stuck with your level 1 Clair trying to dodge all kinds of hell spawn to get Koji’s soul back.
The quest mode gave you weapons and magic to fight your way through the dungeon, and it also allowed you to have an impact on your character development. Part of the mechanics made the player eat to gain a balance of protein, lipids, carbs, minerals, and vitamins.
Based on that balance, you would gain stats for your next level. You would get food in the dungeon or you could buy it to ensure your character developed in a way that you liked. When I was younger, I just built my characters towards crazy amounts of strength, found the biggest weapon, and bashed my way through to the end.
Speaking of weapons, you had the option to find them, buy them, or combine them to make new ones. With a little time and effort, you could get some powerful tools to help you on your journey.
The basis of the game is to go into the dungeon, go down level by level, fight monsters, and defeat the bosses. It’s pretty standard stuff, and I’ll be the first to admit that the main part of the dungeon crawler was quite shallow. Just like the fighting portion of the game, the quest mode would have been cool on its own, but nothing to write home about. However, working with your stats and some other facets of the game made it more substantial.
Speaking of other facets…
The Dungeon Mode Has Even More Final Fantasy VII Influences
The FF7 influences didn’t end with the inclusion of the fighters in arcade mode. The quest mode featured many of the weapons and armor from the Final Fantasy games, including the famous Buster Sword, Masamune, Ragnarok, Venus Gospel, and many more. The game was neat on its own, but it became so much cooler to wield the Masamune and slash your way through mobs. The regular weapon-based combat also had special moves with it that would help you line up combos and deal extra damage.
Another interesting thing about the game was the magic system. Like in FF7, you used materia to get the ability to cast spells. Instead of MP, your spells would consume magic stones, and you had to replenish them to keep casting.
You started off with fire and ice, but you could get even better ones including Meteor and Ultima. Magic-users could totally unload on enemies if you trained your stats the right way. Still, all the FF influences in the world couldn’t make up for the lack of depth.
You Can Play the Wine “Stocks” in Ehrgeiz
When you get your hands on some wine in the game, you can sell it for a profit using the wine trading menu at the restaurant. As far as I know, the change in price is sheer randomness, but I used to get a kick out of letting it run on and on in hopes that I could make money on it.
If you were lucky and had the right wine at the right time, you were able to pocket a good amount of money that would be useful for repairs or getting your hands on some gear.
Did the addition of a stock market change the game? No, but it was still a really neat feature in this hodgepodge of a game. It gave you something to do and added a little bit extra to keep the game even more interesting. For me and others, it’s one of the parts of the game that I can use to describe it outright and people will know what I’m talking about.
There are some mini games that are in another mode of Ehrgeiz. I played them a little, but they were not nearly as interesting as the other parts of the game. Overall, I found them to have rough controls and a terribly boring nature.
You could race on the beach, take part in a light-up battle, and do other stuff that really didn’t interest me then or now, to be honest. I’m sure someone out there enjoyed them.
You might like them, though. Tell me how they are in the comments.
Is Ehrgeiz a Great PS1 RPG and Fighter?
As much as I squint through my rose-colored glasses, I can’t make Ehrgeiz a great game. I enjoy it, but I see too many things that were left half-done. The fighting game didn’t have enough substance and the quest mode was too short and not fully realized. None of the major parts of the game got the attention required to be amazing, but it had a lot of neat features.
I asked earlier, What do you call it when you take a fighting game, slap an RPG on it, give it a healthy dose of anger-inducing mini games, and release it to the public? Well, it’s kind of like this:
Is it pretty cool to mix two disparate things together in a single game? Sure! But would it have been even better if they were kept separate and developed a little more? Probably.
Okay, I might have forced that analogy, but you get the idea. Both the fighting game and RPG element of the game were entertaining but flawed. I still think everyone should give it a shot to get a sense of what kind of game we were dealing with.
I also believe the time in which the game was made helped make it seem a bit better than it was, but it’s also a game I’ll pick up once in a while for fun.
If you haven’t then you should, too.
P.S. Dasher Inoba’s ending is the best, you just have to wait for it.