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Psychic Force

In the 1990s, a ton of anime OVAs were made based on popular fighting game franchises. Street Fighter and King of Fighters were dominating arcades, had an anime art style, tons of characters, and plenty of material to work with in terms of story. On paper, it should have been easy to make decent shows given the source material. However, that was almost never the case. All fans got was low effort schlock that was more of a cash in than anything else. Studios left no rock unturned when looking for series to adapt into anime. Once the obvious big name games were scooped up, they even started going after a bunch of lesser known ones that, by now, are largely forgotten by the annals of history. One such example of this was Psychic Force.

This was a series that originally appeared in arcades before getting ported to the original PlayStation. As the name suggests, it was a fighting game where the roster of characters were psychics. At its core, gameplay was what one would expect from a fighting game with the main differences being that characters could fly and that combat tended to use more ranged attacks than a lot of other fighting games. It was alright as far as fighting games go, but never gained the popularity of other games in the genre during that time.

The two OVAs that were made based on Psychic Force act as origin stories to explain the main characters from the games. They are largely focused on Keith (the main antagonist) and Burn (the primary hero of the game). It explains how psychics have emerged all over the world, and the general public is very uncomfortable with them to the point where wars have broken out and parents have tried to kill their own children if the kid turns out to be psychic. In a lot of ways, there is massive over lap with The X-Men in terms of this theme.

With that in mind, viewers learn how Keith was forced to undergo terrible experiments by the government before escaping. From there, he meets Burn and the two become good friends before Keith if forced to run once more. Years, pass, Keith raises an army of psychics to take over the world, and Burn doesn’t agree with what Keith is doing, so tries to find a way to stop him. It’s a very Magneto vs. Charles Xavier dynamic.

On the whole, the story is alright. There are far worse anime based on fighting games in so far as narrative goes. On occasion, things feel a tiny bit rushed, but other than that Psychic Force has a very straightforward story with a good mix of dialogue and action scenes. Just go in expecting some light popcorn entertainment.

Character design is where things get interesting, which is to be expected given that this is based on a fighting game. It’s a genre where having memorable characters is very important and will draw a lot of prospective players. While many characters are wearing street clothes at the start of the OVA, they switch to their game costumes by the end and viewers seem some decently put together attire, albeit it a tad over the top. Oversized attributes are definitely a theme in how the characters look. Burn has a ridiculously oversized collar on his vest. Wendy is wearing a giant hat. Meanwhile, there are more than a few characters with massive shoulder pads. People that don’t play fighting games may find some of the designs to look rather silly, but those familiar with the genre will not be surprised at all by this.

For largely being one more in a large pile of throwaway anime fighting game tie-in OVAs, it’s interesting to see a few of the Japanese voice actors who were involved. Burn was played by Tomokazu Seki who was still relatively early in his career and would later go on to voice Suneo in various Doraemon movies, be the voice of Gilgamesh in various Fate series, as well as taking the role of Sousuke Sagara in Full Metal Panic, and Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D. Meanwhile, Emilio was voiced by Minami Takayama who voiced Conan Edogawa in the Conan series, and Nabiki Tendou in Ranma 1/2 among a slew of other roles.

Those who would like to wade into the plethora of anime based on fighting games that were released in the 90s will have a lot to sift through. As mentioned earlier, much of it is terrible. Maybe some folks will be into that. Those looking for an OVA that is reasonably watchable, though, may want to try out Psychic Force. It’s by no means perfect, but the story is followable, and the character design is decent. This is a show for people who are curious about obscure fighting games of the 90s and have an hour to kill. Just don’t expect anything of any great quality.

- IroIro
April 29, 2019

Directed by: Kenichi Oonuki
Studio: Triangle Staff
Released: 1998
Episodes: 2

Psychic Force Image 1
Cover Art

Psychic Force Image 2
Burn powering up

Psychic Force Image 3
Gates entering the fight

Psychic Force Image 4
Wendy is looking for her sister

Psychic Force Image 5
Keith has huge shoulder pads