Capcom's latest entry into the supercrowded fighting-game market has extremely little to do with Street Fighter. Sure, Sakura appears in the game, and a good portion of the characters have a dragon punch equivalent, but this game really comes across as a very different game. Think Street Fighter meets Asuka 120% Burning Fest Excellent in 3D.
This two-disc game contains a lot of different options. Aside from a very good translation of the arcade game (which takes up most of the first disc), there is also an in-depth training mode that teaches you every single facet of the game, from counters to team attacks. There are also a few different tournament modes, as well as a strange four-player mode that allows the non-fighting member of your team to control when the team-up attacks take place. There are also hidden subgames, such as a home run derby, a penalty kicking contest, volleyball target practice, and soccer target practice.
The character design is one of the game's high points. The storyline centers around a collection of high school kids and teachers, so you find fighters that represent different parts of high school life. You've got your generic Japanese schoolgirls, soccer players, baseball players, volleyball players, teachers, the school nurse, and even the principal. The game allows you to pick two characters. Your back-up character (you can switch 'em around between rounds if necessary) will come out for team-up attacks, which take two levels off of your super meter. Most of the team-up attacks are dual dragon punches, super fireballs, or other offensive weaponry, but a few characters will actually heal your character. The nurse will come out and give your character a back rub, restoring some life in the process. It's pretty crazy.
The graphics are pretty faithful to the arcade version, although the characters are a bit more blocky than their arcade counterparts. Also, some of the sprite effects, such as explosions and fire, look a little bad. The soundtrack is just about what you'd expect from a fighting game and sounds very Japanese. There is a lot of speech in the game, for special moves, victory poses, and things of that nature.
I wouldn't call Rival Schools a serious fighting game, but it's different enough to reel in those of us tired of Capcom's endless string of Street Fighter clones. All the additional modes help a lot on the multiplayer side of things, keeping the game fresh for a few extra months. If you're looking for an easy-to-pick-up fighting game that puts a slightly new spin on the old fighting genre, Rival Schools fits the bill pretty well.