Note from racketboy: Our newest contributor, Ack, has been on a recent quest to track down a copy of every US-released fighting game on the Super Nintendo. He’s already shared his recommendations from the American library — now he’s back with a vengeance to warn us of the onslaught of worse-than-mediocre games of the genre.
When someone says “bad fighting game” to you, what do you think of? If you’re reasonably versed in the Super Nintendo, your thoughts may drift to Shaq Fu, C2: Judgement Clay, or even the Primal Rage port that was, let’s face it, atrocious. But spend a little time with them, and you’ll realize that these games aren’t the worst. Sure, they have low sprite counts, horrid colors, terrible controls, pathetic single-player games, and gameplay that flows like an avalanche, but are these truly the worst? God no. Oh God, no. If talking about bad games makes you queasy, stop reading now. If thinking about bad games makes you ill, turn back. Because we’re about to break ground in a Gaming No Man’s Land. And frankly, you don’t want to touch these titles with a ten foot pole.
Ballz 3D: Fighting At Its Ballziest
So Virtua Fighter gets released, and suddenly somebody at PF Magic decides “Hey! A 3D fighting game. That’s awesome! I sure wish we could make one of those.” And so they did. Ballz 3D sticks the player in a flat, circular arena, complete with two levels of background. The closer one contains a screen where mindless taunts are displayed about every time someone gets hit. This also displays all information, such as match number, opponent name, and even home many opponents are left when you beat someone. The farther background is about a screen’s worth of picture, which simply repeats itself over and over. All in all, bland and boring, just like the flat stage you’re fighting on.
But I suppose the important question is how does it play? First, it is a two-button fighter. It uses all six buttons on the SNES controller, but two are repeats of the attack buttons and two are used for jumping. Never mind that jumping is usually pretty useless in 3D fighters, and this one is no exception. As for the characters, they’re all made up of balls. It’s an interesting idea, but they tend to lean more towards the crude side(A farting monkey, anyone?), or stereotypical (Look, a strong guy, a clown, and random girl A). Also, while they got the 3D bit down rather well for the time, distancing is almost impossible to tell. You know if a move has connected if the other guy blinks white, but because everything spreads on a character when they attack, move, or do anything, I can’t tell where the hit box is. It’s also pretty easy to lose the other guy on the screen, so often times you can wander far enough away and have no idea where the fight is supposed to be. Also, because of the 3D action, blocking is a bit weird to pull off, as are special moves.
Finally, the music is bizarre. The track at the Title Screen is…well, let’s just say I feel soiled after listening to it for a few minutes. I finally believe it is possible for a game to have too much attitude. Even with Nintendo censoring some of the language, I still feel insulted playing this title. And dirty. Very dirty.
So back before they were producing Guilty Gear, Sammy decided they would grace us with a fighting game featuring barbarians and knights and monsters for the Super Nintendo. That got us Battle Blaze, a game where demons take over a fighting tournament to let their demon king free upon the earth. The only problem with the demon king’s plan was that one of the fighters managed to beat down the demon sent after him. He doesn’t get possessed, but dies in the process, and so his son must take up the sword and go beat down his father’s possessed old friends. This is where you come in.
There’s only two game modes, The Hero and The Battle. The Battle is your standard arcade, where you can select one of six characters to play against the CPU or a friend. It has a nifty prep screen for the battle where a soldier lists your names and tells you the King decrees no cheating. It’s a nice touch. Then there’s The Hero, where the son must go around the map to fight the other champions and win the day. It sounds cool, right? Unfortunately, it means little more than picking the order in which you fight your opponents. Traversing the map equates to picking a location where certain characters will fight you.
And then there’s the combat itself. Battle Blaze takes a controller with six buttons and uses two of them. And one of those buttons is for jumping. That’s right, it’s a one button fighter. To make matters worse, the jump button is also used in performing special moves, where it has to be held down to perform the move. Now factor in the son as the worst character in the game, with little power, little range, and weak specials. And then there’s the enemies’ ability to air block by attacking. That’s right, when the main character attacks in the air, he swings his sword. A quick animation that’s done in less than a second. The CPU villains’ animation doesn’t end until they hit the ground, and the main character lacks the range to go through it to connect. This is the rule of the game, not the exception.
Bottom line is this: I want to like Battle Blaze. I really do. It’s got some good ideas, and while the stages are bland, I really like the sprites and the music. But this is not a good fighting game by any stretch of the word. Don’t bother with it.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t a fan of Pit-Fighter in the arcade, and I’m not that into digitized sprites. But the SNES port is nothing short of a mockery of the original game. To fit Pit-Fighter on the cartridge, animations were dropped(in some cases to single frames), stages were reduced to fewer then ten colors, characters were resized and redrawn so they look almost nothing like their arcade counterparts, the music was dropped, and the sound quality is garbled. And to make up for it…nothing. Not even an options menu.
If you want to see an example of a bad port, look to Primal Rage. If you want something that could hardly be considered the original game, there’s Pit-Fighter. The title was literally stripped down to the bare bones, with even the final winning screen cut from the game. Because of the dropping of frames and the lack of options, the closest thing a player can get to a difficulty setting is by picking different characters, with Ty the easiest(a one-frame punch, just spam it to make it through the entire game), to Buzz being the equivalent of Hard Mode(slowest character in the game). Everything about this port is bad, from the pathetic lack of color to the random image of the boss showing up between every three or so rounds. Half the time he says something, but the sound quality is so bad I can’t make it out. The other half, he just kinda stares at me like an imbecile.
If you enjoyed Pit-Fighter for the arcade, don’t bother with this. In fact, no one should bother with this. THQ took a game that was actually quite good looking for its time and gave us utter garbage.
Rise of the Robots
There was so much going for this game. Originally for the PC, Rise of the Robots featured FMVs showing enemy intros and defeats even on the SNES, as well as an intro that shows the Cyborg entering the city. Graphically it looked amazing for its time, from the menu design with the Cyborg sitting at a console, pressing buttons for certain objects, to some pretty entertaining character design. Pieces would go flying off whenever a hit connects to bounce on the ground, and there are even reflections of the characters on some of the stage floors! And with a soundtrack featuring Brian May, formerly of Queen, it had to be good, right?
Well, no, actually. For starters, while May was doing his best with the soundtrack, and actually composed a full album, his record studio continually requested delays, forcing Mirage to do all their own music. Second, while the graphics are good, stage design was actually a bit bland, and characters had few animations. All six buttons on the controller were used, but only for four different attacks, a system of weak and strong punches and kicks that share similar frames of animation. They look so similar, it’s actually difficult to tell the two apart. Factor in single-button special moves, and you have a recipe for disaster.
And then there was the horrid multiplayer, where one character was forced to play the main character, and the other got to be their choice of enemy robot. None of the robots were rebalanced, either, so certain characters were vastly overpowered. In the end, it may look good, but it is not a quality title by a long shot. Game journalist Stuart Campbell even went so far as to write an angry letter to Mirage and Time Warner about it. Do yourself a favor and avoid it.
Ever wonder what would happen if you took a Ranma ½ game in Japan, edited all the sprites to make Ranma into some guy with a mullet, and did away with the story entirely? Why, you’d have Street Combat! The game has little in the way of options beyond 2-player and Vs. CPU, only 8(technically 7) characters, and no plot. Make it through Vs. CPU mode, and a random man gives Steven(the player) a trophy and tells him he’s a fine young man. Never mind that if I walked around beating the snot out of random individuals, no one would call me that. But back to the game…
So Steven has to fight a bunch of random individuals who make corny taunts and are all redrawn Ranma sprites. To make matters worse, not only does this game commit the mortal sin of 2D fighters by having a jump button, it also uses the L and R buttons for blocking. That’s right, no pressing away from your opponent on the D-pad. This game goes above and beyond with unintuitive design. It’s really a 3-button fighter, with one for punch, kick, and special, which makes Steven create some magical circle. Don’t ask, it’s never explained.
As for design, the game is very bright and colorful, almost nauseatingly so. The music is pretty bland, with the IREM publisher screen potentially having the best music in the game. In multiplayer, there are two Steven’s available, one in the weird blue armor, and one in what I can only image are “street clothes,” as well as all the other characters. In Vs. CPU mode, the player is forced to play as Steven, though at the Versus screen they can change costumes using the D-pad.
For the record, the game was actually created by NCS/Masaya, known for their wonderful child-friendly series Cho Aniki. If you don’t know what that is, don’t look it up.
Ultraman: Towards the Future
Hey, Ultraman! This has got to be good, right? Wrong! ScrewAttack once claimed this was the worst fighting game ever made, and after spending a few minutes with it, it’s hard not to agree. The player controls Ultraman as he faces off against ten of his monstrous enemies. All six buttons on the controller are used, with B and A serving as punch and kick, respectively, X serving as jump, Y as special attack, and L and R to cycle through different special attacks. Special moves, like somersaults, flip kicks, and other abilities, can be performed by pressing different directional buttons and attack buttons at the same time.
Sounds like a nice system, right? Unfortunately, in all this Ultraman mayhem, Bandai forgot a block button. There is an Ultraman Shield, but no way to block your average attack. Also, don’t bother crouching, as there are no crouching attacks. And the majority of the time the enemy is backing away from you, so you’re constantly on the move anyway. Why is the enemy moving away? Two reasons: first, enemies regenerate health. Ultraman doesn’t. Whoever thought that was a good idea is an idiot. Then there’s the second reason. To kill an enemy, Ultraman not only has to beat them down to no health, he then has to hit them with a special attack, called Plasma Bolt. It wouldn’t be so bad, except you have to charge up your special attacks, and it takes a good thirty seconds to charge a plasma bolt. Miss, and you have to recharge the full attack again. Now factor in any other special attack, or that shield I mentioned before, draining power, and it takes even longer. Meanwhile the enemy is regaining health, so even if you do get charged, they have to be beaten back down. Throw in a three minute time limit, and this is a recipe for disaster.
Now factor in everything not in the game: specifically alternate game modes, and animations. That’s right, all that exists in Ultraman is the single player game, and there is little in the way of animation for most of the enemies. That monster just turned around in two frames. Apparently that was some kind of attack. It opened its mouth. Apparently that was another attack. Outside of their projectiles(which they abuse constantly), there is no way to tell if something is fighting back or not. And there’s no way to change difficulty settings, so after a while, an enemy will inevitably knock the crap out of you. You only get two credits to play through the game, too, and while you may gain extra credits for earning 50000 points, that’s at least a good three or four battles in even when playing well.
I suppose I can’t be too harsh. Ultraman is ok about a few things. It’s stage design is pretty cool, often with smashed buildings in the back and foreground. Unfortunately this does hamper the player’s site, and said stages just wrap around. There is no corner to knock the enemy into so they can just keep running and regenerating. The game’s also nice about dying. Get killed and when you come back, the monster will be close to where you left it in terms of health. Of course you still have to recharge your Plasma Bolt, so it’s not that much of a boon. And then there’s the the intro to each fight. Honestly, that’s the best part, watching a bunch of explosions and then Ultraman shows up, just in time for an extreme closeup. No matter how angry I was with this title, I’d break out into laughter every time I saw it. It’s actually a pretty good stress reliever, there to keep me from screaming in rage about the rest of this horrible game.
Out of all of the fighters, these are the bottom of the barrel. Sure, Shaq Fu might have had poor framerates and clunky controls, but these titles prove that it’s actually rather mediocre…just on the low end of mediocre. Then again, playing these titles makes just about any game look good.
Some Other Titles to Avoid
- Brutal Paws of Fury
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
- Ranma ½: Hard Battle
The Low End of Mediocre
- ClayFighter: Tournament Edition
- C2: Judgement Clay
- Doomsday Warrior
- Justice League Task Force
- Power Moves
- Primal Rage
- Shaq Fu
- Tuff E Nuff