Just because a game isn’t any fun, doesn’t mean you can’t make a fun game.
Battle Monsters is a Sega Saturn fighting game developed by Scarab and published in the West by Acclaim, masters of the anti-fun equation. Battle Monsters relies heavily on digitized humans, ala Pit Fighter or Mortal Kombat 1, but has the added advantage of featuring a bunch of “monsters”, which means some poor woman got to wear a snake wig under searing lights. People suffered for this game. But, don’t worry, you’ll suffer when you play the game, as it’s one of those incredibly rote fighting games where producers who barely understood the fireball motion attempted to ape Street Fighter’s success. The “innovation” du jour seems to be that many arenas contain weird little platforms, more appropriate in Mega Man than Street Fighter, that you can hop on for some aerial advantages or… something. Unfortunately, this feature wasn’t really implemented well, and it just leads to a number of matches where you can get a hit, leap to higher ground, and then defend that platform via whacking your opponent every time he jumps, and just wait for time to run out. I’d say this seems like an unforeseen “glitch”, but I learned it from the AI, so you’d think someone would have noticed it before shipping the thing.
To be blunt, Battle Monsters isn’t very good, but that doesn’t mean we can’t derive some enjoyment from its existence. Get out your pen and paper or notepad.exe or whatever, we’re going to play a guessing game.
Battle Monsters, as you may be able to tell from the title, features battling monsters. Because no one involved in Battle Monsters was all that creative, all of the monsters are basic archetypes that you might see lurking around mythology or 90’s pop culture.
So, can you guess the identities of the Battle Monsters?
There are twelve monsters, so guessing each monster will net you one point. Half a point will be provided for “almost” guesses, which will be noted for each monster. There’s also one hidden/bonus monster, and the final boss. If you can correctly identity of the final boss, which you won’t, you get a bonus four points, all totaling up to a possible perfect score of seventeen.
Because I’m so generous, I’ll assume you’ve read the previous FGC “Preview” section, and remember that I mentioned there’s a medusa fighting a karate man on the cover, so “Medusa” and “Karate Man” are an automatic 2 points right there! You’re 11% to victory!
Now get to it. You’ve got twelve other monsters to guess. Write ‘em down, because that’s a lot of monsters, and you don’t want to forget.
Everyone done? Alright, pencils down. Let’s see how you did.
First, we’ll note Naga, the Medusa/Gorgon who, as we covered, is half of your “free” squares. She’s a pretty straightforward Medusa, dressed in something vaguely Grecian, and sporting a ‘do of the finest snakes. Yes, she has the ability to turn her opponents to stone, and, as an added bonus, she can turn into a whole host of snakes, which is one of those things that would be terrifying in reality, but in the universe of the game, it’s just a green psycho crusher.
Correct Answer: Medusa/Gorgon
Partial Credit: Naga (as in the monster. Even though her name is “Naga”, she is not a naga), Hydra
Shion the Samurai is the other freebie. He’s distinctly tagged as a samurai, but his general look and demeanor are pretty similar to Ryu or Liu Kang or any other general martial artist that usually appeared on the arcade marquee during that era. As a nice bit of continuity, Shion, basically “the human” of the piece, doesn’t have fireballs or any supernatural abilities, he’s just a dude with a sword. In an alternate universe where Battle Monsters was successful, you’d be able to identify your most milquetoast friend by seeing who chooses this dork.
Correct Answer: Samurai
Also worth a point: Karate Dude, Wandering Warrior
Partial Credit: Just Ryu, “A Sword Guy”
Everybody understand the rhythm of the game now? Last chance to change any answers before judging, here comes the rest of the cast. The remainder, incidentally, will be listed in ascending terror order, starting with our least threatening monster, and culminating with absolute horror.
Albiole the Ghost is the least threatening creature in this game. Look, here’s a tip for any budding horror writers out there: ghosts are only threatening when they’re completely unknown, or representatives of a past better left forgotten. Papers move on your desk, and you don’t know how it happened? Spooky. That picture of your beloved grandma is now covered in a red substance that spells, “I know what you did”? Scary. Being told, “here is a ghost, punch it until it falls down,” though, isn’t even going to raise an eyebrow. The Fighting Game genre might be the most visceral of all genres, so leave anybody that might not even be corporeal at home.
Correct Answer: Ghost
Also worth a point: Wraith, Poltergeist, Phantasm
Partial Credit: Tad Ghostal
La Pa is a reanimated Doll. Given the era (post 1500 AD), this character was likely just included to have one female that was pleasing to the eye and not covered in green body paint. Her whole deal is prancing around and attacking the likes of swordsmen and gorgons with fancy ballerina movements. Lady, it works for Little Mac, but don’t try to bring that nonsense where someone has a sword that’s wider than you are.
Correct Answer: (Hell) Doll
Also worth a point: Golem, (Hell) Dancer
Partial Credit: Harlequin
Makaryudo is Shao Kahn… errr… a barbarian. This is the other “human”, and one of two characters in the whole game that is noted as “good”. His moves are a little more fantastic than neutral Shion, but other than that, there isn’t much more to this guy than some obvious copyright infringement. Guys, if you were going for a Conan the Barbarian analogue, all you needed was a loincloth.
Correct Answer: Barbarian
Also woth a point: Just Shao Kahn
Partial Credit: Weapon Master
Floating in from Hogwarts is Kap Ka the Wizard. As a guy who spent a couple of Summers shooing frogs out of his backyard, you don’t have to tell me how threatening wizards can be; however, maybe don’t bring the oldest, most fragile looking elderly dude to represent your wiz-biz. Kap Ka has one cool move, and that’s where he, on contact with an opponent, switches the position of both fighters, which is fun and amazingly disorienting in a game where facing left or right makes a big difference to your inputs. Of course, the trick is expected every moment after that, and then you’ve just got an old man who is left with, what, talking about Matlock at you? Gonna be a loooooong match.
Correct Answer: Wizard
Also worth a point: Ancient Mystic, Confucius, Ancient One
Partial Credit: Mystical Yogi, Dumbledore
Headless Harn is a Headless Horseman, except his horse is in the shop, and his head is right there. Hey, Headless Harn, how’s your head doing? Good? What’s that? You’re answering me, and I can understand you, because you have a head? Maybe you need a new nickname. I’m speaking just as a guy who can see Headless Harn (with my head), but a body operating without a head is chilling, a body holding its own head is simply pitiable. Harn, are you okay? Do you need me to get you doctor? Do you eat with your mouth, or just slide food down your neckhole? I’m really curious here.
Correct Answer: Headless Horseman
Also worth a point: Dullahan, And the game lists his tribe as “Chai”, which may be a reference to some headless Buddha statues in Wat Chai Watthanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand. If you guessed that, just pack it in, you’ve won not only the game, but… my heart.
Partial Credit: Any guesses that involve Fox Police Procedural Sleepy Hollow
Swooping through the heavens is Skythe the Tengu. In this case, we’re talking about one of those raven/crow looking tengu that… wait… Skythe? Like, we misspelled “scythe” to include “sky”, as this is a flying creature that has a domain in the clouds? That would be really cool if the creature actually had a scythe, which he doesn’t. He even has a spear for a weapon, but no scythe. So close to cool. At least we’re finally getting into a crop of monsters that aren’t just goofy all over; Skythe does look like he could do some damage. If I saw this guy while bird watching, I’d watch someplace else.
Correct Answer: Tengu
Also worth a point: Bird Man, Giant Raven
Partial Credit: Bird Person
Disqualified if you guessed: Hawkman. Get out. We don’t serve your kind here.
Complementing our medusa, we have Drethdok the Cyclops. This cyclops is very evocative of the old Clash of the Titans Cyclops, and appears to even be claymation, so good on Scarab for including one monster that is decidedly monsteriffic. As you might expect, he’s slow, lumbering, powerful, and whether the AI has issues or it was deliberately portraying a “stupid” character, I watched Drethdok fall off the stage twice during a battle. No man won.
Correct Answer: Cyclops
Also worth a point: Any hulking monster you can name. If it looks vaguely like The Hulk, I figure that qualifies.
Partial Credit: The Hulk
Speaking of lumbering, we have Deathmask… who is kind of a split decision. Officially, Deathmask is a nearly 8 foot, 400 pound “golem”. Unofficially, and for copyright purposes, Deathmask moves and vaguely looks like Frankenstein’s Monster. On the other hand, complete with his “death mask”, this guy is really evocative of Halloween’s Michael Myers. I think he’s even cradling a machete in his character portrait, so he could also be trying to emulate Jason Voorhees. In battle, all he does is lumber around, so he doesn’t use the electricity or gadgets you’d expect of the son of Frankenstein, nor does he use any slashing weapons, so who knows what the final intention here was. At least he’s scary!
Correct Answer: Golem, Frankenstein’s Monster, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees
Also worth a point: Slasher Monster
Partial Credit: Juggernaut
Fangore the Skeleton is our other claymation monster. Likely due to Castlevania, Skeletons don’t usually rank in my head for actually scary monsters. Like, a skeleton isn’t an intimidating creature of the night, it’s just a guy who decided he could break into Bed, Bath, and Piranha and went into the wrong stockroom. But Fangore has two things going for him: one, he’s an irregular skeleton with his hazily horse-like head and peculiarly shaped body, and two, he brought a sword that could rend the flesh from a brand new skeleton. And he’s got a shield that is another skull of unusual size… which… is that like cannibalism? I don’t understand skeleton politics, but Spinal has nothing on this guy.
Correct Answer: Skeleton, Skeleman
Also worth a point: D’Compose the Inhumanoid
Partial Credit: BEAT
The absolute most horrifying choice on the character select screen is actually a duo: Chili and Pepper the Homicidal Hobbits. Here’s some good old fashioned nightmare fuel: Chili and Pepper are a pair of lethal jesters, complete with chalk white faces and curly, bright red hair. I want to be clear here, this isn’t some knock against little people or gingers or something, no, these are two miniscule murder clowns. The way they jump and tumble and make… those… sounds is sincerely unnerving, and, were I to encounter those two in reality, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be in the same time zone for very long. Assuming I survived at all, that is. The worst part? These two are part of some kind of insane, tiny clown posse, as their stage features an entire tribe of duplicates capering around the background.
Oh, and they’re the only other character in the game noted to be of the “good” alignment. Puts a whole new spin on labeling most of the rest of the cast as “evil”.
Correct Answer: Homicidal Hobbits
Also worth a point: Killer Clowns, Murderous Mimes, Truculent Tumblers
Partial Credit: The Stuff of Nightmares, Ewoks
Moving on from the main cast, the previously advertised “hidden character” is simply… well… he’s unnamed, so let’s just call him Mirror Man. He’s just a simple “copy” that simulates your character in one player mode so you can have a mirror match free of difficult plot questions. A noble job, assuming this wasn’t a game where the final arena included an endless row of copy and pasted versions of the various combatants, including your own. Mirror Man seems to have no personal traits, and only appears on screen for a moment, but he looks a lot like a basic motion capture suit. He’s the laziest solution to a question no one asked.
Correct Answer: Mirror Match
Also woth a point: Copy Man, Duplicator, Ditto
Partial Credit: The laziest thing you can think of, Mokap
The final boss is actually four characters, and if you guessed all four correctly, congratulations, you’re a damn psychic, and maybe a monster, so please start your own fighting tournament. “The Big 4” are Leviathan, Salamande (sic), Jinnee, and Behemoth. As you’ve likely now guessed, they’re anthropomorphic abstractions of the four elements: water, fire, wind, and earth. Of the four, Jinnee is simultaneously the most and least interesting combatant, as he’s practically invisible, which is a great way to make a fight exciting and really save on resources. The rest of the gang appears to be the same model with an appropriate paintjob matching its element. Salamande seems to be the best fighter with his various flame moves, but Behemoth packs a mighty punch, as one might expect of a creature made of solid rock. I guess Leviathan goes first because it just wants to get all this messy fighting out of the way. You must be shapeless, formless, and give up immediately.
Correct Answer (full four points): The Big 4, The Four Elements
Also worth a point, but only one point each: Fire Man, Hydro Man, Air Man, Rock Man
Partial Credit: Lich, Kary, Kraken, Tiamat
And that’s everybody, folks! How’d you do? Leave your scores in the comments or wherever proper Goggle Bob merchandise is sold. Did you have fun? Then you got more enjoyment out of Battle Monsters than I did!
Keep on Monstering in the free world!
FGC #36 Battle Monsters
- System: Sega Saturn, and only Sega Saturn. It’s like it was quarantined.
- Number of Players: It’s a fighting game, so you can probably guess it’s two-player competitive.
- Favorite Monster: Still going with Naga, the Medusa. She’s a good mix of “works in a fighting game” and “is a monster”. Look, every slasher villain ever, I love ya, but no one wants to play as a character that can be outpaced by Zangief. And any other monster I’d like to see would have to be shrunk down to battle puny humans.
- Shrunk down? How does this game not have a Godzilla/dinosaur creature? Come on, it was two years after Jurassic Park! You can’t spell “Raptor” without “Rad”!
- That’s not strictly accurate: Shut-up.
- Did you know? There was a sequel to this game on the Playstation, called Killing Zone, and it tossed out the entire cast, for better or worse. Probably worse, as, while I’ve never played the game, it reviewed about as well as The Room. At least it had a minotaur to round out the Greek cast.
- Would I play again? No, very much no. Even if the Saturn was my go-to for gaming, there’s a bunch of much better 2-D Fighters. To add insult to injury, X-Men: Children of the Atom is even advertised on the back of Battle Monsters’ manual. There’s a good game with a Cyclops.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. Now there’s a game that sucks! … Wait. Not like that. I mean… oh never mind. Kirby woke up for the Wii. Please look forward to it!