THE KILLERSThe fact that I can hold this game in my hands is a testament to the amazing degree to which Mortal Kombat was popular… and how absolutely no one understood that popularity.

According to records from the distant past of 1992, Time Killers was unleashed upon arcades a few months after the venerable Mortal Kombat. I’m going to assume that it takes longer than a week to roll out a few hundred arcade cabinets, and conclude that Time Killers just happened to be a massively violent game that incidentally was released in proximity to, but not because of, Mortal Kombat. In all likelihood, Time Killers was, like Mortal Kombat itself, just another game that was trying to cash in on the success of Street Fighter 2. On the other hand, it is entirely likely that Time Killers was intended as a Mortal Kombat clone (klone?), as it is pretty obvious the visuals of Time Killers could be reproduced by a five year old with half a box of crayons. Colored pencils are too classy for Time Killers.

Time Killers is an ugly, ugly game. The graphics are just terrible, the animation is sub-2000 Newgrounds, and the character variety is nonexistent. This is another time-travel based fighter, and its stock “caveman” “knight” and “Viking” all probably required a solid sixty seconds of design. The final boss is Death with a capital D, and this interpretation of the Grim Reaper looks more like something you’d find scribbled on a local heavy metal band’s demo tape. It’s not, like, the actual album art, man, it’s just, like, something the bassist’s little brother did, and we thought it looked cool. And, in a way, that’s the ultimate goal of Time Killers: it’s a bunch of stuff that is supposed to look cool… but doesn’t quite get there. A warrior woman from the future wielding a lightsaber laser sword should be a show-stopper, but here we have less future gladiator, more American Gladiator. NES American Gladiator…

OUCHBut, arguably, none of that should matter. There is one thing people notice about Time Killers, and that’s the almost unheard of level of blood and gore being tossed around any given battle. Every fighter is equipped with at least one martial weapon (or martial appendage, in the case of that one bug lady), and when a dude with a mohawk is swinging around a chainsaw, the inevitable happens pretty quickly. Legs can be damaged, arms can be severed, and, assuming you can pull off a special move that involves smashing all the buttons at once, a dizzied character can be utterly decapitated mid-match. Suffice to say, even if the freshly headless participant had a mostly full life bar, the severer still gets a win point over the severee. But even if no one loses their head during a battle, there are almost always still severed, flopping limbs littering the battlefield. Heck, even before the fight begins, there’s often a bloodied corpse or guillotined head hanging in the background. Time Killers is all about the blood, and is arguably the game concerned parents believed Mortal Kombat to be. This is the title that is going to turn Little Timmy into Timothy “The Meat Mangler” Littles.

But, good news for a million moms everywhere, gamers weren’t having it.

Time Killers is certainly a game you could find in an arcade or two, but it was never nearly as popular as Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat. This was likely a result of the combination of its horrible ugliness and the fact that the gameplay absolutely sucks. It’s five buttons, but there’s an entire button that barely does anything! Special attacks are incredibly boring (which is really disappointing when you’re controlling a futuristic cyborg). And the previously mentioned “fatalities” that can occur at any time during a match can lead to some incredibly one-sided fights. Heavier characters are a lot more likely to dizzy their opponents, and when a dizzy condition can lead to an instant-win… well, why play as anyone other than the strong men?

Chop chop, guysSo, suffice to say, people weren’t exactly clamoring for a home release of Time Killers. In 1992, we had plenty of fighting game options, and it seemed like there was a new version or sequel every other month. Fighter’s History already showed us the apex of the genre (by allowing us to fight Karnov), so it seemed like the public at large was okay with Time Killers sticking to a few seedy arcades. Videogame preservation is nice, but I’m sure resources could be allocated to other projects. Time Killers will just have to wait for emulation and…

Oh. Time Killers was ported to the Sega Genesis. In 1996.

To put this in perspective, Time Killers’ home port was released the same year as other Sega Genesis games Sonic 3D Blast, Vectorman 2, and NBA Hangtime. Donkey Kong Country 3, Kirby Super Star, and Super Mario RPG were over on the Super Nintendo. The Nintendo 64 was released in the Fall of 1996. And here was Time Killers, for your Sega Genesis, and it looked like this:


Yes, Time Killers’ port took a bit of a hit from the arcade graphics. It featured no new characters, no extra gameplay modes, and tied it all up with the limited buttons of a Sega Genesis controller. Time Killers was already a turd floating in the toilet bowl of gaming, so why would anyone ever decide that the Sega Genesis needed this floater to bubble up to the surface?

Well, Mortal Kombat 2 sold at least 1.78 million copies for the Genesis in the United States, and MK3 came in at 1.02 million. That’s more copies sold than the most popular NFL games of the time. That also makes MK the highest selling franchise on the system that wasn’t rated for all general audiences. Hell, Mortal Kombat for Genesis practically invented the ratings system for videogames! Of course you want a piece of that action with your bloody brawler!

Had to do itDid Time Killers make the same splash on Genesis as Mortal Kombat? Of course not! But it was rescued from the dustbin of history because someone thought it might. And why did they imagine such lofty goals? Because there’s a significant portion of the population that thinks Mortal Kombat was successful only because of its gruesomeness. And Time Killers had gore to spare, so, logically, those silly gamers would go for it. Mortal Kombat has blood = success, Time Killers has more blood = more success. It’s basic math!

And, in the end, all this means is that Mortal Kombat was a massive, if completely misunderstood, success. Time Killers is not any good, but it received a home port in an effort to chase the prosperous Mortal Kombat. Did it help Time Killers one iota? Not at all. But it did preserve Time Killers for future generations of people trying to kill some time.

Mortal Kombat achieved a flawless victory. Time Killers just lost its head.

FGC #452 Time Killers

  • System: Sega Genesis and Arcade. Arcade gameplay is used for the majority of this article, as actually playing the Genesis version hurts my eyes.
  • Number of players: Same as Mortal Kombat.
  • Bugs love their lawnsFavorite Character: Time Killers was actually at my local arcade back in the day, and Wee Goggle Bob was convinced Mantazz was the best character, because she had a “head” button that actually did something. As an adult, I know that is fairly useless, but I still like Mantazz, as I appreciate how she was clearly auditioning for her iconic role in Secret of Mana.
  • What’s in a name? Wulf is a chivalrous knight that wields the holy sword Excalibur (we know this because he shouts that about every other second). Why didn’t Time Killers go with the significantly more obvious (and public domain) “Arthur”? They didn’t have any problem with naming their Viking “Leif”.
  • Science!: Orion’s stage is on a space ship floating somewhere in the universe. When an opponent loses on that stage, they start to float away, because gravity only impacts things that are alive. This is why we bury our dead, lest they drift off into the atmosphere.
  • An end: The character-specific endings are straightforward “fighter gets whatever they want” affairs, which is pretty typical for fledgling fighting games not setting up sequels. However, Thugg the Caveman gets a particularly interesting ending, as it involves ol’ Thugg excitedly and accidentally discovering fire. Does this mean that Thugg is the canon victor of the tournament?
  • Did you know? There was a UK comic book called “Time Killers”. It was based on a series from the same folks behind Judge Dredd, and it theoretically had nothing to do with the game (or any kind of consistent plot at all). However, issue #3’s cover features a woman that looks a lot like the game’s Matrix character. On the other hand, maybe there are only so many ways to depict a “future” woman…
  • Would I play again: No. This game is in no way fun, and I don’t want to deal with it ever again. If I’m ever tempted, I’ll just do a google image search for car accident photos and be done with it.

What’s next? That was awful, and I need something that is going to get this Mortal Kombat week back on track. I need something that is going to help me reclaim my Killer Instinct… Please look forward to it!

Look away

3 thoughts on “FGC #452 Time Killers”
  1. If I were to hazard a guess, Wülf wasn’t called Arthur because he already looks pretty similar to another extremely death prone arcade knight named Arthur.

    Anyway, to get into more about my experience with Time Killers, the local movie theater in my old town had its own mini arcade section. Mainly it was just a place for the kids to fuck off to pre-/post-movie, but unlike the movie theater arcades of today where you see shovelware Fast and Furious games with graphics that would’ve looked dated in the PS2 era or supersized versions of games you can just play on your phone, this arcade had some quality stuff.

    It had the X-Men game. It had the 3D Gauntlets. It had various Capcom fighters. It had Tekken 3. It saw every Mortal Kombat game grace its halls at one point or another. I was pretty sure I saw a Time Crisis machine at some point.

    And of course, it had Time Killers. Came in around the time of Mortal Kombat II.

    I played the Mortal Kombat games a lot but I never played Time Killers much. Young Met was also Squeamish Met, and a fighter where you can lose limbs during a match instead of merely at the tail end of one was a bit too much for me. My first go was as Wülf and it was two rounds of getting my head chopped off at the start of the match followed by getting to stare at a close-up of my chosen fighter’s neckhole. Played it like once after that as Rancid and then never again.

    In retrospect, it wasn’t even the goriest game of the 90s. The computer gaming space (and games ported from it) had horrors far worse than any cartoon heads getting lopped off. The Sega CD port of Snatcher made Jean-Jack Gibson’s iconic decapitation even gorier by giving you a nice full frontal view of his neckhole, and that game also had a disemboweled dog (slightly toned down, no twitching organs) and a close-up of a rotting face covered in maggots! Horrorsoft lived up to its name with extremely gruesome deaths for its Elvira games and Waxworks!

    Young Met…did not get along with adventure games. It’s not just ‘cuz there was gory stuff in that space, it’s ‘cuz computer adventure games were the stuff of nightmares because they put a lot more detail (textual and/or visual) into your death than the standard NES game.

    On the scale from “Not Scary” going down to “OH SHIT!” for Li’l Met…(This covers games I actually played back then)

    Super Mario Bros.: Mario falls off the screen when he dies.

    Zelda II: The screen flashes with a death noise and slumped over Link silhouette. This happens three times and you see a laughing Ganon silhouette on a blood red background.

    Dragon Warrior II-IV: Having the UI and the world around you turn red (well, orange) is a bit much for someone being dead.

    Adventure Island: Like Super Mario Bros. but Master Higgins can get SET ON FUCKING FIRE.

    Conquest of the Crystal Palace: Time to watch your boy protagonist get lowered into flames while his doggo barks away!

    Prince of Persia: Even without blood getting spiked or guillotined is unpleasant.

    Mortal Kombat: Okay, I never liked the original arcade bottom of the pit that much.

    Mystery House: I played this in the elementary school’s computer lab and never got past that one room you accidentally set on fire.

    Maniac Mansion: HOUSE GO BOOM.

    Shadowgate: I adore this game (and many others on the list) now, but Grim Reaper + Creepy Music + Description of Your Horrible Death did not make for a pleasant time for li’l Met.

    King’s Quest V (NES): You know what livens up getting killed/trapped/frogged? FUNERAL DIRGE MUSIC!

    Magician: Uh oh, someone got drunk on goat’s milk or blew himself up while experimenting with magic or got killed by anything else. Time to talk about your failure while creepy music plays.

    Time Killers: I already described this one.

    Another World (née Out of this World): <- I HATE THAT FUCKING SLUG.

    The Immortal: Lots of death animations in this. Sanitized for NES, but still really unpleasant.

    Uninvited: Didn't actually play this as a kid, 'cuz I saw the skeleton belle and one picture of the (uncensored) decapitated peasant from the Japanese version in Nintendo Power and it creeped me out. Considering the final game had lots of creepy close-ups ("THE DOG SUDDENLY CHARGES YOU") and a blood red skull on the death screen, avoiding it until I was older was a wise decision.

    If you noticed, most of the games closer to the "OH SHIT" side were either born on computers or are computer game-like experiences. It's probably for the best that I didn't have regular access to a personal computer until I was an adult, the PC gaming space was the land of nightmares for young minds that are easily spooked by deaths more detailed than MAN FALL OFF SCREEN.

    Still don't like the thought of playing Heart of Darkness (like Uninvited it's a game I knew about and avoided) all that much even now. Putting Éric Chahi in charge of making a lovingly animated kid's game also meant lots of lovingly animated horrible deaths.

  2. And I just realized that three of the fighters have names starting with an M: Mantazz, Musashi, Matrix. I get when a fighter with dozens of people does this, but what kind of fighter with an extremely limited roster would have a bunch of characters whose names all start with the exact same lettter?

    I mean, Mortal Kombat had the sense to avoid such a thing, it had Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, and Shang…Tsung…OH. And the very popular update added a Reptile alongside that Raiden…Then the sequel was even worse when it had Kung Lao, Kitana, and Kintaro…and put Jax and Jade in with Johnny Cage…and added Smoke and Shao Kahn to the S Squad…and then the Mortal Kombat 3 trilogy…Kabal for the Ks alongside Kano’s return, and Rain joined the Rs…Sheeva, Sektor, Stryker…MK loves that damn S so much…

    Well, I guess Time Killers had to beat Mortal Kombat at SOMETHING, right?

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