FGC #634 Martial Champion

So many fighting gamesNot all fighting games are created equal. For every Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or even Clayfighter, there are a bevvy of games that seem to have been forgotten by all but the most dedicated of fighting game enthusiasts. But that does not mean we can’t learn from these “lost” fighting games! Every fighting game, no matter why they were forgotten, has something to offer. Let’s take a look at some forgotten fighting games, and see why they deserve at least a cursory glance…

King of the Monsters
1991

RAWRWhat is going on here: One of the best games to take place in the far-flung future of 1996, King of the Monsters is the story of what happens when six or twelve legally distinct monsters all decide to rumble and see who will be the titular King of the Monsters. This is bad news for anyone that lives in the future-past Japan that is their battleground, but great for anyone that has ever wanted to see a rock giant fight a snot ghost.

Best Character: Is Astro Guy really a monster? He looks like Ultraman, and there is Beetle Mania over there to be his trademark inexplicable giant bug opponent. Astro Guy wins, as he may be a copy like every other monster, but at least he is the kind of monster that didn’t already appear in Rampage.

What can we learn: King of Monsters was released before “fighting games” became codified with Street Fighter 2 (dropped that same year), so King of Monsters almost feels like a “wrestling game”. It has turnbuckle attacks, an emphasis on grabs, and, most importantly, you have to pin your opponent for three seconds to score a win. And that can be fun! An empty life bar is not a loss in King of Monsters, it just means it will be more difficult to get up when Rocky the Moai power dives on your monster. Extending the match a little longer is great in a game with a scant six playable characters, and it is nice to see the potential for a turnaround despite a theoretical impending loss. Let’s see some last-minute grappling from modern games!

Dino Rex
1992

Big boys starting this offWhat is going on here: Like Primal Rage, this is a 2-D fighter featuring dinosaurs battling for supremacy. Also like Primal Rage, this game absolutely sucks. You’ve got three attack buttons, special moves, combos, and the ability to “charge meter” via shouting, but… Oh man. The central conceit here is that you are technically playing as a scantily clad man controlling a dinosaur via whip, and it sure feels like you have only a whip’s worth of control over your chosen dinosaur.

Best Character: All the humans in this game are generic prehistoric dudes (though, if a match ends in a draw, you can play as one of the dudes, and they curiously have Ryu’s moveset), so we presumably must pick a favorite dinosaur here. And is it possible to pick a dinosaur that is not the mighty Tyrannosaurus? It might be purple again, but it is still a goddamned t-rex.

What can we learn: Dino Rex is a bad fighting game for the fact that you are very likely to lose because it is difficult to confirm whether your controller is working at all, but sometimes it feels good to get your ass kicked, because it also kicks everyone else’s asses. The storyline for Dino Rex posits this is an annual dinosaur fighting tournament to win the hand of an Amazon Queen, so there are spectators, and an arena built up for this yearly battle. And, since dinosaurs are fighting, it gets absolutely wrecked. It is fun to watch the surrounding area get destroyed by careless dinosaurs! And someone on staff evidently noticed, as the bonus stage is controlling your dinosaur in a “dream sequence” that sees a modern city getting similarly smashed. So if you’re going to make a bad fighting game, at least let us destroy everything in it.

Martial Champion
1993

What is going on here: One of Konami’s rare, early fighting games (they were more into beat ‘em ups), this is a pretty obvious Street Fighter 2 clone where a bunch of international weirdos are all punching and kicking in an effort to become… I don’t know… some kind of Martial Arts Champion or something. Your attack options are limited to three buttons (high, mid, low), and there are a total of ten selectable characters (and one unplayable boss).

Best Character: Avu is a tempting choice, as he is basically Karnov (he’s even got fire breath!), but I’m going to choose Bobby. Not only does he have the best name, but he seems to exist as an obvious example of “Well, Guile looks kinda American, but is there any way we can crank that up to ten million?”

What can we learn: Martial Champion has a variable weapon system! Kinda! Some fighters have weapons, and said weapons can be knocked out of a fighter’s hands. And the opponent can retrieve these weapons! And… maybe do nothing? If a fighter doesn’t have a weapon to begin with, it seems they do not have any abilities with any weapons. But! Even if you can’t use it, playing keep away with a weapon is good fun. Thought you had increased range with that scimitar before, loser? Now you’re not getting it back until a knock down. Good luck!

Shaq Fu
1994

Because he is tallWhat is going on here: Probably the most known yet least played game on this list, Shaq Fu is infamous for being the only fighting game starring evil mummy Sett Ra. Also: Shaquille O’Neal makes an appearance. If you are venturing into the past of the Shaq Attack on your own, please consider playing the Sega Genesis version, and completely ignore the Super Nintendo port. The SNES version drops like half the roster, is about as responsive as steering a drunken cow, and even drops the essential “blood code” that allows Shaq to become an unrepentant monster murderer. Mind you, this is not to imply that the Sega Genesis version is any good, it is simply the best way to experience something this bad.

Best Character: For being a Shaq promotional vehicle that cannot reach the high bar set by Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, Shaq Fu at least has a fascinating roster of off-brand movie monsters and the occasional racist caricature (a voodoo priestess named Voodoo? Really?). Mephis seems to be a cross between a Jawa and Yoda, and he has a banging jump attack, so he works out to being the winner here. Second prize goes to Nezu, who has the superpower “is short”, and somehow works out to being the most effective fighter. In a game named after a mountain of a man, that is fairly impressive.

What can we learn: Nobody wants to play Shaq Fu anymore. Nobody. But the adaptive character portraits are pretty great. Everybody enjoyed seeing Blanka bloodied after a battle on Street Fighter 2 win screens, and Shaq Fu copied that post-fight trash talk perfectly. Maybe we could get back to seeing some faces in modern games that actually look like they’ve been in a fight. It might lower crime rates! Or something!

Tattoo Assassins
1994

Everybody livesWhat is going on here: Freaking Bob Gale (of Back to the Future!) is partially responsible for Data East’s answer to Mortal Kombat. Digitized actors in ridiculous costumes are transported to a realm where everybody gets a free magical tattoo, and they fight everybody in the immediate area to earn even more magical tattoos. Unfortunately, Mortal Kombat was never the game you wanted to copy for gameplay, and Tattoo Assassins is about as fun as getting an actual tattoo (which, if you’ve never had the pleasure, ranks on the pain scale somewhere around having mosquitoes beset your virgin flesh with adorable mosquito-sized chainsaws). This is Mortal Kombat as imagined by someone that once read about Mortal Kombat in an old issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, but never got around to actually playing the dang thing.

Best Character: Karla Keller is an Olympic ice skater, and a parody of Nancy Kerrigan. Remember Nancy Kerrigan? Really big scandal around the ’92 Olympics? Weird Al wrote a song that involved her? It was a parody of a Crash Test Dummies song? Remember Crash Test Dummies?

What can we learn: The gameplay may be atrocious, but Tattoo Assassins gets one thing right: it ruined Johnny Cage’s career logos. Even the worst 90’s fighting game could have a killer roster, and… Tattoo Assassins absolutely does not have that. But every character is made much more memorable by personalized, individual logos that are just begging to be doodled into the margins of a preteen’s biology notes. The likes of Luke Cord (heh), Truck Davis (hehe), or A.C. Current (bwa ha ha) may not have made much of an impact, but their bespoke logos guarantee you’ll remember Billy Two Moons slightly better than… crap… what was the name of the Native American Mortal Kombat 3 character again?

Cosmic Carnage
1994

Who didn't love the 32x?What is going on here: The enduring Sega 32X exclusive fighting game is the tale of an interstellar prisoner transport going intergalactically wrong, and now the baddest hombres in the galaxy all have to battle it out for the last remaining escape pod. This winds up becoming something like Mortal Kombat (popular option for the time), though with six buttons… even if two of those buttons just activate taunts. Hey! Gotta sell that new Sega Genesis hardware somehow!

Best Character: Scale Tail the snake dude is easily the best forgotten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 80’s action figure, and Naja, his obvious sister, should be the star of Cosmic Carnage. Asymmetric snake warriors should appear in more fighting games. Or regular games. Whatever it takes to get them slithering around the world.

What can we learn: Cosmic Carnage is the not the worst game on this list, it is simply… kind of boring. There is very little that separates this experience from any generic fighting game released in the early 90s (even the typical mechanical gorilla appears in two other games on this list!). But it does have one feature not seen elsewhere: breakaway armor. It doesn’t seem to do anything, but different fighters have different armor/clothing segments that can be obliterated over the course of the battle. And it is always pleasant to see some battle damage after you punch an ant-man in the chest over and over again. It is not much (which could describe a lot of this game), but it is a little something to spice things up. And who wouldn’t want to literally beat the pants off Zangief over in the Street Fighter universe?

Far East of Eden: Kabuki Klash
1995

Somewhere around edenWhat is going on here: A Neo Geo fighting game from 1995, Far East of Eden: Kabuki Klash is actually based on a Hudson developed JRPG franchise, Tengai Makyō. Unfortunately, despite having four additional games on the PC Engine CD and seven other titles on everything from the Super Famicom to the Playstation 2, America never saw a Tengai Makyō title other than this fighter. And FEoE:KK didn’t really set the world on fire, either, as it was a pretty basic 2-D “weapon” fighter.

Best Character: Apparently most of the characters in this game were protagonists from disparate TM titles, so this is kind of like Final Fantasy: Dissidia for this specific JRPG franchise. So the winner here is Kinu, who looks to be some manner of “bride” that is constantly accompanied by a giant, white Samoyed. However, I am going to note that the Far East of Eden Wiki claims that she eventually self-sells herself into slavery (!), so I am not going to read a wiki ever again.

What can we learn: Far East of Eden: Kabuki Klash is a marginally unique fighting game with powerups being dropped all over the arena randomly, but the real cool thing here is that every mirror match is 100% canon. Upon completing any fight where both players selected the same character, it will be revealed that the loser and mirror opponent was a kitsune or tanuki (according to gender) in disguise. And the post-battle win screen includes dialogue that confirms that the failure was a magical woodland creature, and no other magical hijinks were involved. Mortal Kombat invented an entire universe-destroying time distortion to finally justify its mirror matches, and all it ever needed was a fox!

Rise 2: Resurrection
1996

The robots are revoltingWhat is going on here: The sequel to Rise of the Robots, Rise 2: Resurrection is the tale of regular-sized robot fighting time. Using Rise of the Robots as little more than a proof of concept, Rise 2 has multiple characters to choose from (the original only allowed one choice), battle damage, 256 fighter color palettes, fatalities (called “executions” here), super moves, and a theme by the venerable Brian May (of Ogre Battle). All the pieces are there for Rise 2: Resurrection to be one of the best fighting games on the Saturn, Playstation, or PC! So too bad it sucks.

Best Character: Lockjaw is an upgraded version of Loader, the Glass Joe of the original Rise of the Robots. They (It? He? She?) were basically the best character from Alien in the first game, but now, with a few basic projectile upgrades, they are a force to be reconned with. This proves the old adage that anyone can succeed if they solder a few missile pods unto their shoulders.

What can we learn: Despite a host of improvements, Rise 2: Resurrection is still an extremely janky fighting game that feels like the exact reason this whole genre tanked the minute the Sega Saturn was out of the picture. But one thing Rise 2 does to make it #1? It goes all in on its gimmick. There are some weird ass robots fighting here, and they are definitely robots. Many of the other games on this list have obvious aesthetic gimmicks, but they still manage to have “Ryu, but his hair is different” on the roster. In Rise 2, the cast is wall-to-wall robots, and, while there are a handful of straight-androids, nearly every robot looks like they would be more comfortable on an assembly room floor than in a fighting game. Get some similarly weird body types in there, too, rest of the genre! Let your (robot) freak flag fly!

Breakers Revenge
1996

Gonna get his revengeWhat is going on here: Conceptually, it is yet another pat Street Fighter 2 clone: a bunch of randos from all over the world represent their home countries through ridiculous stereotypes, and they fight for… what do we have here… Oh! They want to win the Fighting Instinct Tournament (FIST). Sweet. Regardless of motivation, this game plays surprisingly well, and the various characters involved are slightly more memorable than some of the weirdos appearing in other games on today’s list.

Best Character: This is primarily a FIST-based fighter, but Pielle (localization couldn’t figure out “Pierre”? Really?) the Frenchman decided to bring a rapier to this battle. He also wears a mask, and slashes out a “Z” as part of one of his special moves. He’s Zorro, but French. It is not even subtle.

What can we learn: Speaking of Pielle, his quarter circle back + kick attack is the “Lovely Rose Pirouette”, an advancing attack that, at its strongest level, will slash through to behind an opponent. But! There is an obvious drawback, as Pielle will stand vulnerable and dizzy immediately after the intense spinning of the attack. And that’s great for a novice Breaker fan, as it clearly conveys that this strong move has some vulnerable frames after the attack. There is no question that panting Pielle is exposed, so a new player immediately learns that some of the strongest attacks have drawbacks. And, while not every fighter needs to have an extended fatigue period, it would be nice if modern fighters made their “recovery frames” a little more obvious for neophytes…

Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.
1998

Nobody likes you freaksWhat is going on here: In the not-too-distant future, the United States has fallen. Who could have seen that coming? Now the nation is ruled by business-based private territories, and wars are waged not on the battlefield, but in a fighting tournament. And everyone involved in said tournament is a Biological Flying Robotic Enhanced Armored Killing Synthoid… which means this is just an excuse for a bunch of cyborg mutants to wail on each other until something dies. Hey, everything on the N64 was already kind of ugly, why not have a game filled to the brim with pulsating mutants?

Best Character: Zipperhead is the cover boy for Bio F.R.E.A.K.S., so we are going with the ostensible main character for once. Why? Well, someone decided to weld a chainsaw to his arm, and we need at least two games in this article with Bruce Campbell references. Much beyond that, there isn’t much to Zipperhead, which is just fine for a gray faced F.R.E.A.K.

What can we learn: Every Bio F.R.E.A.K. has at least one projectile attack and the ability to fly. And do you know how you activate these abilities? You press a button! Just one button! Yes, there are more intricate special moves with complicated commands, but a basic “shoot that guy now” is always a simple button press away. You know how many modern fighters could use a simple “press here for something cool” button? The answer is all of them! Don’t take for granted that everyone knows how to throw Ryu’s fireball or Scorpion’s spear!

Astra Superstars
1998

You can be a superstar!What is going on here: From the makers of Waku Waku 7, Astra Superstars is another fighter that is anime as heck. In addition to all the red and green trappings you would expect from a design company that apparently called itself SANTACLAUS, every battle starts with dialogue choices that may infuriate or “cool down” an opponent, thus modifying their default difficulty level. Oh! And there’s a lot of bouncing! Juggling is the name of the game in this fighter!

Best Character: I am likely revealing an oddly specific fetish here, but I am going to pick Stella, the immortal magician clad in a traditional (but entirely green) sorceress hat and matching dress. Her attacks are all bewitching magic spells with amusing variations, so she wins not only for wearing the ideal Halloween costume, but also for hosting so many distinctive abilities.

What can we learn: Aside from the fact that someone named a character “Lettuce”, the most idiosyncratic thing in Astra Superstars is that it is a 2-D flying fighter. In practice, this doesn’t change much from traditional 2-D fighting gameplay, but it does add one interesting bit: you can jump “under” an opponent. Since there is no floor, you have options for hopping over or under your rival. And that changes so much! No more is a simple dragon punch or flash kick the be-all end-all answer to someone trying to get on your backside; now you have to make split second decisions on which direction your competitor is going to choose. Or you can go for a move that covers both bases, but has a longer charge up time. You’ve got options! And those options should be in other games!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Heritage of the Future
1998

This is BizarreWhat is going on here: There was a time when JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was hardly heard of in the West, and back in this epoch, we received our first taste of JoJo: JoJo’s Venture. One of three fighting games produced for Capcom’s CPS-3 board (the other two being luminaries Street Fighter 3 and Red Earth), this is easily one of the best “forgotten” games on this list. But, alas, it appears Capcom does not have the JoJo license anymore, so we are left in a world where it is unlikely to be seen on a fighting collection ever again.

Best Character: It is difficult to choose a favorite here, as everyone’s unique Stand leads to extremely unique fighters. Much like Blazblue or Persona 4 Arena, every Stand is just as unique as its attendant fighter, with some characters gaining small advantages (“a gun” is never as powerful in a fighting game as you would expect) or drastic changes (let’s go ahead and double this fighter’s range, and see how that impacts gameplay). All that said, my pick is Iggy, because he’s a dog. Oh, there also might be Alessi, because…

What can we learn: Like other Capcom games of the era, there may be a bit of “showing off” happening here. Alessi is an assassin with terrible hair, but his Stand canonically has the ability to reverse someone’s age. So his special/super moves in JoJo’s Venture de-age his opponent, which transforms a fighter into an entirely different animal. Most of the characters are reduced to half-sized, “chibi” limited versions of their normal forms, but at least one of the older fighters becomes a younger, stronger version of himself. And that’s amazing! We have always had things like Darkstalkers’ Anakaris curse, but this might be the first time an attack can powerup its opponent because… well.. it would make logical sense. More completely insane gameplay like this, please!

Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate
1999

Meet the princessWhat is going on here: Xena: Warrior Princess was very much a “you had to be there” thing of the late 90’s. Long story short, for a brief six years, the advent of corny mythological tales premiering on syndicated weekend blocks gave way to a woman fighting her way across Greece while wearing chainmail that didn’t get past her hips. This eventually led to a “Warrior Princess” becoming a gay icon, and a whole lot of people learning that the main attribute of Ares, God of War, was “smarmy”.

Best Character: Joxer the Mighty, roams through the countryside, he never needs a place to hide. With Gabby as his sidekick, fighting with her little stick. Righting wrongs and singing songs. Being mighty all day long. He’s Joxer! He’s Joxer the Mighty!

What can we learn: Despite only including one Bruce Campbell character (Autolycus), Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate includes everyone you would want to see in a Raimi Mythology-Verse fighting game (to be clear, this means there is no Kevin Sorbo. Good.) And it plays pretty alright, too! For appearing on the N64 (despite a button layout made for Street Fighter 2, not the number one place you wanted to play fighting games at the turn of the century), and being an early 3-D fighting game (they were born this console generation, I tells ya!) this is still a game that can be enjoyable today. And a significant reason for that is that it is one of the few 3-D fighting games where jumping feels right. This is not a place where you are going to jump as much as in 2-D fighting game, but when you do decide to jump, it feels right, and the accompanying physics seem to make sense for flying attacks. And not only is this something later fighting games could emulate, but it is something wholly true to the game’s source material. Do you know much jumping Xena did? It was a lot.

Stake: Fortune Fighters
2003

I hate everything about thisWhat is going on here: Admittedly, there was a solid period of about a decade where the only fighting games available were the very well-known titles (Tekken, SoulCalibur, Guilty Gear), or there was just… nothing. The world moved on to JRPGs and sandbox titles, and no longer did creative directors have to find ways to shoehorn chubby Arabian guys with scimitars into fights with random Asian women. But! Stake: Fortune Fighters attempted to revolutionize the genre by learning the exact wrong lessons from Power Stone. The end result is a fighting game that utilizes huge, polygonal arenas where you spend most of the time just trying to find your opponent, left alone fighting the poor sod. There are items. There are traps. And you will likely stop playing it after thirty seconds, because hunting around a maze for someone to punch was much better two decades earlier when Yar was getting his revenge.

Best character: We somehow have the “fortune teller that fights with her crystal ball” archetype before she became more standard in SoulCalibur 5 and Street Fighter 5 (weird how that worked out) in the form of Barty, but the better choice is Pharo, who had the good sense to bring a spear (or maybe lance) to this fight. Here’s a fun fact: when you spend most of your day a million miles away from your adversary, it is brilliant to bring something that can poke from a distance. Pharo came to win, because she had a tiny clue what would work in this terrible game.

What can we learn: There is not a lot to like in this game that apparently shipped without even implementing sound effects. But at least it has cool status ailments! You can burn, freeze, and even shrink your opponents with items left around the battlefield. And given all the status effects have obvious and evident downsides (flames stick to your body and drain health, ice prevents movement entirely, shrinking means you are small and really slow), at least this game gets something right. I hate having to be on the opposite side of a F.A.N.G. matchup and remembering how poison works in Street Fighter 5, but Stake: Fortune Fighters’ shrinky gas has no such issue.

Battle Fantasia
2007

Let's Battle!What is going on here: From the makers of Guilty Gear and Blazblue (a year later) comes a fantasy fighting game where Death Bringer can bring something or other to a princess that wants to be in the color guard. As an Arc System Works title, the fights are smooth, frenetic, and stylish. As something that isn’t based on heavy metal songs, though, it is fairly lacking. Battle Fantasia feels like it is promoting a particular JRPG, movie, manga, or… something? But Battle Fantasia is its own property, and, as such, there will never be a reasonable explanation for that young knight tossing around a magical chainsaw.

Best Character: Freed Velez is a pirate captain that…. You know what? I don’t need to go any further than that. The record will show that all pirate captains in video games are good, and there should be a fighting game that is exclusively fighting game pirate captains duking it out. Maybe toss some characters from Skies of Arcadia in there. Whatever works. Make it happen, Kind and Loving God.

What can we learn: Battle Fantasia wants to be a JRPG so bad, and it goes above and beyond the usual Arc System Works standard of having a story mode that contains more words than À la recherche du temps perdu (look it up!). But more importantly, Battle Fantasia includes a numerical HP count attached to life bars, and every last hit pops up with a damage count. And that’s great! It somehow doesn’t get in the way (mmm, the pixels available in HD games…), and clearly tells the player how much damage any given move is doing. No need to spend a half hour shuffling through menus in the training screen, you’ll know immediately in any match if that fireball is really remotely effective. Transparency! It’s not just for windows anymore!

Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match
2011

You may get wet?What is going on here: Aquaplus, a Japanese visual novel developer, decided to get its fight on and smoosh a bunch of its characters together into a fighting game. This means a handful of mostly women are going to drop out of universes where the most mystical object is a mop, and start chucking fireballs at each other. But whatever the origins for the characters, it works out to a pretty good fighting game, replete with fun features like the “active emotion system” for the occasional upset.

Best Character: I do not mind plainly stating that I have no idea what is going on with any of these characters. Occasionally, I understand these dream match games in some capacity, but I got nothing on Japanese visual novels about high school girls. So, that said, apparently Sasara Kusugawa here is a Valkyrie. Or something? I do not know, and her attendant wiki (damn, I said I was going to quit those…) only seems to indicate that she is on the student council (naturally), and she is friends with the witch girl who is kind of the final boss. Whatever the explanation, I know she brought a bladed weapon to a life-or-death fight where the most anyone else seems to have is a bookbag, so I am going to say she is the smartest one here.

What can we learn: Likely as an excuse to cram more cameos into the proceedings, Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match has an “assist” system wherein a number of characters exist exclusively as summonable special attacks. And, while this is a pretty standard thing in many “dream match” games, what is important here is that your chosen partner actually lingers in the background for the entire fight. That is cool, as it impacts gameplay (your partner’s attacks are 100% dependent on range/activation location), and further emphasizes how this is a “real” place, and not just some randomly generated 2-D fighting game background. In short, these dumb cameo strikers further enhance game and narrative, and some franchises would do well to remember how easily that can enhance an experience.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel
2015

Pouring nitro in the tankWhat is going on here: Noted Japanese visual novel developer Nitroplus Co decided to get all of its luminaries together for one big fighting game . (where have I heard of this concept before). They even conscripted the likes of Marvelous, (Senran Kagura) Type-Moon (Fate… as in Stay/Night), and Team Arcana (Arcana Heart) for a few extra fighters. Granted, some of those companies may been involved in the actual gameplay of the title… But whatever! What is important is that Saber can battle a host of other visual novel heroines, and you may recognize at least, like, two from popular anime shows based on the marginally popular visual novels. You can summon Amy from Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet! Do these words mean anything to you!?

Best Character: Super Sonico pulls double duty as Nitroplus’s official cover girl/announcer for the fighting tournament (or whatever this crossover is supposed to be), and a fighter. But Super Sonico is a terminally sweet pacifist! She literally cannot fight to save her life. But she has friends! And, more importantly, cats! And they can fight for her. So Super Sonico is not only a unique heroine for a fighting game, she also has wholly unique attacks that entirely involve “summoning” her aggressive band mates or homicidal cats. More fighters need to rely on felines!

What can we learn: More fighters need to rely on felines, dammit!

Blade Strangers
2018

Not everyone has a bladeWhat is going on here: Studio Saizensen started work on a fighting game, and then noted horrible company Nicalis swept that up with all of its attendant franchises, and smooshed everything together into its own fighting game. Not unlike the visual novel-based titles we’ve already seen, this means that a number of characters that previously had nothing to do with fighting games are now learning the glory of using fireball motions to activate an array of projectiles. A few of these fighters originate from combat-heavy beat ‘em ups, but the majority would rather play with a grappling hook or hang out in their mother’s basement. Together, they fight crime each other!

Best Character: Blade Strangers may contain the greatest ratio of “I really like that one” characters to mediocre gameplay. Gunvolt! Curly Brace and Quote! Kawase! Princess Solange! That guy from 1001 Spikes (as eventual DLC)! But there is one big, blue hero that I can never deny, and he’s Shovel Knight. In the name of shovelry (and the fact that he never got to be an official Smash Bro), I have to pick the master of digging.

What can we learn: We have been looking at “triple brown betty combo” notifications during fighting games so long, they have practically become part of the background. So why not have a few more interesting cut-ins? When the action gets frantic in Blade Strangers, there are comic book panel-style graphics that pop up to show a character is winning and/or struggling (it’s a fighting game, it can be both). And, while it may not impact the gameplay one iota, it does add a touch of extra hype to the proceedings. And when a game features a continually crying child being beaten down by a bondage maniac named Master T… well, a little hype goes a long way.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
2018

Crossover event!What is going on here: Is it just me, or has every fighting game in the last decade either been an established franchise or a crossover event? And what happens if we try to do both? The BlazBlue franchise technically last saw an entry at the tail end of the Playstation 3 era in 2015, and it was always assumed that its follow up would drop the old sprites and “scale up” like its brother in anime, Guilty Gear. Or they could just use the “old” graphics from BlazBlue, smack it together with the Persona 4 fighting game, add a dash of Under Night In-Birth, and then spice things up with guests from RWBY. Eventually, DLC even included Arcana Heart, Senran Kagura, and Akatsuki Blitzkampf/EN-Eins Perfektewelt (which just means there is a playable tank). Now let’s all fight to see which franchise has the best vaguely cat-like mascot!

Best Character: The cast of RWBY was made for fighting games. Like, literally. How is their tie-in title some kind of beat ‘em up wannabe when every RWBY episode ever has been known for its fight choreography? This is ridiculous! But it is a fine reason to play as Ruby Rose or Yang Xiao Long, and let ‘em kick as much ass as possible. Yang cold cocking a tank feels entirely in character.

What can we learn: The five women of RWBY and Yumi of Senran Kagura are the only totally unique “sprites” in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Beyond that, we have 47 “returning” fighters, some of which have been featured in multiple titles going back years. And that is a-okay! All too often, “old” versions of characters are completely discarded in fighting games, and you never see “original”, less-wide Sol Badguy ever again. So let Naoto K. and Naoto S. fight! Let Nine team up with Celica! Don’t throw the babies out with the bathwater. Every game featured in this article has at least something to offer future generations of fighting games, even if that is just an opportunity to fight as a JRPG character from 2008. Remember your past, fighting games, and see all the wonders that originate from the forgotten games.

FGC #634 Martial Champion

  • CHAMPIONS!System: Hey, remember how this article is technically about Martial Champion? It was released in the arcade in America, and only ever ported to the PC Engine in Japan. That Japanese version wound up with a WiiU release, though… also only ever available in Japan.
  • Number of players: Two players now must fight! Like nearly every game on this list
  • But is it racist: Mahamba is a Kenyan and literal spear chucker. That is not cool! But the fact that an African country gets any representation in a “world fighter” from 1993 is kind of a miracle, so I’m going to give this one partial credit. Though couldn’t make your Kenyan dude, like, a Rhodes Scholar?
  • Final Boss: Your ultimate opponent is Salamander, a generic ogre-looking dude that stands a full head and torso above any of the other fighters. But most of his special moves are borrowed from other fighters, so you’re not missing much if you never see this finale.
  • Favorite Background: You can battle on the front lawn of the White House. I feel like that wouldn’t be allowed nowadays. But there is plenty of room…
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I was always marginally fascinated by this game, as it appeared at a local arcade, but I never quite had the opportunity to play it. It’s not like it was crowded or too expensive or something, just, ya know, better games were right over there. Still! It sticks in my mind as a possibility, at least.
  • What’s in a name: “Titi” is the Egyptian princess, and her name is a shortened version of Nefertiti. However, that sounds an awful lot like “titty” in English vernacular, so her name inexplicably was changed to “Chaos”. Someone doesn’t like that. … Oh, no wait, her name just got switched with Chaos, the Chinese vampire. That is even weirder!
  • Be ware!Favorite Fighter: Speaking of that Jiangshi, Titi/Chaos always held my attention in fighting demos, and he is not completely terrible to utilize in a fight. His jumping claw attack feels like something that was very inspired by Street Fighter 2’s Vega (“Balrog/Claw”), which, if you are going to copy a Street Fighter, at least go with a boss. Oh, and when Chaos inevitably loses his claw, opponent fighters will pick it up and hold it sideways, thus indicating everyone else in the cast is an idiot.
  • Did you know? Martial Champion is not completely forgotten. The final boss and Racheal have appeared most recently in the manga Hi Score Girl. And we also have Titi XIV in Konami’s own Otomedius franchise, so the descendant of a Martial Champion can pal around with the descendant of Gradius and a Belmont. Hooray?
  • Would I play again: Lovely to look at, delightful to hold, but I feel like this story has already been told. We can learn a thing or two from Martial Champion… but we’re done now. It’s over. Moving on the greener, presumably Ryu-based pastures for the next fighting game fix.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rocket Knight Adventures! Jetpack mammals blasting off to save the day! Jetpack future! Please look forward to it!

Be the champion

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