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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!

Now let’s talk about Shaq-Fu…

WW #06 Record of Agarest War(‘s box)

I’ve mentioned before that I will buy pretty much anything if it’s marked down to ten bucks. I’ve privately referred to it as the “quarter compulsion”, as, when I was child and had a quarter, I would immediately spend that quarter on whatever useless crap the supermarket foyer area was selling. And I’ve got a collection of bouncy balls to prove it! As a responsible adult (lie), I treat a Hamilton roughly in the same manner, and that couples poorly with my tendency to hang out in videogame stores. This is just a longwinded way of excusing myself for owning this…

It's a box!

That’s Record of Agarest War. It’s a TRPG that I played for maybe ten minutes before outright quitting forever. I’d love to write a full review or something, but… nah. TRPGs take way too long to do anything, and there doesn’t seem to be anything compelling about dialogue box after dialogue box relaying the War of the Who Cares.

However, despite purchasing this videogame ostensibly to not play it, I do not regret the ten bucks I blew on this purchase. Why? Because this is the box that caught my eye…

FGC #214 Deathsmiles

BEWAREOne of my many failings is that I am a complete sucker for bargains. Excuse me, that’s not quite correct. I am a sucker for a perceived bargain. I might never use that discount deep fryer currently available at Big Lots, but you better believe it’s going to start living in one of my kitchen cabinets because OMG it’s 50% off the MSRP. This thinking, of course, applies to a number of videogames, and accounts for why my inventory plumps up faster than a Crossfit dropout every Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I know it’s a collection of games I already own with the tiniest of extra features added, but it’s only ten bucks! Score!

This thinking, naturally, applies to Limited & Special Editions. I spend a lot of time at videogame stores, and I have a tendency to note exactly when a Limited Edition inevitably drops from its usual $80 price point down to $40, and then again to $20. That’s right about when I leap on the poor, forgotten game like a rabid dog, and I’ve got the Tron Lightcycle and Metal Gear Glowy Arm Thingy to prove it. And I can safely say that there are a number of videogames in my collection that saw less use than their accompanying art books. And here’s a fun fact: it takes me about five minutes to “read” an art book. Hey, at least having something to leave on the coffee table is more than Primal Rage ever gave me.

HELLThis brings us to Deathsmiles, our game of the day. Deathsmiles is an Xbox 360 title that… Let’s be blunt here: I found the game revolting at its release. The Deathsmiles Special Edition lived at the counter of my local videogame shop for what felt like years, and every time I went in the store, there it was, staring back at me. Lolis smiling back at me. Ugh. Pretty much everything about the Deathsmiles packaging was vaguely disturbing. Here are a group of young teenage girls in gothic Lolita fashion, and they’ve got that damn loli expression that is somewhere between “vacuous doll” and “maybe possessed by Satan”. The rear of the box featured, appropriately enough, the cast facing away from the camera in a manner so that the main character miiiiight just be flashing some unmentionables if the angle were just a little lower. And the special edition boasted of a unique Xbox 360 plate, so you could weld these creatures to your home console, and then have their cold, dead eyes staring back at you every time you played Bioshock. Deathsmiles appeared to be the worst kind of pandering to a community for which I have nothing but contempt (I actually kind of like gothic Lolita fashion, but the whole “women as fragile dolls” thing bothers me. And that’s before we get into the vague pedophilia angle…), and ire was good and riled every time I had to see that damn box.

Then it dropped down to $20. So I bought it.

Hey, it’s not like I had to put the loli faceplate on my Xbox.

And you know what? Of all the marked down special editions I’ve bought over the years, I probably regret Deathsmiles the least.

Stupid headDeathsmiles is an arcade style shoot ‘em up. There are seven or so stages, giant bosses, and a parade of bullets to dodge. Deathsmiles differs from the Gradius mold in that there are not a long string of powerups to immediately lose upon death, so, combined with the console concession of “infinite credits”, Deathsmiles is pretty easy. It’s still difficult to achieve that all important high score, but this isn’t an R-Type situation where you’re never getting past the first level. Hell, there are even instant respawns, so I’m pretty sure you could finish this game without actually trying. Stand there and shoot, I’m sure you’ll eventually dust off that evil plant thingamabob.

But you know one thing this game doesn’t feature? Lolis.

Okay, that’s kind of a lie. The Lolis of the Corn from the box are the playable characters of Deathsmiles. And, after every stage, there is this quick flash of multiple images of those characters, complete with what appears to be one (fairly chaste) image of a girl taking a bubble bath. But that’s it! Even though a loli is on the screen at all times (she’s kind of your “ship”), this is not the typical fanservice game that revels in pantyshots or seeing the characters trip into increasingly tentacle-based situations. When you get down to the actual “game” of Deathsmiles you’ve got an experience that is less pander-y than even the Gradius successor.

What’s more, Deathsmiles mostly tosses the “Lolita” and keeps the “Gothic”. The huge bosses (and a healthy amount of the supporting monsters) all possess a creepy, otherworldly vibe. This is a shoot ‘em up, which means it’s in a genre that that hasn’t needed graphics more advanced than its 16-bit brethren, but the processing power of the HD era is used to great effect here to paint some… generally unsettling pictures. A giant head shooting fireballs from the floor is nothing new in the world of videogames, but it DO NOT TOUCHtakes on a different feel when the horrid creature has photorealistic movements juxtaposed against a magical graveyard background. And, let’s be honest, there are a lot of expectations when you name your final boss “Tyrannosatan”, but I think the Deathsmiles art team pulled that one off with aplomb. Frankly, it seems almost crazy to say this, but the Castlevania series could learn a lot about “spooky” environments and monsters from Deathsmiles.

So I might be a sucker for a bargain, but sometimes it works out. Don’t judge a game by its cover ‘n all that riot, and learn to stop worrying and tolerate the lolis.

Article over. Enjoy your morals.

FGC #214 Deathsmiles

  • System: Xbox 360, Arcade, and I think there are a few PC versions, too.
  • Number of players: Assuming you can admit to another human being that you own this game, there is a two player mode.
  • Tell me a story: Oh yeah, there is an actual plot to this game. Random teenage girls got teleported to a magical, semi-medieval wonderland where every damn thing is trying to kill them all the time, so they became witches that vaporize bitches. There’s also another witch girl that wound up in the Deathsmiles universe because of a car accident, and her father has decided to go completely insane. He’s apparently responsible for summoning all the monsters because he thinks it’s the way home, but it turns out he’s only summoning Tyrannosatan instead. Dad gets devoured, everyone else gets to become friends. I think that was the plot of a My Little Pony episode.
  • What’s in a name? Evil Dad is named… Jitterbug.
    Dance for me

    Huh.
  • Favorite Character: I don’t know. The red one?
  • Favorite boss: Mary. Mary is a giant cow. She apparently has some kind of magical, telekinetic abilities, but, by and large, she’s just a continually running cow. My mother once tried to become a vegetarian, but grew vengeful when she was bitten by a cow at a petting zoo, so I approve of any time I get to fight back against the bovine menace.
  • Did you know? There are apparently three “drama CDs” available in Japan that expand the story of Deathsmiles. Look, I’m a guy that enjoys fighting game story modes, and even I think that’s a bit excessive for a shoot ‘em up that involves a guy named Jitterbug.
  • Would I play again: Shoot ‘em ups go down easy, so this one is a definite maybe. The only hang-up is that I rarely look to my 360 for a shoot ‘em up experience. Maybe if I install the Steam version on some laptop…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction! Rawr! Hulk is the strongest one there is! Please look forward to Hulk!

MOOOOOOOVE
What a magnificent cow.