Great fighting Games of the Past and Present Part 1
In living rooms and arcades across the globe, phrases such as “GET OVER HERE!” and “SHORYUKEN!” are commonly shouted out (as much by the machines as by the players themselves!) with excitement and for years now have been firmly ingrained into the history of gaming, perhaps as iconic as watching Sonic the Hedgehog perform a spindash and break through a wall.
In this article, I’m going to be talking about fighting games that have been part of my own past. To do so, I’m going to take you back to my own early history of fighters and then going into the more modern era.
The Spectrum and Amstrad era
When I was young kid, my parents bought me a Spectrum 128K and also an Amstrad CPC 464 (that came a bit later though!). I was very young at the time, but on those systems (whose games were loaded by tape for those unfamiliar) were my first experiences with fighting games. Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior and Yie Ar Kung Fu being two of the most notable for me. These games were primitive, there were no super moves, no air juggles, and certainly no plinking. They had a few moves (jumping attacks, or basic punches and kicks… or in the case of Barbarian, sword swipes) and that was your lot.
One of my earliest memories in gaming was in Barbarian where under certain conditions a ‘fatality’ would be performed (where you or your opponent would say lop off the others head) and the the corpse was then trundled off screen in case it bled too long over the courtyard (those blood stains don’t come out easily!).
They were fun diversions, but lacked the complex nature needed to really make them addictive or where you’d want to learn to improve.
The 16 bit era fighters – A.K.A SF2 and Mortal Kombat
Things didn’t really change much for me until the Mega Drive (or Genesis for those outside of the EU) era dawned, until then, honestly I wasn’t really playing many other fighters. I was too busy with other games and nothing had really drawn to my attention until the 16 bit era. And then it happened: Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat were announced to be released for the consoles. With each game in turn, I’d sit there and drool for weeks, thinking of just how each game was going to possibly play, and what wonders each of the characters and stages would hold. In the UK, a magazine (Mean Machines Sega I believe) did 2 special issues as previews for both SF2 and MK2, and with those 2 issues a dozen or page full color mini magazine was included, giving the rundown on the various characters, the moves, fighting game system (such as a brief overview of combos, blocking and the like) and more simpler things, such as a bio of the characters and a brief outline of the plots of each of the games.
I admit, I was somewhat late to the MK party – despite all the hype for the release of the first game, I’d somehow missed the boat (off topic, I think one of the most frustrating things in World of Warcraft was that moment where you saw the boat / zeplin sail off and you were still a few seconds from catching it…) and as MK2’s release drew near I begged my parents to take me to a local store where I could grab the first MK to at least get a handle on what the game would be like. It’s now I look back at those memories and I realize just how fun those games were to me (perhaps given my age) despite the fact they weren’t exactly balanced!
I quickly learned the basics of the game, and relished not only the violence – but in a more neutral thing, the ‘world’ these games had created. I was very much interested in the Mortal Kombat story, and was a huge fan of the film also when I was young.
After eventually buying both MK2 and SF2: Champion Edition, I was now firmly hooked onto the fighting genre. My friends and I would look at guides of how to perform the fatalities in MK (as we didn’t have the internet back then at our houses!) and tirelessly attempt to perform the fatalities just to see them. Indeed, it wasn’t even just competing to win rounds, often we’d be taking it in turns to just see the fatalities that were particularly difficult as a mini competition.
Enter the Eternal Champions
Around this time, Sega and other companies were starting to take real notice of the successes of the two franchises, and Sega released Eternal Champions which (in my opinion) was one of the better fighters of the 16 bit era. Each character had unique characteristics, such as an Assassin whom was betrayed by her own organization, a bio-chemist who’d accidentally turned himself into a Vampire and a Bounty Hunter from the Future. All of these individuals had been killed unjustly and sadly, and were now resurrected to take part in a fighting game tournament held by the Eternal Champion, for the victor would be a prize to set things right and escape death.
I remember putting in the cartridge into the Genesis (MD) and one of the first things that struck me was how a random character would appear on screen and beat on the Sega logo into submission (it appears Sega transferred the bullying onto Sonic, by beating him into submission over several games before finally allowing the old chap to recover over the last few titles). Next up though, was the title screen, the music played and I instantly knew the game was going to be quality. I can still hum it to myself. Choosing a character (for the record, my two favorites were Xavier and Midnight, with Shadow and Trident as close seconds) I was struck by how excellent the animation was for the time, the sprites were colorful and detailed. The background were animated and excellently detailed, from say Larcen’s stage where the teller would move in the background, to Slash’s stage where you could see the lava moving and bubbling just several feet behind your character. The special moves and fatalities were over the top and fun just as Mortal Kombat, and it was clear that Sega had managed to create a real winner.
The game even featured a training mode (a very rare thing back in the day) and galleries, story and everything else. While it did get a sort of sequel (released on the ill-fated Sega CD) I didn’t personally get the game, not because I didn’t want it – but because the Sega CD was dying such a death at this point I never actually saw the game in stores to buy! Unfortunately, Sega never bothered to release another Eternal Champions title, which is a great shame. It really did have huge potential.
Part two will follow up soon, with a long look at the 32 bit era (the Sega saturn and of course the Playstation one). Leave your comments below as normal