A tribute to tournament fighting games that are endlessly entertaining... but not in the way their designers intended.

Our story begins with Street Fighter II.  Capcom took a major risk when they released this game... it was a sequel to an innovative but unlikable martial arts challenge, with an unusual control scheme and too many buttons for the player to cover with fingers.  Still, Street Fighter II's complexity became very appealing to people who wanted more out of their arcade games than the average R-Type clone had to offer, and soon after its release, those bland shooters went right out the door and SFII became the only game in town.

Street Fighter II became so popular that a few disreputable companies thought that they could hash together any old crap and make it sell millions of copies by stapling it to SFII's coattails. Usually, players took one whiff of the store brand smell these games exuded and left them to rot, but sometimes, the companies would get lucky and lured them in with an interesting gimmick or a lot of clever advertising.  I can't think of better examples of this than the following games:


Fighter's Misery has been sticking it to substandard brawlers for about ten years now... which by happy coincidence is how long it's been since Pony Canyon bowed out of the video game market.  For those unfamiliar, Pony Canyon is the Japanese media giant responsible for some of the hobby's greatest crimes against humanity.  NES conversions of Pitfall and Winter Games that were somehow worse than their crusty Atari 2600 counterparts!  Ports of terminally dull arcade games like Seicross and Mag Max!  Dr. Chaos, which played like Goonies II as reimagined by H.P. Lovecraft!  And Hydlide, which... well, we don't even need to go there.  I've got enough white hairs as it is.

Pony Canyon was the scourge of NES owners everywhere, but after an unsuccessful attempt to bring the massively popular Ultima series to the Super Nintendo, the company hung up its horseshoes in the United States, then retreated from gaming entirely a decade later.  So let's pour a forty in honor of the most memorable game developer of the late 1980s.  And by "pour a forty," I mean drink the forty, then empty our bladders on Pony Canyon's grave an hour later.

However, before slithering back to the music industry, Pony Canyon left gamers a parting gift... you know,the kind wrapped in a paper bag and set ablaze on your doorstep.  Back in the late 1990s, Virtua Fighter and Tekken ruled arcades, and every developer wanted a piece of that primitively rendered 3D pie.  This feeding frenzy led to some pretty sweet games, including the unfairly maligned Street Fighter EX (and its more justly criticized sequels) and Soul Edge, now in its sixth installment.  After all the good developers and even a few mediocre ones had their fill of this polygonal pastry, Pony Canyon snuck in to lick the plate, leading to the regrettable release of Fighting Eyes.

In all fairness, it'd be hard to make the case that Fighting Eyes was the worst fighting game ever.  I'm sure you could dig out some atrocious shareware release or a copyright-flaunting NES pirate from Hong Kong that was even more soul-sapping.  However, it's up there.  It's certainly one of the worst Playstation fighters available, blowing past Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi, Battle Arena Toshinden, and Criticom in its race to the bottom of the heap.  It's also one of the worst 3D fighters, with a design that spastically hops from shameless to listless to puzzling.  Frankly, its only consistency is that it's consistently awful.

Just so you'll know what you haven't been missing for all these years, let's break this game down into its crummy component parts.  Fighting Eyes is shameless because most of its assets are stolen from its competitors, with little done to disguise the fact.  Two stages are lifted directly from Virtua Fighter 2, while most of its characters are virtual copies, with an added touch of idiocy to keep Sega's lawyers laughing too hard to file a lawsuit.  Along with the usual blonde street thug and his provocatively dressed female counterpart, there's the ancient martial arts master (so stiffly rendered you'd think he was one of the reanimated corpses from Pony Canyon's previous "classic" Phantom Fighter), a shark-munching pirate who's an obvious stand-in for Jeffry, and Lau with a plastic bag on his head.  Granted, you'd probably want to hide your face too if you were in a game like this, but stepping into the ring with "Safeway" scrawled across your forehead won't earn you much respect from your sparring partners...

Fighting Eyes is listless because it's not daring enough to take its genre in new directions, nor competent enough to follow in the well-worn footsteps of countless other fighting games.  Granted, none of these creaky old 32-bit titles will win any beauty contests after fifteen years of technological advancement, but there's still a flow to the combat in Virtua Fighter, Bloody Roar, and especially Soul Edge that will hold up after future generations unearth our remains centuries later.  By contrast, Fighting Eyes is constipated and sluggish next to its peers... and damned near sessile when compared to Rival Schools or the frantic Dreamcast release Power Stone.  Your attacks are limited to simple joystick/button combinations, and although combos are technically possible, they feel like rusty machinery... stiff, clunky, and on the verge of falling apart.

After a few rounds and the discovery of the dodge button, you start to see the peculiar logic in Fighting Eyes' fighting system... but that just leads to its last fatal flaw.  Fighting Eyes is puzzling because moves that should work often don't, and things that just shouldn't happen somehow do.  Take the guard button, for instance.  It can't block strikes, only repel them, without offering important visual cues or the chance to turn the opponent's attack against them.  Then there are the super moves... they look more like grand mal seizures, but since they somehow injure your rival more than yourself, we'll give Pony Canyon the benefit of the doubt.  Some of these finishing blows break bones without doing any actual damage, while others do a whole lot of damage without letting the player know when they've been properly performed.  Give me a grapple animation, a grunt, something!

In one last thumb of the nose at logic and reason, some matches will be abruptly called off if the player lands a super move on an especially weak adversary.  The announcer will cry out, "No Fighting Spirit!  Doctor Spock!," and the fight just ends while the loser is patched up by his attending pediatrician.  Wait, when did this become the MMA?  It's a feature that does nothing but add more confusion to a game that already has it in abundance.

So to wrap up this way too long review, Fighting Eyes isn't fast, it isn't fun, and it doesn't even adhere to the established rules of this dimension.  One of your enemies is a pre-pubescent clown.  Others are proud to leave the house with names like Shark Pirate and MC Beat, the Dancing Funky Boy.  Your rivals are nearly impossible to beat in combat, but can easily be outsmarted by doing your best Rockettes impersonation from a safe distance.  The reward for victory is not a mountain of cash or a gold trophy or even a freaking static image, but a staff roll and a cheesy J-pop tune.  Practically nothing in Fighting Eyes makes a lick of sense, but there is a perverse logic in it being Pony Canyon's last action game.  The company died the way it lived... with the sucking force of three concentric black holes.


You know, I'm sure there are worse things in the world than Samurai Shodown Sen.  Radiation poisoning, that massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the especially nasty venereal diseases... they're all more heinous than SNK's latest bounding leap in its race toward irrelevance.  You could think of other things too, but I strongly doubt any of them would be games.

Believe me, I've looked around.  I thought that if I dug through the back catalog of fighting games on the Xbox 360, I could find something- anything!- lousier than Samurai Shodown Sen.  Def Jam: Icon was pretty horrible, but it at least it showed a spark of creativity, trying to force two distinct genres together to create a music game with fighting.  Or a fighting game with music.  Or, uh, something.  Samurai Shodown Sen doesn't even try to do anything new or daring, opting instead for the kind of mindnumbingly generic 3D fighting engine that could have been squeezed out the back end of a factory assembly line.  You know the type... you probably saw them in games released for the Playstation in the 1990s, all hoping to catch a ride on the Tekken gravy train.

I even took a stroll through the Xbox Indie Games ghetto, gun clutched tightly in hand, hoping against hope that I'd find a sub-Sen fighting game hidden among the drug dealers and winos.  No such luck!  I thought I crossed paths with a few pathetic souls deserving of the honor, but then remembered that even duds like Dragoon, Funky Punch, and Fight Monkey of Magic (yeah, that's the real name) have an excuse for their shortcomings.  You try making a fighting game on a shoestring budget, without any assistance from Microsoft but a crappy development kit and a hand reaching into your pocket every year!

Even returning to the previous generation of consoles left me emptyhanded.  I started with Dead or Alive 3 for the very first Xbox.  The game may be nearly a decade old at this point, but it doesn't look like it's aged a day thanks to its vibrant, beautifully animated characters and massive, multi-tiered battlefields... qualities both absent from Samurai Shodown Sen.  Perhaps I should try a less powerful console?  Nope, that's no good... Soul Calibur II on the GameCube slices, dices, and makes julienne fries out of Sen with its graceful, responsive combat and wide variety of options.  Even the graphics are vastly superior, with breathtaking, color-drenched locales that are far more inviting than Sen's drab, lifeless arenas.

Okay, now I'm getting desperate.  What about a launch title for the original Xbox that was universally panned by critics?  Surely, surely Samurai Shodown Sen has to come out on top in a direct comparison with Kabuki Warriors!  Actually it doesn't, and don't call me Shirley.  Genki's oddball brawler certainly has its share of flaws, and I couldn't imagine anyone playing it in a competitive setting, but it's still not as bad as Samurai Shodown Sen... and here's why.  Despite the limited selection of fighters, the even more limited selection of attacks, and the hot orange blood that spews forth from the wounds of the defeated, there's genuine love for Japanese culture in the design of Kabuki Warriors.

This was part of the Samurai Shodown experience too, once upon a time, but all that authenticity has been drained from it after a half-dozen completely unnecessary sequels.  What SNK has given players with Sen is as Japanese as a California roll... Eastern at first glance, but packed with timid, flavorless ingredients that show nothing but disrespect for both the consumer and the source material.  Not cucumber, imitation crab, and avocado, mind you, but new characters so thoroughly generic and asinine they look as though they'd been shoplifted from that American born disaster Time Killers.  Ill-fitting set pieces like a ghost town in the old west that's so shabbily designed, it wouldn't have fooled Hedley LaMarr's army of dimwitted bandits in Blazing Saddles.  Gameplay that bears not the slightest resemblance to the original Samurai Shodown, with nine active buttons on the controller but only two that do any worthwhile damage.  Serving as the artificially colored wasabi-like horseradish paste in this Get Bent-o Box is the final boss, a general who looks like the drum leader of the Archvillain High School marching band.  He'll take over the world, one city parade at a time!

So there really isn't anything worse than Samurai Shodown Sen.  Nothing that exists on a compact disc anyway, unless you happen to have that limited edition album with William Shatner and Will Hung singing the best of Elton John.  Yes, Sen is so gut-wrenchingly awful that you'll have to make shit up before it will seem like the best option in a comparison.  Samurai Shodown Sen or masturbating with your hand rolled in glue and broken glass?  Samurai Shodown Sen or a hearing aid that makes everyone sound like Fran Drescher and Andy Dick?  Samurai Shodown Sen or skydiving with your lower intestine tied to the propeller of the airplane?  Yeah, you get the idea.


Most of the games featured on Fighter's Misery are so bad, it's funny.  From the completely absurd characters to the desperate pursuit of short-lived industry trends, these street fightin' flops are a guilty pleasure, redeeming themselves solely on the merit of their unintentional comedy.  Stake: Fortune Fighters is not one of those games.  There is no joy to be found in this miserable knock-off of Capcom's free-range fighter Power Stone, and the level of its incompetance rises well above the sunny plateau of comedy, to the jagged, oxygen-deprived peaks of tragedy.

You'd think that a game that used Power Stone as a template for its design would have at least a few of its strengths, but things just don't work out that way.  Rather than confining players to a single room filled with ledges, poles, and a clever assortment of setting-specific traps, Stake drops its fighters into one very large, very boring level.  These playfields are a bit more organic than the cramped quarters of Power Stone, but there's a lot less scenery to admire.  You get a tree here, a water fountain there, and a whole lot of empty space in between.

Stake's barren environments offer little in the way of interactivity... you can bounce on the occasional tree limb or climb up a flight of stairs, but you can't break anything set in your path.  This is frustrating when you consider the damage you could dish out in From Software's Otogi 2... and even more so after suffering through an hour of Stake and wanting very desperately to smash anything you can find.  My suggestion is to start with the disc, then work your way up to the morons at Metro 3D who manufactured it.

The levels are so needlessly huge in Stank- er, Stake!- that just finding your opponents will be a challenge.  Things don't get any easier (or more fun) when you start fighting them, however.  You've got two attacks available to you... one's much too short to reach your opponent, and the other takes so long to execute that you might as well save yourself some time and set your own head on the chopping block. 

There's also a throw, but it's reserved for the items scattered around the playfield; mostly foul-smelling potions that shrink your enemies or freeze them in place.  Sometimes you'll be trapped in an ice crystal because you picked up the wrong item, or because your phone just rang, or because a butterfly in Southeast Asia flapped its wings.  In fact, entire matches will often come screeching to an unexpected halt, perhaps because your Xbox is as sick of the game as you are.

So it's been established that Stake is a steaming pile of crap, but the power of the Xbox suggests that the crap would at least have sharply rendered bits of corn buried inside it.  However, unlike Kakuto Chojin and Tao Feng, Stake can't even put on a pretty face to distract gamers from its hideous gameplay.  Anything further than five steps away from your hopelessly generic character is rendered in glorious Cataract-Vision™, making Stake look like the Nintendo 64 game that Titus was too embarassed to release.  Hey, even the designers of Superman have standards!

But wait, there's less!  You'll quickly find out why the developers anti-aliased their asses off when you leap over that wall and run down that grassy hill.  The textures in Stake will offend your eyes to the point where they'll hop out of your eyes, take a plane to Denmark, and storm the nearest embassy.  Stone looks like aged parchment and grass looks like your toilet paper after free guacamole night at Mondo Taco.  Simply put, you haven't seen anything this revolting on your Xbox since Bungie snuck those naked pictures of Bill Gates into Halo 2!¹

The sound is just as wipe-o-riffic as those fields stained with streaks of green and brown.  Characters don't make so much as a peep when they're impaled with razor-sharp swords or slammed over the head with heavy battle axes.  Either the fortune fighters in Stake are really tough, or really stupid... and after five straight attempts to finish off a single opponent without so much as an ounce of success, you know which way I'm voting.  

Meanwhile, the music tries to set the mood for each battle, but never decides just what that mood should be.  Each song changes instruments, styles, and influences entirely at random... you'll hear everything from celtic bagpipes to the synthesized sleaze of a cheap 1970's porn flick to the somnient seranade of elevator musak, all in the same damn track!

You may ask yourself how a fighting game on the most powerful of the four current generation consoles could have turned out so unbelievably badly.  Well, there's a reason for that.  Watch the credits for a while, and you'll notice that one name keeps popping up.  Everything from the production to the programming to the catering was provided by a single man, one Mr. Owen Wu.  When you put the burden of designing an entire video game on the shoulders of one person, you'd be stupid to expect anything but a crushed man and an equally broken game out of the deal.

¹ dramatization.  May not have happened.



When the game Fighters' History came out, Capcom was less than flattered by the imitation, filing a lawsuit against Data East.  However, they failed to notice a much more blatant rip-off... ADK's World Heroes.

The game was practically a carbon-copy of the Street Fighter series, even when compared to the other me-too fighting games from the early 1990's. It even had the obligatory "head-swapped" main characters (who were NINJAS, not karate fighters! Completely original, we swear!) present in its cast.  Even worse, the game was overly simplistic, not even fully utilizing the already limited Neo-Geo control panel.  Only three buttons are used in World Heroes.. punch, kick, and throw/taunt.  Worst of all is that Fatal Fury 2, while not the greatest game out at the time, was certainly much better (and more original!) than World Heroes... and it DIDN'T star a character who was the unholy offspring of M. Bison, Dhalsim, Blanka, and a clock radio.

Ripping off Capcom wasn't enough for ADK while they were designing the World Heroes games.  The final entry in the series, World Heroes Perfect, stretches the definition of the legal phrase "Any resemblance to actual people is coincidental" further than any video game ever created. Practically every character in this game (and in the series as a whole- see also Jack from World Heroes 2 Jet and Erick from World Heroes 2) is an obvious clone of an actual historical figure. But hey, if you've been lying awake at night wondering who would win in a battle between Bruce Lee and Hulk Hogan or Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc, this is probably the only way you could settle the issue without causing a temporal paradox. Other than that, I can't really recommend this. I can't say I'd buy any of the World Heroes games, and honestly I'd be a bit hesitant to accept them as gifts.

[Editor's Note:  World Heroes may have been pretty contrived and unoriginal on the Neo-Geo, but at least it's playable, something that can't be said for the Genesis version that was released a couple of years later.  Oh man, did that ever suck...]


Evil has many names... and so does this crap-a-licious clay fighting game from the fly-by-night developers at Home Data.  You'll also hear Reikai Doushi referred to as Priest of the Spirit World, Chinese Exorcist, or (my favorite!) the unspeakable horror of the Orient.  Whatever you call it (and I advise you to use as many four letter words as possible in your description), Reikai Doushi is the most obnoxious time you'll ever have fighting kyonshies.

Yes, kyonshies.  For those of you not in the know, kyonshies are the rotting remains of the dead in China, brought back from the grave by dark magic.  Rather than stiffly lumbering to their next victim like our own zombies, the kyonshies hop from place to place, apparently the victims of an ancient Chinese form of rigor mortis that fuses their ankle bones together.  There are plenty of kyonshies bouncing around the Eastern countryside, and the hero of Reikai Doushi, a Shaolin monk, is recruited to climb the mystic mountain that's the source of these hopping horrors.

There's bad news for our bald-headed kung fu master, however.  The kyonshies may not be the fastest monsters on the block, but they'll still have no trouble kicking your sorry ass from the Great Wall to the Himalayan mountains.  The beatdowns you'll suffer at the clawed hands of these decaying demons are downright embarassing... in a typical fight, a kyonshie will steal all your energy in a matter of seconds.

If there's a bright side to this, it's that merely taking your strength isn't enough for the kyonshies to win.  They'll need to land one final blow to your neck to seperate your head from your shoulders, and you from your quarter.  The only problem is that you have to behead your opponent as well, and with the insane advantages the computer gives your enemies, that ain't bloody likely.  You'll battle ridiculous foes like an aspiring kid zombie, a knife-wielding Herve Vallenchaise (you haven't seen him THIS pissed since Roger Moore trapped him in a wooden box at the end of that James Bond movie!), and a rotting bar maid who forgot to wear panties to her funeral... and they'll all beat you like a retarded circus monkey.

The reason the battles against even the wimpiest of opponents are so one-sided is because they all have so much more energy than you.  Sure, it LOOKS like an even amount when you start the round, but you'll quickly discover that looks can be deceiving when you and your adversary trade blows.  You can only take a few hits before your head's ready to pop off like a champagne cork, but you'll need to strike the zombies countless times before their life bar runs dry and they're ready to give up the ghost (again).  Despite an obvious strength advantage, many of the kyonshies are major cowards, camping outside the boundaries of the screen rather than taking you on face to face.  They pounce from entirely random locations, staying onscreen just long enough to deliver a mortal wound before diving into the sanctuary of the screen's edge, plotting their next completely unpredictable attack.

As if the odds weren't already stacked high enough in their favor, the armies of the unfair- er, undead have one other weapon to use against you... a crane that flies onto the screen periodically, dropping talismans that boost the kyonshies' health and instantly relieve you of yours.  These enchanted strips of paper were originally designed by Asian cultures to ward off evil, but here, they just scare away any player foolish enough to consider a rematch against Reikai Doushi's unstoppable zombies.

If Reikai Doushi deserves credit for anything (aside from raising the blood pressure of gamers), it's that it's the first fighting game in history to feature clay animation.  The scenic backgrounds are exploding with beautiful color, and the characters themselves, although stiffly animated, seem more tangible than the cartoony stars of other early fighting games.  Still, the comical clay sculptures in Reikai Doushi don't really fit with its creepy horror theme, or its obscene difficulty.  After a few games, you'll start thinking the villagers living near the mountain deserve to be overrun with fighting phantoms.  I mean, really, even the stupidest of the stupid should know better than to battle the forces of evil with a guy who spends most of his time hanging out with a scrawny brown dog on an unwatched Christian television network.


Before Tao Feng, or Time Killers, or any of those dumb Mortal Kombat spinoffs, there was... Tongue of the Fatman.  This was the first of many incredibly bloody, and incredibly crappy, one-on-one fighting games, released by Activision in the late 1980's.  When Tongue of the Fatman first came out on home computers, people didn't mind it so much, because you could easily take the disc that it came on and format it to make room for something better.  Oh yeah, that and it seemed pretty original at the time.  Remember, this was way before the debut of Street Fighter II, and way waaaaay before people had come to expect graphic violence in their video games.  Watching a cast of freaky aliens pummelling each other must have been a welcome change of pace for computer owners bored to tears by Tetris and all those King's Quest sequels.

In 1988, Tounge of the Fatman had a reason to exist.  However, three years and one exceptional Street Fighter sequel later, there was just no excuse for it to make a comeback.  Unfortunately, that's exactly what it did thanks to Razorsoft.  If you don't remember Razorsoft, and you probably don't, let me try to paint you a picture.  OK, imagine Rockstar Games.  Now imagine they were around during the early 1990's.  Still with me?  All right, NOW imagine that they weren't around much longer than that, because they never released a big hit like Grand Theft Auto III which kept them in business.

That's Razorsoft in a nutshell.  Like Rockstar, they were best known for making games with controversial content.  If it gives you any idea, even Sega wouldn't let one of Razorsoft's games be released for the Genesis without some editing.  Yes, that's the same Sega who first brought an uncensored Mortal Kombat to millions of homes.  A game like Tounge of the Fatman was right up Razorsoft's alley, so they eagerly purchased the publishing rights from Activision... who were probably just as relieved to get rid of them.

Even Razorsoft had second thoughts about releasing Tounge of the Fatman at first.  They'd changed the name to Mondu's Fight Palace, perhaps hoping to disguise its origins from Genesis players who had the great misfortune of playing the game at a friend's house.  Still not sure it would sell, they sat on it for a couple of years, then finally released it under another, more daring title, Slaughtersport.

Razorsoft's timing couldn't have been better.  In 1991, Street Fighter II hit arcades with the force of a thousand clenched fists, and players were desperate to have that same hard-hitting action at home.  Slaughtersport was one of the first releases on the Genesis to satisfy that hunger.  It didn't matter that it sucked... it was a versus fighting game, and on top of THAT, it was the most violent one you could buy.  Opponents in the game weren't just beaten... they were beaten to death, then carried off by a ravenous land shark that caught the scent of their spilled blood.

Slaughtersport didn't have a very long shelf life, however.  Once Street Fighter II was released for both the Super NES and Genesis, players who still wanted a tournament fighting game were no longer willing to settle for cheap knockoffs.  They demanded depth, technique, and a large selection of immediately available characters, and Slaughtersport just didn't have any of this stuff. 

The fighting in Slaughtersport is frustratingly limited and imprecise.  Instead of a huge number of dynamic punches and kicks, the player has to settle for a single button, used to deliver a very basic, very boring selection of attacks.  Either you can close in on your opponent and ruffle their chest hair with hilariously weak straight punches, or you can leap at them with a jump kick, launching them into the next state (but still doing pathetic damage). 

You're also given a signature attack depending on the species of your character, but don't get too excited... these are generally not-so-special moves like a small stream of fire that could barely light a cigarette.  Finally, there are magic spells, which can be purchased after every victory.  These inflict status conditions on your opponent, ranging from decreased speed to the inability to jump.  I've never much cared for these handicaps in fighting games, but in Slaughtersport, they're even more annoying, because there's no way to defend against them.  Just press a button, and for the next five seconds, the opponent is your bitch. 

The real bitch is that even with all these unfair advantages, the game is practically impossible to beat.  From the second round on, you'll square off against opponents with double your energy and attack strength.  Battles with viciously aggressive characters like the leather-clad Edwina will have you looking forward to the landshark's eventual arrival.  After all, a day in his intestines has got to be less painful than another minute in the ring with this emasculating dominatrix!

Slaughtersport may have served a purpose in the variety-starved computer game market of the 1980's, but this intergalactic deathmatch should have been retired long before it reached a home game console.  Fortunately, there were so many great versus fighters available on both the Genesis and Super NES that you won't mind letting this one remain stuck in the endless void of space.  Oh wait, that was just one of Mondu's gigantic folds of flab.  In that case, you REALLY ought to leave it where it is.


What you see before you is not only one of the crappiest fighting games ever made, but also the most claustrophobic.  If you're one of those guys who has to breathe into a paper bag whenever they ride in an elevator, you'd be well advised to stay away from this one.  The warriors in Holosseum are locked inside an arena roughly the size of a broom closet, which as you might imagine makes fighting a little awkward... and the player a lot annoyed when he realizes that there's nowhere to run from the game's frantically flailing opponents.

The tiny playfield isn't the only thing that's suffocatingly limited in Holosseum.  The game has only four characters and two attack buttons, which doesn't offer the player much variety.  You won't find much eyecandy here, either... although the holographic imagery is surprisingly effective, with every onscreen object casting a realistic reflection, there are absolutely no backgrounds.  You're trapped in an empty void along with your opponents, and no matter how long and hard you fight, there's no way out.  No way out, I tell you!  Ahh!  Ahh!!  ARRRGGGHHH!!!  I CAN'T BREATHE!  GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!  Er, uh, sorry.  They may be invisible, but the game's walls tend to close in on you pretty quickly...

Anyway.  If you're looking for satisfyingly strategic fighting action, you won't find it in the cramped confines of Holosseum.  You can never put any distance between yourself and your sparring partner, and there's no way to reliably counter their attacks.  Most aggravating of all, the fighters seem to be magnetized to the center of the screen.  You can lunge forward or retreat to the edge of the playfield, but the moment you let go of the joystick, your character snaps back in place, making you an easy target for your opponent's punches and kicks.  After a couple of matches, you'll start to wonder if the characters are tethered together, like in Sega's other misconceived blunder Knuckles: Chaotix.

Despite being made as a hasty replacement for Sega's first holographic video game Time Traveler, Holosseum does have its moments.  It's a lot better than the cheesy Dragon's Lair clone that came before it, anyway.  The characters are well designed and there's a lot of voice, ranging from the cheers of an unseen crowd when the fight gets nail-bitingly close to the taunting of your rival if you cower in the corner for too long.  However, the game is so devoid of substance that you'll have a tough time finding anyone willing to crawl inside to reach the light at the end of Holosseum's dark, cramped tunnel.


I thought Noise Factory was stark raving mad for reviving this awful series, but at the very least, I have to give them credit for taking what little Atlus gave them and turning it into a game people might actually want to play.  Matrimelee might be your standard, run of the mill Neo-Geo fighter, but it has offers one thing the other Power Instinct games never could... entertainment.

Frankly, any of the other Power Instinct games could have been featured in Fighter's Misery.  The first one was a very bland, paint by numbers fighter with a selection of characters ranging from predictable to ridiculous.  The third game, Groove On Fight, looked absolutely shameful next to other tag-team fighters on the Sega Saturn, with stiff animation and even more idiotic characters.  So why single out Power Instinct 2?

Put simply, it deserves it the most.  Atlus had the chance to take a forgettable game and turn it into something terrific.  It's happened before... in fact, Street Fighter II, the title that first sparked gamers' interest in tournament fighting, was itself a sequel to a rather crummy arcade game.  Atlus could have followed Capcom's lead and made Power Instinct 2 a greatly improved experience, but they passed on that opportunity.  As a result, Power Instinct 2 has a double helping of everything that made the first game lousy, plus a new batch of bad ideas that put even Groove On Fight's poorly designed tag team play mechanics to shame.

Power Instinct 2 is contrived, confusing, confused, vagely disturbing, and immensely frustrating... everything a good fighting game shouldn't be.  The gameplay is made unnecessarily difficult thanks to counterintuitive joystick motions, the kind that are tough to remember and even tougher to perform in the middle of an intense fight.  Naturally, the computer is never handicapped by this problem, so it fights flawlessly, countering your attacks so frequently and efficiently you'll swear the game was psychic.  You're put at a big disadvantage the moment you put in a quarter, so my advice would be to keep the change and put it into an arcade game that actually deserves it.  Here's a hint... it's not any of the other Power Instinct games.

Making matters worse is the fact that some characters are too fast, too strong, and too powerful.  Case in point?  Saizo the ninja, who covers the ground with expertly thrown firebombs to keep you at a distance.  That's just before he closes the gap in a fraction of a second with a dash that he quickly chains into a damaging aerial piledriver.  Your pitiful human reflexes simply aren't fast enough to counter this attack... you're barely given enough time to SEE Saizo charging toward you at the speed of sound, let alone react.

If you think losing to a highly skilled master of the ninja arts is frustrating, just wait 'till you see who ELSE will be handing you defeats throughout this miserable game.  Power Instinct 2 has double the number of old fogeys that were in the first game, and throws in a cheesy Sailor Moon wannabee and a half naked preschooler (you don't want to know which half) for good measure.  More of the characters have been given the ability to transform, but it's harder to do than it should be, and it doesn't really add much to the game.  Worse yet, the characters' alternate forms are actually more absurd than the original designs!  The Sailor Moon impersonator trades her miniskirt and beret in for the unlikely combination of leather bondage gear and rollerblades, while the chubby little brat changes into Poochy, an adult in a skintight dog costume so unconvincing, he couldn't even get into Anthrocon with it.  Nevertheless, you'll be in a rush to transform him anyway, just to make sure that he's got something on below the waist.

Here comes the worst part, folks.  If you thought the game couldn't get any more ridiculous, just wait until you hear who designed it.  As hard as this is to believe, Cave, the creators of the exceptional Dodonpachi, were also responsible for Power Instinct 2!  They're the masters of vertically scrolling shooters and can even be coaxed into making a pretty good puzzle game every now and then, but if Power Instinct 2 is any indication at all, they should never, ever be given the chance to make another fighting game again.


Special moves... truly, they are the most impressive and imaginative attacks in any fighting game.  They allow the player to soar through the sky, set their fists ablaze, and piledrive even the heaviest opponent into- and through!- thick concrete.  With all they do to enhance fighting games, who wouldn't want to be armed with more special moves?

Enter Video System, the creators of the Aero Fighters series and... uh, what else did they make, anyway?  I think there was that volleyball game, and that was about it.  They certainly had no prior experience with tournament fighting games, but one thing they did know was the importance of special moves, stuffing their obligatory Street Fighter II derivitive with more special moves than any other game in the genre.  Are three, four, or even six special moves not enough for you?  Well, even the most demanding gamer will gasp in awe at Tao Taido's massive selection of twenty four attacks.  Twenty four.  For each character.

Of course, Video System had to make some sacrifices to squash all those special moves into Tao Taido.  They didn't leave out anything really important, though... just little things like smooth, convincing animation, likable characters, and entertaining gameplay.  Eh, you've seen all those in plenty of other fighting games anyway.  One thing you've never had is access to this many special moves!

You may have to wait a while to use them, though.  Every special attack in the game is activated by holding down both attack buttons (yes, both, as in two), then pushing the joystick in one of eight directions.  The length of time you hold down the buttons and the direction you push the joystick when you let go of them determines what move you'll execute.  It's a logical system, perhaps even more so than the control scheme popularized by the Street Fighter series, but it just doesn't work if you're battling an uncooperative opponent.  Try charging up for any of Tao Taido's vast array of powerful attacks and your enemy will stop them before they even begin with a simple punch or kick.  You might be able to pull off the weakest of your moves, but any opponent with a heartbeat isn't going to give you the chance to charge yourself to full power.

The worst thing about the control scheme is that special moves can't be used to defend yourself or thwart your opponent.  If your rival is already flying at you, you won't have the time to charge up for an appropriate counterattack.  If both of you are charging, you'll have no idea what your foe has in store for you until they actually strike... with one of their twenty four special moves.  This makes it impossible to anticipate or even guess what your opponent will do next.

But you won't need strategy to win Tao Taido... just a whole lot of quarters.  Video System included one of the most idiotic features I've seen in a fighting game since the ambiguous "strong attack" button in Fatal Fury: Real Bout Special or the instant fatalities in Time Killers.  If you're almost out of energy, you can buy more with credits... it's a cute gimmick for an arcade game, but when you bring that game home with an emulator like MAME, the ability to prolong the fights indefinitely makes Tao Taido pointless.

On closer inspection, it seems that Tao Taido isn't so special after all.


Nobody knows how to put the misery in Fighter's Misery quite like Namco.  Sure, they've designed some of the best video games ever made, but you'd get about as much martial arts excitement from Galaga or Pac-Man as you would some of their fighting games.  Not only were they responsible for the generic yet mercilessly overhyped Virtua Fighter clone Tekken, they brought us the almost entirely weapon reliant Outfoxies, which was disturbing on two different levels.  This brutally violent fighter cast you in the role of an assassin, paid to exterminate everything from a gun-toting ape to a sadistic pair of little girls most likely inspired by the Olsen twins.  Well, all right... it's hard to gripe about the opportunity to blast the brats responsible for the decade long run of Full House with a rocket launcher, but few fighting game fans could forgive Outfoxies for inspiring the basic (and by basic, I mean very, very basic) play mechanics in Nintendo's hollow and unsatisfying Super Smash Bros. series.

If you thought those games were lousy, and I know I did, you'll be stunned to hear that the knuckle heads at Namco had even worse in store for gamers looking for a good brawl.  They certainly won't find one in Knuckle Heads, but what they WILL get are a (pant)load of features they'd expect from a particularly crummy fighting game on the Super NES.  Knuckle Heads' biggest mistake is that it uses three buttons instead of a more intuitive four or six button layout.  Far more impressive games than this one were doomed to fail simply because the designers insisted upon using a single punch and kick button for attacks.  If Fatal Fury: Real Bout Special was cut off at the knees because of this decision, Knuckle Heads is decapitated by it, because nothing else in this game can justify its existence.  The cast of characters are among the worst you'll see in a Japanese fighting game and nearly as moronic as the ones in Time Killers.  The graphics are clumsily drawn and depressingly predictable, always featuring the players on a concert stage surrounded by shouting fans, with a native landmark in the distance (you'd think Jesus would have taken enough punishment for our sins without being pasted into one of these backgrounds...).  Finally, the gameplay is the pits thanks to the limiting three button layout... you have to hold down punch or kick to access some special moves, and the third button is used to jump, which proves extremely frustrating to anyone used to, well, every other fighting game ever made.  The jump button was added to allow more than two people to fight simultaneously, but Namco shouldn't have bothered with this feature... after all, any game as bad as Knuckle Heads won't be drawing in too many crowds.  Swarms of flies, maybe, but not gamers.


You just knew that there was no way a sequel to the atrocious Time Killers could avoid being reviewed here.  To be fair (or as as fair as I'm likely to get on Fighter's Misery, anyway), it's vastly improved over the first game... the graphics are even brighter, the characters are more realistically animated, and there's even some semblence of gameplay.  However, the one reason Bloodstorm deserves a place in this hall of fighting game shame is that it just never stops pandering to bloodthirsty teenage nimrods.  Even before you put in a quarter, you're "treated" to an introduction where an unknown assassin tears the eye and intestines out of a king as he sits on his throne.  Ooh, what a lucky man he isn't!  Wait a little longer and you'll read about a tribe of scantly clad women who are literally fed up with males... they raise and slaughter them like cattle.

Can it get any worse than this?  Sure, it can!  After all, you haven't even started PLAYING the game yet.  There's no fighting game on Earth that has more blood, gore, and fatalities than Bloodstorm... not even the recently released Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance can top it.  In addition to Time Killer's trademark of letting the player slice off arms and heads as they battle, there are death blows reserved for individual characters and rounds, and finally, the sunder, which leaves the opponent chopped in two, sitting on a pile of his own internal organs.  The most unpleasant part is that the sunder doesn't always kill your enemy, although as you might imagine, their chances of winning are about as close to the floor as their intestines.  There's no need to wait for the end of the match to perform any of these death blows, either... Bloodstorm gives you that opportunity in any round, sometimes before it's even finished.  While I'm sure the game's target audience loves to watch showers of lungs, legs, and livers, they might actually want to spend a few minutes fighting first.

The trendchasing doesn't stop at fatalities, though... no sir.  Bloodstorm offers a wide variety of secrets, and many are so cryptic and ridiculously hard to uncover that they make Mortal Kombat's convoluted fatalities seem like a blessing in comparison.  There are eight hidden characters.  Some practically beg to be fought after every match, but others demand that you ignore your opponent and concentrate on some miniscule portion of the background before they'll appear.  The only problem is, the opponent WON'T be ignoring you, and will proceed to beat you senseless, headless, and armless as you attempt to chop down that stalagtite or leap to the catwalk hidden in the background.  This is a 2D fighting game, for crying out loud!  How on Earth are you supposed to know it's anything but wallpaper?  For that matter, how the heck do you even jump over there?  If you want answers to these and Bloodstorm's other confusing questions, you'd better consult a FAQ, because there's absolutely no way you'll find them on your own.

In fact, you probably won't even want to bother.  It's funny that Strata forced the player to put so much effort into finding Bloodstorm's hidden characters, because they sure as hell didn't put much into designing them.  Calling these cheesy headswaps half-assed is being too generous... the designers put the minimum amount of ass required by law into creating such characters as Craniac (Talon with a brain for a head), Dementia (Tempest with a third eye!), and Golem (an even more ogre-like Tremor).  The bosses are even worse, as Strata must have borrowed that shareware rendering package from the designers of Shinoken to create both Nekron and his pet, which looks like a pterodactyl stick figure.  Neither are as flexible as the rest of the characters, refusing to be brought down with fatalities and relying primarily on the same small handful of attacks.  Luckily, they're more easily dispatched than Midway's aggravating final bosses... Chainsaw's just as frail as he looks, and even the aggressive Nekron can be brought down with some persistence.  Of course, he ultimately gets the last laugh if you haven't defeated every single one of his regurgitated henchmen... after a depressing ending, it's revealed that Nekron and his goons make a spectacular comeback, and you're informed that you haven't beaten the game at all.

Yes, I guess you COULD say you "beat" the game by taking a hammer or a baseball bat to it.  However, there's another, far less expensive way to claim victory.  Just take this save state, put it in MAME's STA folder, start version 2.22 of Bloodstorm, and take yourself to the final battle by pressing F7, then 1.  It's just you and Nekron now, and once you've beaten him here, he WON'T be coming back.  Come to think of it, you probably won't come back to Bloodstorm either!


All I can say for Sammy is that they should thank their lucky stars they found a respectable fighting game series after making this.  It's too horrifying to imagine what would have happened if they hadn't bought the rights to Guilty Gear from Arc Systems... they might have actually made a sequel to Survival Arts instead!

This game is so full of stupidity that I just don't know where to begin.  There's just so much to ridicule... should I begin with Mongo, whose selection of weaponry is nearly as enormous as his ever-present bald spot?  Or how about Santana, the Latin wrestler who's almost as intimidating as the rock star of the same name?  I hope for his sake that he's just as talented with a guitar, because he sure as hell can't fight.  Then there's Kane, the monochrome alien who probably should have stuck with starring in crappy Game Boy Pocket games.  Of course, his bland black and white palette will seem like a blessing after you fight Hayate, or Hiryu, or whatever generic name they gave Survival Arts' generic ninja.  The only thing that gleams more in the sunlight than this not so stealthy assassin's sword is his incredibly shiny purple outfit!

Like most of the games reviewed here, the biggest joke of all in this comedy of errors is the gameplay, so I'll forget about the moronic characters, the unwise mixture of hand-drawn and digitized graphics, and the so-serious-it's-silly music and focus on the flawed play mechanics first.  If there's anything that can be said in Survival Arts' favor, it's that the control is indeed responsive.  Strangely, that still doesn't make the game playable.  There are many reasons for this, but the worst of the bunch has to be the ludicrously overpowered special moves, which can sap up to half of your energy with a single attack.  This is even more aggravating when you're up against Mongo, whose leaping bomb strike covers the entire screen, is nearly impossible to counter (for you, NOT the computer opponent), and crosses up the player, leaving them hopelessly confused.  With all this in mind, there's very little else you can do but watch helplessly as your character gets blown sky high... and hope that Mongo doesn't repeat the attack.

And that's not all!  The character balance is crummy as well... why does everyone else get stuck with a small handful of moves when Mongo's got at least 17,000 of them?  In addition to this, the computer controlled opponents prefer to slather on the cheese rather than fighting strategically, constantly relying on those blasted special moves.  They're so fond of these attacks that they'll continue to repeat the same special move even after you've been knocked down by the first one... probably in an attempt to keep you pinned to the floor.  I'm sure it won't come as a surprise that the last boss, a long-haired nimrod named Dantel, is even worse about abusing special moves than the rest of the characters.  He doesn't even seem to have any punches or kicks... instead, he just assaults you with a bizarre assortment of damaging attacks, being most fond of a blade slice that's even more powerful than the one Baraka had in Mortal Kombat II.  If you hadn't figured out that the game sucks before this final confrontation, the realization will dawn on you once you've been hacked to bits by Dantel for the sixth time in a row.

It's possible to live though the Survival Arts experience, and you could even win with good timing and a whole lot of Mongo's bomb strikes.  Still, why put yourself through the agony when you could be playing Mortal Kombat II or Street Fighter Alpha 3 instead?  Heck, you might even settle for Street Fighter: The Movie after a few games of Survival Arts.


There's nothing quite as exciting as the release of an amazing game you'll remember forever... and nothing worse than when it's released for a game system you don't own.  Sure, Konami released a game CALLED Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters for the Sega Genesis, but it was nothing like the beautiful and intense fighter available for the Super NES.  Everything that could possibly have been worse in the Genesis game was.  The voice samples were scratchy and heavily recycled.  The music was an odd halfway point between Konami's traditional style and the kind of tunes you'd expect from a Sonic the Hedgehog game.  The supporting characters were scraped from the bottom of Eastman and Laird's barrel, including everything from a chunky stingray to Krang and his robot suit, which looks like the metallic offspring of a professional wrestler and a member of an 80's punk band.  Even the continue screen kind of sucked... instead of a countdown featuring an enormous, stylishly drawn number that impatiently looms over you until you press the start button, the screen just starts to darken until you either use a credit or let the timer run out.

You just can't compare these two games without coming to the conclusion that Konami offered TMNT: Tournament Fighters as a consolation prize to Genesis owners.  It was their way of saying, "Aww... you don't HAVE a Super NES, do you?  Well, ain't that a shame.  Well, the design team threw together a little something for you, too.  It's nowhere near as good as the game we made for Nintendo, but hey, at least you're getting something!"  Somehow, I didn't feel very grateful for this gift, and a lot of other Genesis owners were just as angry about it.  After all, this wasn't the first time Konami put the screws to fans of the Genesis, offering a completely redesigned and clearly inferior version of a Super NES game.  It wasn't even the first time they served up Teenage Mutant Ninja table scraps in a dirty dog bowl with "Sega" scrawled on the side.  However, their last TMNT game for the Genesis, The Hyperstone Heist, was an acceptable alternative to the Super NES game Turtles in Time.  It's hard to imagine anyone who'd be willing to settle for the Genesis version of Tournament Fighters after playing its Super Nintendo counterpart.

All right, let's leave the comparisons (and the bitterness) behind and examine Tournament Fighters on its own.  Does it have what it takes to keep a Genesis owner happy even if they've never touched the Super NES version of the game?  Let me think about that for a while.  Hmm...  NO.  The problem with Tournament Fighters- and the thing that makes its inferiority to the Super Nintendo game that much more frustrating- is that there are other fighting games on the Genesis that outperform it in nearly every respect.  The only thing that really keeps the Turtles' head above water in the face of their competition is that Tournament Fighters' graphics are pretty good, with a reasonable amount of detail on the characters and some imaginative backgrounds, featuring everything from a gruesome lava monster with molton rock coursing through its veins to a tangle of transparent vines filled with streams of purple goo.

Unfortunately, there's so little else going for that game that it would have left TMNT fans complaining even if it were the only Turtles fighting game Konami had released.  What hurts it most is the gameplay... Konami chose a three button control scheme for Tournament Fighters, and I can't think of a single game that makes this work.  The first two buttons are always expected to handle the majority of the input, while the third is assigned to a frustratingly ambiguous attack or a downright useless ability.  This results in a game that's either too confusing or too simplistic to play strategically.  Tournament Fighters falls into both categories, giving players two strengths of punch and kick but forcing them to press toward their opponent with the D-pad while attacking to dish out the most painful punishment.

It gets worse.  The special moves are unreliable, particularly for charge characters but never for the CPU, who pours on the specials until they've thoroughly kicked your carapace covered keister.  Because you can't rely on your most stragetically useful attacks, your only defense against computer opponents is to back them in a corner and hammer away with punches and kicks until they drop... or just as likely escape and return the favor shortly afterward.  You can forget about blocking the computer opponent's vicious attacks... you'll sometimes take more damage from guarding against special moves than you would if you just let them connect.  Worse still is that these overpowered techniques sometimes shield the opponent from counterattacks.  You'll scream in disbelief and frustration when Casey Jones uses his spinning stick flail to slip right through your kicks and projectiles.  You don't even WANT to know how you'll react when you face off against Karai, the skanky Shredder replacement who hovers over your body once you've been knocked down, waiting to catch you in a damaging throw the nanosecond you get back up.

Anyone familiar with Konami knows they could have made a better game than this.  Unfortunately, everyone who really knows Konami also acknowledges that they've never had a strong relationship with Sega, designing several of their least impressive games for Sega's systems and dropping their support for consoles like the Saturn and Dreamcast well before other third party software designers.  We'll never know for sure why Konami kept Sega at arm's length, but it's clear from Tournament Fighters alone that thousands of gamers suffered from it.


I suppose you could say this review is a tribute to the recently deceased cartoonist Chuck Jones, but if you've played this game you'd know that he deserves a whole lot better than this.  Brutal is, as the subtitle suggests, a fighting game with animals as the stars.  It's a great idea not only because it's original, but because it gives the designers a chance to strengthen the personalities of the characters without having to worry that they're unrealistic.  That ship's pretty much sailed already when your game features fighters like a bubbly fox in a tight spandex outfit and a lion who's traded his mane for an afro.

If the designers did anything right when they created Brutal, it was the cartoony look.  Although most of the characters aren't especially appealing, they are large and vividly colored, and they're not that badly animated, either.  The backgrounds are attractive as well, including everything from a leafy jungle guarded by a large gorilla statue to a damp cave with light peeking in from the entrance.

That's what makes playing Brutal even more frustrating, however.  You've got this great looking game sitting in front of you, and the designers have made damned good and sure that you can't actually enjoy it.  Brutal practically wallows in all the design flaws that make American designed fighting games so irritating.  Attacks do an uneven amount of damage... even the strongest punches and kicks are almost worthless.  Your jaw will hit the floor faster than you can say "Tex Avery" after you slam an opponent with a hard kick, watch him fly backwards from the impact, and look up at his life bar only to discover that it hasn't budged a centimeter, let alone an inch. 

The special moves, on the other hand, hit multiple times and can do in excess of 70% damage.  The computer makes you sweat blood to earn these attacks, but naturally, it has access to every damned one right from the start of the game.  What's most mindboggling is that one of these special moves is a taunt which will both raise your life bar and make you invulnerable to attack.  Now here's a game where Dan could really excel... just slap a pair of bunny ears on him and he'd come back with a collection of exotic animal pelts in no time!

With all these flaws, it's clear that Brutal has no value whatsoever from a strategic standpoint.  You can't examine your opponent's fighting style, exploit their weaknesses, and defend against their strengths.  All you really CAN do is back your foe in a corner and wail away until he lets down his guard.  And if the same thing happens to you, the only way you're getting out is by dropping to the floor unconscious.  It's stupid, it's asinine, and it's frustrating, but one thing it's not is fun.  Not to a fighting game expert, not to a casual fan of video games, and not even to the horny furry fan who downloads risque pictures of female Warner Bros. characters off the Internet (not realizing that Bugs' girlfriend in Space Jam was named LOLA for a reason).



A while back in an old issue of Ultra Game Players magazine, a reader sent in a letter that basically questioned their decision about giving War Gods for the N64 a really low score. He claimed that the game had everything going for it from having great graphics, gameplay, and even a big green sub-boss. “What more could you want?”, he asks. Now, what ever you do, do not believe this guy. Everything this man said is utter, complete lies. There is nothing good about War Gods at all. I’m sure if you’ve ever played said game, then you know what I’m talking about. But if you haven’t, I’ll try to shed some light on the stank that is War Gods.

Graphically, it’s about as much fun to look at as your grandmother naked. Midway tried to combine live actors with polygons for the fighters, and not very well I might add. The characters don’t exactly move right and their animations are kinda weird and slow. It’s like even though they trudge across the screen slowly, their actual movement is too fast, resulting in all sorts of mis-timed attacks and blocks. The backgrounds don’t help out either. Since they’re all a nasty combination of pixels and polygons, your characters tend to blend in with the background. The result is a mess of grotesquely ugly, muddy, choppy, and straight out bad graphics. Translated: It looks like shit.

Ok, so the game looks like raunchy ass. But maybe they make up for it with well-acted voice-overs and a booming orchestral music score, right? Uh, nope. The music might as well not even be there since it’s so monotone and quiet. The sound effects, however, are another story. Normally, I don’t put much thought into a game’s sound effects. If they’re there, that’s usually good enough for me. But I think maybe Midway forgot to supply their sound guy with a budget or something. It appears he did most all of the character voices himself and just ripped sound effects from old He-Man cartoons. So yeah, it sounds like shit.

Now we know the game looks and sounds bad, but there has to be some quality gameplay buried down in that cesspool of moral filth somewhere. There just has to be!!! But this is Fighter’s Misery, so what do you think?! No doubt that the gameplay sucks too. The game’s horrendously stupid AI is the biggest blemish you can see right away. Nine times out of ten, the only thing they’ll ever do is charge blindly at you and try to trap you with an endless barrage of attacks. You can easily counter this by using the same attack over and over until you win. In this case, I just used the character Pagan and a move where she flies across the screen, straddles your face (complete with the “Mmmpphhh!!!” sound effect!), and then throws you. I was able to beat all of the fighter’s in the game using this single move and they just stood there and took it, making no attempt to avoid it at all. Think that sounds predictable? How about the fact that each character has only ONE combo of moves that can be strung together? So whenever the your opponent rushes you, you can easily tell they’re trying to use that lone combo. I must say it’s not exactly Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive strategy. So what does it play like, kids? If you said “shit”, give yourself 3 points.

As the saying goes, If it looks like shit, sounds like shit, controls and plays like shit, by god, it must be shit. Just in case you still don’t get the idea, War Gods is fucking horrible. Everything about the game, from the graphics, sound, and gameplay, makes you just want to vomit out of your ass. But if there was one thing War Gods taught us, it is that there is indeed no god after all.


I always wondered why the original Street Fighter, Fighting Street, was such a closely guarded secret. I was never able to find the arcade version, and friends who had weren’t especially willing to talk about it. Just mentioning Street Fighter without adding a II on the end was enough to make a crowded room of enthusiastic gamers fall silent, and I vowed to find out why. Finally, someone was brave enough to blow the whistle on Capcom by including a Fighting Street driver with MAME, and thousands of gamers like myself learned what few Street Fighter fans were willing to admit... the game that started it all kind of stinks. Capcom was wise to have buried this like so much cat poop in the darkest corner of the litter box... Street Fighter II would have been laughed right out of arcades and into the dumpsters out back if anyone had remembered the game that inspired it.

Fighting Street doesn’t seem all that bad at first (of course, neither does a stubbed toe, until a half second later when that sensation of incredible pain finally hits you). In fact, the graphics are downright impressive by 1987 standards. Although the style of artwork is noticably different from Street Fighter II’s, the characters are just as detailed and well shaded. Even a few of the backgrounds are nice (particularly Retsu’s dojo), and they all make good use of parallax, usually by having clouds float lazily behind the battlefields. Past that, though, both you and your onscreen persona are in for a world of hurt. That, of course, would be Ryu, because he’s the only character you’re allowed to use. OK, no problem... I can live with that. After all, whenever I first try out a Street Fighter game, I usually pick Ryu or one of his many clones (preferably Dan) anyways. His moves are pretty straightforward and effective and... wait, I can’t make him DO any of his moves. Let me try this again. Oh, crap, still no luck. Maybe if I repeat it a half dozen times, THEN press a button... ah, there we go! And hey, look at that... my fireball just sapped 35% of my opponent’s life bar! Cool! Too bad he got in a bunch of hits and took away twice as much of my energy while I was struggling with the controls.

That’s right, folks, a Street Fighter game with horrible controls does exist, and this is it. It also has horrible gameplay, so if you’re expecting to just jump in and clean up by using the skills and strategies you’ve learned playing Street Fighter II for the last nine years, well, think again. Instead of walking, Ryu hops awkwardly toward his enemies, and his jumps are even worse, lacking the smooth, natural arc that you’ve come to expect from every video game since Donkey Kong. You get the three punches and three kicks that are a staple of the Street Fighter series, but none of them are especially effective... you’re better off sticking with the special moves, which are powerful beyond belief. Realizing this, Capcom made them nearly impossible for players to perform, but let the computer opponents (including such uninspired characters as a fat Chinese kung fu master who looks like Regis Philbin and a shirtless American) whip them out one after another, usually resulting in your getting pinned into a corner and struck down in a matter of seconds. Then comes the final insult... the cheap bastard gets to rub his victory in your face with an unbelievably corny taunt that sounds like it was performed by a Valium addict stuck in a drain pipe. Normally, I’d be impressed with a voice sample this long in a game this old, but hearing it repeated ad nauseum only adds more unwanted frustration to an already obnoxious game.

I’ll say just two things in Fighting Street’s defense... it did lay the groundwork (however shoddy it may be) for the far superior sequel, and Eagle, a stick wielding blond Brit with a scar on his face, just has to be Cammy’s pop. Other than that, this game is an embarassing look at the past that isn’t worth sitting through... kind of like those home movies your parents used to make when you were still wetting your pants.


A long time ago, I'd written a parody of EGM with (slightly) exaggerated versions of all the articles and columns EGM was known for in the early 90's.  Somewhere amidst the descriptions of Quartermann "mistaking" Steve Harris' lap for a stick shift and Martin Alessi dripping hair grease all over the game of the month was a section with upcoming game systems.  One of these consoles was the Pornografx-69, NEC's adult-oriented entertainment system featuring such games as Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em... Again, and Street Fuc- well, the rest of the name was clipped off the bottom of the page, just like many of the sloppily written and edited columns in Electronic Gaming Monthly before Ziff-Davis saved the magazine from its own stupidity in 1998.

Everyone who'd read (PHL)EGM had a good laugh at Steve Harris' expense, as well they should, but years later I discovered that the joke was on me when I found a pornographic fighting game for NEC's real system, the Turbografx-16.  I guess someone decided that if a clone of the most popular video game of the early 90's wasn't enough to draw in customers, they'd throw a lasso around the genitals of male gamers by adding digitized pictures of topless and even naked women.

Unfortunately, the people who keep designing pornographic video games (and just won't stop, no matter how much money they lose) keep forgetting to add girls you might actually fantasize about.  Either they're twelve year olds with hub caps for eyes, or, in Strip Fighter II's case, nasty sluts who, as Ellen DeGeneres would put it, desperately need to crack open a couple of doucheskis.  Man... all Japanese girls may love Genki-Genki, but nobody likes skanky skanks!  Trust me, I've seen enough episodes of Jenny Jones to know this for a fact.

Anyways, if you've got a clothespin to protect yourself from the stench wafting from between the fighters' legs and out of your monitor, you'll notice that the characters all have special moves that involve their private parts... for instance, one of the girls spins around like a top, using her naked breasts as weapons.  Unfortunately, instead of enticing you, you'll probably shield your eyes from this display with that copy of Playboy you've got stashed under your bed.  Speaking of pin-up artwork, you'll get that as a reward for winning rounds and fights. Admittedly, these digitized pictures, as dully colored and grainy as they are, beat the penis shrivelling sprites in the rest of the game hands down (y'know, down around there).  But you'll notice one thing missing from these sleazy snapshots... namely, it's the sleaze.  Because the game was released in the early 90's, when Japan let its citizens read all the porn they wanted as long as the bottom halves of the centerfolds were missing, all the money shots have been scrambled.  After you clear a few rounds, you'll start to think that the girls' vaginas are in the witness protection program or something (which makes sense, because they've seen more hardened criminals than most women ever will).

As for the gameplay... do I even need to bring this up?  It's lousy.  All of the fighters' punches and kicks seem to be identical, which makes the requirement for a six button pad really frustrating.  I mean, it's the Turbografx-16 for crying out loud!  It's hard enough to find someone with the system, let alone a fancy schmancy six button controller designed for approximately three Japanese games.  If you don't have one of these and can't afford a bidding war with the wealthy nutjobs on eBay, you'll have to switch between punches and kicks by pressing start.  There are no other alternatives.  You can't assign the I and II buttons to heavy punch and heavy kick, because that would be too convenient and might actually make the game vaguely enjoyable.  Anyone who's familiar with pornographic video games knows that there's some law out there (possibly written by Joe Lieberman) that prevents them from being entertaining on more than just a pornographic level... if that.


If Bo knows baseball, and Mike Tyson knows anger management- no, wait a minute, I mean boxing!- Shaquille O'Neal knows failure better than any athlete alive. No matter how promising your project may be, a teaspoon of Shaq is all it takes to bring it to its knees (which of course, is the perfect position for sucking). A few examples... a major recording company gave Shaq millions of dollars to record a music album, and he gave them Shaq Diesel, a rap record comprised largely of O'Neal whining about his parents. See that crater that recently popped up in Los Angeles? That was from Shaq's street cred crashing into the earth at the speed of sound. Later, Warner Bros. made the mistake of casting him as Steel, one of Superman's replacements after his fatal encounter with Doomsday. Apparently his performance was so bad it not only made Superman roll around in his grave, but burst out of it to ensure that Shaq wouldn't make a sequel.

Then there was that video game... Shaq Fu. In an obvious ego trip, Shaquille O'Neal demanded that Electronic Arts create a game for the Super NES and Genesis that would make him look like a street smart crusader instead of just another dumb basketball player. EA, which at the time was still a respectable company that hadn't yet allied itself with the forces of evil (Sony), tried very hard to resist O'Neal's demands, but in the end Shaquille, perhaps with the aid of his latest album or the even more obnoxious Lakers fan Spike Lee, forced them to obey. And while Electronic Arts tried desperately to make the game worth playing by hiring the critically acclaimed Delphine Software to design it, they just couldn't avoid the inevitable. Because of Shaq's involvement, the game's fate was set in stone... it would suck, and not even a momumental alliance between Capcom and Konami could change this.

You think I'm being melodramatic, don't you? Well, Delphine really did try to make Shaq Fu a quality release, but thanks to the Shaq factor... and yes, because this otherwise talented company didn't know a damned thing about fighting games, there was no way it could be salvaged. Shaq Fu's got a lot of problems, and a few of them have nothing to do with the name "Shaq" in the title. For instance, the great animation that had become a Delphine trademark actually hurt this game... the designers had to use sprites instead of polygons, and since smooth sprite animation is so taxing on both the cartridge and system's memory, they shrank the characters. This worked fine on the Neo-Geo Pocket because the stars of games like Match of the Millennium were plumped up and brightened to make them more visable, but you didn't see too many superdeformed Street Fighter clones back when Shaq Fu was released... and I doubt Shaq would ever allow himself to be drawn like this...

So the game was left with an almost acceptably sized Shaq and a lot of other tiny characters. The graphics weren't really hurt by this... the scenic backgrounds look like postcards from another dimension and the animation is great, although no better than what you've seen in most fighting games for the Saturn and Playstation. However, the teeny weeny fighters slamdunk Shaq Fu's gameplay right into the trash. It's impossible to target specific areas of your enemies when jump kicking them... in fact, you'll be lucky to connect at all. You'll be doing a lot of jumping anyway, because as hard as it is to control where you'll land, it's better than walking, which is so slow and leaves you so vulnerable you might as well consider it useless. You can't even close an inch wide gap between you and your opponent because you'll get a fist in the face long before you reach them. Basically, you'll have to jump, and jump, and jump again to fix your position and get yourself close enough to the enemy to hit them a few times. And when you do, you'll be frustrated by the lack of combos you can perform... the only one that ever seems to work is endlessly foot sweeping the other player (remember this tactic, because it works really well in nearly every other crappy fighting game ever released).

All right, all right... this game would have been a disaster whether it had starred Shaquille O'Neal, Martha Stewart, or the Olsen twins. But if it hadn't been for O'Neal, Delphine Software may never have started work on Shaq Fu in the first place. Worst of all, Shaq STILL insists on sticking his free-throw missing fingers where they don't belong even after his first game jumped from store shelves PAST the bargain bins into the "please just get it the hell out of here" boxes left outside the entrance to Electronics Boutique. The only plus side to this is that his newest game, Ready 2 Rumble: Round Two, lets you give Shaq all the bruises, cuts, and black eyes he deserves for making Shaq Fu a reality... which makes the game pretty hard to pass up.


Most people will complain about this game, asking why Capcom would ever soil a series of games they've loved since they were kids with a spin-off that neither plays like the REAL Final Fight or very well in comparison to other 3D martial arts games. Me, I see things differently. I look at Final Fight Revenge with the same kind of greedy anticipation that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would look at a particularly cheesy guest on the Conan O'Brien show. Like David Hasselhoff or William Shatner, Final Fight Revenge is so chock full of unintentional comedy that its name alone is a punchline to anyone who's played it.

To everyone who hasn't, well, imagine the characters from Final Fight and the basic gameplay of Street Fighter EX and Mortal Kombat 4 stirred together... in a toxic waste drum. Peer inside and you'll see a game that really puts the polygon in polygonal fighter... the characters are so boxy you'll wonder if you can transform them from mighty robots into mighty vehicles. One of the stars of the game, the fat cop who couldn't get more than a cameo in Street Fighter Alpha 3, actually does... or at least, that's what your eyes will tell you when he performs one of his supers. He chases around his opponent in a police car... a police car so small he couldn't possibly fit into it, yet he's nowhere to be seen. Stranger still is that your enemy runs for his life from this car despite the fact that it's about the size of Barbie's Power Wheels cruiser (shame it's missing that stylish pink paint job!).

Of course, that's better than watching Haggar do his best Pat Sajak and use an enormous wheel to decide just what wrestling technique he'll use on his rival, then breaking out a cigar even Monica Lewinsky couldn't handle after literally piledriving him through the planet. And this, in turn, is preferable to Rolento gunning down his enemy with a helicoptor he must have been keeping in his pocket, or highly disciplined Bushido ninja Guy belching like Shrek after downing a cup of espresso, or watching Andore's hand swell to three times its normal size (masturbation jokes off the starboard bow, Captain!).

But the game really shifts from light to ludicrous speed when you find out why they call it Final Fight Revenge. Remember Belger, the guy who, after filling you with crossbow bolts, was punched out of a fifty story building? Well, you'd think he would be dead after that... and you'd be right! At the end of the game, you battle against his corpse in what has got to be the world's least welcome Resident Evil crossover. Feel free to peel off one of his arms and clobber him with it, but watch out! He's got a nasty habit of exploding... and even worse, dancing!

I could go on... and on... and on... but my web server can only hold so many gigabytes of text. If you're looking for another fighting game for your Saturn, Final Fight Revenge is one you'll definitely want... to poop on!

(Thanks to the Video Game Museum for the picture, by the way.  I didn't feel like spending an hour playing the original Final Fight just to get this snapshot.  I'm even more glad I don't have a digital camera or screen capture hardware, because that gives me an excuse to avoid playing this dopey spin-off again.)


This game may have been designed to pick up the scraps the overfed Street Fighter II left behind, but its roots stretch back a lot further, all the way back to when Super Mario Bros. was first released.  Data East noticed that the game was dearly loved by everyone who played it, and like any good parasite, they were quick to take advantage of this by releasing their own side-scrolling platform game.  To ensure its success, Data East created a mascot that one-upped Mario in every possible way.  OK, so Karnov wasn't especially cute, but why settle for a chubby Italian plumber when you could play a game starring a grotesquely obese Russian circus freak?

Unfortunately for Data East, players found plenty of answers to that question, and Karnov's fat ass was pushed out of arcades forever.  He was forced to take up residence at the bottom of NES bargain bins, and had to earn paychecks by letting the Bad Dudes sink their fists into his immense belly.  Then Street Fighter II arrived.  Karnov found a fellow fire breather in that game, and decided right then and there that his lean years (using the term loosely) would be over.  He would star in his own fighting game, with a cast of martial artists so pathetic that anyone who played it would just HAVE to admire him!  Karnov could finally pay Data East back for the dump trucks full of Chicken Kiev they sent to his house every week, and more importantly, people would forget all about the crappy ending in his NES game and think of him as a star, just like Raymond Burr, Roseanne Barr, and the lady in What's Eating Gilbert Grape!

There was just one flaw in Karnov's master plan.  Namely, Fighter's History sucked, and everyone hated it at least as much as his first game.  They laughed at the selection of characters, which included a British musician named Matlok (where's Don Knotts?), a creepy clown in a face mask, and an opera singer named Fei Lin, which pretty much describes how well the game did in arcades.  And to top it all off, Capcom didn't find this cheap imitation of Street Fighter II the least bit flattering, and threatened to sue Data East for millions of dollars (as Karnov himself put it, "Those bullies are trying to steal my lunch money!").

Once again, Karnov's big fat dreams had been shattered, and his big fat heart had been broken. He became mad at the world... mad at the people who refused to play his games... mad at those bastards at the Ponderosa Steak House who insisted on giving him a table instead of just letting him sit at the all you can eat buffet.  He picked up the phone and dialed the number for SNK's home offices, muttering under his breath that he would have his revenge...


Not since the days of Sisyphus (look it up, or watch Hercules if you're too lazy to pick up a book) has so much effort been wasted on such a pointless endeavor.  Until the debut of Armored Core, mech combat games were never very good... even Capcom's own Cyberbots was kind of a yawner. But Mirage Studios' Rise of the Robots, oh man... it takes the cake, sets it ablaze with a blowtorch, uses a buzzsaw to hack it into uneven chunks, then shoves the flaming slices down your throat. Rise is a perfect example of when flashy graphics take precedence over anything and everything else.  The title screen is a stunning full screen animation of the title character, painstakingly drawn with quality rendering software and digitized to take full advantage of the Super NES's robust color palette.  Each opponent is introduced with a full motion video clip that rivals or surpasses anything you've seen on the Sega CD.  The character animation is smoother than Billy Dee Williams armed with a Marvin Gaye record and a six pack of Colt .45.  But past that... well, there IS nothing past that.  The game's silicon warriors have no personality and precious little in the way of fighting skills... apparently, to cram in all that great animation, the programmers had to give each robot a single punch, kick, and special attack.  The first two moves have varying strengths, but the animation is the same regardless of whether you're using a light jab or a full powered, metal crushing straight.  The very least they could have done is give the main character (the sleek blue cyborg in the game's opener) some variety, since he's the only character you'll get to use in the story mode.  There is a two player option, but the character balance is so out of whack that it's not even worth the effort to plug in a second controller just to try it.  In fact, you'd be better off leaving your Super NES untainted by Rise of the Robots and dig Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots out of the toy chest in your attic instead.  It's got just as much technique, and if you get tired of the plastic pugilists' dull colors, you can always take a cue from Mirage Studios and make them look much better than they actually are with a can of metallic blue spray paint.


Why do men have so many one night stands?  Hell, why not?  Besides, men are easily seduced by superficial beauty, and often find themselves at the front door of a relationship that's considerably less rewarding than the knockers that led them there in the first place.  Those tits start to look a lot less appealing once you realize there's not much mental activity going on above them.  Toshinden is a lot like those airheaded angels... it was the most gorgeous thing in the universe when it first debuted on the Playstation, and everyone was quickly lured in by its incredible three-dimensional, gouraud-shaded, texture-mapped, buzzword-filled graphics. They were so mesmerized by Toshinden's spectacular visuals that they marched into stores by the thousands and each came out with an empty wallet and a brand (monkey) spankin' new Playstation.  But like the lemmings who tumble off cliffs, or the moronic baseball player who takes the chaw out of his mouth just long enough to stick his foot in it, these spellbound gamers only realized their mistake after it was too late.  They were stuck with a candy-coated butt nugget... bright and shiny on the outside, but with a foul odor that was only revealed once the sugary shell had been cracked.  I was unfortunate enough to be stuck with the Saturn version of Toshinden, whose thinner shell made the game's flaws that much more obvious.  Even the addition of new characters and silly conversations between the old ones didn't make Toshinden any more enjoyable.  The sluggish control wasn't improved, no meat was added to the scrawny gameplay, and the limited yet frustrating 3D movement still came to the computer's advantage more often than the player's.  And of course, the game's only real asset- its groundbreaking graphics- had been compromised, making it a lot less attractive than when it was first released on the Playstation.  Come to think of it, Toshinden (and its big-breasted Russian mascot, Sofia) is looking pretty skanky in comparison to Dreamcast games like Power Stone and Dead or Alive 2... and those games have much more to offer than a pretty face.


If you want to test your might against the world's most fearsome warriors, don't walk this way... all you'll find here are losers.  It's a good thing nobody important was informed about the Way of the Warrior tournament, because anyone from Sub-Zero to the punching bag in Waku Waku 7 could have thrashed these morons and laid claim to the ancient book offered as the grand prize in minutes.  Just how sad are the characters in Way of the Warrior?  Here's a hint.  You know how most fighting games have a mysterious hidden character lurking in the shadows that's more powerful than the rest of the cast combined?  Way of the Warrior's is a possessed Hindu sorceror in a diaper.  It would take an incredible amount of effort to come up with a martial artist less threatening than this.  However, Naughty Dog was more than up to the challenge and created several, including the apparent daughter of MAD TV's Ms. Swan, a ninja who learned most of his fighting techniques from carefully observing the mating habits of storks (you don't want to know what his fatality is...), and a biker chick who taunts her foes in a Southern accent that's about as credible as OJ Simpson's latest alibi.  Speaking of bad acting, even this cast of outcast's battle poses are totally unconvincing, although the wretched animation and downright weird game physics don't help matters much.  I don't care how strong these guys are supposed to be... the Earth's gravity should prevent them from jumping three stories high with the greatest of ease.  Way of the Warrior would have been entertaining, in a Nelson Muntz "Ha ha!" sort of way, if the game was somewhat playable, but the designers smashed too many features into Way without making them work well together, resulting in a mess that's just as confusing as it is confused.  Let's see...you're supposed to cast this spell to stun your enemy, then position him over here to knock him over the cliff, then kick him just right and DAMN!  Aw, fuck this... where's my copy of Super Street Fighter II Turbo?


There are few series as drained of inspiration as Mortal Kombat, and no game demonstrates this fact better than Mortal Kombat Trilogy.  The one-stop shopping approach this game takes to the Mortal Kombat series is a great idea... you can pit nearly any Kombatant from the first three games, even the bosses, against each other, and hold battles in many of the series' most popular locations, including an uncensored version of the pit in the original game.  Unfortunately, Midway put so little money into this project that the designers were forced to slap everything together without improving or modifying it.  The result looks and feels like an overly ambitious MUGEN project that the author aborted a month before it could be finished.  Although there's a tremendous amount of characters, only a handful have a complete selection of fatalities, and a few of the cast members from the original Mortal Kombat don't even have a real run to speak of... instead, they just rush up to their enemy in a very odd turbo charged walk.  Now that I think about it, though, perhaps it's best that the designers didn't get the chance to add a lot of new features, because the ones that did slip in are kind of... uh, odd.  The aggressor meter is a weak substitute for actual super moves, and the new animalities are unique.  By unique, I mean that they've set a precedent for stupidity that nobody could ever top.  If Midway releases another Mortal Kombat game (heaven forbid...), a collection like this one might be a good idea, but next time, they'd better give it all they've got instead of smashing their last few games to bits and breaking out the superglue.


Irem stepped on a public relations landmine when they took a game based on the wildly popular Ranma 1/2 animated series and hastily converted it into this wimpy Street Fighter clone.  Fans of Rumiko Takahashi's cartoon and comic were so outraged by the localization that they convinced themselves that Irem had ruined a masterpiece. Actually, the original Ranma 1/2 game as it was released in Japan wasn't all that great, either...  the control scheme, as simplified as it was, didn't make much sense, and because of the predictable computer opponents and underwhelming selection of attacks, the battles never became particularly intense or entertaining.  However, it did have that trademark Ranma 1/2 charm, a quality which was quickly thrown overboard when the game was brought to these shores.  Ranma became Steven, an ambiguously gay superhero with a battle suit that boosted his strength, and his father was turned into Tyrone, an embarassing black stereotype who could give even the nitwits on the WB a run for their money.  All the lively Japanese music was replaced by a soulless rock 'n rap soundtrack, and any of the backgrounds with even the mildest connection to the Ranma 1/2 series were redrawn as plainly, darkly, and crudely as possible.  The chairmen at Irem probably thought they were doing us some kind of favor by making Street Combat the kind of radical™, extreme® experience their young male demographic would appreciate, but I suspect real gamers would have been a lot happier with the original title rather than this condescending rewrite.


"Is Shinoken really that bad?"

In a word, yes.  In more words, Saurus' Killer Instinct clone may not be the worst fighting game on the Neo-Geo, but it's certainly the most disappointing.  It's no gem on the Saturn either, which I found out when I made the enormous mistake of purchasing it when I was hanging out with my friend Pat at Game Hits.  The only fun we ever got from the game was throwing it in the Saturn (making sure to hold down the drive door so it couldn't spit the disc out) and showing it to Pat's horrified friends.  In fact, the only time I ever felt I got my thirty dollars' worth out of this turd is when Pat, his brother-in-law Chaz, and myself challenged each other to a battle of wits, to see who could heap the most ridicule onto Shinoken in a ten minute time period.  Here's how it went...

"Hey, Chaz... you've got to see this fighting game from SNK.  You won't believe how bad it is."
"OK.  Shinoken, huh?  I've never heard of that before."
"Oh, no, not Shinoken!  I swear, Jess, if you bring that game over one more time, both you and that disc won't leave my house in one piece."
"All right, all right.  Now let me just put the disc in...  cool, it's starting to load."
"Hey, it's that ass with antennae again!"
"Pat, that's supposed to be a pair of dinosaurs."
"Actually, I agree with Pat... it does look like an alien's butt!"
"OK, does anyone want to play against me?"
"No... torture yourself all you like, Jess, but count me out."
"Yeah, I'll pass, too."
"I always wondered why the player select screen looked like the opening to 'Highway to Heaven'..."
"Highway to Hell is more like it..."
"So, who should I pick?"
"Hmm... Benten?  Binten?  They just put sooo much work into naming these characters..."
"OK, Benten it is.  She kind of looks like a badly digitized Barbie doll, but she's the sexiest one of the bunch.  Relatively speaking, anyway."
"While this is loading, I think I'll get a sandwich.  From the Subway in Nome, Alaska."
"Don't buy that plane ticket yet, Pat.  It's starting riiiight... now."
"Oh, goodie."
"Wait a minute... are those monkeys fighting in the background?"
"They look like the disgruntled former stars of Donkey Kong Country."
"Yeah, right!  Donkey Kong Country looked way better than this!"
"OK, time for a super move.  Pat, grab the instruction booklet and read one off to me."
"Let's see... you're supposed to press down, down back, back, down back again, down, down forward, forward, smash three of the attack buttons, take the disc out of my Saturn, and put Street Fighter Alpha 3 in instead."
"Screw this... I'm just going to pound on the buttons until the other guy drops."
"'Now Hitting'?  Does it really need to tell you that?"
"When the game's graphics are this bad, Chaz, yes, it does."
"Y'know, guys, I think the term 'Shinoken' should be used when something's so horrible that no word in the English language can properly describe it.  Like, remember that guy in Texas who was kidnapped by a bunch of rednecks and dragged behind a truck for three miles?  Wasn't that really shinoken?"
"Well, I've had enough of this.  Yeah, Pat, go ahead and throw in Street Fighter Alpha 3."
"Dude, my copy of Alpha 3 won't go anywhere near my Saturn now!  I'll have to wait for weeks for my system to disinfect!"
"If it could only talk..."
"Damn, bitch!  You so stanky!"
"Let's go play Starcraft for a while.  Jess deserves to get kicked around by the Zerg for a while for exposing us to that."
"So, Pat... what numeric rating would you give Shinoken?  Not that I need to ask."
"Jess, I give it a zero... or as I like to call it, the Shinoken standard!"


I don't suppose any of you remember that passage from the Bible, do you?  You know, the one where the prophet dreams about an enormous statue made from a wide variety of materials?  Its head was of the finest gold, its chest was pure silver, its torso was iron, its legs were a merely adequate bronze, and its feet were partially made of clay, indicating that despite its size and frightening appearance, the statue could easily be destroyed once its weakness was exploited.  Clay Fighter reminds me a lot of this metal behemoth... at first glance, it seemed just as incredible, but the more players immersed themselves in the game, the less impressed they became, until they finally realized that Clay Fighter had almost nothing to stand on. The gameplay is the absolute pits, and those glossy clay characters start to lose a lot of their luster when you watch them stiffly hobble around the screen like they've been left out in the sun for too long.  You'd think maybe the limited memory of the Super NES and Genesis was responsible for this, but when the game was ported to the Playstation and N64, it looked just as awful. So what if Interplay added whoop-de-doo 3D backgrounds?  The fighters themselves still looked like renegades from the Conan O'Brien Hannukah special, and the already moronic cast of characters was made even worse with the inclusion of such lame-os as a buck-toothed Asian cook and that dipstick from Boogerman.  And while Interplay tossed in a super meter and some fatalities (crappy fighting game rule of thumb #78:  when your game really, really sucks, break out the paintbrush and start hiding the flaws with a thick coat of blood), these features didn't make up for the insults players received when they tried to pull off combos.  Yes, Clay Fighter 63 1/3rd would actually inform you that your efforts were "lame", adding salt, margarita mix, and a fresh slice of lime to the wound you received when you paid fifty dollars for this supposedly "hilarious" game.  The only thing that's really funny about Clay Fighter is that Interplay took such a bath on the latest installments of the series that we'll probably never see another sequel again. Who's laughing now, bitch?


If you're brave enough to dig right to the game's core, you'll realize that Street Fighter: The Movie wasn't really that awful. It's more complex than most of the other games featured in this list, and the Playstation and Saturn versions were the closest thing players had to a home version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo for a very long time (unless they had a 3DO, in which case they'd also have to put up with the aforementioned Way of the Warrior).  Still, like Street Combat, SF: The Movie had the gall to take everything devoted fans loved about the Street Fighter series and desecrated it in the worst possible way.  A friend and I rented this way back when the Saturn was first released, and I got more entertainment from his horrified reactions to the characters' voices and poses than the game itself.  He winced- yes, literally winced, as if he'd bitten into a moldy grapefruit- whenever the fighters did something particularly stupid.  You would have sworn that he developed a facial tick after I challenged him with Captain Sawada, a warrior (mercifully) exclusive to Street Fighter: The Movie whose most effective weapons are Japanese stereotypes.  If you can believe this, he carries a blade which he sticks in his own belly, apparently in the hope that the resulting spray of blood will blind his opponent.  Only slightly more threatening is Sawada's super move, where he throws his hands up in a cheer and slides toward his foe in a display that would embarass even a novice MUGEN character designer (let's hope the nudity trend in MUGEN comes to a screeching halt before it gets anywhere near this loser!).  Speaking of embarassing, I'm surprised my friend didn't bring this game back to Blockbuster with a scarf wrapped tightly around his face...


When it comes to targets of ridicule, this game's got a bullseye larger than Wyoming painted on its ass.  Time Killers was so rotten that even my brother, a casual gamer whose motto is "the more gore, the better", couldn't stand it.  He had this priceless imitation of the average Time Killers player... he'd spread his fingers over an imaginary control panel, briefly look up at an invisible screen, then fix his gaze on the controls and frantically hammer away at buttons for three seconds.  Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth!  Time Killers had a few good ideas, like the ability to lop off your opponent's arms, but this wasn't much of a handicap when he could just as easily thrash you by beating the kick buttons into the floor.  Even worse were the insta-fatalities that let you end each round the second after the announcer screamed "FIGHT!" by slicing off your enemy's head.  The destroy moves in Guilty Gear were a bad enough idea, but at least they gave you some idea they were coming, and a split second chance to defend against them... the fatalities in Time Killers just seemed to come out of nowhere, and if you weren't blocking, BAM!  That's it. Go home, you just wasted your quarter.  Speaking of wastes (and waste, as in the kind floating around in a sewage pond), there was a Genesis version of Time Killers that made the arcade original look like a frickin' Renaissance masterpiece.  There wasn't even a point in smashing buttons in that game, since none of them seemed to do anything... you'd just stand there waiting for your enemy to wade through the 16-color, 8-bit quality, 4-year old designed backgrounds and hack you into convenient, bite-sized morsels.  The Genesis version of Time Killers is such a wad of phlegm that the vast majority of emulation sites I've visited refuse to carry it... I can't really blame them, because that server space could be put to much better use (with, say, a dozen All Advantage ads, or the manifestos of famous cult leaders, or naked pictures of Estelle Getty...).

And now, moved to the bottom of the page for your inconvenience, it's the...



This is easily the most contrived character to come from the gory fighting game fad of the early 1990's. Blood is a headswap, or more accurately, a headLESS swap of another character, which is why you see a fountain of blood where his head should be.  It's a gimmick so transparent even the game's mindless target demographic could see right through it.


The Power Instinct series was never known for its great character designs, but little Kinta Kokuin stood out as the very worst of the bunch, even in a cast of stereotypical Indians and denture throwing old hags.  You may have hated Bao from the King of Fighters (just about everyone did...), but at least he came to every fight fully dressed... Kinta doesn't even bother to do that!


Here's a guy who should have considered a couple (hundred) trips to the gym before stepping into the ring.  Karnov's got more rolls of fat than Ryu and Ken have victories... and I'm talking about a combined total here!  Karnov somehow convinced himself that he stands a chance against other, more disciplined martial artists... but naturally, he doesn't.


You may not be impressed with this balding boob at first, but just wait until he breaks out his combat knife!  And his tazer.  And his machine gun.  And his grenades.  And his (gulp!) atomic bombs?!  As you might imagine, none of the other characters stand a chance against Mongo thanks to his endless supply of weapons.  In fact, he can actually kill the last boss with one blow!


I don't think anyone really ever liked Cody.  His first mistake was filling in for Guy in the Super NES version of Final Fight.  His second strike came when he starred in Final Fight Revenge, which was more of a parody of the first few games than a legitimate sequel.  He struck out when Capcom made the unwise decision to turn him into a lowlife thug in Street Fighter Alpha 3.


Street Fighter EX's characters are best described as, uh, eccentric.  You've got everything from dominatrixes to a rollerblading electronics whiz to a muscular brute who looks like the lead singer of the band Blues Traveler.  Arika went a step too far when they created Skullomania, a Japanese salaryman who ran off to join the circus, and wound up fighting instead.


Fans waited EIGHT YEARS for a sequel to Street Fighter II.  EIGHT YEARS!!!  You'd think that after all that time, Capcom could have come up with a better last boss than this.  Gill's an egotistical dork covered in clashing body paint.  It gets worse, folks... he also wears a skintight diaper that must be as uncomfortable for him as it is for the player who has to look at it.


The name is clearly a parody of M. Bison's, but it would take a lot of imagination to draw any other parallels between this string of nondescript clay balls and Capcom's sinister crime boss.  If Clay Fighter had anything going for it at all, it was a cast of clever characters.  Why Interplay couldn't produce a better final boss than this will forever remain a mystery.


Double your pleasure, double your fun?  Probably not.  The truth is, twins fighting in tandem as one character never work especially well in fighters.  If Shinoken isn't enough proof of that, allow me to introduce Battle Monsters as exhibit B.  Its twins, which look like the bastard children of KISS and Ronald McDonald, couldn't fight less effectively if they were in a potato sack.


When all the other martial artists were taking pointers from creatures like tigers and mantises, Konotori must have been out taking a piss... in a lake filled with storks.  Yes, Konotori modeled his martial arts style after the mighty stork.  The only time he ever brings an opponent to their knees is when he delivers them babies nine months after they have unprotected sex.