“As much as I would love to drag you through the trenches of some of the bewildering garbage the genre had on this system” was something I recently wrote before getting back to what was my task at hand, but maybe the intention behind this is worth revisiting. The PSX library is host to numerous fighting game gems, some that were under appreciated for their time or previously unknown due to their lack of localization. But it also contains landfill-sized hazard sites of absolute trash. The PSX sits squarely in the post-Virtua Fighter boom of not only 3D fighters, but 3D gaming as a whole. Much like how Street Fighter 2 birthed imitators left, right, and center, the PSX was in the perfect position to funnel absolute waste into the players hands.
But you may wonder why I am asking you to play them. Fair enough question, we only have so much time on this Earth and if you wished to spend those precious moments doing something better I can’t begrudge that. However, lend me your ear for a moment on this. Bad fighting games can still be highly entertaining, this hobby of ours is tied to the social aspect of competition and the act of playing fucking sludge with another human is much, much more entertaining than playing sludge by yourself. But also, I think it is worthwhile to understand why fighting games fail. We take for granted the competence of the average fighting game, but the output in this genre can be a house of cards. It takes only the smallest mistake or oversight to ruin a game. You can learn just as much from a broken game held together by spit and a prayer as you can by a masterclass work with flame-polished edges.
As much as Fightcade 2 is the bastion of yesteryear’s fighting games, it also houses total banks of jank and the eventual inclusion of netplay with rollback netcode for the PlayStation’s catalog will only further add to the federally-insured garbage. So join me as we dumpster dive through food waste and toenail clippings to get to the skunk on this system you should experience.
Mildly Disqualifiable Runner Up: Battle Master
Do not let Battle Master’s runner up status make you think it is any less deserving of being on this list with a number before its name. It is a nightmare combination of poor polygons and even poorer JPEGs where the 1v1 combat features no crouching, no jumping and no blocking. The only defensive moveset available is a throw/counter/something that sideswaps with your opponent and a high or low dodge which has unclear effects as attacks don’t exactly come across as highs or lows. Attacks also have a Same Move Penalty, making consecutive strikes of the same attack do less and less damage. This leads the game into a strange rhythm of different pokes and strikes followed by dodge attempts to blow up counter-pokes, it’s no 4/4 time but its still a rhythm of some sort at the end of the day.
That kick may or may not land.
But what kinda stops Battle Master from being on this list is that it’s framed more as a single player game. You have to fight through this weird post-apocalypse industrial world to unlock all the other combatants and then after then you need to level up the attacks you do (through continued use) to junction them into a fighting mecha. This game needs to have a memory card save to really be meaningfully played with another person, so it might take some time before we get the real “competitive” Battle Master up and running on the eventual FC2 lobby. Do not let this stop you; you need to play this game. The vibe of Battle Master is so unlike anything else, the intro video, the background music, the menuing, the 3D renders, all of it has such a unique personality that makes it a delight to experience.
10: Shura no Mon (Asura’s Gate)
A fighting game adaptation of the hit martial arts manga, Shura no Mon kicks off our list by representing almost everything we don’t want. It’s bad, but that’s not important. What is important is that it’s boring. Everything else on this list will include something of interest to make it worth playing, or at least talking about. Shura no Mon has nothing. It reaches for nothing and succeeds in its goal.
The game intro is almost two full human minutes of this dude slowly posing as the camera rotates. He’s not even the main character of the manga or anything.
A 3D fighter so bland, so tasteless, that Famitsu magazine wondered if it was actually finished. There is no aspect to the game that feels greater than “phoned in”. The UI is basic, the sound effects are generic, the music barely scrapes above passable background tunes, and for 1998 (the same year Tekken 3 came out!) the 3D graphics are embarrassing. Above all of this, there are no character voice effects, which doesn’t seem like it would affect the game too much but in actuality it makes the ambiance of the game empty and uncomfortably sterile. The truly obnoxious part of Shura no Mon is that most hits in the game cause a screen flash, making the act of playing it headache inducing due to the strobing red light.
Debatably, the game may be worse in movement than captured in stills.
If there is anything to discuss gameplay-wise, it would be the approach to limb-damage. You can break the arms and legs of players to stop them from punching/guarding or hindering their movement, but what hinders movement moreso is the attempts at 3D movement. There are attacks that enter the foreground or background and then swing back with a strike, but these can lead to wonky pathing where you just miss the opponent completely. Almost everything you do is laggy and unresponsive and you feel like you are fighting the game as much as you are fighting the person across the screen from you.
Shura no Mon is peak kusoge. Not kusoge in the endearing term we often use nowadays, but actual Shit Game definition. An empty and soulless game that is almost impressive for how sterile it is. You will beg for an annoying voice clip, a poorly compressed sound effect, anything at all to make this game worth remembering. But in the end there is no water to be squeezed from the stone that is Shura no Mon, it is simply that boring.
Shib baby I don’t know if we can embed NicoNico videos, but if we can I found a fucking 5v5 in Shura no Mon.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have the technology.
We have briefly discussed FIST in a past article, but it really deserves its own time in the spotlight. The AtWiki page From Masterpieces To Fucking Games (which is the machine translated name I choose to adhere to) refers to it as “A game that was once called one of the four kings of kusoge on the Sega Saturn”. While the Sega Saturn has not received a rollback treatment yet (sorry, Sokko Seitokai Sonic Council), feel free to rejoice that a Playstation port of FIST was made as well.
Is the game noticeably better than its Saturn version? God no.
I hope you didn’t plan on sleeping tonight.
There are some differences at play. The Playstation version is graced with an actual intro video and better drawn artwork of the roster. In the Saturn version the character portraits look a bit like colored concept sketches, but the Playstation version brings them to life in full detail. Now we have a full look at the racially dodgy design of lone Black man Andy, I’m sure that’s the upgrade we were waiting for. The UI, stages, and character models have also seen a noticeable upgrade in smoothness, boasting a more “complete” look than the somewhat lifeless Saturn presentation.
But for all the additional flourish the PSX version brings, it might actually be worse than the Saturn release. While comparing the different versions is like putting two turds in a wind tunnel to test which is more aerodynamic, there is a bit of a difference in gamefeel. The Saturn version may be a bit slower, but there is a sense of weight that makes hit detection feel more accurate. In comparison, the PSX version is a little faster but suffers from a much floatier feeling of impact. The sound effects on the PSX version also contribute to this, as they are a bit airier than the heft of the hitsounds on the Saturn version. Gameplay is also tweaked as big launchers that can lead to juggles in the Saturn version are absent in the Playstation version.
The amount of people who have played both versions probably still lies in the single digit range. A small club I guess I’m happy to be a part of.
Regardless, this is like comparing if matte or semi-gloss spray paint is better to huff. Either way you slice it FIST is still a bland 3D fighter that lacks worthwhile gameplay, has an incredibly generic move list across the roster, and likely blew all of its budget on the big named seiyuu associated with the game. As mentioned last time we talked about FIST, the OST absolutely slams and is the one thing you should take away from this game.
Any excuse to post this OST again. These tracks go absolutely crazy.
8: Kakugo no Susume (Apocalypse Zero)
A fighting game based on the wickedly edgy and hyperviolent Kakugo no Susume manga, this release is curious by the lack of what makes its source material notable: the violence. Kakugo no Susume the game is a bloodless affair, instead being a somewhat standard 3D-ish fighter. Choppy graphics, infinitely scrolling stages, and lackluster backgrounds make up the hallmarks of these types of 3D fumbles. While in a vacuum, this presentation may be nothing special, when framed as an adaptation it is odd to see something so banal.
The best you get is the Chimera-looking Tomohisa as a playable character. Shame we didn’t get the wrinkly old man in spiky bondage gear and a mutant snake cock and balls, I guess they have to make cuts somewhere for this roster.
There are times where Kakugo no Susume borders on something interesting. The sound and ambiance of the character select screen feels much more akin to a horror game than a fighting game. While there are only a couple stages that can continue this vibe, it does help itself in having a presentation that is at least mildly different than the average kusoge fighter. And unlike many other games on this list, Kakugo no Susume has a more acceptable level of responsiveness to the controls, I’m not going to claim it’s buttery smooth or anything but typically when you input something it comes out in a logical manner. What brings this down is that even with a better grasp on the controls, it still doesn’t feel good to play. Sure, you can chain together attacks but it’s all too easy to send yourself skyrocketing past the opponent. It’s like two controlled explosives trying to battle. Instead of most bad games where the issue is being too slow and unresponsive, Kakugo no Susume feels hectic and unwieldy.
I don’t think I need to see this much floor ever. More than half the screen is taken up by ground.
The bar at the bottom of the screen is some sort of knockdown bar, if you can fill it up it will cause a knockdown…assuming you don’t cause one first. It’s much more likely that some part of your attack string will launch the opponents long before you have a chance to fill the rapidly-decreasing bar, making it feel like a bit of a non-mechanic. It’s not like it was going to help the game much to begin with, Kakugo no Susume is such a barebones release. It lacks features, complexities, graphical fidelity, or anything that would tie it into the utter insanity of its manga predecessor. We in the FGC typically view things in wireframe, looking only at the play of a game and not the entirety. If you were a fan of Kakugo no Susume, this game would be a slap in the face. Instead of a high-octane, blood and guts action fest, Kakugo no Susume is a slightly-above-average-on-the-curve entry in the kusoge hall of fame/shame.
The character select screen kinda doubles as the story mode, as the only thing you get between story battles are the character profiles saying a quick voice clip at each other.
7: Rise 2: Resurrection
Rise of the Robots, this game’s predecessor, is widely regarded as one of the worst fighting games ever. A game that existed more of a flawed facsimile of a fighting game than a real one and lied through its teeth in its marketing. Seemingly embarrassed by its lineage, the Rise of the Robots sequel tries to sidestep direct comparison but in the end cannot escape the stench of the original.
Graphic design is my prison.
Here’s what’s funny though; Rise 2 is a dramatically better game than Rise of the Robots. Scale your expectations on the curve we are working with here, but unlike the first game Rise 2 might actually understand what a fighting game should be. Rise 2 allows you to control any character (wow!), build meter for a Super move (holy crap!), and if you are really talented, do a combo (call my wife and let her know I’ve fucking died from excitement!). This sounds like I am complimenting the game on understanding some of the most basic functionality of a fighting game, and I am, but I must impress how much of an improvement over Rise of the Robots this all is.
That’s not a jumping attack, the characters are just that misaligned on whatever the ground is supposed to be.
Rise 2 is still mostly unplayable. Normals feel like spinning the slot machine to hope they register, Specials take a bit of sweatiness to perform and sometimes your reward can be punishable on hit, and the game can quickly boil down to abusing jumping normals. Literally all jumping normals are active until they hit the ground, making combat a test to see who can turn themselves into a leaping hurtbox the fastest. Cause what are you going to do, anti-air them? Let’s not get carried away, cowboy. They still gotta save some mechanics for the eventual Rise 3 (Note: the studio closed after this game).
Active until the cows come home, baby.
The thing is, Rise 2 is actually kinda cool…but only on PC. The PSX port is so horrifically compressed that you might mistake it for a SNES game. But the PC version has that smooth 90s 3D render style oh so evocative of the times. That kinda Five Nights At Freddy’s throwback to the CGI of yesteryear, except actually from yesteryear. All the PSX version gets is that run through a filter of pixels and no cleanup on the artifacting. Rise 2 is historic, they were able to make a sequel to one of the all-time fighting game stinkers and still release a version that was only better by inches. I own a big box physical copy of this and I cherish it like the garbage that it is.
23 – Rise 2: Resurrection
Rise of the Robots probably squashed any chances this game had to do well and that's a shame, because Rise 2 is actually pretty fun.
Rather freeform juggles, weight system, special move stealing, stage hazards with combo capabilites, etc.
Also Prime8 🦍 pic.twitter.com/kVgl7xw1V5
— Epsilon Eagle (@eagle_epsilon) May 5, 2022
Mooooooom, why couldn’t we get this version on PSX?!
6: Abalaburn – A Battle Legend of Asterica
These articles feel incomplete without talking about developer Tamsoft. The company behind the Battle Arena Toshinden series, Tamsoft are some of the finest garbage producers around. Not only are they behind the fanservice-fueled series like Senran Kagura and Oneechanbara but they have long been staples in the Simple line of Japanese budget games. However I didn’t really know where to slot them, I could have maybe thrown Toshinden 3 in the previous article but I had other games I wanted to talk about. But also, it feels undue to talk about something like Toshinden 1 or the super deformed Nitoshinden spinoff like they are dumpster juice releases. So instead, let’s look at Abalaburn.
Abalaburn might have the most legendarily 90's intro cinematic I have ever witnessed
(and its so long I couldn't fit all of it in one tweet) pic.twitter.com/nOPQUAEncD
— RIZE | GriffyBones (@GriffyBones) August 17, 2021
I know art when I fucking see it.
Abalaburn is a bright and exciting 3D fighter. While the graphics may be a little blocky, you can see the color leap off the screen. The character designs have a whimsical fantasy element to them that makes them immediately attractive and the fighting action is acceptable in your hands. It might seem a little strange to have a button dedicated to jump, but otherwise, especially given the rest of this list, the gameplay works decent enough. You have attack strings, specials that can be done with logical commands, movement into the background and foreground that doesn’t immediately cause the game to scream and cry. So what’s the problem?
Most strings are not natural combos in this game, and blocking is very strong
One of the only ways to get guarenteed hits is on sideturn and backturn. Backturn will allow some strings to combo because the opponent needs time to turn around and block pic.twitter.com/N7ekl2hsLp
— RIZE | GriffyBones (@GriffyBones) August 17, 2021
If I get to compare you, in any way, to Shadow: War Of Succession you have messed up beyond belief.
Sadly, use of the block button allows you to cancel hitstun. This effectively kills the game, as any string, combo, or multi-hitting attack can simply be negated by blocking midway through it. When Rose hits me with one of her big lightning balls I may take a hit of damage, but I can simply cancel into block and ignore the rest. When I said a the beginning that fighting games can be a house of cards, this is what I meant. It can only take one mistake to have an otherwise serviceable game tumble into near-unplayability.
But play it you should! Because even if the fighting gameplay is busted, that’s not the only thing Abalaburn has going for it. Each of the eight characters have a story mode and unlike almost literally every other fighting game out there, this one actually gives you something worth playing. The story mode of Abalaburn turns the game into a full-fledged 3D platformer while keeping the controls the same as the fighting game. Suddenly that jump button makes a lot more sense, as you need to traverse through the games terrain, square off against baddies, and pick up items.
More fighting games need to have the bravery of being more than just a fighting game.
While it may not be the best thing to play with two people, Abalaburn is worth looking into. A lot of what we are talking about today is drab and lifeless, lacking in any sort of meaningful inspiration other than “I hope this makes some money”. That’s not the case with Abalaburn, even though it has a pretty critical flaw in its execution there is still so much charm to be found elsewhere. Good on you Tamsoft, now get back to work on Guardian’s Crusade/Knight & Baby.
Can we get much higheeeer? So hiiiiiiiiiiigh.
5: Slam Dragon
Slam Dragon wants you to believe it’s a 3D game. It is sweating and crying in how hard it is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Its intro has the character models overlaying each other multiple times over, moving and rotating to convince you of its trick. The character select screen does not feature character portraits, nay that would be too simple, too pedestrian for Slam Dragon. Have those characters show up in all their polygonal glory and perform! Dick repeatedly pumps his bicep, Eric focuses on a loop almost as if he has memorized the specific hand jutsus for perfect harmony, eat your heart out Virtua Fighter because 3D fighting games have a new top dog and its name is Slam Dra-
Oh wait what do you mean this is a 2D fighter?
The charade cannot last forever. Slam Dragon, for all its pomp and circumstance, is a 2D fighter. Pulling a page from Donkey Kong Country (a seriously undue comparison) with an art style of digitized 3D models. But maybe, just maybe, it can shake the keys in front of you a little longer by making the background rotate during attacks. It’s not real, but maybe you don’t know that.
"Slam Dragon" – Paris Infinite
— Epsilon Eagle (@eagle_epsilon) November 27, 2020
Oh my fucking god stop moving the background!
Slam Dragon is high up on the games with responsiveness issues. The entire act of playing it feels like a game of badminton while underwater. There is an antagonizing floatiness to getting your inputs or movement to come out correctly. The game features strings and a block button, its last bastion in convincing you it’s a 3D game, but the act of pulling off anything feels gummy and based on hope. There is a combo system in play, you can launch people and get juggles, but with no combo counter and a gamefeel that has all the kinesthetic sharpness of a Vaporwave track I wouldn’t expect to see it much. Even if you can launch someone, the act of juggling feels weirdly disconnected from reality thanks to the constantly moving background, disorienting the feeling of movement.
in Slam Dragon for the PSX, moves performed as time runs out can't be blocked because you lose control of your character shortly after the timer hits zero
the damage counts too, so it's possible to steal rounds by using a super with one second left on the clock pic.twitter.com/Zvf4e4KHBk
— D-NO (@DNOpls) October 25, 2020
I can’t even front, this is kinda raw.
Slam Dragon is wonderful. Its unique visual style looms over the entire game as there is nary an aspect of it untouched by its shadow. There is some semblance of tech to this game, as some characters can Taunt cancel their standard jab and you can reverse time scam someone by doing a Super as the timer goes down because after it hits zero attacks will continue but blocking is impossible. If you have ever wondered why people get so worked up exploring absolutely awful games, Slam Dragon is a perfect example of how to pull entertainment from the bottom of a well.
I don’t know why this was so artifacted when I captured it, but it feels like the spirit of Slam Dragon to have it like so.
4: Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft
If you can believe it, it was somewhat difficult to fill out this list. This early 3D era is a garbage disposal goldmine of awful 3D fighters, but the art of picking out which to showcase and talk about requires a certain palette of a distinguished connoisseur. Do you really need me to tell you War Gods sucked? Do you cast me as such a caricature of the 90s video game reviewer to think I would come on this website and complain about BIO F.R.E.A.K.S.? There needs to be more spark behind a bad 3D fighter than just having awful movement and bad hit detection. Which is why we settle on Iron & Blood.
I’m gonna need to Wolfpost through this one.
Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft sets new standards for what failure on a fundamental level can look like. While all the hallmarks of 3D jank are here, dubious hitstun and the like, the calling card of Iron & Blood is the inability to properly align yourself. Combatants do not always track to each other in 3D space meaning that by virtue of either attacks with advancing movement or dodge rolling the two characters on screen quickly stop looking each other in the eyes. The game does account for this however by having a painfully slow turning animation take place in hopes to get the fight back on track, but much like a boxing referee in round 7 of a clinch-filled slop fest once again separating the boxers, this merely delays the inevitable. Worse yet, the turning animation doesn’t exactly have the best priority attached to it. If you continuously attack it will in turn continuously override the game’s attempt to re-right itself, sending you hurtling towards the edge of the stage. You could wish for, pray for even, a ring out to take place and end this sloppy drunken brawl of a bout, but instead the stage is lined by a force field that causes the hardest knockdown you’ve ever done seen when colliding into it.
An unnatural angle for an unnatural game.
But if we are looking for something that offends me personally, something that feels targeted to a trash collector such as myself, it would be the bait-and-switch that takes place when you hit Training Mode. They have played you for a fool in making you think there was a training mode here, for all Training Mode consists of is a normal, by-the-books battle with the AI. No training dummy, no infinite life, no options in the slightest, this is literally Versus Mode with the wrong name attached to it. Even if I wanted to grind out something stupid in this game I would have to forgo the option on the screen that says “TRAINING MODE” and lab in the 2 player mode instead.
3: The Master’s Fighter
The Master’s Fighter is the result of a scientific experiment gone wrong and much like the B movie evil scientist that would create such a lab explosion; the result was due to unethical and illegal actions. It’s easy to snipe shots at the games of yesteryear, especially in this early 3D era, for being ugly, but that’s not playing fair. This was a time of new technology and many developers were dipping their toes in vastly uncharted waters. The Master’s Fighter is different. It completely fucks up 2D sprite-based graphics.
Phrases you will find yourself saying when playing The Master’s Fighter.
I would love to know what happened here. All the characters in The Master’s Fighters look like they are burn victims of JPEG artifacting. Was the code for the graphics accidentally run through the deep fryer before the game was able to ship? My best guess is that some sort of issue reared its ugly head during the porting of this game, because The Master’s Fighter is somewhat of a port of the arcade game Master’s Fury. Master’s Fury has working sprites that look like functioning humans put them together (*cough* more on that later), so the assumption I am left with is that to take the arcade game and turn it into a Playstation 1 game they just squeezed the game through a cheesecloth and shipped what remained.
The KFC Double Down of fighting games; fried, unsightly, likely bad for your health, and delicious to the palette of some.
However, that’s really burying the lede on The Master’s Fighter if you can believe it. This game is infamous for being a South Korean copy-and-paste hack job. The character models are cobbled together from parts of SNK and Street Fighter characters with the serial numbers barely shaved off. There’s a couple characters that might take some detective work to figure out, but others like Takuya being literally Kim Kaphwan are obvious in plain sight. They were able to pillage, plunder, and steal their way into a new cast of characters with the coat of paint being so thin you can see the original right under it.
I think this is a full review of the game, but I don’t speak the language so I can’t confirm. I did clip it at the point where it demonstrates the aggressive plagiarism going on with the characters.
The Master’s Fighter is awesome. When are you ever going to experience something this bad in this way? I mean don’t think I’m forgetting the actual play of it. The game feels like trying to juggle balls of sand, your hands will fail you as you futile attempt to pull off special moves but your sweat will turn to gold if you land on something like J’s tatsu being a redizzy combo in and of itself. Also this may require additional testing (Rollbackers sign up now!) but I am almost certain that you can throw loop your opponent once you knock them down. The Master’s Fighter is one of a kind, nowhere else can you find this combination of technical failure, brokenness, and outright plagiarism.
Finally, Jubei and Kim Kaphwan in the same game!
This is it, one of the granddaddies of PSX kusoge. A game so confounding to play it makes most of this list feel like Virtua Fighter 4 in comparison. As mentioned in the last article, it took the team behind Cardinal Syn a couple tries to create a competent game. The first of their games was this; Criticom. A game so awful that the next game they made, Dark Rift, was originally slated to be called Criticom II but had its name changed likely due to embarrassment. For every peak of a mountain, there must be the lowest point of a valley and that is Criticom.
No matter how bad it looks, just remember that it plays worse.
I have spent hours writing about games with poor feeling control, I don’t know how to convince you how much worse Criticom is. If you and a friend broke into the nearest Macy’s and hurled two clothing mannequins at each other the collision would create a more understandable and enjoyable fight than anything in Criticom. Trying to comprehend Criticom is like trying to understand an untranslated copy of Crime and Punishment. Confusion will engulf you until it becomes a comfort, for it is all you will ever know. You will lose grasp on concepts like frame data because to have some sort of mathematical constant to judge the world of Criticom by would simply make too much logical sense.
When you strike someone in Criticom, roll two six sided dice. Those two values may help you to determine how many hits occurred. It’s not uncommon for an attack to have three hitsounds and possibly seven hitsparks, the true value of the attack lost to any language you understand. Special moves have been given a radical overhaul from any standard known at that time (except maaaaaaybe Primal Rage). To perform a special, you must hold either R1 or R2 (and it matters because some specials only use one or another) and punch in a quick input or two of directions or normals. This act locks your character in place as you fiddle against remembering what special works for R1, what special works for R2, and what special works for letting you escape the game and do literally anything else with your time.
This isn’t even half of the hitsparks attached to this single strike.
But whatever you do, don’t accidentally hit L1 or L2. These are your dodge rolls, a mechanic that will make the previously M.C. Escher-like game state look comprehensible by comparison. See once you dodge roll into either the foreground or the background, the game will maybe (maybe) try to adjust the camera. In that time you are left to solve a question unfairly place upon you:
How do you hold back to block when you don’t know what direction is “Back”?
Identify what “back” is for either player right now I fucking dare you.
Criticom is the difference between reciting Pi to 100 digits and randomly reciting numbers at random. Sure you may think that you can just aimlessly list numbers, but eventually your brain will sputter as it has to try and think of the next one, lest you say “seven” aloud on repeat. Pi has a structure, a law, people can recite it fast because there is a method to learn that many digits and regurgitate it because they do not change. Criticom lacks that structure, you will never know who is at advantage, what is punishable, or what you should be doing at any given point. Other than praying, and you will likely get Ringed Out during that time. It is a repeating randomness that begins to loop in a drooling repetition.
You must play Criticom. It is imperative to understand just how many things can go wrong in a fighting game. It isn’t just that something about Criticom is broken, it’s that everything is broken. Movements, attacks, defense, advantage/disadvantage states, visual feedback, auditory feedback, opponent AI, all of it is so far gone that you are left with a modern art masterpiece. Games are so rarely this bad that you absolutely must appreciate what Criticom was able to make possible with human hands.
HA! You missed 👽 pic.twitter.com/ZDqZ3N7n5c
— Epsilon Eagle (@eagle_epsilon) August 30, 2021
Place your bets on who wins this round.
1: Fighting Eyes
Fighting Eyes is the slam dunk #1 pick for this list and it might not have even been close. This is not to say this is the worst game on this list, this isn’t a quantitative ranking after all, but it’s probably the one I want people to play the most. Because I am still unsure how it works. This is exactly the type of mystery that needs to have two sets of hands on it over buttery smooth netcode.
“Hey, these characters look kinda cool” famous last words.
Upfront, Fighting Eyes almost gets away with looking competent at first blush. The attract mode is a little barebones, but it passes the Fight For Life test and the character select screen offers portraits of interesting character designs. Once in game however, everything starts to fall apart. It is staggering how much a lack of visual and sound effects can tank the experience of playing a fighting game. There are no visual effects to speak of when playing Fighting Eyes, no hitsparks to help you understand impact or anything. If you are banking on the sound design to help with the heavy lifting I regret to inform you that hit effects are frequently desyncing from what their point of impact should be. When combined with the crappy 3D fighter classic of Dubious Hitstun (put into title case because by now it should just be a proper term), this creates a system that feels disorientingly muddy.
“Game Freedom” you wish.
Here’s where Fighting Eyes starts to become a game of dualities. Movement is both painstakingly slow and excitingly fast. Your normal walk is glacial, a sloth could put it in reverse and do donuts around you as you attempt to hobble into striking range, but you also have a Virtua Fighter 3 four way button dash that is way snappier than what this game deserves. You should never touch the d-pad outside of move inputs in your life because this is the main form of traversal. But movement is not the most interesting duality, not by a longshot.
Fighting Eyes is a game that both features infinites and no combos whatsoever.
That’s right, I could boot up Visual Novel Maker right now and create a half, I mean quarter, I mean eighth-ass adaptation of Fighting Eyes just to shoehorn in a joke about Schrodinger’s Combo because both infinite combos and no combos are featured in this game. The Comb tracker in this game will frequently tell you in training mode that even the most basic of 5Ps will loop endlessly into itself but as true as this may very well be, that shit isn’t real. The defensive end of the spectrum is a doozy. You cannot block at all in Fighting Eyes, instead you have a parry button that can be done either high or low to just break out of hitstun. Outside of needing to correctly guess high/low, you can break out of anything because there is no animation for whiffing parry and seemingly no lockout for missing it.
My 99 hit Combo is pure fiction. A total fabrication. It never happened. It’s totally made it up. Whatever else Riker says in that video.
While this is the beef of what makes Fighting Eyes the head that holds this list’s crown, it’s by no means the only thing going on. Throws have no whiffs attached to them, but feel unresponsive and like you need to be inside your opponent to perform them. There is a super meter, but you can seemingly perform your super at like 75% full instead of having to wait for it to fill all the way up. Damage looks to be applied after the hitstun of an attack? It’s most obvious with throws but maybe this is so you can parry out of pokes and not take damage, but at this point I’m no longer sure. Fighting Eyes is a fighting game cryptid and with rollback coming to the system I can only hope that more people chase after the game with the same fervor of people who believe Bigfoot is real. Because something is in those woods, but I’m not sure what it is or if I want to accept it as truth.
IS IT REALLY SO HARD TO PUT THE DIRECTIONS AS ARROWS?!
All I want is for you to understand why we devote so much time investigating games like these. You may have noticed I haven’t been overly critical, not ripping into these fighters in some sort of Angry Video Game Nerd-tirade. That’s because I don’t hate them, I love them. I love every one of these games (okay maybe not Shura no Mon) because they offer something unique. If you go through life only experiencing the best of what this genre has to offer you may never see the totality of what is possible.
Some of these games fail due to laziness, eager to cash in a check on a source material or make it to market in at an advantageous time, but so many others fail with style, with a flair that a “competent” game could never dream of. Ideas to not materialize they way they might have expected, graphics might not have been as graceful as planned, perhaps the entire scope required of a working fighting game was just more than the developer had accounted for. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and I feel confident not only speaking for myself but other kusoge connoisseurs like Epsilon Eagle, GriffyBones, BigZam, PlasmaSword, ToBeMoreCrazy, WhoDat, DragonCharlz, Sleepmode, and many more that these games are treasures.
God bless emulation and god fucking bless rollback.