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King of the Monsters

Genre: Fighting Developer: SNK Publisher: Takara Players: 1-2 Released: 1991

King of the Monsters satisfies that primal wish to see big things smash stuff, and don’t pretend you don’t love it! Though it was released well before CGI explosion extravaganzas began their domination of the box office, KotM still offers a lot of bang for the buck.

You can choose to play as a Godzilla clone, an Ultraman clone, a rock golem, or a beetle man. The whole game has a fun cartoon aesthetic, right down to the neat little flashes of light when a punch connects. All that’s missing is the “WHAM!” or “POW!”. Each character has a variety of moves including chokes, bodyslams, running smashes, and a special move such as fire breath. Every time you knock down your opponent, he will drop a P-ball. If you collect 20 of these P-balls, you will power up and change color, presumably becoming stronger.

The game pulls less from Street Fighter II and more from WWE, as most of the time, you will be executing takedowns, bodyslams, and pins rather than duking it out. The controls of King of the Monsters take a lot of getting used to. Button-mashing will not get you far. Simply knocking down your opponent’s health does not end the round. You have to pin them for three counts to win, which isn’t always easy.

You fight through eight rounds, but the cities and opponents repeat, so there’s not really much variety. Once you play through with the four different characters, there’s not much else to see. It seems like the developers could have thrown in a little something extra for the home release, but this is a bare-bones port from a coin-munching arcade game. While the lower levels are fairly easy to master, tackling Mania mode is a challenge. And unfortunately, the game forces you to beat it on the hardest settings with the lowest amount of continues to see the (admittedly funny) ending.

Though it is obviously an earlier Genesis title and a downgraded arcade port, the game looks pretty good. Everything is super bright and colorful. The character models are cool-looking and fairly well-animated. The tiny cities you crash and bash through aren’t super-detailed, but buildings crash appropriately when you step on them, and monuments satisfyingly explode when you crash into them. You can grab planes out the sky and hurl tanks, ships, and trains into your opponent for points, and this environmental interaction adds some neat little spice to the gameplay. You really feel like a large monster crashing around a city. It feels good! Also, the more you destruction and contamination you cause, the more health you get back at the end of the round, so smash away! The music is nicely composed, though it seems more fitting for a platformer than a fighting game. I want songs that get me pumped, and these don’t really do that. But they do sound pretty nice. Sound effects are a little mixed. Explosions are sufficiently explosive, though they do sound a bit muffled. The planes and missile sounds are unconvincing.

So, is King of the Monsters something you should check out? If you prefer straight fighting games, this may not be for you. But if you take the time to learn its eccentricities, you may find a simple but fun arcade experience at home. King of the Monsters is hampered by its over-simplicity, brevity, and lack of depth, not to mention a better sequel; however, it’s a neat ride while it lasts, and a fun way to spend half an hour. It’s especially fun if you’re a fan of giant monsters smashing things, and who isn’t?

SCORE: 6 out of 10

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