Genre: Fighting Developer: Treco Publisher: Treco Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
The Genesis had some great fighting games in its history, that much is obvious. There were some other fighting games too, which were… not so great. And I don’t mean they weren’t so because the great games were perfect. I mean that some of the other games purely sucked, like today’s game for example.
Fighting Masters starts off with a story of a world’s ending, and a small group of creatures combine to fight to see who has the honor of living. It’s sort of like the movie Armageddon, except no Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, or Owen Wilson. Ok, so it’s like Armageddon in name only, but I digress. You select from twelve fighters, some of which are over the top, some generic, and some almost useless. Dirk represents humanity and is your generic blonde haired/blue-eyed wrestler. Along with him, you’ll get some crazy characters like Rotundo, who is just a weird blue blob with feet, and Mastadon, who seems slightly religious. You also get kick boxing horses and boxing goblins.
Then you get the “thrown-in-at-the-last-minute” characters like a Venus Flytrap named DIO, which just seems to bring upon yells of “Holy Diver!” whenever it attacks. Also the game features a robot, as if that hadn’t been used enough at the time. When the robot is one of the more generic characters, you know that the other characters will really stand out. Pretty much, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad creations here.
The graphics are on par for the time. The logo and the opening pictures aren’t all bad and really set a mood, surprisingly. The character sprites aren’t too big and are nicely detailed, even if there isn’t much to detail in the first place. Even the fighting backgrounds are nicely drawn, though slightly generic (ooh, a swamp! A temple! Trees! The brainstorming of levels must have been a milestone day at Treco!) The flashing with each hit is a nice touch, but it does uncover flaws in gameplay. I was even impressed by the screen effect when the match is over. Truthfully, the graphics actually save this from being an almost useless game.
The audio does its part too, and it almost sounds like this was actually a true effort and not just another attempt to make a quick buck. Even with the limited abilities of the characters (more on that later), they still can be slightly more individual with the sounds. The intro sounds, along with the music, is actually pretty much in sync with other fighters from the era and really goes along with the game. Of course, what that really means is that the sounds are simply average.
While all that is well and good, the gameplay is still what best describes Fighting Masters: crap. With everything else going on, you’re still using one button to attack, and one to jump. Like you’re playing an 8-bit game. You’ll be finding yourself either smashing the attack button, or trying to get in a throw, but most of the time the computer will be pulling out some amazing move that just doesn’t seem possible while you try to perform a jump kick! The hit-flash seems good in theory, but what it really seems to do is expose the faulty collision detection of each character. When you can actually get in a hit, the game will pause temporally as you’re opponent flashes, and most likely falls. Now that you’ve hit him once, you’re thinking “well, that was easy! Let’s do it again!” But now, instead of hitting again, you’ll most likely be grabbed, hit *flash*, hit *flash*, Hit *flash*, thrown *flash*, bounce off a wall *flash*, hit the ground *flash*, bounce off ground *flash*. You then decide to try a throw combo of your own. Go ahead, try it! I dare you! Because even when you think you’ve landed a hit, you just may be hitting thin air that looks a lot like your opponent! Then you attempt a grapple. While it looks like you’ve started a combo, next thing you know, a robot is spinning on the ground taking out a fourth of your life!
Like I said, it’s either kick or jump. You get tired of it so quickly that when you finally get the hang of the controls and can really starting winning matches, you may be so bored that you’ll most likely turn it off, never knowing just who was allowed to survive in a new galaxy with the primaries. When the only instance of replay value comes from just trying to configure the simplest control scheme this side of Frogs and Flies, you’ve got problems.
Overall, the novelty of the characters and the nicely done story save Fighting Masters from being the worst fighting game for the Genesis. That being said, the overall faulty gameplay hurt what could have been a real success. But when you’ve got Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat as the leaders, you need to be really special to warrant any real success (guess ClayFighter had that special something. Who knew?).
SCORE: 4 out of 10