Genre: Fighting Developer: Atari Games Publisher: Tengen Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
Surfing on the Internet, one will encounter many bashing reviews of Pit-Fighter, the 1991 arcade fighting game released by Atari Games and translated to the Genesis by Tengen. But is the game really so horrible, or is there actually something enjoyable to be found in it after all?
To be honest, at first sight Pit-Fighter induces aversion. It starts with one of the worst video game packages in history, which shows us two photographed “pit-fighting” dudes with enormous muscles. To attribute to the corniness the box also states: “REMEMBER – wrestling is for grannies, PIT-FIGHTER IS FOR REAL!” When the player has overcome the package and plugged the cartridge into his Genesis, something will get into his mind (at least it did to me), and he’ll think “this game doesn’t want to be taken serious, this game is corny on purpose.”
First, lets have a look at the “story” in Pit-Fighter. All the fights take place in shallow basement-like places, crowded with public. There are three selectable pit-fighters: Buzz (ex pro wrestler), Ty (kick boxing champion) and Kato (3rd degree black belt), out of which Ty is easily the best. The player has to guard his fighter through eleven pit-fights to acquire money and finally become the pit-fighter champion. After each fight, the player will see how much money he gathered depending on how well he did on the fight. Unfortunately, this gathering of money has absolutely no purpose, except getting high scores (which aren’t saved as soon as you power off the Genesis).
After each two fights, the player also has to face his CPU mirror (in single player mode) or his brother-in-arms (in the two-player mode). The opponents of Pit-Fighter can easily make one think this is a S&M fetish game. I mean, if you have to face guys in leather outfits with names like Executioner, Southside Jim, Angel CC Rider, Chainman Eddie and Mad Miles, you just know this game doesn’t want to be taken seriously.
Pit-Fighter was the among first games to use digitized graphics, a technique which was later used at a higher degree of development for games like Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam. In the arcades Pit-Fighter looked pretty good, but in the translation for the Genesis the graphics have become very grainy and a bit pixelated. The crowd, which can also interfere in a fight by punching the players back into the arena, especially looks like a gray mess. It is really frustrating when a CPU opponent just keeps kicking you into this crowd, because it makes it hard to see what’s going on.
Livening things up are multiple weapons which can be used (it is possible to throw shurikens, crates, kegs, garbage cans, bar stools, motorcycles and use knives or sticks), some of which make it easy to knock down your opponent. There are also times when the CPU player makes greedy use of them. Also, there is a “power pill” which makes you extra powerful for a while, but it looks very similar to the shurikens, kegs and knives, and very often the CPU player will be quicker than the player to pick it up.
Besides the grainy graphics, there is also some horrible slowdown when there is too much on the screen. This especially happens in the two-player mode, because there are two players on-screen and the amount of opponents is also doubled. The music is about on par with the visuals, and the sound effects add to the jokey attitude of the game: there are quite a few horrible “ugghs” and “aahs.” This rings true for the gameplay, which isn’t the best ever – the collision detection is a bit weak, and in all, the player only has to two special moves.
Pit-Fighter is a game that is easy to burn down, because it shows all its failures so openly to the world. But once I actually get to play it, I can’t help enjoying it. Somehow, you just have to appreciate the joke, and experience that it’s even very fun to play every so often. It’s hard to explain why Pit-Fighter is an enjoyable game when you’ve never played it (or only played it on emulation) and have only seen the screen shots. I think it is because there are times in video gaming when you don’t want anything complicated. You just want to plug in the game, laugh with the creators at the silly characters and atmosphere they created, and bash those buttons of your controller and for a short time span, forget about all the complex games you’ve never completed. Pit-Fighter is just the perfect game for that… that is, if you set the difficulty on the lowest level, otherwise it will only add to your frustrations.
You won’t hear me say that Pit-Fighter is a classic game, only that is not as bad as is often stated, and that it’s quite amusing to play once in a while. Overall, despite or maybe thanks to its shortcomings, Pit-Fighter is an enjoyable fighting game for those looking for some unpretending button bashing. Players looking for something with more depth are advised to look elsewhere.
SCORE: 7 out of 10