Genre: Fighting Developer: RazorSoft Publisher: RazorSoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
Some games are destined to succeed. Between the great talent behind their creation, the clever ideas culminated in their design, and the effort put into it all, these games come out to considerable praise, and become widely regarded as a prime entry in a given system’s library. At the same time, some games are doomed to failure right from the start for much the opposite reasons. Enter RazorSoft’s Slaughter Sport (aka Mondu’s Fight Palace, aka Tongueof the Fatman), a 1991, one-on-one fighting game that came along before the Genesis really began getting a steady influx of the genre. With its odd cast of characters, and promise of bloody combat, it was made to scratch that “I wanna pummel something into a pulp” itch in gamers. But is this fighting game a heavyweight champ, or just a punching dummy? Read on.
The slaughter season for 2150 is about to begin! From all over the galaxy, fighters have gathered to prove their worth in hopes of being crowned the champion. In the Arena of Death, these brave fighters will face off and use all their abilities to best their foes. Some will go on to the next round, while others will become a snack for the land sharks that prowl the arena. But only one will get to face the fat man for the chance to become the ultimate fighter. The rest will perish, and it’s into this violent world that you step, leaving behind the people of your colony who said that you were a fool for undertaking this quest. Maybe they were right, but you intend to prove them wrong and win it all.
When you get your first look at the game, it’s hard to come away impressed, as the characters aren’t the most creative or well thought out bunch to ever be put into a video game. Some of their designs look all right (like Guano and Webra), some are dull and generic (M C Fire and Edwina), and others are just goofy in a bad way (Boneapart and Robochic)… with many featuring bad puns for their names. There are a fair number of colors used on the majority of the characters, resulting in some pretty decent shading on some of them, and that’s coupled with a similar level of detail, giving the characters a little more of a graphical boost. And while their animation is basically OK for the most part, their movements still come off as jerky looking at times, odd (M C Fire’s jump, etc.), or unnatural and stiff (Edwina’s kick, Webra’s walk, etc.). One other thing of note, is that the total number of characters is eight, plus the final boss. So despite the lack of real visual appeal, the game does have a fairly good roster count.
The backgrounds are pretty dull, with minimal color and uninteresting designs. You get a windowed battle room before a landscape with flowing liquid, an open room before a cave… and that’s it. You won’t see another new one until you fight the fat man at the end. This means you’ll see the same two a lot with occasional color changes and little else different. There’s a touch of parallax going on in them, with some slow line scrolls on the floor as well. And admittedly, the foreground parts of the backgrounds do look a little better overall than the farther away sections. But even so, the lack of any real significant design work and gradation/color usage results in them coming off as lifeless, and pretty flat looking. On the plus side, they don’t break up and glitch, so they do keep the backgrounds from being a solid color… which is about the best thing you can say about them. So in the end, the majority of the graphics for this game range from average to subpar… even for 1991.
The sound in the game isn’t all that great. The music is pretty barren, with not many instruments being played at the same time, and some rather wimpy instruments being used to boot. There are also some timing issues with a couple of the songs, in that they don’t stay on tempo. They fluctuate noticeably, making already forgettable tunes, worse. Granted, there’s a song or two with a touch of promise (like the bluesy part during Robochic’s fight), but the music generally isn’t worth hearing. The voices are only passable, with screechy and scratchy yelps and grunts coming from the characters as they’re beaten up. There are a fair number of samples present, but their below average quality just makes them more irritating than anything else as they’re repeated constantly throughout each fight (especially Edwina’s yelp). Couple that with the painfully few mediocre sounds that get used for nearly every hit and landing, and you’ve got a game with sound quality that’s just dismal.
The gameplay is pretty straight forward and simple (not surprising since this is pre-Street Fighter II). The punch/kick button (A) is used for all the basic attacks, with how you press the D-pad, and whether you’re standing, jumping or squatting deciding what will be pulled off. The special attack button (B) is for character specific attacks (M C Fire spits fire, Webra shoots a little spider web, etc.), as well as cycling through your spells during combat. Finally, the magic button (C) is used for casting spells, which range from making you invisible, to keeping your opponent from jumping. Each fight is one round long and possesses no time limit. That means either you or your opponent must lose all their health for the round to end. And during these fights, every attack that makes contact adds money to a purse you’ll receive if you win. With that money, you can by health ($500), power ($3,000), and spells ($500 to $2,000), all of which are acquired between bouts. Like most fighting games, you battle your way through the characters, only with Slaughter Sport, you’ll do this twice thanks to each regular character having a differently colored clone. But unlike most fighting games, as you best your 16 opponents, you’ll get input “keys” to use that will allow you to fight as the other characters in the game, with the final codes coming right before and after the battle with the fat man at the end.
So what’s wrong with this game? Oh good God, where do I begin…
First, are the controls. Depending on the character you choose, you’ll find that your character responds very slowly at times to your commands. Sometimes it’s because the controls feel delayed or odd (Edwina doing a jump kick, Rex doing a forward kick, etc.), other times, it’s because your character animates slowly (nearly every character jumping, Robochic ducking, etc.), and other times still, it’s due to a strange pause in the middle of the animation (Webra turning around and walking, Edwina doing the same, etc.). Hell, there are instances when it’s undoubtedly a combination of those things. Mix in how sometimes you have to hold down the button/D-pad to attack/move, and other times you don’t, and this all makes for a mushy and sloppy playing game, whether these things were done purposefully to make the characters “feel” different or not. Then comes the hit detection. You’ll watch punches pass through the characters without counting as a hit, and see characters hit air near their opponent that will somehow count as a connected punch or kick. After that, factor in how the characters react when coming in contact. You’ll stand on a character and ride them like a surf board as they roll on the ground or move through the air, you bounce off of each other like balls (this is a tactic used by your opponents a lot in later fights), you’ll land on their arm as they punch, and jump off of it… it’s ridiculous.
The fun continues with the aforementioned less than stellar sound and visuals, but, since I’ve already mentioned those things in-depth earlier, I’ll just leave them be. So up next, we get to the gameplay. Sure, there are a fair number of moves locked to that one attack button, but with the control issues I mentioned, really only about half of the regular moves are actually useful. And unless your character has a projectile special attack, that’s really no better than a regular punch or kick in terms of range and damage. As for the moves and such that are affected considerably by the iffy controls? Well, they leave you open to being either pummeled during the move itself due to its delay/slowness, or having the computer easily avoid the attack. The end result of all this, more often than not, is a tiring marathon of ‘who can jump kick the other the most’ battles, dotted with spells. Oh yeah, and did I mention there’s no blocking? Yep. No blocking, in a fighting game. I wonder who thought that was a great idea?
Keeping those “great” ideas rolling along, buying health back between rounds, while innovative at the time, was not a good idea. You’re not buying extra health; you’re just refilling your health bar with your meager earnings. And as if that weren’t chintzy enough, each fight takes away at least some of any purchased power, even if you win. Yes, you have to buy back the power you bought to use during the previous match. And then there are the matches themselves. Long, drawn out borefests that owe part of their sleep-inducing quality to how little damage nearly every move does (except for when you knock down an enemy), and part to the aforementioned lack of really useful moves.
To add more fuel to the fire, you can turn around and face the wrong way during any point in a fight. For some reason, the people behind this game thought that was a better idea than making the characters turn around automatically so the always faced each other. Those people were quite wrong… doubly so given how long it takes your character to actually turn around. It’s done slow enough that it gives the CPU opponent plenty of time to get in some free hits, or even knock you down. Speaking of which, when you get knocked down (which happens every two to four hits), then you’re automatically spun around so that when you stand up again, your back’s to your opponent. Nice, huh?
On a final note, this game also has some slowdown and flicker. For as basic as the graphics are, and how little is on the screen, you’ll actually encounter these things. It’s really rather startling to think that this game is so badly coded, that even with how behind the curve is was in 1991 on nearly every facet, it still can’t avoid those issues.
So what can be said about Slaughter Sport? Not much positive, that’s for sure. This game is simply bogged down with so-so at best graphics and designs, bad music and sound effects, poor controls and hit detection, bizarre character contact behavior, having to buy health to refill your life bar and other odd design choices… it’s just abysmal and not fun at all. Being able to buy spells and such between rounds is an interesting idea, but it being interesting doesn’t make this game any better. The only really positive things that can be said about Slaughter Sport is that the roster is good sized, with some characters that look OK and animate decently at times. Outside of that, this game looks bad, sounds bad, and plays bad. It only avoids getting a lower score because of the previously mentioned mediocre character visuals, and that it is reasonably playable. You can actually beat it if you’ve got the wherewithal to sit through its many shortcomings. But why would you want to?
SCORE: 3 out of 10