During that year everybody was listening to Whigfield’s “Saturday Night” and trying to replicate the dance (badly) at weddings/christenings/wherever. Wet Wet Wet’s “Love Is All Around” turned us into dribbling exhausted wrecks by simply not going away and Baby D wanted to be all our fantasies. The box office had a new number 1 star in Jim Carrey who filled our screens with not just one but a total of three movies (Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber). We also learned what “Hakuna Matata” meant and Tom Hanks walked away from the Oscars with pretty much every award going for portraying the life affirming simpleton Forrest Gump.
Games had a great year too but I’m not here to talk about those titles. No, I want to talk about one specific genre; Beat em ups. Before we get to that, here’s something to use as comparison of what was hitting our machines in ’94.
Is it me or was there an inexplicable amount of shite fighting titles released that year? It was as if every publisher wanted to release the next big franchise but ended up just defecating a vast load of steaming tripe. For example: RISE OF THE ROBOTS
Rise of The Robots Developed by Mirage and published by Time Warner Interactive, it was hailed as a technical triumph when the previews were touted around. Sadly there was so much emphasis on visuals they forgot to put gameplay into it. The style was CG rendered robots who were then photographed and animated like Mortal Kombat. The plot was ripped almost directly out of Terminator and was so simplistic even the worst player could complete the whole game by executing the same move over and over again. The reviews were unanimous in their lambasting of it. The game bombed and rightly so as it was a god damn awful excuse for a fighter (I’m speaking from experience as I actually bought this pile of scrap).
Originally developed by Visual Concepts and published by Interplay Entertainment, this is probably the highest rated in terms of reviews. It took the MK animation formula and in-putted clay figurines instead of photographed people. It did modestly sales wise and spawned two sequels. But deep down it didn’t really have much more than a novel concept and some interesting looking characters. It’s level of combat was shallow and wasn’t even close to being considered in the same league as Street Fighter 2 or Midway’s gore soaked franchise. There’s a little bit of retro kitsche to this release but ultimately, once home console could handle truely 3D polygons, this style of game died quicker than a cowboy called Billy in a western.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
Ok so this was actually a 1993 release but it was ported over to the Sega Megadrive in 1994 so it still counts in my books. Based on the movie that blatantly lies… I mean… tells the true story about Bruce Lee you had to fight through many set pieces as the Jeet Kune Do master. Well what can I say? It was as shallow as you’d expect from a movie tie. Some felt it wasn’t “too bad” but that was likely because they also saw the film and realised that it could have been worse. The only almost redeemable feature was the ability to play up to 3 player co-op in the game. Sadly that meant you had 3 Bruce Lee’s on screen in different coloured trousers which was more confusing than a Jeremy Kyle paternity test.
The Battle Of The Ballz Never has a game title been so right. Developed by PF Magic and published by Accolade this Beat Em Up tried desperately to be the first polygon based fighter on 16 bit home consoles. Sadly it was simply an extremely expensive tech demo as apart from the visuals it was flatter than most other 2D games in the genre. The battle system was just awful and was as technical as a paper aeroplane. It’s slogan at the start was just infantile “to be the champion, you gotta have Ballz!” And to make things worse the ad campaign didn’t even make it clear it was a fighting game. Oh, and it had a farting monkey as a character. Utter utter Ballz indeed!
Way Of The Warrior
Developed by Naughty Dog (yes you read that right) for the 3DO system it took a huge chunk out of Mortal Kombat’s book. It was made using friends as the character models, the costumes were thrown together by themselves and mostly photographed in Jason Rubin’s apartment. It wasn’t at all surprising then, that Rubin’s neighbours saw many people going in and out of the flat in awful costumes – making loud grunting noises and just assumed they were making adult films (which I maintain would have been a better use of resources). Ultimately it was a pale “klone” (get it?) of the MK franchise and boasted about having “more fatalities” than the arcade classic. Interestingly though, due to the lack of content on the 3DO it ended up selling moderately well and saved Naughty Dog from Bankruptcy. They then went on to bigger and better things with Crash Bandicoot for Sony and the rest is history. But Way Of The Warrior is still garbage. Now let’s just forget this ever happened shall we?
Released on the Atari Jaguar, it was panned as a poor MK klone and for good reason. Hand Made Software rushed the project to release it in time for Christmas and in order to achieve this removed any sign of a story. This meant the majority of the characters had no real context as to why they were kicking seven shades of shit out of each other. The controller on the Jaguar didn’t help things as it was a bad design too. It’s only redeemable feature was the ability to turn the gore off in a bid to placate parents who were still foaming at the mouth over the MK controversy. (ed note. I especially loved the scotsman who shot fireballs from under his kilt)
Street Fighter The Movie… The Game
Concieved in 1994 to coincide with the movie release it was delayed until June 1995. But this has 1994 written all over it! What could be worse than another shitty Mortal Kombat klone? A shitty Mortal Kombat klone that’s also an even shittier Street Fighter game. Play as Jean Claude Van Damme (playing Guile) as he tackles the evil M.Bison and his minions to save the world. I could go into the crux of why this was a bad idea but I’m simply not going to waste my time on it when one of my colleagues features seems a perfect for this title (nudge, nudge, wink, wink Terry). In fact I’m just going to end this by sticking two literary fingers up to all that were involved \ /
There, I feel better now!
Yes, you knew it was coming. Another MK klone that wanted to lampoon the blood soaked cultural phenomenon. It had a surreal story about magic ink that gave people powers when they had it tattooed into them. For example: if they had a dragon cut into them it could come to life and attack the opponent. It was supposed to have thousands of fatalities to unlock and really mock the more extreme aspects of the Midway best seller. The game was supposed to be released 1994 but was gated after poor feedback and development issues. Several arcade cabinets were produced to build interest at gaming shows but the majority were scrapped afterwards when it all went cold. The game featured some incredibly surreal moments from nudalities (stripping the loser naked) and a lot of poor toilet humour (one character shoots fire out of their arse and burns the other person to death). The game got pretty far into development and became the stuff of legend. Clearly the developers knew there was something wrong and chose wisely to stop while they were ahead but the fact it exists at all means it was worth including. The are dark corners of the internet where Roms of the most polished build are said to exist apparently.
Tags: 1994, Ballz 3D, Beat Em Up, Clay Fighter, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Kasumi Ninja, Retrospective, Rise of the Robots, Street Fighter the Movie the Game, Tattoo Assassins, Vintage Gaming, Way of the Warrior