Today marks the first day of August. Can you believe we’re already more than halfway through 2017? Time seems to fly the older you get. Speaking of time, I remember a time when fighting games ruled the scene. Some like to refer to that period as “The Fighting Game Golden Age.” Capcom’s Street Fighter II took the nation by storm in 1991 and a slew of copycats came out of the woodwork in the next several years to come. Everyone was kung fu fighting and seemingly every company wanted a piece of the pie. Hell, even Konami had their own representatives (Martial Champion and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters). Data East joined the fray with their release of Fighter’s History in March of 1993. And it turned out to be one of the most infamous Street Fighter II clones of all time. Capcom even tried to sue Data East for copyright infringement. But more on that later. When I think of Fighter’s History, what I remember most was that very special time in my life. Being that today is the first of August, that means it’s been 23 years since Fighter’s History came home on the SNES. Damn, were the ’90s a special time…
A GOLDEN AGE
I caught the fighting game boom at just the right time, having been born in 1983. By the time the early ’90s rolled around and leading up to the mid ’90s, I was old enough to appreciate it yet still young enough to take it all in with a sense of wonder that only comes with being seven to 11 years old.
The arcade scene was on fire in 1993, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis waged war for 16-bit supremacy, and I was just a carefree kid enjoying the tail end of my childhood. Duties included going to school everyday, getting good grades, watching Saturday morning cartoons, and of course, playing a crap load of video games.
In my book, 1993 (along with ’94) marked the peak of the 2D fighting game in terms of clones appearing left and right. It seemed as if a new fighting game popped up every other week in those days. From Atlus’ Power Instinct to Konami’s Martial Champion, every company and their brothers, or so it seemed, threw their name into the mix hoping to strike the next big thing. Of course, like any other genre, not all of these clones were great. And very few could even sniff the jock of Street Fighter II, much less its enhanced sequels. Still, some served as amusing diversions.
But not everyone was happy about it. Although a lot of people loved fighting games in those days, not everyone was a fan. To these folks it was hardly a golden age. The market became saturated seemingly overnight. From arcades to game stores to magazine covers — you name it — a fighting game was probably there. Luckily for me, it was my favorite genre. I greeted every new fighting game with arms wide open. And I’ll never forget that day I first came across Fighter’s History…
If you were lucky like I was, then growing up you had a close-knit gaming group. I had my best friend Nelson and all, but then I had my boys — an out of town group of family friends whom I grew up playing games with. We had sleepovers every month back in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. One Saturday in early 1993, we made our usual trek to the local mall and headed straight for the arcade hall on the upstairs wing. I’ll never forget that place, CYBERSTATION.
A brand new cab caught my eye with its colorful and cheesy art work proudly adorning all sides of the machine. It was love at first sight you could say. Like a moth to a flame, I dashed to the game, fumbled around in my pocket, fished out a quarter and plopped it in. The rest is (Fighter’s) history!
Looking up at the colorful marquee, I saw what resembled Guile on crack, Ken and He-Man’s love child, Zangief’s second cousin (neverminding the fact that Data East’s version is Italian) and wait, was that? Yes! The fat bald Russian himself, Karnov! My uncle bought Karnov for me on the NES back in the late ’80s and I loved it.
I was instantly sold. I selected discount Guile (Matlok) and never looked back. The ONLY thing I could think about the rest of that day was… not IF but WHEN would Fighter’s History come home to the Super Nintendo…
Roughly a year later, my prayers were answered. In March 1994, EGM’s issue #57 arrived in the mail, featuring Fighter’s History on the cover. I was so excited as I knew that had to be referring to an impending SNES release. The moment I had been waiting an entire year for! I flipped through the magazine excitedly hoping for a blow-out two page preview or something. But all I got was a half page preview of the import version with a few grainy shots. But I didn’t care — I was too happy to finally receive confirmation of a home release.
EGM issue #58 came in the mail the very next month. Back in the day this was TRULY like seeing a gift with your name on it tucked under the Christmas tree. We had no internet back then so EGM (and other magazines like GameFan) were our major source for gaming news and upcoming releases. It was a magical time of seeing so many games that you knew you could never all play but wanted to anyway. Yup, there was nothing quite like seeing the latest EGM issue wrapped all pretty and ready to go sitting in your mailbox after a long day at school!
I’ll never forget grabbing the issue like it were a drop of water in the Sahara Desert and making a beeline straight for my bedroom. Before tearing the wrapper, I took a moment to gawk at the front cover. The fighting game rage carried into 1994 without blinking an eye and EGM was there every step of the way. What a gorgeous cover! Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Mortal Kombat II… whoa wait a second. Fighter’s History?! YES! The month prior saw a half-page preview so I was expecting a BLOW-OUT special. It turned out to be an AMAZING two page mini-feature with a blurb that the SNES port would be coming out later that summer. I was so hyped that I admired and reread those two pages until my brother came home about 10 minutes later. I didn’t even bother to glance over the rest of the magazine! It was only a matter of three or four months now…
The North American version was set for an August 1994 release, but as Lady Luck would have it, my best friend Nelson and I came across the import Super Famicom version one fateful Saturday in June. I’ve told this story many times already so feel free to check out The Summer of Imports for more details. But yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a blurb about that awesome experience in this Fighter’s History review. Nelson rented Fighter’s History and I rented King of the Monsters 2. These games weren’t out in America yet and needless to say, it was one epic weekend for the ages.
THE STORY GOES…
Leaving the gym after a strenuous workout, you spot a towering and sharply dressed man stepping out of a nearby parked luxury Sedan. His stoic expression and formal attire conveys that he is all business. You brace yourself as he lurches up to you, handing you a small sealed envelope. His only words as you grasp the note, “For you.” Then the mysterious man left as quickly as he came. The tires screeched as he peeled out of town as fast as a bat in hell.
There’s a strange scent to the envelope — incense? Your name is scrawled on the outside. Inside, you discover an invitation…
Who is this mysterious K person? What are these so-called untold treasures? There’s only one way to find out for sure…
Fighter’s History featured an odd nine characters. Back in ’93, most fighting games opened with eight fighters. I always found it cool how Data East “sneaked in” one extra fighter. The cast had its share of “serious” fighters and more wacky looking ones. The roster instantly appealed to me.
It was all the rage back in the day for home ports to include a boss code. Most arcade fighting games didn’t let you control the bosses back in the early-mid ’90s but many home ports did. It was one of the cool things that made these home ports so memorable.
The 2 Player mode displays 20 portraits. This always cracked me up as a kid. It was a fun visual, giving you a sense of what a fighting game would look like if you could pick from 20 characters back in 1994. It was just another one of many quirks that inhabited Fighter’s History.
27 years old
6’2″ 209 lbs
A survivor on the streets of Tokyo for years, Mizoguchi learned the importance of self-defense after being beaten by the Yakuza as a youth. Ever since that life-changing day, he has been rigorously training to ensure that it never happens again. What started out as a means for mere survival slowly morphed into a thirst for painful vengeance. Finally, that vengeance evolved into honing his incredibly disciplined and unadulterated power. The Yakuza, having seen one too many Taken and John Wick movies, now stay the f*ck away from him.
Mizoguchi fine tunes his body, mind and spirit on this bridge of tranquility. A peaceful (yet raging) waterfall flows on both sides of the stage. Tassels flap as a cool breeze passes through. The sun is just breaking over the horizon as Mizoguchi continues his quest to be the very best.
Mizoguchi is the resident Ryu. Except he doesn’t have a traditional Dragon Punch. Instead, he charges with his elbow. His Hurricane Kick variant can connect multiple times, dishing out tremendous damage. Love the way you can break objects in the background! A nod to Street Fighter II, for sure. Mizoguchi channels the power of the tiger spirit to unleash his infamous Tiger Bazooka. Word on the street is… he wiped out five Yakuza members with a single Tiger Bazooka blow. Ever since then, the Yakuza have spoke only in hushed tones whenever talking about him. He’s become something of a “boogeyman” to them…
Ray began studying martial arts as a young boy after being inspired by his childhood hero, the legendary Chuck Norris. When Ray was five, he witnessed his idol’s crushing on-screen defeat at the hands of the iconic Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon (1972). Ever since then, Ray has vowed to one day become the greatest martial artist the world has ever seen. He’s now considered as one of the best fighters at just 26 years old and spends his days traveling the globe in search of true competition. Ray entered this mysterious tournament after hearing the rumors about an unstoppable boogeyman that supposedly even the Yakuza fears…
Ever the patriotic lad, Ray McDougal likes to entertain the Commander in Chief by showing off his skills in front of the iconic White House in Washington, D.C.
Looks like Ken but plays like Terry Bogard. Ray’s Big Tornado is infamous for sounding more like “BAKED POTATO!” His Wheel Kick is a decent anti-air attack and his Dynamite Tackle makes good use out of Ray’s high school varsity football background.
Speaking of background, it’s fun breaking the trash can
Wrestling legend Jake “The Snake” Roberts would be proud. A multi-sport athlete in high school, Ray shows off his wrestling chops with this deadly mid-air DDT.
28 years old
5’7″ ??? lbs
Adored by her fans in Asia and renowned the world over for her fighting prowess, Fei-Lin is the top actress in a Beijing traveling show. It’s a wonder how she manages to juggle the two worlds so well. It’s one thing to be good at both simultaneously but it’s another thing to be GREAT. After winning the tournament, she plans to tape her very own reality show “I LOVE BEIJING” (Beijing being her stage name). After all, we all know what a success “I Love New York” turned out to be. Ahem. What a talent and what a classy (albeit dramatic) lady, that Fei-Lin.
Fei-Lin proudly shows off her heritage. Sitting in the back there is the kid star from Martin Scorsese’s KUNDUN. Fei-Lin attracts all the stars. Rumor has it Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee are both sitting just off camera.
Beware her Mantis Claw, which can also be executed in mid-air. What happens when you combine Ryu’s Dragon Punch with Guile’s Flash Kick? You get Fei-Lin’s Double Swan. I love the detail of the dragon statue being breakable. Fun fact: the dragon is known as a “Foo Dog” in Chinese mythology.
16 years old
5’2″ 123 lbs
The smallest and youngest competitor in the tournament, Ryoko is a Judo prodigy not to be taken lightly. She’s been known to throw men four times her size! A chippy firecracker, her grandfather (a Judo champion in his heyday) began teaching her the tricks of the trade since she was just three years old. As a result of his diligent teaching and her incredible propensity to soak up knowledge like a sponge, Ryoko has achieved master status of all things Judo. She joined the tournament to be an inspiration to little girls all over the globe and to show that the ladies can do it just as well as the boys, if not better.
This is where Ryoko trains 24/7. A young boy and an old woman can be seen sweeping and cleaning in the background. Occasionally, a mischievous cat scurries about.
Jumping against Ryoko is ill-advised…
Staying grounded doesn’t provide much safe harbor, either. Pick your poison! Ryoko is rather animated with her silly cute gestures and all.
Rolling attack into her big Mountain Storm slam is incredibly damaging. Breaking the statue only adds insult to injury.
23 years old
6’0″ 209 lbs
A French gymnast, Jean possesses fantastic flexibility. For some unknown reason, he seems borderline obsessed with roses. In fact, he even moonlights as a proud florist during his down time. Because of his gymnastic background and penchant for roses, many haters have called him SISSY BOY. They laughed… until he broke their jaws. When it comes down to it, Jean knows how to get the job done and proves that you should never judge a book by its cover. By the way, if you’re thinking he looks like a French version of Guile, you’re not alone. That was exactly my first thought when I first saw Jean back in 1993. He’s nowhere as cool, though. But hey, who is?
The tables have been cleared, transforming this elegant dining hall into a vicious battle field.
Normally, a rose is a romantic symbol. It’s associated with love, peace and forgiveness. But for Jean, he uses the rose to inflict pain. His Needle Shower can pepper the opposition and he’s agile enough to move forward while executing the move.
21 years old
6’3″ 168 lbs
There is only one thing Samchay loves more than the spirit of competition: his two younger brothers and little sister. Samchay’s parents are no longer in the picture so he’s been forced to take care of his three younger siblings. He’ll do anything to take care of them. A Muay Thai expert, he’s entered the tournament in hopes of not only proving that he’s the best, but also to win the “untold treasures” to ensure a future of endless possibilities for his siblings. What a guy. As for his parents, rumors swirl about where they could be or what happened to them. One thing is for sure, it must not be good. Samchay declines to comment and instead focuses only on what lies ahead.
There’s just something beautiful about the simplicity of this stage. It’s exactly what I imagine a fighting game background to look like. Samchay’s supporters cheer him on from a safe distance in this quaint Thailand village. It’s standing room only up on that bridge!
Samchay has one of the fastest fireballs as well as one of the best recovery times. His lunging knee can connect up to two times, and his Tiger Knee, I mean, Ti Kau Koon, works well as either an anti-air deterrent or a combo capper.
Lee comes from a long family line of world renowned martial artists. He admired his father growing up and often compared himself to his dad. He put a lot of undue pressure on himself to live up to even half of his dad’s legacy. Unfortunately, Lee’s father was killed by a mysterious opponent. After hearing word that this killer is responsible for the tournament, Lee entered it in hopes of avenging his dad’s death at long last. But before Lee can make it to this mysterious organizer, he’s going to have to beat nine other skilled warriors. He believes he’s up to the task.
So peaceful and serene. This is one of my favorite stages of all time. A fisherman can be seen in the background dipping his line lazily in the water. The clouds high above float through the moss-covered hills in the distance. And those damn ducks — you can’t help but love them.
Along the lines of Ray’s “BAKED POTATO!”, Lee sounds like he’s screaming “SHE AIN’T GON DIE!” Ah, Fighter’s History, you’re such a silly game. Lee’s Silk Worm Kick knocks opponents out of the air and his Piercing Dagger sees him lunging with all of his chi focused on his fist.
Nothing like palm striking them through the sign!
45 years old
6’8″ 331 lbs
Father Time is undefeated. It happens to all the greats. Willie Mays. Michael Jordan. Joe Montana. Every star athlete hits a point where their best days are behind them and they must call it a career. Marstorius isn’t quite ready for that moment just yet. A fading pro wrestling icon, Marstorius wants to bask in the spotlight one more time. There’s no better platform to showcase he’s still got it than in this great tournament. He is the strongest fighter in the competition but also the oldest and slowest. He’s got a tough road ahead but his dreaded Double German is the most powerful move in the entire tournament. He hopes it’ll be enough to take him to the top one last time…
Another favorite of mine, this stage is as serene as it is majestic. Striking statues dot the backdrop and a quaint water fountain flows peacefully as combatants duel to the death.
Based off the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy, I’ve always loved it when fighting games base some of their backgrounds off real life landmarks. Another example that comes to mind is Fei Long’s Tiger Balm Garden of Hong Kong fame in Super Street Fighter II.
Despite his larger size and older age, Marstorius still has enough spring in his step to deliver two quick striking attacks: the Mule Kick and the Tiger Punch. He can also deliver an impressive Moonsault Press. Not bad for a 45 year old, eh?
“DOUBLE GERMAN!” He hopes this devastating maneuver will punch his ticket to the Promise Land.
26 years old
5’8″ 132 lbs
The man, the myth, the legend. Matlok was the first character I chose on that fateful Saturday back in ’93 when I first encountered Fighter’s History. He reminded me of a cross between Guile (Street Fighter II) and Duck King (Fatal Fury). Sold! Based off the Sex Pistols’ bass guitarist, Glen Matlock, Matlok is an aspiring rock star. But in order for him to rock out, first he must simply knock out. His unorthodox offense and unusual body movements are done purposefully in an attempt to throw off his opponent. Matlok hopes to win it all because there is supposedly a legendary bass that will play any song in the world hidden in the treasure vault.
I love that Matlok fights in the streets. A police officer tries to stop the carnage by blowing his whistle. A punk cheers on the mayhem while a man quietly walks his dog for a mid-afternoon stroll. A mom and pop book shop can be seen in the background overlooking the fighters.
Matlok’s Spinning Wave to me is a classic projectile. I remember thinking how it was almost as cool as Guile’s famed Sonic Boom. His Overhead Kick is a weird looking version of Guile’s Flash Kick. Even weirder is his Hurricane Kick, which might be the world’s worst anti-air attack. You’re better off using his crouching Fierce. Trust me on that one.
32 years old
5’9″ 141 lbs
Clown is the sub boss you’ll fight before taking on the almighty Karnov. You can knock off his mask (it’s his weak point) but be forewarned… his face is the stuff nightmares are made of. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment the world’s ugliest looking dog. That’s what Clown looks like underneath his creepy mask. Clown, of course, believes he’s beautiful. Rumor has it he wears the suit and clown get-up 24/7. It’s a wonder how he’s not sitting in some nuthouse with four white walls yet! He’s also a narcissist and “ambiguously” homosexual. In the original Japanese version, it’s revealed that he prefers younger men. This was removed in North America.
Fighters are secretly transported to this bizarre dreamlike alternate universe that exists somewhere between Heaven and Hell. It’s all part of his strategy to psych you out before the battle even takes place.
Clown uses his acrobatic agility to pounce on unsuspecting opponents. You know how every Tarot deck of cards has that one “death” card? That’s the only kind Clown dishes out as he screams, “PICK A CARD!” His Spin Attack can go horizontal or vertical. Shades of Blanka, except Blanka is easier on the eyes!
Clowns juggle. It’s just what they do. Clown, however, prefers to juggle the human body. A real sick bastard, that Clown.
49 years old
5’6″ 216 lbs
The mysterious K himself… the mighty Karnov! Karnov appeared in several other Data East games before Fighter’s History. In fact, he had his very own arcade game that was later translated to the NES in early 1988. The fire-breathing, ass-kicking Russian has gained great power and many collectible items throughout his travels. Bored, he set up this tournament to seek the strongest of the strong, offering his prized treasures as a gift to the ultimate winner. However, it won’t be easy. Though he may be pushing 50, Karnov is a formidable fighter and will burn you before you can say “BAKED POTATO!”
They say a desert drives a man insane. If it doesn’t, then Karnov is sure to beat you senseless.
Karnov has never once skipped Leg Day, and it shows with his 100 Kick. A master of conjuring fire, he can burn you to a crisp three different ways. The fiery animation is decent and reminds me of Street Fighter II.
Some of the endings were forgettable but others were so bizarre that I gotta share… (some of which may have been handled with “liberties” taken… ahem)
Fighter’s History came out in the arcades March 1993. World Heroes 2 April 1993. Separated by only one month, it turned out both companies created a fighter based off Ryoko Tani. What a coincidence, huh?
THAT HITS THE MARK
Each fighter has a different weak spot (either a garment or accessory). When hit multiple times, said article will fly off and induce a state of dizziness.
Jean: Leg strap
Lee: Knee pads
Fei-Lin: Breast plate
Samchay: Arm tassels
Ray: Lightning symbol
Marstorius: Leg warmers
BE YOUR OWN BOSS
COLOR ME BADD
HE WHO LAUGHS LAST…
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVES
CAPCOM SUES DATA EAST
There was a page long Letter of the Month updating the latest on the Capcom vs. Data East lawsuit featured in EGM issue #58 (May 1994). The best part of all this?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Fighter’s History fared pretty well with the critics. EGM gave it ratings of 6, 6, 7 and 8. GameFan gave it scores of 80, 82 and 84%. Super Play rated it 85% and thought rather highly of the game. They were especially tough on fighting games so it impressed them well enough to earn such a good mark. Fighter’s History was complimented for its smooth control and exclusive home bonus features (four colors, an elimination mode, playable bosses and even a speed option). I personally think it’s one of the more faithful arcade to SNES translations ever made. It’s really underrated and never got the credit it deserved. Probably has a lot to do with it coming a month after Super Street Fighter II. Talk about piss poor timing. But yeah, you can’t fault Data East here. They did a tremendous job porting the arcade game into a 20 MEG Super Nintendo cart.
As far as arcade to home ports go, Fighter’s History is one of the best the SNES has ever seen. I was amazed by the faithfulness of this translation back in 1994, and even still to this day I am impressed with how much Data East was able to mimic the arcade original. Features such as four colors, a speed option, playable bosses and a group battle mode show that this wasn’t just a half-baked effort. They really went all in. While they received some props for it, I don’t think sadly that they ever got all the credit they deserved for it. Super Street Fighter II came out a month earlier and as a result Fighter’s History got lost in the mix somewhat. Some of my best gaming memories came from that scorching summer of 1994. Playing the import version at my best friend’s house and seeing Lee’s bucolic background, with those damn ducks and moss-covered hills, seared itself into my memory bank. I still bust out Fighter’s History to play every once in a while, and whenever I do and I see Lee’s stage, I’m instantly transported back to Nelson’s living room. It’s a hot June Saturday afternoon in 1994. And I’m just taken back to a more carefree time in my life. Fighter’s History is so incredibly nostalgic for me. It’s just one of those games that scream “CHILDHOOD” beyond anything else.
But nostalgia only goes so far. Thankfully, it still holds up incredibly well. It’s nothing fancy. Being a fighting game from early 1993 meant it came out before Super Special moves became a thing and double digit hit combos were all the rage. Instead, each fighter has three special moves (maybe four) and some simple chains and combos. It’s very basic but also very pure. There’s something “magical” about that. Basically, if you enjoy simplistic fighting games from the early ’90s then you’ll probably like this. Combos and special moves are easy to perform and it’s very straight forward. But there’s a charm to it, at least for me, that reminds me of a time when fighting games ruled the scene. A more perhaps idyllic time in my life when fighting games were all the rage and playing video games with your best friend stood center stage. I have a lot of history, pardon the pun, with Fighter’s History. To me it’s a reminder of the good old days. And I’m thankful that Data East knocked it out of the park with this outstanding conversion. Not much else to say except… “BAKED POTATO!”