My uncle, the same crazy uncle who introduced me to Halloween as a kid, took me and my brother to Target one night in 1989. At that time we had our Nintendo for a good two years. I vividly recall browsing the toy section, gawking at the latest in the DINO RIDERS lineup. I had just seen the cartoon which I thought was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. Then, as tradition dictated it, we migrated from the toy section to the video game center. Upon seeing the epic Karnov box, we immediately fell in love with the exotic art. Our uncle took notice of our excitement and bought the game on the spot without either one of us even needing to beg him. That was good ol’ Uncle Jimmy for ya, always the super cool uncle saint that he was.
We came rushing home that night, mom in the doorway berating my uncle for buying us the game. As always, he played it cool and managed to diffuse the situation. Back then Uncle Jimmy played his fair spot of games too, and I fondly remember how the three of us retired to the gaming room for the evening. We began alternating play, though mostly my brother Kevin played. Luckily it turned out to be a good game and not a dud, which was always a risk when basing your purchase decisions solely off the art of a box cover. But that’s how it was in those olden days, you see. You relied on your friends, your local mom and pop shop, and your gut instincts. We never could beat Karnov, but we always had a blast trying. We’ve long since passed it on to our cousin David, Uncle Jimmy’s son, and David has long since lost the game to the sands of time. But I will always remember the fun times we shared with Karnov — from that innocent night at Target to all the evenings spent between the three of us trying our damnedest to beat the game once and for all.
Anyone remember this? I wanted to buy it but since we had the NES game my parents never did.
Instead I got this lousy piece of crap. OK it wasn’t THATbad; I spent quite a few road trips playing this in the backseat after all, but I bet it ain’t no Karnov!
Long before he turned to the dark side, Karnov was a brave and vigilant soul. Let’s check it out…
Magically transported here via a lightning bolt, right away I knew Karnov would not disappoint. The dragon statue there set the mood proper, and the three of us — my uncle, my brother and myself — were off and running.
These icons add some extra depth and strategy to the game. They have different effects and finding out which one works best where will go a long way in seeing you through. The ladder allows you to reach items you couldn’t otherwise. Simply climb down and the ladder is safely back in your inventory. Sweet.
Remember how they seemed to laugh at you as they threw their rocks? It’s funny how we recall the smallest most obscure memories…
But as soon you open fire, it springs to life firing right back at ya. I love the bizarre baddies in Karnov. The game has a certain weird and charming quasi-Gothic atmosphere to it, and the enemy roster is one major reason why.
See? Welcome to bizarre-o world!
This guy (er, girl?) is strange as hell.
As a kid I found this first boss wildly fascinating. What’s that funky green thing he shoots at you anyway? And where’s it coming from? Hmmm, perhaps better not to know eh?
In an era where many action games felt hindered by rigid control, maneuvering the fiery Russian was a breath of fresh air. Rarely did I feel like blaming my failures in this game on the control. For a big guy, Karnov sure can move!
Duck and shoot rapidly left and right… Karnov can do it all.
This boss reminds me of Rowdain from Super Castlevania IV. I love the detail of the lion being green — the whole game just oozes an exotic, mythical atmosphere, as the box art suggested. Nice for a change that a cool box art did not deceive us!
You can either climb the tree or jump on it. The advantage of jumping is speed. You’ll get up a lot quicker and be less vulnerable. Sure, you can still fire while you’re climbing, but it’s safer to jump up it. I love when games give the player options.
Luckily, these rockmen are a different shade from the other rocks, so you can easily distinguish when danger is imminent. BTW, maybe it’s just me but they remind me of the villains from Matango (AKA Attack of the Mushroom People).
Don’t underestimate these bastards. Thankfully, you can shoot down the rocks.
Ol’ T-Rex here may not seem so imposing NOW but that wasn’t the case over 30 years ago, at least not for me it was. I marveled at his size and his simple but effective design was truly memorable for its time.
Alright, I lied. Set up the ladder and hop on that little edge there. A red dot (Karnov’s power-up icon, if you need it) pops up conveniently, and the bombs will appear when you make your way across. It’s cool how they use the ladder to trigger secrets in this game. I remember how my brother and I gave each other a big hi-five like two geeks when we first discovered this secret over 30 years ago.
I thought the T-Rex boss in the last level was nasty… turns out I hadn’t seen SQUAT yet!
It lunges and moves in a way you wish it wouldn’t! This is what a terrifying and unsettling boss looks like.
Thank God Karnov can’t lose those fancy trousers. We don’t need to see no Sir Arthur here, no siree. Instead he goes gray when he’s down to his last hit.
Back in 1993, during the golden days of the fighting game genre, Data East threw their name in the name they released Fighter’s History. The final boss of that game saw the return of Karnov. Fighter’s History is most well known for its lawsuit with Capcom. Capcom felt that Data East ripped off the “feel and spirit” of the almighty Street Fighter II. Capcom lost the case in court. Fighter’s History to this day remains a guilty pleasure of mine.
Back in the late ’80s to early ’90s, my brother and I only received at most 2-3 NES games a year. So the ones we did get we had to make sure would be worth it. Usually we relied on friends or on renting to determine if a game was worth owning. In the case of Karnov neither my brother or I had previously played it, or even heard of it. However, the art on the front and back had us sold. Going by such and only such usually spells disaster but thankfully Karnov didn’t disappoint. This game has sort of a Gothic atmosphere that is unlike many other NES games. Its various locales, strange enemies and bosses, not to mention its very distinctly middle Eastern musical styling, evokes a mythical almost goth-like air of mystery that permeates throughout the game’s nine levels. There are also multiple paths and plenty of secrets to encourage repeated play. Icons add further depth and strategy. Plus I always found myself pulled to the portly protagonist. There’s something about the bald Russian that is oddly appealing. It’s not a great game, but I find it to be rather solid and a notable effort in the vast 8-bit Nintendo library.
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 TRULYlike 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 AMAZINGtwo 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.
MIZOGUCHI 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 26 years old 6’1″ 198 lbs
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.
FEI-LIN 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.
RYOKO 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.
JEAN 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.
SAMCHAY 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 29 years old
5’9″ 165 lbs
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!
MARSTORIUS 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.
MATLOK 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.
CLOWN 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.
KARNOV 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.
Clown: Mask Jean: Leg strap Lee: Knee pads Karnov: Turban Ryoko: Headband Matlok: Sunglasses Fei-Lin: Breast plate Mizoguchi: Headband 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, 7and 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!”
I grew up loving fighting games. Being born in 1983, I was around 8-11 right when it was the “Golden Age of Fighting Games” (circa 1991-1994). I ate up the Street Fighter II clones that popped up overnight like a bad pimple on prom night. One of my favorites was Data East’s Fighter’s History (1993). The first time I saw its colorful, comic-book like cabinet, it was instant love. The game has a mixed bag reputation (leaning more toward “below par”) but I’ve always liked it.
One of my fondest gaming memories involves the summer of 1994. That was a summer for the ages. It was…
It’s a true story that was featured in Rob Strangman’s 2014 book “Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman” (which can be found on Amazon.com, cheap plug).
On one epic June morning, my old best friend Nelson and I came across three imports in the flesh that were months away from their US release. It was, in a word, glorious.
I have fond memories of playing Super Famicom Fighter’s History that hot summer day at Nelson’s. We would switch off and it was an awesome time to be a carefree kid growing up in suburbia.
This image is seared into my memory bank even 22 years later:
Takes me right back to Nelson’s living room on a hot June afternoon of 1994. Such amazing memories. On a side note, the SNES Fighter’s History port doesn’t get enough credit. It’s one of the best arcade-to-SNES translations I have played. Really well done by Data East.
Fighter’s History Dynamite came out in arcades in 1994. It is also known as Karnov’s Revenge.
But did you know there was a THIRD Fighter’s History game? And believe it or not, of all systems it was released ONLY on the Super Famicom February of 1995. Its full name is Fighter’s History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!!
It’s a fascinating little footnote in Data East history. It included the two new characters of Fighter’s History Dynamite (Yungmie and Zazie) but unfortunately did away completely with these cats:
Of course, those five guys (heh, Five Guys…) happen to be my personal favorites of the series. Go figure. Instead, here is your roster:
Stripped down to 8, it seems like a massive step back. Especially considering the 1993 original had 9 characters to begin with, and the 1994 sequel had 13 characters. To go down to 8 in 1995 seems like a waste. Therefore, it feels like a weird remix of the first two games. Had it included all the characters, this would easily have been the definitive Fighter’s History game.
The game opens with a nice intro, at least. We’re (re)introduced to Data East’s Chelnov character, who appeared in Atomic Runner.
We’re also treated to the titular star’s special moves.
Of all people, why bring back Lee? Why? I miss Ray and his “BAKED POTATO!”
The game introduces mostly new backgrounds. Sadly, they’re not as memorable as the ones found in the first game. I always enjoyed the first game’s backgrounds. They weren’t flashy, but had a quiet solid quality backing them. By comparison here is Ryoko’s original stage below.
Back are the weak points. Knock these weak points off and the characters become dizzy. I remember as kids we were all curious and excited wondering what Fei-Lin would look like after her top came off. Oh how we were disappointed. A sign of the times it was indeed. 1993, oh I miss thee…
I loved Clown from the first game. There was a sinister element to him from the first game that is missing in this game. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but he doesn’t feel the same. Almost like it’s an imposter of the first Clown. Huh. Maybe it’s just me being weird. Good bet.
Zazie is one of two new fighters from Fighter’s History Dynamite. I never liked him much.
And Yungmie is the other one. Never liked her either. It’s a shame these two characters made the cut and that Ray, Matlok, Samchay, Jean and Marstorius were left on the cutting room floor.
Karnov’s stage from Fighter’s History Dynamite is recycled. Not bad. I’ve always liked this background. A rare instance in which I prefer the sequel’s background to the original version. Here’s Karnov’s bare bones boring stage from the original game below.
Here’s the cheat code to use him in certain modes:
Press Down, Down, Up, Up, Right, Left, L, R at the title screen after the opening intro.
Yes, the goofy announcer is back. “MIZOGUCHI… LOSES!”
TAG MODE: FOUR PLAYER FIGHTER’S HISTORY
The game’s most interesting feature is undoubtedly its FOUR player tag mode. Yes, up to four human players can plug up and play. Not at once, mind you, but it’s pretty impressive for an early 1995 fighting game. Early shades of X-Men vs. Street Fighter and the like!
As far as I know, it’s the only “4 player” fighting game on the SNES. For that alone, it’s gotta be considered at the very least, “noteworthy.” Also throw in the fact that this is the only “sequel” to an arcade game that came out exclusively on the SNES. Data East breaking all sorts of ground with this game.
See the touch sign there? Simply hit select at those points to switch out to your tag partner. There is a slight half second delay but all things considered it’s not bad, especially for 1995 16-bit standards. Quite frankly, it was pretty innovative stuff.
Two different practice modes are also available. In addition, a survival mode rounds out the extra bonuses. Nice job, Data East. Still, these cool modes don’t quite make up the difference for gutting your roster. There’s no doubt the SNES could have handled those 5 fighters. Weird, and lazy!
I have mixed feelings about this game. The sound is pretty dang awful, but it’s nice to hear that wacky announcer return. The tag mode is an awesome feature, but on the flip side cutting those 5 characters really drag it down. Also, being a big fan of SNES Fighter’s History, this game doesn’t quite possess the same physics as that game. I can’t quite describe it but play it and you’ll notice the difference(s). I much prefer the gameplay and physics of the original.
As much as I want to like this quirky fascinating footnote of a game, there is just too much about it that I don’t particularly like that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. If it had the entire Fighter’s History crew I wouldn’t hesitate to call this a definite “hidden gem.”
As is, it’s only for the hardcore fighting game fans out there or for those of you who are fascinated by the idea of playing a Super Nintendo fighting game with three buds at the “same time.” All in all, it’s hit and miss. It certainly doesn’t play poorly, and the tag feature is undeniably dope, but that roster is way too thin and the sound is difficult to stomach at times. I’m glad I got a copy but it’s disappointing to think about how much better this game could have been and should have been. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Just ask Capcom when they tried to sue Data East in 1994 for copyright infringement
This is a story of how a best friend, one groovy dad and some enticing imports made the summer of 1994 one for the ages. As a kid, I’d always dreamt of having one perfect summer. And 22 years ago…I found it.Some summers stay with you forever. Some more than others. On any given hot, lazy June Saturday afternoon, I still can’t help but think back to that fateful day. It was a summer of discovery… a summer of magic… THE SUMMER OF IMPORTS. There’s something about summer and gaming that goes together; especially though, when we were kids. There was a magic to it.
Nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like sharing it with a best friend. While I had my legendary out-of-town gaming crew, I was fortunate enough to have a best friend outside of that group, Nelson, who lived within walking distance. We grew up together being best friends since Kindergarten. He and I were often in the same class together and we shared the same interest in just about everything. We spent a bulk of our weekends hanging out and playing games. Whenever I think back to my childhood or to the glory days of gaming, inevitably, Nelson always comes to mind.
I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the memory of renting games back in the ‘90s. Every weekend my dad would take me to the local rental store(s) and I would pluck out one title to bring back home. My brother, Kevin, was too shy or embarrassed (or both) to go rent games, so he always made me his little grunt to carry out the deed. Though I was renting the games he wanted (well, at least most of the time…) there was always something magical to those pseudo-adventures my dad and I shared. It was a weekly tradition, rain or shine. Sometimes, even Nelly would join me on those renting excursions. And there was one such instance that happened 22 years ago that left an indelible mark on us, making that summer one he and I would never forget.
The year was 1994, and as the final piercing school bell of that year rang, the euphoric cries of 800 kids rang out even louder. We all knew what stood ahead: 2 and a ½ relentless months of splendid carefree summer days: no teachers, no homework, and no school to interfere with our final days of childhood. As much as I love the fall and winter seasons for Halloween and Christmas, there is nothing… and I mean NOTHING… like summer time, especially when you had a best friend like Nelson to share it with. He and I had just finished the 5th grade together. It was the best year of my childhood. My best friend was in my class; we had Mr. G, the best teacher ever; we had the two hottest girls in our class, Elaine and Jennifer, and Nelson and I were simply at the top of our game. We were 10 years old, going on 11 that summer. We had come of age, and that summer was one for the ages.
Nelson rode his bike over the very first Saturday morning of that summer and my dad drove us to Game Hunter. Game Hunter was a legendary privately owned video game rental store. It was renowned in my neck of the woods for catering to the diehard gamer. Game Hunter didn’t bother to waste time with movies. It had every video gaming system library under the sun from the 8-bit Nintendo to the Neo Geo. Being able to actually touch and pick up those classic bulky Neo Geo boxes was incredible. Game Hunter even housed an arcade machine or two, plus they had a small anime section. How many stores could claim that?! Simply put, Game Hunter was a little slice of gaming paradise.
But, what made them stand out was their unforgettable import selection. Back then, imports symbolized a whole lot more than merely just the Japanese version of a game. Indeed, back then, imports held a certain aura of mystique to them, especially when you read all the little blurbs on those games in Electronic Gaming Monthly and DieHard GameFan on a monthly basis, realizing that they were an ocean away and that you would never even so much as sniff one. Seeing a wall covered by hundreds of Super Famicom boxes never failed to amaze my little ten year old eyes. They sat on the very top shelf, purposely out of reach. It was symbolic, even. They would cover the entire upper wall from left to right. You were completely mesmerized as your eyeballs darted from one treasure to another. It was a never-ending parade of divine, exotic esctasy. These were games that were either Japanese exclusives, or Japanese versions of games that were set to hit American soil a month or two later. It was nothing short of magical, and a time in my life that I’ll always cherish.
*** FLASH BACK TO LATE 1992 ***
Game Hunter’s origins began innocently enough on what appeared to be just another ordinary Saturday morning. But as fate would have it, this particular Saturday morning was anything but. My dad and I were set to embark on our latest renting escapade together. But first we had to stop by my cousin’s house which was a good 15 minutes away. After that my dad needed to run an errand at the local drug store a block from my cousin’s house. I didn’t mind as I always enjoyed being out with my dad, especially after a long school week. Little did I know that fateful morning I would stumble upon GAME HUNTER. The store was decked out from top to bottom with video games from every system imaginable. You had the 8-bit Nintendo, Neo Geo, handheld games and everything else under the sun. I wasn’t a religious kid but I’m pretty sure I thanked God right then and there.
I made my way over to the SNES section looking for my brother’s requested title of choice. When I happened to gaze up, I discovered the upper shelf teeming with hypnotic Super Famicom imports. At that point, all bets were off as I had officially gone rogue. Sorry, Kevin. Power Athlete caught my eye. My dad lifted it off the top shelf and I examined the back of the box. It was a Street Fighter II clone. Sold! My dad obliged and that day I came home with the Japanese version of Power Moves. My brother flipped out because A). I disobeyed him and B). we found out that it didn’t even play on our Super Nintendo; it refused to fit inside the cartridge slot. I had never seen my brother so damn angry before. I promptly called Game Hunter to let them know of my plight, and they explained how I had to rent the device that allows one to play import games on an American SNES. Yeah thanks guy, you could have warned me about that before I left. Yeah, let’s just say Game Hunter was never known for their stellar customer service. But, much like how one goes to Five Guys for greasy goodness, we went to Game Hunter for their legendary and vast gaming library. After all, nobody goes to a concert for meditation.
Luckily, they still had one in stock and said they would hold it for me. So, being the great father that my old man was, we traveled back to Game Hunter to pick it up. This time, even my brother came along as he himself wanted to come see this new store that I’d hyped to the moon. Once there, our pops rented the special converter adapter for a dollar while Kevin and I stood there gawking at the import selection. The very next week, he and I went back and we picked up our 2nd import game, The Combatribes. We had fun terminating Martha Splatterhead and her sleazy gangs. Game Hunter became our new favorite store. It was revered within my gaming circle for damn good reason.
*** BACK TO JUNE 1994 ***
There Nelson and I stood, eyes popping, drool coming down the side of our mouths. On the very top shelf sat the Super Famicom ports of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Saturday Night Slam Masters (Japanese name Muscle Bomber). These were 3 arcade-to-SNES conversions that Nelson and I were dying to play! And on that idyllic June Saturday morning there they stood right before our very eyes. Their US counterparts were still weeks, even months away! After a brief moment of dead silence, Nelson and I looked at each other in astonishment. And just like how it was over a year ago when I first saw Power Athlete, at that precise moment in time I’d forgotten whatever game my brother wanted me to rent. Once more, I had gone rogue.
The only “dilemma” was picking which one of those three games to rent. The indispensable thing about having your best friend along with you meant he could rent one and you could rent one. Nelson was adamant on choosing Fighter’s History, the infamous Street Fighter II clone that Capcom even attempted to sue. I was plenty happy about that as I loved Fighter’s History in the arcades and was long anticipating the SNES port. I always felt the game was a bit underrated. Good pick Nelly! Now it was my turn. King of the Monsters 2 or Muscle Bomber?
I had played Saturday Night Slam Masters a good bit in the arcades. I adored Capcom’s representation of the zany pro wrestling world cranked to the 10th degree, thanks to Slam Masters’ comic book-like violence and über-wacky wrestlers that were even MORE outrageous than those found in the WWF. After all, few things can rival spewing venomous mist into someone’s eyes, or piledrivering bastards into oblivion all over the globe with Metro City’s mayor! It was a tough call at first, but then I remembered something…
King of the Monsters 2 and I were like two SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT. Somehow, we always missed one another. I never played the arcade once. As a staunch supporter of the original, I was dying to FINALLY play the sequel. From 1992 to 1994, finding a King of the Monsters 2 arcade became my white whale, so to speak. None of the local arcades had it for whatever reason. And the one time that I did find it, it was at an arcade hall 2 hours away from home, but of course the machine was broken. That sums it up perfectly. It was that one game that somehow always managed to elude me. Standing there with a choice between Saturday Night Slam Masters or my great white whale, King of the Monsters 2, it dawned on me suddenly which one I was going to pick.
As Nelson and I rode home in the backseat talking excitedly about our import finds, it dawned on me that I soon had to face the music. The last time I went rogue and rebelled against my brother he did everything but tear up the house. But I figured with Nelson by my side, maybe Kevin would be less demonstrative. After all, in public or whenever there were guests, Kevin had no choice but to uphold a certain degree of decorum. Nelson knew this even without my having to ask him for backup. That’s how close we were. Like I said at the beginning, nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like having a best friend support you through thick and thin. He gave me a nod as my dad pulled into the driveway; I knew he had my back. The moment of truth had arrived. My dad went inside the house as Nelly and I stood there on the driveway — import games in hand.
We were delaying the inevitable. But there’s a reason they call it the inevitable.
“Did you get it??” my brother asked excitedly as he came to the door a minute later.
“Uhhh, no. But I got this,” I stammered, handing the game over to him as if it were an adequate consolation prize. It wasn’t.
“King of the Monsters 2?!” A mixture of shock and disgust filled his voice. “Was my game there for rent or not?” His eyes, which had turned into burning coal, burrowed its way deep in my soul.
I could easily have lied, “No, your game was rented out.” But I was a straight shooter. In hindsight… maybe I was being foolish. But I had made my choice to disobey my brother. The least I could do was be honest about it. When I told him I forgot to look for his title once Nelson and I caught sight of the imports, my brother lost control. The scary thing was all this happened even in front of Nelson. I can only imagine how much crazier it would have been without Nelson there next to me. My brother flipped out, stomping and screaming expletives like a drunken sailor. Then he ran to my room, sprinted back and threw my Crash Dummy break-apart plush buddy, Spin, out the door. It smacked me in the face with such velocity that the head flew off its shoulders. Thank goodness it was just plush! Nelly retrieved the head which had rolled onto my front lawn and placed it back on Spin’s headless Velcro neck. You would have thought that I killed my brother’s puppy or something. He stormed off, leaving the door open. You know those parts in action movies where the guy says, “Don’t you think this is a trap?” Yeah. I took one glance inside and then back at Nelson. Once again, without even having to say a word, he knew. Just to confirm, he said, “Um… let’s go back to my place for a while…”
Shoot, you don’t gotta tell me twice! I fled the crime scene faster than OJ Simpson.
And so it was. On the first Saturday afternoon of my last carefree childhood summer, I found myself walking with Nelly to his house. He clutched his copy of Fighter’s History while I held King of the Monsters 2, along with my Crash Dummy action buddy, Spin. I’m sure we were a sight for sore eyes. As soon as we got out of viewing distance, Nelson started trash talking my bro. One might think I would happily join in to pile on, but no. Like a battered victim of Stockholm syndrome, I actually defended my brother a little bit. Hey, blood is blood, no? Sure my bro could be a little rough around the edges, and there were plenty of times where I wished he could have been more quixtoic and slow to anger, but you don’t get to choose family. I mean, sure, he could snap every once in a while, but he wasn’t a bad guy, or a psycho or anything. Nelson couldn’t believe I was defending Kevin. Finally the matter was dropped as his house came into view. Suddenly, the excitement of our import snags revived us. We were about to play two arcade conversions not anyone else in the entire town had, so that made us, as far as we were concerned, thetwo luckiest sumbitchesthat weekend ^_^
We wasted no time firing up Nelly’s Super Nintendo. We threw in Fighter’s History first and took turns wasting the computer opponents. We were both impressed by how faithful it was to the arcade original. There was a simplicity to the game that Nelson and I found to be charming. To this day I can’t play Fighter’s History without remembering that fateful Saturday afternoon at Nelly’s. It was so hot that we propped open the living room windows and left the front door wide open. Lee’s stage is SEARED into my retina. That peaceful and calm lake, the family of ducks nibbling away, a fisherman enjoying the great outdoors with his line dipped lazily in the water, and those picture-esque moss-covered hills in the background. Finally, a formation of clouds move their way through the sky in a very haunting and majestic manner. This bucolic stage SCREAMS June 1994 to me. It’s an incredibly nostalgic sight and anytime I see it, I’m transported right back to Nelson’s living room 22 years ago. This stage perfectly captures that whole time frame for me. One look and it feels like I’m 10 hanging out with my best friend on a hot June Saturday afternoon all over again.
Then we swapped it out for King of the Monsters 2. He chose Cyber Woo (the King Kong doppelgänger) and I picked Super Geon (the Godzilla lookalike). We waded our way through the various cities demolishing everything in sight. Beating all the bosses 2-on-1 handicap style made for mindless monster mash ‘em up fun. Finally, after several hours of switching between the two games, late afternoon descended upon us and we agreed that maybe Kevin had cool down by now. Nelson headed back with me. We couldn’t hide out at Nelly’s forever. The only question left… was Kevin still pissed?
I found out that day that miracles exist when Kevin no longer wanted to kill me. Instead, he wanted to kill giant alien monsters from outer space. It’s funny how we each had our own pet favorite. Nelson liked Cyber Woo, I dug Super Geon and my brother was all about Atomic Guy. The three of us rotated turns and passed off the controller whenever one of us died. On some stages it was Kevin and me. At other times it was Nelly and me. There was even Kevin and Nelson. Seeing them laughing together as they trashed the Grand Canyon was pretty cool. A few hours ago no one could have predicted this outcome. Now watching the two of them working together as one cohesive unit, you never would have thought there was any kind of beef there. It was poetic, even. And of all the gaming memories I harbor, that one remains, still to this day, one of the sweetest ones. It’s a reminder of how gaming has a strange way of bringing people together.
The three of us played King of the Monsters 2 and Fighter’s History to death that unforgettable weekend, before returning them both late on Sunday evening. I told my brother we also saw Saturday Night Slam Masters. He grew pale at the mention, being a Slam Masters fanatic. We’d played it tons in the arcade. He ordered me to go rent it the next weekend. This time in particular, I was more than happy to carry out his command. No fat chance of me going rogue, as Slam Masters was also right up my alley with its outlandishly wacky wrestlers and frenetic 4-player mayhem. Giant foam fingers, flashing cameras, comic book moves come to life, and Mike F’NHaggar, made Saturday Night Slam Masters or in this case, Muscle Bomber, one fantastic brawl-for-all.
A SPECIAL GAME HUNTER EULOGY
Game Hunter eventually closed shop in the late ’90s as rental stores started to become more and more a thing of the past — they were fast going the way of the dinosaur. While their service wasn’t always top-notch, I’ll always remember them fondly for their import selection. Game Hunter arrived during a precious period of my childhood, and at a special timein gaming when renting games blindly and taking weekend trips with your old man was all part of the magic and wonder of the hobby. Sometimes the game you wanted was rented out at the first two or three rental stores, so you had to go to your 4th or 5th option around town to find it.. It just meant more hunting and more quality time spent with your old man. I’ll never forget those days when my dad and I would hit up all the rental stores every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine. They symbolized a simpler time in my life. A time where bills, junk emails and clogged six-lane highways didn’t yet exist. The renting relics of my youth were more than just brick and mortar. They are deeply embedded in what made gaming as a child so magical and wondrous. I’m so thankful I was able to enjoy it with a best pal like Nelson.
The summer of 1994 was memorable for many reasons. It’s hard to believe those halcyon days are over twenty years old now. I credit Game Hunter, the Super Nintendo and Nelson for helping to create so many fond memories. It was in large part thanks to those three that made summer of ’94, the last carefree summer of my childhood, bar none, the best one I had as a kid.