The clock just struck midnight as of this writing. It is now July 28, 2017. That means only one thing to me: World Heroes has officially turned 25 years old. Wow. Released on July 28, 1992, World Heroes was one of the earliest Street Fighter II clones to hit the arcade market. If you don’t know by now, I kind of have a thing for World Heroes. I loved it from day one and have been a fan of the franchise ever since. In fact, when I began posting on video gaming forums in early 2001 I even used a Hanzou avatar. Ask different gamers what their favorite franchise is and you’ll hear your usual suspects: Metroid, Zelda, Castlevania, Street Fighter and so forth. But me? I would be lying if I didn’t cite my (sentimental) favorite of all time is probably indeed World Heroes. I know that sounds crazy but man, 25 YEARS. There’s no better way to honor the milestone than to look back at one of the most underrated arcade to SNES ports of all time.
IN THE BEGINNING…
I’ll never forget that summer day back in 1992 when my brother came running home and told me all about this hot new arcade game. He said it plays like Street Fighter II but it has crazy “Death Matches” or something. He said there was freaking Hulk Hogan in the game! Of course, being a Hulkamaniac at the time, I was sold. Hell, I was sold at the mention of Street Fighter II.
I can’t tell you how many quarters I wasted on this game. In fact, while the lines ran long for Street Fighter II, I was more than content playing World Heroes on the opposite end of the store. It was definitely an underdog and that made it even more appealing to me. I’ve always been drawn to the more obscure or less touted games, and World Heroes was no exception. My best friend Nelson and I loved it to death. We loved Street Fighter II too but there was something about World Heroes that we really identified with. When Sunsoft released the SNES port, Nelson was all over that bad boy and we spent so many nights in late 1993 playing the game until the cows came home. Some of my fondest gaming memories came from that fall and winter of 1993 just staying over at Nelson’s and playing World Heroes until our thumbs went numb.
Seeing the title screen scroll on and on as the cheesy tune blared is forever embedded in my soul. ADK developed the arcade game but it was Sunsoft that reprogrammed it for the Super Nintendo. Sunsoft did such an amazing job with the translation and they never got the proper credit for it. But more on that later.
Advantages of having a six button SNES controller, eh? The arcade version had a funky control scheme where you had to tap the buttons to produce a light attack, but press the buttons normally to use a stronger strike. Well, the SNES fixes this and allows you to assign each attack to a specific button. This made playing World Heroes smoother than ever before.
Essentially Hanzou is the Ryu of World Heroes lore. Confession time: I always thought he was a lot cooler than Ryu. I mean, the Hadoken is timeless but Hanzou throws ninja stars. NINJA STARS! Ruy’s Dragon Punch is legendary but Hanzou’s version actually has a freaking dragon wrap itself around him! The Hurricane Kick is deadly but what if you added ninja blades on each end? My heart still would go with Hanzou if the two ever met in a fight, even though I know Ryu would beat him because it’s Ryu.
Love this background. Especially how the pigeons fly off at the start.
Hanzou can throw up to two ninja stars at a time (always thought that was so cool how the projectiles in this game vary whereas the projectiles in Street Fighter II were “static”). He uses his blades to cut deep into his opponent while spinning like the rotor blades of a helicopter. His best special move however is the majestic soaring Dragon Uppercut. It’s easily my favorite special move in the history of fighting games. I was instantly sold when I first saw it back in the summer of 1992.
If Ken were made into a ninja, this is the end result. I love me some Ken but a ninja version of Ken? I’m so there. Fuuma as you might have guessed is Hanzou’s eternal rival. They share a similar moveset (that slowly differentiated as the series went on) but Fuuma is considered the more reckless and flamboyant of the two. You know, just like Ken. His Dragon Uppercut sees a red dragon wrapping itself around his body as opposed to Hanzou’s blue dragon. Did Ryu and Ken have that visual distinction in their Dragon Punches in Street Fighter II? No sir. Just one more reason why I favor these two ninja warriors.
A beautiful mountain (Mt. Fuji?) can be seen in this stage. Monkeys act a fool in the background. A quirky and rather endearing backdrop if I do say so myself.
Fuuma’s ninja star can be big or small depending on the strength of the punch button you use. Nice. He’s also got the same Dragon Spin and Uppercut as Hanzou. Their moveset is identical in this first game but began shifting in the sequel(s) to come.
5’5″ 130 lbs
Long before Fei Long (Super Street Fighter II) and Law (Tekken) there was Kim Dragon! The original Bruce Lee wannabe in fighting games, Dragon strikes hard and strikes fast. His Dragon Kick is easily one of the coolest special moves in fighting game history, right up there with Hanzou and Fuuma’s Dragon Uppercuts. But perhaps most memorable of all are his Bruce Lee-like “HA CHOO!” battle cries.
Duel in front of some monks and youngsters training to be the next Dragon. Love this temple setting — it fits Dragon perfectly.
Dragon Kick is a thing of beauty. He’s got faster hands than E. Honda and he can even throw your ass in mid-air. They nailed his Bruce Lee mannerisms nicely. He can even bounce off the side of the screen! One of the most underrated fighting game characters ever made.
Honestly, growing up I was never a huge Chun-Li fan. I actually didn’t like using a lot of female fighters. But one of the few exceptions was Janne. Based off 15th century Joan of Arc, Janne was the first female fighter I can remember having a fireball (beating out Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat by five days). Not only that but she fights with a sword — a FREAKING SWORD! ‘Nuff said.
I used to wonder as a kid, “Why the circus for Janne? What does Joan of Arc have to do with the circus?” Well, years and years later, I found out the Ringling Bros. did a “Joan of Arc at the circus” show in the early 1900s.
I love it when a childhood mystery is solved!
Janne’s Aura Bird projectiles vary in size and speed depending on the punch button used. Again, I love this quirk about the game. Not many fighting games did the size difference thing, only the speed. Her Flash Sword is a good anti-air attack. Thought Chun-Li’s head stomp was annoying? Imagine a sword slashing you through the skull instead. Yup, Janne was a bad, BAD woman.
5’7″ 265 lbs
Based off the founder and emperor of the Mongolian Empire, Genghis Khan, J. Carn fulfills the E. Honda role. As a kid I used to daydream a lot about a Street Fighter II vs. World Heroes crossover. The rosters were so evenly matched that it’s a shame it never happened. J. Carn wears spiky gloves and has a spiky ball on his shoulder that he reveals during one of his special moves. Though he lacks a projectile, he’s not one to take lightly.
I like the colors of the sky there. Carn’s cronies watch their master dole out the latest beatings here.
Julius Carn doesn’t mess around. His Mongolian Smash hits you with a spiky ball. Pounding his fist into the ground produces the Mongolian Dynamite. (It irks me though that getting hit by this move doesn’t produce a fiery animation). More agile than he looks, he can slide under fireballs and take out his competition.
6’7″ 298 lbs
If you grew up a wrestling fan in the late ’80s then you know all too well who this guy was inspired by. Eat your prayers and train your vitamins (you know the whole spiel), this Hulk Hogan wannabe is the biggest fighter in the game. Hulk Hogan was one of my favorite wrestlers as a kid so I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off the first time I laid eyes on Muscle Power. In the sequels to come ADK made him look less and less like Hulk Hogan so that’s another reason why I’ll always be incredibly nostalgic for the first World Heroes. Muscle Power is in all of his Hulkamaniac glory!
Duke it out in a wrestling ring seemingly suspended high up in the air! The Statue of Liberty can be seen in the background. A steel cage surrounds the combatants of this war zone. Pretty gnarly.
Muscle Bomber shows off his deceptive agility. On a side note, people like to say this game ripped off Capcom so much. Interestingly enough, Capcom made a wrestling game in 1993 that was known as Muscle Bomber in Japan (Saturday Night Slam Masters in North America). I guess what goes around comes around. Speaking of around, the Tornado Breaker is sure to cripple your opponent.
6’1″ 441 lbs
At first glance, he appears to be a ripoff of M. Bison and Inspector Gadget, but he’s actually based off Brocken Jr. from the Kinnikuman anime and manga series. Unlike the other fighters in this game, Brocken is the only one not based off a historical figure. Yes, it might be a stretch to call Hulk Hogan a historical figure but you get the picture. Speaking of stretch, that is one of Brocken’s strengths. As kid I thought he was the ultimate hybrid of M. Bison and Dhalsim. Plus he was the first character I chose when I first played this game so I will forever have a soft spot in my gaming heart for Brocken.
This background scrolls vertically, reminding me a lot of Rolento’s stage.
Brocken is the only fighter in the game who can set opponents on fire as well as electrocute them. I always loved the animations on these effects so it made me an even bigger Brocken fan. His Hurricane Arm is a solid anti-air attack. Of course, stretching his extendable limbs made him a unique fighter. Hell, ADK even gave him a Bison-like torpedo attack. It was a lot weaker and more of a joke but I love how you can actually control his flight. Fun times with that stupid little move
5’11” 150 lbs
It’s pretty obvious who Rasputin was based off of. As the games went on he was made more and more — how should I put this — homosexual, but I like how they played him pretty straight (pardon the pun) in the original game. But you could definitely see there was something different about him! He’s one of my favorite characters from the franchise. I dare say I play a pretty mean Rasputin. I fondly recall beating my friends in a World Heroes tournament back in 1993 using Rasputin. Good times.
I love how you can see mice scurrying across the ground. This is one of those haunting backgrounds that I remember seeing in the arcade over and over again.
Rasputin couldn’t stretch like Brocken but he is able to slightly enlarge his hands and feet, which made him feel somewhat like a pseudo-stretch fighter. I like the look of his fireball — it’s exactly what I imagine a fireball to look like if I close my eyes and had to imagine one. He’s also the first character in fighting game history that I know of who has an air fireball! His Spinning Robe is definitely silly but points to the fact that World Heroes was never afraid to poke a little fun at itself. It was part of the game’s charm. Finally, who could forget his classic giant yellow hand crush? That visual is seared into my memory bank even 25 years later!
MEET YOUR MAKER
Geegus fights in some sort of spacecraft that overlooks earth. He was based off the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Geegus melts into a pile of liquid-y goo after a one round defeat.
Morphing into the other fighters, he’s able to recreate any of their special moves. I love how when you beat him the crystals in the background explode into tiny little pieces.
Geegus implodes at the end. He’ll be back for the sequel…
Hmmm, now where have I seen this before?
Seriously? Those ADK lads had no shame!
Laziest ending for a fighter belongs to Brocken. “Gee, I didn’t even work up a sweat!” I bet the programmer who made this laughed thinking the same!
Fuuma’s ending pissed me off as a kid, I recall. It made me question if it was a dream all along. No, damnit, FUUMA IS FOR REAL! Ahem, sorry.
‘TIL DEATH DO US PART
Besides the odd bits of humor and the fighters largely based off of historical figures, what made World Heroes stood out to me as a kid were its Death Matches. My brother wasn’t lying when he called them crazy. You can fight in the regular mode (regular stages with no hazards) or you can duel to the death in the Death Match (combatants are dropped in a wrestling ring with various hazards). This is where dark humor comes into play and made World Heroes such a blast, pardon the pun…
They all have their various hazards and most of these stages have hazards that can inflict extra damage to the fighters. Only the straight up Butter Match (it’s just slippery) and the Hair Match do not cause extra damage. The Hair Match is a hoot because you get to see your defeated opponent shaved bald post-match!
Insult added to injury! The Hair Match is a classic representation of the dark humor that World Heroes has in spades. It gave you that extra jolt to trash trash your brother and friends. Made for some damn great times.
Sending your opponent into the hazard to shave off extra health always felt so damn satisfying. Best of all is the “Aftershock Effect.” Beat an opponent and watch him fly into the electric ropes post-match complete with slow motion! It’s a thing of beauty that was sadly removed from the sequel (the Aftershock Effect).
Brocken was the best to use in Death Matches because you can set them on fire right before they get electrocuted. Hey, it’s all about the small pleasures in life.
Certain moves should be avoided in the Death Match unless you have enough room. Way to go, Fuuma.
Whoever designated the Mine Match to Muscle Power was effin’ brilliant. He’s got no projectile and he’s a bit of a lumbering brute. Just stand behind a mine and watch him take himself out!
Electrocuting someone before they bounce off the burning ropes? Priceless.
Getting a little cocky there, are we, Brocken? One of the funniest things is beating someone with this flying attack but hitting the hazard with next to no health remaining. Can you say Double KO in the most embarrassing fashion possible? As a kid I remember doing this just for shit and giggles.
Thanks to his reach, Brocken was made for the Death Match. He almost had a built-in advantage due to the length of his limbs.
Nothing beats the triple whammy. Shock ‘em with Brocken. They land on a mine. Then death by electrocution. Seeing this in “Aftershock Effect” is the way to go.
Sacrifice knows no bounds.
“Aftershock Effect” in slow motion never gets old.
MEMORIES OF THE SNES PORT
As someone who poured countless quarters into the arcade game, I anxiously awaited the SNES port with bated breath. My best pal Nelson was also a huge fan. I didn’t buy many SNES games back in the ’90s. If my brother and I were lucky, we got three games a year. You might think World Heroes would be one of those scant few purchases. Nope. My best pal Nelson bought a copy the week it came out and since we hung out nearly 24/7, there was no need really to buy the game. If he didn’t come over with his copy of the game then I’d be at his place. Occasionally, we had our other friends over for a tournament marathon. And like a best friend would do, Nelson graciously loaned me his copy from time to time.
In the fall of ’93, my uncle from Texas visited my folks. He was full of life. I hadn’t seen him since the late ’80s. I remember teasing him about how his favorite team the Phoenix Suns came up short that year in the NBA Finals. He didn’t appreciate that much.
That same weekend I happened to borrow Nelson’s copy. It was the first night my uncle came to town so he was a bit tired. He kicked back on the couch and watched as I fired up World Heroes. My uncle was not a gamer but he had nothing better to do so he just laid there and watched. I went with Dragon and it wasn’t long before my uncle started cheering me on as I tackled the two ninjas, Hanzou and Fuuma. My uncle really took a shine to Dragon. Probably because he was always a huge Bruce Lee fan.
I remember explaining to my uncle how the two ninjas were the main stars of the game. “What? If you ask me, THAT’S who the star should be! He’s Bruce Lee for crying out loud! How can you top that!?” Huh, being a huge Hanzou and Fuuma fan I never thought of it that way, but my uncle had a point. My same uncle who never played a single video game in his life before. What was happening here?!
It was around 6 PM or so because I remember the sun starting to set in the sky. I was set to fight Janne next when my mom called me to set the dinner table. But my uncle had other plans, apparently.
“Relax sis, we’ll be there in a second. First we gotta handle our business though, right Steve?” He gave me a wink as I looked back at him laying on the sofa. It’s an image I’ll never forget. World Heroes really captivated him. Him! Someone with NO interest in video games whatsoever. I’ve always had a special bond with the World Heroes franchise but it was at that moment in time my bond with the game went to that next level.
He sure did. We got my mom to agree to let me have this one last match, which was against Janne, and my uncle suddenly became my coach. Calling plays from the sofa, he kept yelling “Dragon Kick!” Even my mom stopped to witness the mad scene. I saw a strange smile crept across her face as she watched her younger brother and her youngest son bonding through, of all things, a video game. It’s a memory and image that has stuck with me to this day.
One last memory I have to share: it was Thanksgiving weekend 1993. I remember it so well. Back then I had my best friend Nelson, I had my other grade school friends, and then I had an out-of-town gaming group of family friends. We had some of the most epic sleepovers in the history of mankind. Just imagine three or four different families all partying under the same roof until the wee hours of the morning. The parents would reminisce about the good old days downstairs while the kids played video games galore upstairs. It was a glorious time.
On this particular sleepover bash, I had with me Nelson’s copy of World Heroes. My Gaming Crew and I had a World Heroes tournament that night. My friends were good but I was better. They owned me in Street Fighter II but when it came to World Heroes I had no equal. And that fine evening, I proved it in the tourney.
I played one mean Rasputin back then. No matter who they used or what tactics they tried, I always came out victorious. They had no counter for my Rasputin antics. I even made all of them rage quit on me. We then popped in Super Bomberman and I remember they all ganged up on me. I didn’t win a single Bomberman match that night. But was it worth it? Oh yeah, you know it
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
World Heroes didn’t do so bad with the critics. EGM gave it ratings of 6, 6, 6 and 8. Super Play rated it 77%. However, there was some controversy created out of EGM’s less than stellar scores. Personally, I find their ratings to be fair. I can see how a fan would give this port an 8, but I can also see why someone different might give it a 6. It is a great port but keep in mind by the time this came out, Street Fighter II Turbo was already out and that game is a thousand times superior. If only Sunsoft were able to release it closer to mid 1993 then I think it would have fared a lot better. Anyway, the producer of the SNES port reached out to EGM in issue #52 (November 1993) to air his grievances.
Dan’s letter and EGM’s earnest reply filled up the whole page! Two months later (issue #54, January 1994), EGM printed a World Heroes review PRO and a World Heroes review CON letter from fans. This too filled up an entire page which was quite rare of the magazine. It was certainly an interesting read of both sides of the coin.
Well Danny my boy… if you’re out there somewhere in the vastness of cyberspace… if you somehow happen to see this, I do want to tell you… YES, you made a HELL of a port and I know when you saw the EGM ratings you felt like you wanted to…
Just kidding, Dan. Great job, buddy.
[Don’t ever buddy me again -Dan MacArthur]
Gawd damn. 25 years huh. Where does the time go? 25 years ago today World Heroes first hit the arcades. I soon fell in love with it and it’s probably my number one sentimental favorite gaming franchise of all time. The SNES port is vastly underrated. Sunsoft did such a great job bringing home the visual stylings, the brutal Death Matches and the super easy to chain combos. A speed option would have helped but the regular speed isn’t too bad. Being able to change the controls to optimize the six button SNES pad makes this game infinitely more playable and enjoyable as a result. I feel like this port never got the credit it deserved back in 1993. Hell, it holds up rather well even nearly 25 years later.
The fighters are HUGE! There isn’t a trace of slowdown anywhere. Special moves which made my jaw drop the first time I saw them in the arcade have all been faithfully translated. Even the Aftershock Effect remained intact! Speaking of which, the Death Matches add a touch of dark humor. World Heroes strikes that lovely balance of taking itself seriously enough yet at the same time a bit tongue-in-cheek to create a memorable playing experience. Although the sound effects lack the oomph you’d like to hear from a fighting game, some of those stage tunes are jamming. Dragon’s theme is stuck in my head. The announcer does a good job and those death cries are among the best I’ve heard in the genre.
Maybe in the end World Heroes is the kind of game you had to have experienced back in the summer of 1992 to truly appreciate. If you were to pick it up today for the first time I can easily see how it may be dismissed after a few rounds and viewed as a poor man’s Street Fighter II. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But for me, it was my jam 25 years ago. I still play the SNES port every now and again and it’s held up remarkably well. Happy 25th anniversary, and here’s hoping there’ll be a World Heroes 3 before all is said and done. But hey, at least we got World Heroes 2.