The Fighting Layer tournament had pulled together many different styles of martial artists. Some of these archetypes reminded players of the Street Fighter II icons. Developer ARIKA had revisited some of the prototypical characters in the planning stages for Street Fighter II while building a cast for their new tournament. Two of the more lethal fighters had very contrasting styles yet both had a similar goal, to kill a target. The ninja Sessyu Tsukikage fought like a man possessed. He had an arsenal of quick attacks and traditional weapons. The man was extremely fast and could even disappear in a puff of smoke and drop down on opponents with his sword. The homicidal maniac Janice Luciani balanced out the ninja. She was a crazed killer that used knives and guns on opponents. It was suspected that both characters were trying to assassinate the sponsor of the tournament. Of the two Luciani seemed content with killing all her opponents on the way to the top.
All of the characters announced thus far fell in the realm of possibility. Most were rooted in real fighting systems. The artists and designers at ARIKA did not use exaggerated proportions to make characters giants like Zangief or Sagat. Yet part of the charm of Street Fighter II was the oddball characters that fought alongside the "regular" characters. The wild man Blanka and elastic yoga master Dhalsim had become icons to fighting game fans. Those characters looked and fought unlike any other character in history. ARIKA had previously introduced Skullomania in the Street Fighter EX series. The circus performer wore a skeleton costume and thought of himself as a super hero. His attacks in the game were very unconventional but memorable. Fighting Layer had its own oddball character that was leagues beyond Skullomania, Dhalsim or Blanka. In fact the new character so beyond what had ever seen before that few knew what to make of him at all.
Capriccio was a sort of mystical, tribal, animistic witch doctor. His costume and helmet made him appear like a cycloptic bee. The best way I could describe the costume and influences that the ARIKA designers put into the character were if the Alien, as designed by H.R. Geiger had a lovechild with Mudman, the character from World Heroes. Capriccio fought with an assortment of odd attacks. He would crawl along the ground like an insect and make poisonous mushrooms appear from thin air for his opponents to step on. He was without a doubt the strangest human(?) character ever to appear in a fighting game.
The sub-boss characters in the game were not as eccentric as Capriccio. They were in fact a retelling of the bosses from Street Fighter II. In Fighting Layer players chose which sub-boss they wanted to fight, or had to fight, depending on which paths they had played through. Players faced one animal-boss and one sub-boss before facing the final villain. In SFII players had to defeat three consecutive boss characters before facing the final battle. The ability to choose a sub-boss was unique to audiences. Each boss character offered a different challenge to gamers. The characters themselves however seemed eerily familiar to veterans.
There was a one-eyed former world champion that was in the twilight of his career… Sagat was the boss of the original Street Fighter and was relegated to second-in-command by Street Fighter II. The former champ was still a powerful opponent but challengers knew he was a stepping stone on the way to a more powerful opponent. Clemence Kleiber was a wrestler that stepped out of the limelight to find a new challenge. What he found instead was an empty existence. He lived in the lap of luxury. A private ring was built inside of a library of an ornate castle. Kleiber would spend his final days waiting for a worthy challenger that might never come.
Almost as tragic was the story of the boxing champion that had been banned from the sport he was born to dominate. In Street Fighter II this character was M. Bison, or Balrog depending on which country you lived in. The Mike Tyson clone was once idolized the world over. He spent and drank his fortune away and had to work as a Shadowlaw enforcer to recapture some of his former glory. In Fighting Layer the former champ Joe Fendi was turned down by all of the boxing promotions because it was rumored that he had gone blind in an eye. A disabled athlete would never be allowed to compete on the professional circuit. Fendi denied these claims but never allowed a doctor to confirm his condition. Both fighters were extremely dirty boxers. They were known for throwing head-butts and elbows at opponents. Fendi would pummel his opponents with brass knuckles and even gauntlets during the Fighting Layer tournament. His personal trainer backed him up at every chance, especially when he taunted opponents.
The last of the sub-bosses was a trained killer. This person was more dangerous than either Janice Luciani or Sessyu Tsukikage. The masked assassin in SFII was named Balrog or Vega depending on your country. He was called "Claw" by Capcom developers as to avoid confusion. He wore a mask, not to hide his identity but to protect his beautiful face. This assassin was a famed matador, a bull fighter by day and one of the Shadowlaw generals by night. He was proud, vain and responsible for killing government officials, soldiers and law enforcement officers, including Chun-Li's father. The assassin acting as a sub-boss in Fighting Layer was neither pretty nor stealthy. Preston Ajax had been featured in an earlier blog. The character was a patchwork of body parts, half his own and half of his brother following a failed bombing attempt. Of the sub-bosses he was the most tragic. A fighting Frankenstein's monster, Ajax was also inspired in part by the manga character Dr. Black Jack.
Before players could even face these dangerous sub-bosses they had to defeat the fiercest predators from nature. The selection of creatures were right out of martial arts myth. The next blog will look at these characters.