Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who will be the last fighting master left standing?

Have you ever wondered who would be the last fighting game character left standing if they all went at it battle royal style? Or maybe it would be better in tournament style because that's what they are used to. I'm talking about just the human characters going at it. Robots, demons, mutants and giant dinosaurs would not be invited to this fight. There have been many heated debates and some great fan match ups online. So far there has not been any consensus. I'd like to think that one fighting game actually answered the question 20 years ago. For once I'm not talking about a title from Capcom, SNK or Namco. A little known developer called Sunsoft came out with a game in 1995 that featured a cameo too great to be ignored. Their game was called Galaxy Fight: Universal warriors. It was set in the far future and featured human and humanoid aliens fighting for good, evil or various other reasons against a powerful alien called Felden.

The game had great graphics for the time. The characters were detailed and colorful. The game engine used sprite scaling to zoom in or out of the fighters depending on how close they got to each other. The studio went on to create a few more fighting games that were related to each other. Waku Waku 7 came out in 1996 and the team broke up shortly after and joined up with independent developer SANTACLAUS in 1998 for Astra Super Stars. The fighting games that the team created were very light hearted. They didn't take themselves too seriously and every subsequent fighting game they published was more cartoonish than the last. Galaxy Fight was the one that was the most earnest but even then it was a little bit silly. Sunsoft wasn't afraid at taking a jab at the designs and tropes used by other studios. The two humans in the lineup were a futuristic ninja named Kazuma and fighter named Rolf the "Hero of the Galaxy." Audiences noted that the two leads looked very much like Ginzu the ninja and title character from Captain Commando, a brawling game developed and published by Capcom in 1991.

Sure in Japan there were hundreds of shows, cartoons and comics featuring ninjas and characters in power armor but these two looked too much like the Capcom stars to be more than a coincidence. The game revolved around fighters in the future, they had access to modern technology like Rolf's flame thrower, and of course the unexplained powers from various alien species. The real surprise in the game was a hidden character named Rouwe. This character was only accessible after not losing any round and playing a near perfect game. Rouwe represented the "old school" fighting game hero. He was way over 100-years-old and yet there was something eerily familiar about the character. The way he moved, the way he fought and the way he looked that reminded audiences of someone else. Or to be fair this character reminded audiences of the stars of two of the earliest fighting game franchises. He was either Ryu from Street Fighter or Ryo from the Art of Fighting.

The name Rouwe was nebulous on purpose. Perhaps this character was indeed an elderly Ryu or Ryo and the name was a typo. Sunsoft left enough clues in the game so that the character could be interpreted as either star. All of the trademark fighting moves were present from both stars.

There was a variation of Ryo's one-handed fireball, the Ko'ou Ken.

The famous hurricane kick of Ryu also made an appearance, this time however Rouwe also used it to throw a nasty backhand at opponents as well. Who said you couldn't improve on the moves?

Rouwe had a powerful double punch that looked very similar to the pose for the hadoken fireball.

Of course both Ryu and Ryo had a tremendous uppercut. The one that Rouwe used looked closer to Ryu's version. Sunsoft wanted to make it obvious that there was one archetype that would always be the king of the hill. It didn't matter how many fighting games had been developed or would ever be developed. You couldn't really improve upon perfection.

Age may have zapped the size and strength of Rouwe but his technique was flawless. He could hold his own against humans 1/5 his age and of course against various alien champions. It turned out that he was such a powerful master that even his own punching bag had grown sentient.

Rouwe decided to teach this bag how to fight as well. This character was named Bonus-Kun and would turn up in the other Sunsoft fighting games. The designers at Sunsoft were certainly on to something. They knew enough to discolor the gi from years of living in isolation on an alien planet. There was not much left of his uniform in fact, the pants were now shorts from decades of kicking and the vest was threadbare. The look of the character was eerily similar to Gouken, the master of Ken and Ryu. Here's the clincher, the Bengus concept art of Gouken wouldn't be published until after Galaxy Fight had debuted. Was this a case of art imitating game or a coincidence? I'll let you decide.

So do you agree with Sunsoft's prediction? In a hundred years will Ryu or Ryo be the only fighting masters left standing? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

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