When waiting for the glue to dry, I'll have a look at three Spectrum fighting games that are in a way similar. These games mixed the martial arts with exploration and adventure. Here, I'm looking at the protagonist from the side and I can explore a two-dimensional map of rooms, while occasionally kicking and punching my opponents. Simple and clear fun. Let's have a look.
The perennial (I learned a new word) favourite. Bruce Lee roams through about 20 chambers, collecting lanterns, kicking and punching his way through the army of Ninjas and Green Yamos. But that's not nearly all: there are a bunch of mobile traps, beds of daggers, moving ladders and other kind of intense platform game elements that make this game very different from almost any other fighting game that came before or after.
The game is perhaps best described as a platform game with some fighting elements. The player only has two fighting moves at his command, a punch and a fierce flying kick. Yet, these two moves are so satisfying and integrate well to the overall gameplay that there's really no need for anything else. For example, characters can fall off the platforms after a healthy kick and the enemies are also susceptible to all the same traps the player is. (There's a two-player option too.)
|Bruce Lee sure puts the 'cute' in 'electrocute'|
|Enter the White Ninja, later in the game.|
|Don't wish for an easy life, but the strength to endure a difficult one.|
Fist II- The Legend Continues
It's not a bad premise: All the moves and graphical flair of The Way of the Exploding Fist combined with a purposeful quest set as a scrolling adventure.
|Tit mountain, Japan|
|I thought, stars are good, so, collect the stars- but no. Avoid these bread-sized shurikens.|
Props for including all the moves from the original, though. Also, the combat is slightly spiced with the enemy throwing stuff at you. I readily admit the best part is the occasional bunch of wild cats that may be nose-kicked with hilarious results.
|Here kitty kitty, here kitty... ROUNDHOUSE|
Saboteur! gets many things right that Fist II got wrong. The enemy compound/base/building whatever is interesting to explore, with reasonable amount of variety and different obstacles to negotiate. In some ways it resembles Bruce Lee, but is at the same time simpler and more complex. It has some platform-jumping elements, but thankfully not too much as the jumping is a bit hard to manage.
The graphics and character sizes are pretty much the equal to Fist II, whereas the combat has been kept very simple. A bit too simple, one might say, as the guards die from a single blow. In fact, you can kill them by throwing a single rock at them. At least the different environments make the combat situations slightly different. The enemies can't be made to fall into pits, though.
|Note the CCTV camera which occasionally, but impotently, shoots bullets.|
Instead of wild cats there are guard dogs. These tend to be more annoying than the human guards, but this is mostly because they cannot be kicked. It seems a bit absurd, but it's a game, and you know, they make the rules. However, it's possible to throw stuff at the dogs in diagonal angle, but this requires precise timing. Sometimes you meet both a dog and a guard, who can shoot a submachine gun at you, and then things can get a bit hectic. What I like is that unlike in Bruce Lee, all the killed opponents stay dead. There's some real incentive to killing them, as you often need to backtrack your route.
I've noted there are a couple of grenades lying around, but for some reason they are not any more powerful than throwing the bricks, pipes or rocks.
|The guard, caught in the middle of some embarrassing maneuver.|
The Commodore 64 version has marginally better sound effects. Running makes a metallic sound that adds to the atmosphere. Some corners have been cut in the graphics department but essentially it's the same game. I don't remember exactly, but I think some features were missing too.
|Hiding behind that box is not going to help you: I'm coming from the other direction.|
The building is interspersed with little touches that make exploration that much more rewarding. In some ways the subway is a totally useless feature, because there's no gameplay involved, but it can be considered a kind of a cut-scene. There's a stealth element, too, as guards facing another direction can be approached slowly from behind. This adds some to the "ninja" quality in the game, even if it is bit pointless given how easy the guards are to kill anyway.
The game features a rapidly replenishing health bar, which works bit like the one in Halo. This also contributes to the silly-easy nature of the game. Though I do confess I tend to play the game on the easiest level, so what do I know.
The ultimate goal is to find a diskette and activate a bomb that blows up the base, and escape via a helicopter, with the disk if possible. With each difficulty level, the positions of the required items change. Also, the numerous doors in the building are locked in different configurations, and you have to know which terminal unlocks each of the doors. Let's just say the architects did not make the most obvious connections. Did I mention the time limit? It's mighty stressful.
|A nice one-person subway.|
All in all
We had it sooo good in the 80s! The games these days, blah blah...
But seriously, one might think all the fighting game varieties have been exhausted long ago, but still it seems these three games demonstrate a sub-genre that could have been explored more. Although I have enjoyed Tekken and the likes, the one-on-one fighting genre does not really do it for me. Also, I'm not going to start playing Assassin's Creed or the latest Prince of Persia, I don't want the game playing to become a project, anymore.