Player Two Start!: Seeking a Friend for the Sports Hero Team

When SNK started their King of Fighters fighting game series in 1994, with the imaginatively titled King of Fighters ’94, it became a long-running and successful franchise, and it’s not hard to see why. In some ways KOF ’94 was SNK’s equivalent to Laff-A-Lympics: a mega crossover assembling a galaxy of favorite characters alongside new ones, from all around the globe. Most characters come from other SNK games, such as Team Italy, which is composed of the three player characters from the original Fatal Fury (Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard and Joe Higashi). The leading duo from Art of Fighting, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, are featured with their mentor and Ryo’s father, Takuma Sakazaki, who make up Team Mexico. Team Korea includes Kim Kaphwan from Fatal Fury 2 as the leader of two convicts he is trying to reform (Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge). Team England is a mix of female fighters from Fatal Fury 2 (Mai Shiranui) and the Art of Fighting series (Yuri Sakazaki and King).

The two heroes from Psycho Soldier (Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou) form Team China along with their mentor, Chin Gentsai. Team Brazil composes of Ikari Warriors characters Ralf Jones and Clark Still, as well as their commanding officer, new character Heidern. The game also features two teams composed entirely of original characters: Team Japan, including badass flame harnessing Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru Nikaido, a ladies’ man with giant hair who can generate lightning and hulking sumo Goro Daimon; and representing our country, Team USA, was…….

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….A trio of jocks.

Chicken

“La-dee-freakin’-da.”

Yeah, the team representing the United States consisted of a baller, a boxer and a bruiser. I know, I know, but is it weird that I don’t hate these characters? Believe it or not, despite their campy nature, I actually kind of like the Sports Hero team, and wish they could’ve stuck around.

Yeah, I kind of like these guys, like Dan Hibiki from the Street Fighter series, Team USA has a certain doofy charm to them and I can’t bring myself to dislike them, and this is coming from someone who spent much of their time in gym class daydreaming and cracking jokes on the bench. Why? Allow me to explain…

Yes, the idea that the US should be represented by jocks is a tad stereotypical, but I don’t think there was any malice in their inspiration; in fact, I tend to think that SNK meant for the Sports Heroes to be complimentary. After all, not every fad or celebrity or piece o’ pop-culture transcends cultural boundaries (British kids’ favorite Mr. Bean failed to find an audience here in the States twice and an American institution, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, bombed hard in the United Kingdom, though the Brits loved Dallas and Fame for some reason), but just about every nation knows who MJ, Big Papi and Shaq are; star athletes are one of our biggest exports.

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“ProStars. It’s all about scorin’ international endorsements and filmin’ weird commercials overseas.”

(Don’t go spreading this around, but I also thought Gretzky’s high-tech hockey equipment was kind of cool, too. Stop looking at me!)

Having jocks represent Americans is a fairly typical trope in Japanese anime. Hey, at least the American team wasn’t a bunch of cowboys from Texas.

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“Saddle up boys, we’re a headin’ fer Tokyo!”

Since this may be the first positive press that Team USA has ever gotten, let’s look at each Sports Hero individually, let’s us?

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Heavy D! – the leader of the American Sports Team. Heavy D! was designed with the intent to create a unique type of pugilist. He was added to the series in spirit of other boxing characters popular at the time and gained his tall stature to separate himself from the rest of the cast. He was named after M.C. “Heavy D”, a former hip hop artist from the group Heavy D & the Boyz. The exclamation point (!) was added to his name to distinguish him from the Overweight Lover. Heavy D! was once a famous boxer, but was expelled from normal competition due to seriously injuring a fighter during battle. He, Lucky Glauber, and Brian Battler received an invitation to the KOF ’94 tournament, and formed the American Sports Team. His move set includes High-Speed Punches, a Tornado Punch, Energy Sparks, an Energy Geyser and a Cannon Punch. D! has a mild streak of brashness that borders on being outright cocky.

Lucky Glauber – a karate champion who is also a former professional basketball player who is asked by his friend, Heavy D!, to form a team with him in the King of Fighters tournament. Aside from his desire to help bolster his friend’s confidence, Lucky joins the tournament to test his fighting ability. His prototype design was based on the character Hakim (played by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the martial arts film, Game of Death. His current design exists due to the plainness of the original though his karate stayed as a remnant to his tribute, although there is speculation that his design was also inspired by Dunk Dream (“Street Hoop” or “Street Slam” on Western shores), a sports game for the Neo-Geo, by Data East. Not suprisingly, Lucky incorporates his b-ball into his attacks. Specialties include Super Speed, an Energy Pillar (creating a pillar of energy with his ball) and Weapon of Fire (setting his basketball aflame with his ki without burning it). Even when fighting, Lucky is always seen smiling around. He is very cheerful towards everyone and likes to fight very much.

Brian Battler – an American footballer. Despite being named MVP of the year, he had a violent behavior and only found pleasure in tackling his opponents. He was asked by Heavy D! to fill in the missing spot to the three man team, to which he agreed. Brian is very brash and kind of a brute. His special attacks include releasing attacks infused with energy, covering his own body with energy and the ability to lift and throw anyone despite their weight. He was supposed to come from an earlier SNK game, Football Frenzy. Early designs of Brian depicted him in more traditional football player fashion, but his final design left him without a helmet and a more “casual” uniform. This was done to make him not look exactly like the character Johnny Maximum in the World Heroes series. Nothing against Mr. Battler, but I kind of wish they had put Johnny Maximum in the game.

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The very idea of the “Demon Quarterback” mixing it up with the KOF combatants sounds awesome to me.

The Sports Hero Team’s stage is a slum….

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And their signature music is called Slum No. 5 (wow, real imaginative). You’d think that being pro athletes, their stage would be some sort of sports arena…maybe the American Gladiators said no.

 

Team USA have appeared in 2 installments of the series: KOF ’94 and ’98 (which was a Dream Match). A running gag seems to exist with the USA Sports team, where they will receive invitations to that year’s KOF tournament, only to be beaten senseless and have their invitations stolen from them by another team. This happened to them in 1995, 1997, and 2000 (with Iori’s Team -1995-, the New Faces Team -1997-, and Vanessa, Ramon, and Seth -2000- being the respective culprits), and to Lucky Glauber in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (with Shermie being the assailant). It is unknown who took Brian’s invitation for Neo Geo Battle Coliseum. To SNK and the other combatants I say: come on, lighten up. I know the Sports Heroes make good punching bags…

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“They got knocked out GOOD! They got knocked out REAL good!”

…But let them actually compete once in a while. I’d like to see these guys in action again. The sports gimmick is silly, yes, and pro athletes aren’t exactly known for their mad martial arts skills….

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(Well, not all of them, anyway)

but hey….

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They’re still no dumber than the Hoop Squad!

 

Player Two Start!: Favorite Fighting Game Stages

Fighting games are awesome, even a clueless gamer like myself can attest to that. However, as an artistic geek, one of my favorite elements of fighting games are the stages the bouts take place in. Often so much care and detail goes into the stages, arenas and kick-ass background music of fighting games that I find myself paying more attention to them than the fights themselves, usually resulting in me getting my butt handed to me. Today’s Player two Start pays tribute to some of my personal favorite fighting game stages and their music. Once again, these won’t be in any particular order, so I won’t be numbering them. Also again, these are just my personal favorite fighting game stages; others will have their own picks, and I welcome any feedback. Now, let’s do this!

BALROG (M. Bison in Japan) STAGE – STREET FIGHTER 2

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While I like this stage, this one is a particular favorite of my twin brother Jason (aka our very own Goldstar); those who know him personally can attest that this stage is so him! This is easily one of the most eye-catching stages in all of SF2; I personally dig the twin bikini babes in red and blue. The music’s cool too.

FEI LONG STAGE – SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2

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While Fei Long is basically another “I wanna be like Bruce Lee!” fighting game character, his stage immediately caught my eye when I first spotted a SSF2 arcade machine in some chintzy little shopping center somewhere in Columbia, MD. It’s really breathtaking, I like the music and as added surprise, at the end of the bout(s), the exotic bird and dragons start cheering their approval. That blew me away, because up to that point I thought they were just statues. So mythical birds and dragons are real in the Street Fighter universe? Rockin’!

CAMMY STAGE – SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2

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Our younger brother Chaz (aka CJP from the Otaku Gamer Spot) is fond of this stage, as am I. I’m not sure if the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can really be seen in the skies of the United Kingdom, but the stage is cool anyway.

CAFFEINE NICOTINE STAGE – SAMURAI SHODOWN 2

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The character of Caffeine Nicotine (get it?) immediately got my attention when I first read about SS2 in Electronic Gaming Monthly (there I go, dating myself again). I thought they couldn’t be serious, adding this little old man character who looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly, to a fighting game; I figured he must be a joke character or something, but Nicotine quickly became a favorite of mine as he combines 2 things I’ve always liked: deceptively powerful characters and mystics. His stage is at the floor of temple steps shrouded in mist (nice touch), and his music is pure Asian goodness–it sounds like something out of Noh theater (which theater? Noh theater! Insert your own “Who’s on First?” routine here).

GALFORD STAGE – SAMURAI SHODOWN 1 & 2

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One of my favorite Samurai Shodown charcters has always been Galford. He’s an American in a Japanese setting, and I sort of fancy myself an Eastern/Western hybrid, a weirdo in 2 cultures) and he’s flashy and showy but a heck of a nice guy and devoted to justice–again similar to me, though I’m considerably more snarky and lazier. I like Galford’s harbor based stages with the rowdy seagoing types watching the fray (I always felt particularly bad when Galford would get wasted by a fatality move and you had to see his dog Poppy bow his head and face losing his master–what?! I have a sensitive side!), and his music rocks hard. Galford also has two of my all-time favorite win quotes:

“Forgive me. I possess power you can only dream of.” and

“Maybe I should get back to basics and stop the flash…naah.”

Here’s the music for Galford’s stage, Tuna. (No kidding, that’s really what it’s called.)

KEN STAGE -STREET FIGHTER ALPHA 2

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You probably figured this was going to make the list. No surprise there, it’s awesome. Ken tossing a birthday bash for his lady Eliza aboard his own massive luxury yacht with a ton o’ Capcom characters in attendance as his guests–how can anyone resist? FTR, here are the other characters who cameo in this stage:

  • Pure from Capcom World 2
  • Felicia from Darkstalkers (in the pool)
  • Morrigan from Darkstalkers
  • Lord Raptor (Zabel Zarock) from Darkstalkers (in human form strumming on his guitar)
  • Lei-Lei & Ling-Ling (aka Hsien-Ko and Mei Ling) from Night Warriors
  • Unknown Soldiers 1 and 2 from Forgotten Worlds
  • Michelle Heart from Legendary Wings
  • Linn Kurosawa from Aliens VS Predator (climbing out of the pool)
  • Biff and Ortega from Saturday Night Slam Masters
  • Strider Hiryu
  • Captain Commando
  • Ginzu from Captain Commando
  • Kenzou Sujimoto, Capcom staff member (as a butler)

DINER STAGE – STREET FIGHTER 4

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Not much explanation needed here. It’s a 50’s style diner at night. Cool tunes and bouncing cars. Grab a burger and a chocolate malt and enjoy the brawl.

OVERPASS STAGE – STREET FIGHTER 4

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Even I’m not sure why I like this stage so much. It’s not very showy or flashy; it’s just the underside of a bridge somewhere in Japan, where a small group of kids have gathered to watch the fight, run around, goof on each other and well, just be kids. Sometimes understatement is the best statement. The music’s decent as well, kind of J-Pop, and strangely fitting to the stage.

ASGARD STAGE – MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3

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Anyone who regularly follows this site knows that I like me some Asgard. I just love the idea that there’s this magical dimension of myth, might, advanced space technology and mysticism with a Rainbow Bridge, Pegasi and giant flying fire chickens just hanging a stone’s throw away from Earth.

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And the place really lights up at night, literally!

I’m going to cheat a little with the music for this one. No characters in MvC3 have their own personalized stages, and I like Thor’s personal theme more than the designated theme for Asgard itself, so I’ll be going with the former instead of the latter.

-And there you have it. Some of my favorite fighting game stages and background tunes.

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Whut, mate? No love fer my stage? I’ve got got me stage in a public loo! That’s classy!

Player Two Start!: A Salute to World Heroes

Hello and welcome to a new segment on Twinsanity called Player Two Start!, where we pay tribute to the video games we spent our misspent youth playing.

-OK, it’s not really so much a new segment: Jason (Goldstar) did a video game salute waaaay back in the first year of this blog in 2010, back when the blog was called Astral City (Astral City? Yech! What were we thinking?!), but recently I decided to do a game salute myself, and since there’s now more than one, these game salutes can now become a recurring segment here. Why? Why not?

As with the previous Player Two Start entry, this is not a review. We don’t do game reviews here. There are already dozens of video game reviewers on the interwebz, both for new games and for retro/classic games, and all of them review games 20 times better than we ever could, so no lengthy detailed reviews from us. We just like to look back fondly on some of our favorite titles from time to time.

Today we’ll be looking at ADK’s lesser-known fighting game franchise, World Heroes.

World Heroes
World Heroes was a series of fighting games created by ADK originally created for the Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinets with the assistance of SNK, though some of the games in the series were also ported to the Neo Geo AES and Neo-Geo CD platforms, as well as some non-SNK platforms such as the Super NES and the Sega Saturn. First launched in 1992, it was one of several Street Fighter 2 clones of its’ day. While World Heroes didn’t have the excitement factor of SF2 or the blood ‘n’ gore factor of Mortal Kombat, or even the weapons melee factor of Samurai Shodown, WH had a standout feature of its’ own: goofy humor, crazy oddball characters and wacky extreme super moves. The premise of the the WH franchise (such as it is) is that a scientist named Dr. Brown (after Christopher Lloyd’s character in the Back to the Future movies, get it?), having perfected a time machine, organized a tournament for various fighters throughout all of history to combat each other. True to this plot, many of the fighters are based on actual historical figures, while some are fictional ones.
Games in the the World Heroes series:
  • World Heroes (1992)
  • World Heroes 2 (1993)
  • World Heroes 2 Jet (1994)
  • World Heroes Perfect (1995)
  • World Heroes Anthology (US title)/World Heroes Gorgeous (Japan title–yes, it was really called World Heroes Gorgeous, 2007)
In the first game, as was the case with many SF2 clones, there were 8 selectable characters: Hanzo, the Ryu of this game, a ninja based on the legendary ninja warrior Hanzo Hattori, Fuuma, Hanzo’s chief rival (imagine if Ryu and Ken were ninjas from rival clans and hated each others’ guts), based on based on the actual Fūma Kotarō, who allegedly killed the real Hanzo; in the ADK-verse, Fuuma stays in the present and becomes a office wage slave in a tiny cubicle–what?? as well as appearing in ADK’s Aggressors of Dark Kombat (its’ initials spell ADK–get it? GET IT???), Janne D’Arc, a 15th century French fencer based on Joan of Arc whose main goals are to be the strongest of all and to find a man (yay, feminism!), Kim Dragon, the resident “I wanna be like Bruce Lee!” character, J. Carn, the personal bodyguard of Ghenghis Khan, who becomes a tyrant in his own right, Muscle Power, a 20th century professional wrestler who bears more than a passing resemblance to Hulk Hogan, receding hairline and all, Rasputin, based on the philosopher of 13th century Russia, here portrayed as a sorcerer who preaches peace and love, and as the series progresses, becomes a full-blown homosexual stereotype (check out his Desperation Move in the video at 1:35 below for proof) and Brocken, imagine if someone combined the character Brockenman from the anime Kinkiuman with The Terminator, resulting in a uniformed German officer who also happens to be a killer cyborg from a dystopian future. The boss of the game was a character named Geegus, an obviously inspired by the T-1000 cyborg that was created by a secret organization called DAMD who can shapeshift into any of the eight fighters and use their moves at will. Geegus wants to destroy the Earth (hey, you’d want to destroy stuff too if your name was Geegus), so the World Heroes tournament was created to stop Geegus’ evil plans. I told you this game was wacky.
In the second installment, called–imaginatively enough–World Heroes 2, 6 more characters were added: Captain Kidd, a pirate based on the infamous William Kidd, wielder of shamanistic energy sharks and pirate ships hurled from his knuckles and possessor of one THE coolest video game stage tunes of all time, Erick, a viking based on Erik the Red, Johnny Maximum, a football pro based loosely on Joe Montana, described as a “killer machine” and a “demon quarterback” thanks to his cryptic dialogue and creepy glowing red eyes beneath his ever-present helmet, Mudman, a Pacific Islander wizard with a large wooden mask and no real historical basis apart from appearing primitive, Ryoko, a teenage Judo queen based on real-life judoka Ryoko Tamura (now Ryoko Tani) and Shura, a 25 year old Muay Thai fighter who has joined the tournament to prove his worth to his feared dead older brother (even though his brother is actually alive and well). The boss of this game is a alien being named Dio, described as “The Ultimate Thing”, while Geegus is reduced to sub-boss, but receives an upgrade to ‘Neo-Geegus’.
The third installment, actually an upgrade called World Heroes 2 Jet, introduced 3 new characters: Jack, think punk-rock Jack the Ripper, a punk serial killer with claws on his hands, Ryofu, a Chinese warrior based on the warlord Lü Bu of the Three Kingdoms era, and a new boss named Zeus, a musclebound loony with some of the worst cut-scene dialogue ever typed. The final new game in the series, World Heroes Perfect, introduced a sole new character, Son Goku, based on the famous mythological character Sun Wukong from “Journey to the West” (no, not the star of Dragon Ball, though that would’ve been a heckuva crossover). It also features an interesting final boss fake-out: in the final bout, you face off against Zeus from WH2 Jet for one round, at the start of round 2, Zeus then gets trashed by the true final boss, an upgraded Dio now called Neo-Dio. (Question: if Dio is “the Ultimate Thing”, then why did he even need to go Neo??)
While World Heroes never achieved the success or notoriety of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, it nonetheless had its’ charms, such as boasting some truly awesome music. Give a listen to some of these tracks:
And I’m pretty sure that WH was the first fighting game ever to depict the Industrial Revolution as a stage setting:
How can you not love win quotes like these:
..Or super moves like these?

Or kooky cheeseball endings like these?

Idly, one has to wonder why this series has yet to receive a revival, in this age of old game franchises getting reboots and relaunches. If the old Capcom DuckTales game for the NES has gotten a new version released, why the heck has no one tried to revive World Heroes? A new WH game with those nutty moves and quotes, done in the Street Fighter 4 style? I’d play that; wouldn’t you?

So here’s to you, World Heroes. You may not have gotten the attention or the accolades of other fighting games of your time, but when I was bored in my living room playing video games, you gave me a good chuckle and killed a tedious afternoon, and for that, we at Twinsanity salute you.

SAAAAA-LUTE!