100 Days of MEGASHOCK! #19 Eight Man

BoxEightman

Developer: Pallas

Publisher: SNK

MVS Release Date: 07/Jun/1991

AES Release Date: 9/Aug/1991

Streamed Playthrough

Oh hey long time no see. Well I’m back finally, let us just get on with it.

On this 100 Days Of MEGASHOCK! post we will be looking at Eight Man. Eight Man is based on the rather really old manga and anime series of the same name. The series is about a detective who gets murdered by criminals (shot in the manga, and run over by a car in the anime), only to to get his life force transferred to an android body by a professor who was seemingly randomly passing by the murder scene shorty after the incident. Believing that fate brought him there, the professor collects the detective’s body, drives back to his lab, and executes the life force transferring experiment. The professor has tried this experiment 7 times before, all of which failed, but on this eighth try he succeeded, thus the now revived detective is named “Eight Man”, and with his remarkable new android body capable of many super human abilities, he vows to fight crime, uphold justice, and seek revenge on his own killers.
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Nine Man(yes apparently there was a Nine Man) and Eight Man heading off to save a city from getting blow up.

 
The anime was actually broadcast in North America in the 60s as “Tobor The Eighth Man”. It was one of the first anime shows to run in North America alongside Astro Boy and Gigantor. The show didn’t last long, as the North American run had to be cancelled due to a hilariously dated reason. In 1970, the US passed a law that banned ads for smoking on TV and radio, and a major plot point of Eight Man is that whenever Eight Man needs to recharge he would smoke “energy cigarettes”. If you want to watch it, you can find the whole series on Youtube “remastered” by badly reformatting the original 4 by 3 aspect ratio to widescreen, and also adding jarring modern generic sound effects, but hey at least it is in some capacity preserved for anyone to see, despite the amateur remastering, and that’s cool.
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These guys are annoying to fight, especially when they decide to just fly off once you destroy their legs.

 
Now I’m not at all an expert on manga, let alone something this old, but it seems to me that Eight Man was a bit influential, or at least historically significant. It is not as revered as Osamu Tezuka contemporary series like Astro Boy or Kimba, or as fondly remembered as Speed Racer. I don’t know whether the source material is good at all, but the important thing is it’s considerably old, and the premise seems novel for a comic & cartoon at the time. It’s pretty much the premise for Robocop. Yet there’s not much material to ever came out of Eight Man, only a handful of manga and anime adaptations, a wildly panned live-action movie, and this very average (spoilers!) Neo Geo title as the only video game adaptation. This is not much for a series that is over 50 years old.
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cute doggo boss

 
The other slightly interesting thing to talk about before we talk about the actual game is Pallas, the developer. On Mobygames, they are only credited with 1 other project besides Eight Man, and that is Super Baseball 2020. Most of the staff in the credits section have worked on confirmed first party developed SNK projects, such as different Fatal Fury and Art Of Fighting games, some even worked on SNK projects before Eight Man. This makes me believe Pallas might have been like an internal sub-division within SNK that is meant to handle licensed projects, but quickly dissolved after Super Baseball 2020, and SNK would never directly develop a licensed game again. This gives Eight Man the distinction of being SNK’s only licensed project that they ever directly worked on in their history (unless you count Lee Travino’s Fighting Golf as a licensed game, which I guess it is). This is of course not counting collaborations with other video game companies like Capcom for SNK vs Capcom, or SEGA for the Sonic The Hedgehog game on Neo Geo Pocket.
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Oh no it’s…Five Man? He’s alive?! SHOCK!

 
Now that we got that all out, let us look at the game itself. Frankly there isn’t much to talk about, which is why I tried to fill time talking about the source material and the non-history of licensed SNK games. Eight Man is a “flat plane” type of beat em up. Unlike your standard beat em up, there isn’t an angled plane that you can move side ways on as you are going to the right (these are described as ”belt action” games in Japan). Movement functions closer to your standard platformer. [A] button attacks, [B] jumps, and [C] is a bomb/screen clearing move that costs some stock, which you can replenish by picking up “B” capsules throughout the game (alongside “L” capsules that replenish your health, and “8” capsules that give you temporary “Mario Star Power” like power-up). [A+B] does a special kick attack that hits both sides. You can crouch by tilting the joystick down, and down+[B] makes you slide, handy for quick movement, but the slide itself is not an attack, so you can’t use it to hit enemies.
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Another boss-looking boss

 
You can play Eight Man with a friend in co-op, as expected from a beat em up. The second player plays as “Nine Man” (no idea whether this is canon or not). You go through 4 “stages” each with varying number of “areas”. You got street levels, factory levels, forest levels, and even an elevator level. The most memorable of these levels are the auto-runner ones. These are fast autoscroller levels where Eight Man (& Nine Man if he is there) runs to the right while still doing the beat em up thing. It’s pretty cool looking, especially with how enemies jump around from the background to the foreground and then on to your level. The developers seem quite proud of this, so much so that the game has 4 auto-runner areas total.
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The auto-runner stage. Since you’re always facing right, enemies coming from behind can’t be hit with the [A] attack. This makes the [A+B] double side attack that much more useful here.

 
Stage 4 Area 4 is the third to last level in the game, and it’s an elevator stage, and as prototypical of a concept as an elevator stage in a beat em up, Eight Man kinda does it in a cool way. The elevator platform is situated in front of a giant multi-storey-building-high robot. As you are riding up the platform fighting the same goons and uh…helicopters, the robot itself starts attacking with its hands trying to crush you. Later you reach the top of the robot body and notice that the head is missing. You climb up a bit more and then start fighting the floating head of the robot as boss of the level. It’s a cool way to create a real sense of space and progression in an elevator stage since you know that you’re halfway there once you reach the abdomen. The hands attacking midway through adds another level of tension, and the missing head was an unexpected surprise, adding a little twist to a known beat-em-up archetype. 
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This is another cool mega-boss stage where you’re dealing with a giant flying fortress, first starting from below it…

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…then riding in front of it…

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and finally on top where you’re expected to destroy this “core” of sorts

Once you defeat the robot head (which sometimes turns into a brain? or maybe the brain was always in the robot head but it just chooses to reveal itself now and then?), it blows up and reveals a weird skeleton ghost, and the last 2 remaining levels are just an extended boss fight with said skeleton ghost.
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The Giant Robot is getting…handsy.

 
Eight Man overall is a case where the story surrounding the game is probably more interesting than the game itself. On its own, Eight Man is just an unassuming average beat em up but with robots and mutants and other scifi trappings instead of just thugs in tough streets. There are some cool touches like the running stages, or the giant multi-stage flying fortress boss (it actually resembles more the flying fortress boss from Stage 3 of R-Type. It’s more a shoot-em-up style boss than a beat-em-up one) or the elevator stage, but none of that is enough to lift the game from mediocrity. 
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Creepy floating head brain boss!

But the origins of the source material was much more interesting to learn for me. I heard it was based on some anime series or so, but I never knew that it was something that old, and with so little history or adaptations of any kind, not just games. Naturally as this was a licensed game, it never got any ports whatsoever outside of the original MVS/AES release. It didn’t even get a Neo Geo CD port.

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It’s the final boss! Spoooookyyy

While SNK doesn’t have a history of developing licensed games. Capcom, their biggest rival, has a huge history of licensed games of all kinds, from NES platformers like Ducktales, to beat-em-ups like Alien vs Predator or Dungeons & Dragons, to of course fighting games with a big number of Marvel-based games or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage Of The Future. NetherRealm Studios more recently have worked on DC Comics based games, starting with a crossover with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, and then evolving into the Injustice series. Arc System Works also has a history of licensed games, from making a Fists Of The North Star/Hokuto No Ken game, to a couple of Dragon Ball based games (like FighterZ or Extreme Butoden). Do I believe that SNK not making more licensed games was a missed opportunity? Not really. This freed SNK up to do more titles that they wholly own and control. It also means SNK titles are more easy to port to modern systems again and again without legal issues, while the 9 or so Marvel fighting games made by Capcom will always be locked away in Mickey’s vault, and whenever the stars align and we do get a new port of say Marvel vs Capcom 1, it barely stays on storefronts for long before the license runs out. But I would be remiss to say it would have been cool to see peak-SNK making a great fighting game or Metal Slug-like action game based off a cool licensed property, and who knows maybe that is still possible in the future. It’s fun to imagine that sort of thing, but the reality is there’s only Eight Man, and Eight Man is just ok.

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