100 Days of MEGASHOCK! #18 Burning Fight

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Developer: SNK

Publisher: SNK

MVS Release Date: 20/May/1991

AES Release Date: 9/Sept/1991

Longplay Playthrough

The first game of this year’s oft delayed (yet again) 100 Days of MEGASHOCK! post is Burning Fight, the third traditional beat em up released on the Neo Geo MVS (not counting weird experimental beat em ups like The Super Spy). Burning Fight was released on May 20th, 1991, barely a year after the launch of the MVS in April 26, 1990. But despite being the third beat em up, Burning Fight is easily the one that offers the least within the MVS library so far, and is in all earnestness just unremarkable, aside from its almost blatant plagiarism of Capcom’s Final Fight.

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Kind of appropriate that Burning Fight starts next to an arcade. Also that looks like a Beast Busters cabinet.

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Not only arcade centers, but pachinko parlors too. This is certainly not New York.

The controls in Burning Fight work as such:

  • A button Attacks
  • B button jumps, wherein you can do jump attacks
  • C button is a “Middle Attack” but it really is just a long range slower kick attack. Also useful if you have a weapon equipped but don’t want to use it and want to kick instead.
  • Pressing AB does the “Hyper Attack”, a high damage attack that’s also a good “get off me” attack, but just like Final Fight (a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot) and other beat em ups, it consumes a bit of your health bar.
  • You can grab people by approaching them. It’s supposedly useful to break enemy guard but it’s finicky and does little damage.

Like Final Fight, you have 3 hard boiled tough vigilantes to play as:

  • Duke, the blonde dude who looks a lot like cody. His Hyper Attack is a Shoryuken
  • Ryu, the Japanese dude who wears an orange jump suit just like Guy, and yes his Hyper Attack is a Tatsumaki/Tornado Kick.
  • Billy, the “big guy” of the group who is surprisingly NOT that much like Haggar. His Hyper Attack is a very useful shoulder charge.
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Burgers conspicuously left on the ground next to a sewer manhole. Yummy.

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At least this Roasted Pork is on a plate

So you pick a dude, and then you immediately get into the heat of things, walking in streets and beating thugs up. Burning Fight doesn’t even bother with a short intro to set up the story, or cutscenes in between levels, not that stuff like that was ever important but still, seems like an odd but ultimately inconsequential emission.

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That’s a very nicely drawn BMW. Note the skidmarks.

 

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Watch out for Dudes in Forklifts.

Although unlike Final Fight and other beat em ups, the streets and alleys you are wrecking in Burning Fight are clearly based in Japan. From pachinko parlors to conbinis to tiny bars located in  second story buildings accessible by elevators, the setting does feel different than Final Fight’s Metro City, or the cities in Streets Of Rage, most of which look like a cliche’d up crime ridden New York City.

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In a (rare) effort to distinguish itself from Final Fight, Burning Fight has a stage ON TOP of a train…

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….where this chopper will sometimes pass by to try to gun you down. It’s a neat little scene.

And this is more obvious because one of the few novel features of Burning Fight is that every once in a while, you can actually decide to enter one of these shops as they act as optional bonus stages, where you can go in and wreck more people and stuff to get bonus items, like food from questionable sources (trash cans, clothes rack, signboards), or to get money, or even jewelry that probably doesn’t belong to the player character (but lets assume they’re just planning to retrieve them as stolen goods).

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A SUN MARKET “Conbini” (Convinience Store) that you can enter for a bonus stage. Also hi G-Mantle.

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Inside the conbini, you of course have to wreck more shit, even that copy machine.

Still, despite it’s Japanese-location, Burning Fight takes you through the usual spots found in many beat em ups: From the main streets, to an underground shopping center, which leads to a ride on the metro commuter train (and by that I mean literally ON the train), which leads to a downtown segment that leads to a construction site (with an obligatory elevator section), then to a bunch of warehouses, and then finally on a boat.

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It’s not a beat em up if it didn’t have an elevator stage. Nice music here though…

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…and at the top, you’ll fight this boss. He jumps around and slashes with his sword. Also nice music here.

Mechanically, Burning Fight is fine. It’s not the best playing beat em up but it does the job. Throws are somewhat useless though, and barely do good damage. Even Billy, the big guy of the group, doesn’t get any better throws then the other characters. If you want someone with sick throws like Haggar, you won’t find them here. Jump attacks aren’t that great either. They don’t stay out for long, so trying to jump kick the motorcycle dudes is harder than it should be. You have weapon pick-ups, and they are as handy as you’d expect: Knives, guns, long sticks, and of course bottles. They do seem to be timer based, and your guy would dispose of them even if you didn’t use them, so just spam that knife you just got.

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This Hulk-Hogan looking boss has quite an entrance

And that’s pretty much it . So the point of all of this is Burning Fight is a pretty average beat em up in all that entails. It’s not great. It’s not bad. It’s not terribly original, it has a few novel things. And it plays like every beat em up your ever played. Compared to the frantic Sengoku, or the somewhat bizarre Ninja Combat, Burning Fight is forgettable, and just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out of a crowd of hundreds of beat em ups released around this era on all platforms. At least it looks nice. SNK are certainly on their game with the spritework and background art.

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The last stage is set on a boat owned by….

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this dude here, the Final Boss named “Casterora”. And yes, his cane is a gun that shoots. 

This won’t be the first time SNK outright copies ideas from Capcom, but in the future, SNK will realize they need to do more than make shallow imitations of successful Capcom games. And that they need to make their games more distinct. The good news is SNK does.

Cameo Corner

Cameo Corner is the section where we look at cameos of characters from the game we just covered in other games. Of course sequels and crossovers don’t count because that is kinda obvious and doesn’t really count as a “cameo appearance” anyways.

Burning Fight never had a sequel, but Duke Edwards (I guess that’s his last name?) does make appearance in the future, mainly in various King Of Fighter games (which will be the case for A LOT of characters from random SNK-made Neo Geo titles). First, he appears in KOF 2000 as a “Another Striker”, which are characters that are not fully playable but can still be used as strikers. It’s one of the reasons why KOF2000 is such a fun KOF.

As a striker, Duke isn’t so useful. The big problem is that he is so slow. He takes ages after calling him out to reach the opponent and even then he also has to slowly charge for his attack, which is his Shoryuken “Hyper Attack”. Duke can work as a striker with some characters but KOF 2000 has other much more useful strikers. Duke also shows up in KOF 2002 and its remake, KOF 2002 Unlimited Match, in the background.

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Here is Duke, next to King, who was not playable in KOF2002 for some reason. Also Heidern is on tv btw.

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Here is Duke again, apparently manning the concession stand in the Neo Geo World theme park. Quite a career change from uh…cop? special criminal investigation force? roaming marauder? who knows.

Finally, Duke appears in KOF 94 Re-bout, the remake of KOF94 made for the 10th anniversary. The remake added quasi-redrawn sprites, but with an “HD” blurry filter that muddies things up and removes the crispiness of SNK’s original sprites. It also had not so great looking 3D backgrounds. KOF94 Re-bout ended up being a weird curiosity, and is probably not a coveted game that gets played often compared to the remakes of KOF98 and KOF2002, but I suppose it did begat those other two anyways, so maybe it should get some credit.

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If you can sway your eyes from these not so good looking sprites, you can see a tiny Duke hanging out there on the right.

Sadly (or not), none of the other characters in Burning Fight get to reappear in future SNK games. Oh well.

100 Days of MEGASHOCK! #8 Minasan No Okage Sama Desu – Dai Suguruko Taikai

Minnasan Coverart

It’s another Mahjong game, the second one so far.  Minasan No Okage Sama Desu – Dai Suguroku Taikai, which I guess (with a bit of Google translating and Wikipedia reading) translates to Thank God Everyone – Big Dice Game Tournament, at least from what I could gather as a non-Japanese speaker.

Meet Takaaki Ishibashi & Noritake Kinashi. Or maybe not.

So, who are these weird guys on the start screen? Well, they are Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi of the Japanese Comedy duo, Tunnels. These comedians have had a long career, starting off and gaining popularity in the ‘80s with their TV show The Tunnels Thanks Everyone, or Tonneruzu No Minasan No Okage Desu (without the Sama part). The show had a slight name change in the ‘90s to Minasan No Okage Deshita (Deshita = Was, Desu = is) and is still on air today. In recent years, with the advent of YouTube and other video streaming services, the show became renowned for inventing The Human Tetris game (called in the show Nokabe which means Brain Wall). The Human Tetris game has since been adapted worldwide as segments in a variety of shows, or even as a whole competitive game show.

Minasan No Okage Sama Desu was made by Monolith (No, not that Monolith. No, not this Monolith either). I couldn’t find information about them but it seems Monolith only released one more Mahjong game besides Minasan and didn’t make much else (not even on other consoles). Although they were making a fantasy-themed pinball game on the Neo Geo called Last Odyssey: Pinball Fantasia (Not to be confused with LOST Odyssey, the Xbox 360 RPG by Mistwalker). The only evidence of Last Odyssey’s existence seems to be this footage.

Eww

GAH! Stop doing that.

Now that we are past the more interesting parts of Minasan, let’s see the game itself. As with other Mahjong games, Monolith added a layer of features over the simple Mahjong game in order to make a compelling case to play this video version of Mahjong instead of just playing regular real life Mahjong. Usually, developers add a story mode (with or without adult-material) or an RPG mode, or a Manga tie-in, or, as is the case here, base it off famous celebrities.

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Well this is a wacky map. Too bad I didn’t see any of it.

In addition to that, they also based the progression around a board game. After choosing one of the Tunnels duo as your opponent, you get to play on a board game and try to move from the start position to the finish line. And in between movement, you play a Mahjong match. I never managed to win any matches since I can’t understand either Mahjong or Japanese. I can only assume that the score you win with determines the number of moves on the board.

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What kind of 5 O’Clock Shadow is that. It looks like it’s made of stone or something.

And well I can’t say much else about the game. It has recorded voice samples from the duo themselves probably. And if you wait for some time while playing your turn, your opponent does a silly animation. The music is weird & wacky, oddly remisicent of WarioWare. And that’s it. Moving on.

100 Days of MEGASHOCK! #7 Riding Hero

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Legendary video game designer Yu Suzuki launched his illustrious career with his first big hit, Hang-On, in 1985. It’s an arcade motorbike racing game that is one of the first to use SEGA’s 16-bit “Super Scaler” board. The “Super Scaler” technology allows sprites to change their sizes rapidly and smoothly. This enables the creation of faux-3D games without relying on the, at the time, very-taxing polygonal model. It was a radical change compared to the standard 2D scrolling method. SEGA, with Yu Suzuki in charge, used this technique to create other “Super Scaler” classics such as Space Harrier, Outrun, Afterburner, and more. Among them was Super Hang-On in 1987, which improved the scaling effect, had larger sprites, more intricate controls, and was generally a faster game than the original Hang-On.

The Spanish course has these bullfighting boards.

The Spanish course has these bullfighting boards.

I write this because Riding Hero is a straight copy of Hang On. The problem is not that it’s copying Hang-On (which just purely adapted the real-life activity of riding motorbikes with little added artistic material that might possibly be infringed on). It’s just that Riding Hero is not as good as Hang-On, or more appropriately, Super Hang-On, which was 3 year old by the time Riding Hero got released on arcades.

You can't get more Italian than this picture I suppose.

You can’t get more Italian than this poster I suppose.

In Riding Hero, you have three modes to play: W.G.P (World Gran Prix) mode, Story Mode, and System Link Multiplayer. Yes, Riding Hero is one of only three Neo Geo games with system link capability (the other two being League Bowling and Thrash Rally). Using a standard stereo male-to-male cable, you connect up-to-four MVS or AES systems through a port on the topside of the carts. Though with Riding Hero it only allows for two players (source).

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You can see the Grand Canyon in Arizona all the way from the Laguna Seca track in California.

In W.G.P Mode, you race across 10 international tracks against real life MotoGP racers (with slightly altered names) whom are briefly shown in the intro to this mode. The racers are: Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Christian Sarron, Kevin Schwantz, Tadahiko Taira, and Freddie Spencer. You choose the color of your bike (I chose lime green). And then you’re off to race.

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Whoops!

You get your standard gas and brake button. You also get a turbo button. As for steering, I thought the way SNK tackled it is pretty clever and definitely portrays how a bike handles differently from a car. You essentially use the control stick to choose the leaning angle of the bike and just let go. The sharper the angle, the sharper the turn. This significantly makes it easier to do long slight turns without having to continuously tap the controller. I wish more bike racing games would copy it honestly. This is easily the best aspect of Riding Hero. Sadly, not a lot else from the game is as well designed.

Just playing with perspectives.

Just playing with perspectives.

You see, Riding Hero is pretty hard. I had to use cheats to beat W.G.P and story mode. It might have the most egregious rubber band AI ever conceived. You won’t have any problems with the lower 5 bikes, but boy, you will have so much trouble contesting with the leading 2 bikes. And it’s always the leading 2 bikes together as an inseparable pair. As soon as you pass them, you won’t last seconds without them coming back and passing by you (or even THROUGH you). Unless you have stocked up a lot of turbo boosts, you can’t escape them. And to add insult to injury, they slow down once they are in the lead, and then you pass them, and then they speed up and pass you. And this stupid cycle of attrition continues on and on. Winning a race is a 50/50 shot basically dependent on which part of this cycle does the finish line lie on. And all of is at the best of times, after overcoming other obstacles like the narrow roads that make it hard to avoid other bikers. Or the fact that crashing always puts you back at last place. Or that it lacks a map. All these problems complement each and make this whole thing not fun.

OH NO! I'm in a burger.

OH NO! I’m in a burger.

The best strategy to follow seems to be to hold on to the turbo boosts, race until you have entered that cycle, and just stay there trying not to crash till halfway through the 2nd lap, then boost till the finish line. If you keep on this strategy and win all 10 races, you’ll be rewarded with a rather boring ending screen.

Yeah, I totally am the champion of cheating.

I think all video games in 1990 spelled it this way.

Now that we’re done with W.G.P Mode, it’s time for Story Mode. This mode was probably made for the home market like a lot of early arcade ports (such as Super Hang-On on the Mega Drive) to extend the game-time from a few minutes to about a couple of hours. Although it is playable on the MVS version, you are only allowed a few minutes of play before the game asks you for more credits. So I used an infinite time cheat in my playthrough.

"Take A Break or Sleep" What a slacker.

“Take A Break” or “Sleep”. What a slacker. Also, HUGE TEXT!

Story mode is you’re standard rags to riches career mode found in every racing game. You start poor, only able to afford the absolute worst bike. Then you work your way up on waged street races and competitions, getting more money to afford buying better bikes or tuning up your own bike. Until you finally become good enough to enter the professional scene, where you race a couple of races and then beat the game. Sounds fine right? Well, not until you learn that SNK thought it fit to form it around a boring text-heavy adventure game filled with bad tropes of the genre (like hidden triggers that are only inexplicably activated by speaking to certain people, or the fact that you have to progress by following a specific sequence of people to talk to) . Actually, the amount of text itself might not be large. It’s just that THE FONT IS HUGE. The text box can barely hold 6 words without refreshing.

Here's the map screen.

Here’s the map screen.

You first start out at your apartment, where you can wither “Sleep” or “Take A Break”. Since this mode has a day/night cycle, you might need to skip time by sleeping to catch certain events. Once you exit the apartment, you’ll see the map of the town with a bike shop, several ridges to race on, a professional racing circuit (that’s initially inaccessible due to convenient construction), a burger shop called the greasy spoon (Why spoon? Do people eat burgers with spoons? Or are the burgers so greasy that you can scoop mounds of grease on spoons? No idea) and a hospital to supposedly heal your wounds. The weird thing is I have no idea why you would ever need to go and rest at your apartment or treat your wounds at the hospital. I thought that there might be hidden stats that are affected by the amount of sleep and medical care you do. But I don’t think I ever needed to. It seems SNK put them there because “adventure games have them”.

Since this is a street race, be careful of other road cars.

Be careful of other cars on the road as this is a street race.

As for the story itself, I don’t think it’s to anyone’s surprise to say there’s really nothing notable about it, despite the surprisingly sizable cast of characters. There’s a guy named Joe who owns the bike shop and helps you start off your career. There’s his niece, Susie, who sometimes handles the bike shop in his stead. You quickly learn about Diamond Dave, the fabled top rider in town who everyone speaks of in reverential tones. He’s the one rider you hope to challenge one day and defeat him. Dave has a cheeky friend named Davis who you have to race his bike called “Zett” to get some information. Turns out the Zett is not a bike at all but is in fact a car (a 90s Nissan 300zx, or “Zed”). There’s the “God Of Death”, a mysterious biker who races on the deadly Ridge X, which has claimed many lives. In a shocking twist, it’s revealed that the “God Of Death” is none other than Susie, who races on ridge X in the memory of her boyfriend who died racing there, or something close to that. Weirdly, she didn’t seem to care that she might have inadvertently lead more people to die while racing her. And then there’s a bunch of more replaceable bikers to challenge.

You also get to race against a car.

You also get to race against a car.

Thankfully, the blatant rubber-band AI is not present in the 1 on 1 races in story mode, so that mode is a lot easier (or maybe because I used the infinite money cheat to buy the best bike). Once you have beaten Diamond Dave, Joe contacts you to so that you can finally get your professional racing license and race on the Suzuka track in Japan, the same one in W.G.P Mode. Here, the race plays out the same as it did in W.G.P Mode, including the cheating AI and the strict 60 second timer. Once you win that race, Joe contacts you again in order to join the 8 hour team race on that same track. The two man team is composed of you and your partner, who, surprise surprise, turns out to be Diamond Dave. In this final challenge, you and your partner will take turns racing around the track for 8 minutes. When it’s time to change riders, you are forced to go to the pit area to rest and wait until your partner finish his leg of the race (time is accelerated when you’re at the pit so as not to let you get bored of waiting too long). I have to say that this is a suitably grand finale for the story mode. Once you win this you have beaten the game.

There's top dog racer, Diamond Dave.

There’s top dog racer, Diamond Dave.

So how is Riding Hero overall? It’s a barely competent bike racing game, and not much more. SNK did succeed on a basic level, with great controls and smooth and fast scrolling and scaling. But the difficulty in W.G.P Mode is just not fun and needs readjustment. And the very talky story mode can get very boring very quickly, even if it does throw a few interesting curve balls every now and then.

Also

I see that they fixed the spelling here.

Racing games did not flourish on the Neo Geo, despite the fact that both that genre and the Neo Geo were very popular in arcades. This is probably because a big part of the appeal of arcade racing games is having an elaborate cabinet that uses steering wheels (or bike handles), force feedback vibration, and other mechanical features that are not supported on the Neo Geo. So controlling a car on a normal stand-up cabinet using a joystick is simply not as exciting as using vibrating steering wheels inside a sit-down expensive cabinet equipped with racing seats. Only two more racing games were made for the Neo Geo: Thrash Rally by ADK, and Neo Drift Out by Visco.

Ending screen.

Ending screen. Really deep stuff.