Review: World Heroes Anthology (PS2)

World Heroes Anthology
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: ADK
Genre: 2-D Fighter
Release Date: 3/12/2008

Ah poor World Heroes, until the inclusion of character from this series into the awesome Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, I had assumed that this fighting series was to be as neglected by the new SNK as they have Baseball Stars.

From 1992 to 1995, SNK released 4 fighters based on the concept of warriors from a cross time and space getting together to duke it out. In it’s day it was a novel concept, but only a few months after the original games release, Sega released what was arguably the greatest direct to console fighter EVER in Eternal Champions. EC became a pretty popular franchise for a bit, offer the fatalities of Mortal Kombat, the incredible controls of Street Fighter and the “:Last Boss Syndrome” of SNK games. Although World Heroes came first, EC had a similar plot and ended up overshadowing SNK’s newest franchise.

There was another “gather people from across time and have them kill each other” game called Time Killers, but we won’t talk about that atrocity.

EC wasn’t the only thing overshadowing World Heroes.Two years after the first World Heroes game, SNK put all their energy into a little title called King of Fighters ’94 which ended up being the company’s cash cow for a long time, causing the World Heroes and other franchises to be put on the backburner in terms of both marketing and fan support.

Now however, SNK has sought to correct that by giving us World Heroes Anthology. For about 4 bucks a game, you can get the entire WH series on a single PS2 disc. Once again SNK makes me look at my collection of Neo Geo and frown due to how much money I put into that over the years.

So with a decade and a half of ring rust sitting on the series, it’s time to see how the PS2 ported collection holds up. Is World Heroes Anthology worth taking a gander at, or has it become an anachronism, doomed to NEVER have the attention or respect it’s other SNK siblings have achieved.

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

Wacky Ol’ Doc Brown built himself another time machine. This time instead of putting it into a De Lorean, he’s decided to use his genius to gather warriors from across time and have a gigantic fighting tournament to see who history’s greatest warrior is. In fact, the tournament has another purpose behind it – to fend off the attack of the alien invader Geegus. The winner is to face Geegus in a battle for Earth’s survival.

The eight playable characters in the first game are all based of real historical figures. You have Hanzō Hattori, a famous Japanese Samurai.He is the main character in all four games. There is Kotaro FÅ«ma, who was the real life slayer of Hanzō and a famous ninja. The evil Russian Rasputin, Janne D’arc (Joan of Ark), and Julius Carn (bodyguard of Genghis Kahn) are all historical figures. There is also the completely fictional evil Nazi cyborg Brocken and two characters that evolve throughout the games. The first is Muscle Power, a pro wrestler who is obviously Hulk Hogan. After the first game his appearance drifted away from his likeness. Same too with Kim Power, who in the first game was meant to be Bruce Lee, but he eventually evolved into Ken from First of the North Star.

World Heroes 2 gives us another alien attack, that of Dio, or Neo Dio has he was renamed and retconned,. This game is my favorite in the series as Neo Dio is one of my favorite bosses in all of SNK history. Geegus returns as the sub boss Neo Geegus in this game. In the original World Heroes he could pull a Shang Tsung and turn into any of the original eight fighters. In WH2, they added six new characters. They are Captain Kidd (who is the “Shingo” of the series), Erick the Red, Johnny Maximum (Joe Montana!), Mudman (a very racist portrayal of a South Seas Islander), Ryoko Izumo (Based off of Ryoko Tani, the world’s greatest Judo expert), and Shura (who is actually SNK KoF’er Joe Higashi).

World Heroes 2 Jet gave us a few new playable characters in Jack the Ripper and Ryofu, who is LU Bu from Romance of the 3 Kingdoms. It also gave us one of the most evil bosses in SNK history, Zeus. No, not Tiny Lister, but the Grecian God himself. Or maybe he’s an alien in human form. They are never quite clear on that. Oh man, is he a pain. Originally WH2 was the “Turbo” edition of the series as the previous two games were VERY slow. However, WH2 has a speed edit in this anthology.

World Heroes Perfect gives us Son Goku as a hidden character and sub boss and that’s about it. Oddly enough, this is easily the worst in the series. Don’t listen to its name.

Mode-wise the game is a straight forward fighter offering your basic colour edit screen. A practice mode and that’s about it. Unlike other recent compilations from SNK, there was no artwork gallery or anything to unlock. All the classic Death Matches (parodies of hardcore FMW/ECW wrestling matches like oil slicked floors or spiked walls) are still in the game and remain one of the most memorable alternate battles modes in all of fighting games.

This is a pretty bare bones collection, but the game is hilarious to play as it’s obviously taking the piss out of other fighting games, and the endings are just…weird. There’s a lot of interesting and unique characters in WHA and it’s certainly worth looking at just to see all the wacky attacks and background settings.

Story/Modes Rating: Good

2. Graphics

It’s a shame I have to rate this comp based on PS2 graphics, as in their day, the graphics were indeed pretty good. Even today though, the large and colourful character designs still hold their own, even if the game is obviously from yesteryear. I always like the look and feel of the character sin World Heroes better than games like Art of Fighting if only because they were a little more cartoon and they flowed better on the screen. Compared to a lot of other SNK games, World Heroes And its offspring have held up a lot better against the test of time, and it’s still a pretty game in its own right. This series is easily the best looking out of the early to mid SNK games, and even if you’re a graphics whore you won’t be whining about the “outdated” look of WHA nearly as much as one does with the KoF games.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

The World Heroes titles boast what I consider to be the best overall soundtrack in SNK history. There are assorted KoF games with better music if you look at individual titles, but the amazing score in this series really deserved better acclaim. As much as I think Zeus is the worst fighting game boss EVER, I do love his background music.

Honestly, if SNK put out a gaming soundtrack to this, I would buy it. It’s that incredible. Hell I’d pay the MSRP of this collection just for the music. I am shocked how much the individual tracks still hold up after all these years and how sublime I still find them.

Voice acting and sound effects are quite nice as well. I love Rasputin’s “Ice-uh Ball-ew.” Very cute.

The sound of World Heroes is where the game will find it’s strongest appeal across a large cross section of gamers. While others fine the first two games too slow, the third game too insanely hard at the end and the fourth game to have regressed into a Street Fighter II clone with World Heroes characters, I can’t imagine anyone dissing the incredible soundtrack here.

Sound Rating: Unparalleled

4. Control and Gameplay

This is going to be a hard section to cover, as the gameplay changes from title to title, especially with World Heroes Perfect. I would recommend checking over the move lists and buttons for each game when you switch from one game to the next, if only to remind yourself of the different play styles.

I should point out even though we have two punch and two kick buttons for the games here, back in the arcade there were only THREE buttons. A single Punch, a single Kick, and a Throw/Taunt button. Whether you were using a hard or soft move depending on the duration you held the button down. This is missing from the games here, but it was also missing from home versions of the game due to the lack of joystick sensitivity at the time. It’s missing from the PS2 version just because it’s easier I suppose to separate out the attacks. I was hoping the old way would be kept, but what can you do? It did make the game feel highly original though.

WH: The biggest complaint about this game it that it was too slow. In truth, that doesn’t make it worse than SFII or Fatal Fury; it just makes it different. What WH lacked in speed, it more than made up for with rock solid gameplay. The PS2 port of this game continues this tradition and as I am a firm believer that the Sony designed joysticks are the worst ever made for 2-D fighters, that’s a pretty big compliment.

The controls are fairly standard for a Neo Geo game. Two punches, and two kicks, and the usual Z or half circle motions plus button combos for special moves. Everything gets pulled off flawlessly and the controls are nice and tight.

WH2: This is my favorite in the series, and it’s even better now with speed editing. Here you can now make the game as fast or as slow as you would like, making it not only still the best game in the series, but now the most flexible for anyone to play. Controls are just as solid and moves are pretty much the same. WH2 just gave us new and awesome characters and some minor gameplay tweaks.

WHJet: Here is where we lose Death Match mode, which is replaced with handicapped mode. I was not a fan of this change as here is where SNK began to forget WH was a parody fighter and they started making it SERIOUS BUSINESS. The game is sped up quite a bit and characters can now dash. Controls again though are mostly the same.

WHPerfect: here we see SNK give up on the WH style of gameplay and move the game fully in line with KoF style controls. We’re up to four buttons now. Two for punching and two for kicking. The game also introduces a Super Special Move, which is triggered by hitting three buttons at once. The game speed was again kicked up so that it was basically at Street Fighter Turbo levels and a “Hero” metere was added similar to the charge gauge in the SF series. Basically, SNK’s World Heroes Perfect was a Street Fighter II lite clone. So of course here is where the controls start to fall apart, where moves aren’t recognized as fluidly and there are tiny control lags at time.

There are some nice additions like air blocking and the ability to strike twice while jumping, but for the most part Perfect is the most flawed of the games and really lacks the heart and soul of the rest of the series. It’s well known to be a flawed buggy, glitch-filled mess and nothing has changed from the arcade to your PS2.

For the most part the controls of the first two games are rock solid and amazing, the third game is good, but Zeus ruins the game for me with his 100% damage attack, and Perfect is a mess than really is only liked by people who had to have all their fighters in the same vein as SF2 and KoF.

WPH brings the collection as a whole down here, but it’s still one of the best 2-D fighter ports on the PS2

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

My god man, what more could you ask for? There are four fighters, two of which have Death Match Mode, all of which has hilarious characters and attacks, and two of which are the most balanced fighters in SNK history. The graphics are still good, although may be considered quaint by casual gamers, and pretty much anyone can pick up the first two games in this anthology and learn the intricate art of throwing fireballs at each other.

Amazing replay value, especially when you look at the amount of content and depth the games have as a whole.

Replayability Rating: Great

6. Balance

SNK games are generally crazy hard. I am a lifelong fan and even I admit that the end bosses take a giant leap in difficulty and leave a lot of people swearing. WH and WH2 however are well balanced games that anyone can have fun with without the fear of an evil cheating stinky pants boss. This is great for newcomers to the genre as they can play either game in normal or death match mode and learn the basics. WH and WH2 make great “Baby’s First 2-D Fighter” games.

WHJet featured one of the crappiest bosses in all of gaming. I hate Zeus. He is up there with KoF XI’s end boss as the cheapest in all existence. He has a one hit KO which is absolutely hellish and unfair. NO fighting game should offer that level of insanity.

WHPerfect still has Zeus in it, but you only have to beat him in a single round and then Neo Dio comes in and takes over. This was a nice little solution and it features both bosses from the two versions of WH2, and Zeus is toned down from his original evil appearance. However, the game is so buggy and flawed that balance goes right out the window if you know what you are doing. Certain characters have unblockables and endless loops they can do. VERY lame. Again, WHP is by far the worst game in the series.

Overall, you have two well made and balanced games, one game that is cruelty itself, and one that is a piece of crap. I’ll be nice and say the two good and two bad balance each other out.

Balance Rating: Decent

7. Originality

With 3/4ths of the game having a highly original control scheme and all of the games having weird flamboyant characters and wacky attacks, World Heroes as a franchise is still very unique amongst fighting games. Death Match mode in the first two games is always highly entertaining and you never know what will happen next.

It’s sad to see how the series took a nose dive with the last two games in terms of gameplay, but as a whole the series was fresh and maybe even a bit ahead of its time by going against the grain of what was currently out there.

Originality Rating: Above Average

8. Addictiveness

As much as I have been praising the series for standing the test of time and for its innovation, its roots as a comedy series has always left me looking at the series as something I would play when nothing else interests me or if I want a slower fighter. The series is cute, but it’s never been one to draw me in for a long period of time.

It’ll be great for casual gamers or people new to the genre, but the game is missing that X actor that hooks fighting fans for an enlongated period of time.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

9. Appeal Factor

I think with the release of this anthology, the series if really going to find new fans. People who generally hate SNK Boss Syndrome will love the first two games in the series. People who want a slower, more methodical fighter will enjoy WH and WH2 as well. People who are looking to learn the genre will find the first two fighters in this anthology to be an excellent launching point and then Jet to really test how well they can deal with the SNK Last Boss Syndrome.

Out of all the recent anthologies releases of SNK fighting games, I feel WHA is best suited to the widest range of gamers. 2-D fighting may be a dying genre but at least World Heroes Anthology can bring some new blood to the fold.

Appeal Factor: Decent

10. Miscellaneous

Boasting an amazing soundtrack, some historical characters gone mad, and the always enjoyable Death Match mode, ADK gave us a nice spin on the fighting genre, even if none of them ever made it big. SNK has now upped the appeal by giving us all four games for an insanely low price. Just when I think the PS2 has gasped its last, I get something like this on my doorstep and spend hours with a last gen console instead of the would-be “cutting edge.”

Great collection for a great price.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Decent
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Great
FINAL SCORE: GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary

Dude, it is fifteen dollars for four fighting games! What is the downside here? Stick to the first two games which are a complete 180 from what most fighting games are like, and move on to the other two when you’re up for a challenge and/or more of the same you can find anywhere else. Welcome back World Heroes, we missed you.

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