Playing the Lame Vol. 15

Before we begin this week, we’re going to address a couple things up-front, so as to set the stage, so to say, so that you’re prepared for where we’re going with all of this nonsense. I figure it’s easier to explain everything up-front like, so that you’re all on the same page with me and we can all play along at home.

Anyway, first off, the standard Playing the Lame format is being tweaked somewhat; we’re no longer suggesting fixes for the games and I’m not telling you where to buy these horrible atrocities. The former is because frankly, most of the games I’m going to be playing will be beyond any amount of help, and I am neither a miracle worker nor talented enough to make “Burn it all and start over” entertaining after the twentieth time of writing it. The latter is because, logically, if you’re the sort of diseased person who enjoys playing terrible games, like I am, you already KNOW where to find this shit, and thus, my recommendations are useless, and if you’re NOT, I don’t want to take the blame for making someone into someone like me. As such, we’re just talking up the game, exposing its shittyness to the harsh light of day, and moving on. Believe me, I can fill four pages with how bad most of these games are, so you’ll get your money’s worth.

I will, however, be informing you of your soundtrack for every write-up. Mostly because I like music, and I figure a good tune can make the worst experience bearable, the ear scene from Reservoir Dogs notwithstanding. Now, again, I’m not saying playing any of these games is like having someone saw your ear off but… actually, that’s almost exactly what I’m saying. Never mind.

Second, we’re going to actually DO something with these terrible games this time around; instead of simply pointing and laughing (which, in fairness, is satisfying in its own right), we’re ALSO going to catalogue these abominations based entirely on the amount of suffering I went through while dealing with these things. Now, of course, this is a completely biased ranking system and I’m not even going to deny that it isn’t, but in fairness, we’re talking about a competition between the absolute worst video games ever here. I can’t imagine anyone else on the site wanting to take on such a task, so I’m going to have to ask that you accept that if I say, for instance, that Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord is worse than, say, Beyond the Beyond, that you accept on faith that I am accurate in this assessment, or at the very least, that you not call me bad names for making such an observation. I mean, this isn’t exactly a popularity contest or anything, and I think we can all agree to a point that anything on this list DESERVES to be on this list for one reason or another (because it’s awful), so if I think that one game is worse than the other, that isn’t to say that one is better than another so much as it is to say that it made me hate my eyes and hands less.

As it stands now, our Hall of Lame looks a little something like this:

1.) Universal Studios Theme Park Adventures – Nintendo Gamecube
2.) ALF – Sega Master System
3.) Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord – Sega Master System
4.) Robinsin’s Requiem – Panasonic 3DO
5.) WCW Thunder – Sony Playstation
6.) Dinotopia – Microsoft XBox
7.) Beyond the Beyond – Sony Playstation
8.) Ephemeral Fantasia – Sony Playstation 2

Solid contenders, one and all. The present rankings display the actual numerical values of these titles relative to my specific hatred of them, so in case you were wondering, now you know. If we get to sixteen or thirty-two, maybe I’ll make them fight for our amusement or something. I don’t know.

Third, as of this moment, our Hall of Lame contender line-up presently looks like this:

Slaughter Sport – Sega Genesis – Me
Alone in the Dark – Microsoft Xbox 360 – Double L
Aquaman – Microsoft XBox – ML Kennedy
Evil Dead: Hail to the King – Sega Dreamcast – ML Kennedy
Deadly Towers – Nintendo Entertainment System – Pulse Glazer
Monster Seed – Sony Playstation – Thomas R
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions – Nintendo Gamecube/Sony Playstation 2 – Bunasaurus ROAR
Budokan – Sega Genesis – J. Rose

So, we’ve got a nice, even eight terrible items to play around with for the time being. This is pretty much the line-up going forward, mostly because I can actually REMEMBER enough of Alone in the Dark to write up about four pages from memory before I have to go back and play it, while Budokan would require actual time investment. In other words, the list is equal parts divided up by when you posted a request and how easy it is for me to badmouth it. I find it will be more entertaining that way.

Don’t forget, you’re more than welcome to recommend whatever terrible crap you can think of, and the worse it is, the happier I’ll be. Because I’m a moron, you see.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

PLAYING THE LAME, VOLUME 15.

Name of the offending title: Slaughter Sport
What system was this forced upon: This specific version, the Sega Genesis. Other versions of the game were released on various PC platforms, where the term “PC” means “Personal Computer”, not “Windows Platform”.
Who was responsible for this crap: Gamefaqs says this is Activision’s fault, so we’ll go with that.
Date this abomination was foisted upon us: The Genesis version, 1991; the PC version, 1989.

A BRIEF LAYOUT OF SLAUGHTER SPORT:

Your soundtrack for this write-up is Innerpartysystem. They only have one record, so far, but it’s a strong electronic rock record that’s quite pleasing if you happen to like industrial music.

Oh boy.

Oh boy oh boy.

The first thing you have to know about Slaughter Sport is that, despite what you might think, this wasn’t an attempt to cash in on the Mortal Kombat popularity that was sweeping the nation in the nineties, as this game came out years prior to the golden egg-laying, spine-ripping franchise most people will compare it to. That doesn’t exactly make it any better, you understand, but I think it needs to be said that of all the things one can accuse Slaughter Sport of being, a knock-off isn’t one of them.

The second thing you need to know about Slaughter Sport is that it’s an astonishingly original game, conceptually, and based solely on the strength of the concept alone, it probably isn’t the worst fighting game ever, let alone the worst game ever. The concept was essentially “a bunch of weird aliens get together and fight each other”, and hell, by modern fighting game standards that’s still pretty good; considering most fighting games at this point boil down to “a bunch of generic martial artists with vaguely interesting motivations fight to see who is best”, and those few games that try to do anything different assume doing something different means adding in:

– that the warriors come from different periods of time (Time Killers, Eternal Champions),
– that the warriors are robots (One Must Fall 2097, Rise of the Robots, Metal and Lace… shut up) or mechs (Gundam Battle Assault, Virtual On),
– licensing (Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters), or
– pornographic elements (no, I’m not listing these, go look it up yourself),

This makes the odd games that choose to do something a little more bizarre than the above immediately more interesting than the above itself. It’s not that we haven’t seen these sorts of fighting games before, mind you, or that these sorts of fighting games were even any good (Cosmic Carnage was mediocre, War Gods was poor, etc), but occasionally, taking the basic concepts of what makes a fighting game tick and doing something a little different with them can end up making your game a lot more interesting than it has any rights being (Brutal, Bloody Roar and, just to prove I’m not a furrie, Psychic Force come to mind).

Plus, Tongue of the Fatman came out in 1989, back when ANY idea for a fighting game was an original one, so it has that going for it as well.

So, no, Slaughter Sport isn’t the worst game ever, and it’s not the worst fighting game ever, either. It features a fairly interesting concept, interesting characters, and some surprisingly decent gameplay ideas (buying power-ups that can be used in battle and earning a fight purse that you can spend to heal/upgrade your character, essentially). It’s also pretty gory for a game that came out before being gory was a big thing in video games.

That said, it’s still absolutely god-awful.

WHY THIS GAME SUCKS:

The first thing I should probably explain to you is that the guy in charge of this whole song and dance is Mondu, AKA Mondu the Fat. He looks like this:

Before we move forward, no, I really don’t understand the cat-fish-woman thing at the bottom, either. Unless Mondu’s going to eat her later, there doesn’t seem to be much purpose to her existence. Bodyguard? She has no legs and Mondu is the king of the Fight Palace. Love slave? How would that even work? Even if she is intended to be a snack, she seems rather calm about this thing, which seems to rule that out. She serves no purpose, has no explanation, and yet, there she is. Welcome to the Fight Palace, I suppose.

Anyway, for those wondering why Mondu has such large nipples, well:

They are his chest eyes. Seriously. He has a mouth in his stomach and eyes in his nipples. He’s also really fat and wears what appears to be underpants when he goes into battle. Your opinion of this will largely depend on your appreciation/tolerance for absurdity in video games, and as I’m in the “love” category, I think this is pretty hilarious and awesome.

The rest of the cast isn’t quite as interesting, though there are a few winners. The game features seventeen playable characters, but before someone says “Wow, that’s a whole lot of characters in a fighting game from that long ago”, you should probably know that roughly half of them are palette swaps of other characters. You’re only given eight regular characters, eight alternate recolors of those characters, and Mondu himself, so the actual roster is only about nine characters. Add to that the fact that the characters themselves all had two color palettes in case you wanted to play the same characters against one another, and the game becomes REALLY lazy in a hurry. Still, at the time, this wasn’t a bad amount of characters for a fighting game, so that’s hardly a serious complaint.

The roster of characters, as it is, is pretty bizarre in some cases, so let’s just go down the line.

REX/MC FIRE:

Rex and MC Fire are your default “human” characters, meant to represent someone for us to identify with in a bizarre alien landscape, so assuming you’re a fire-breathing pornstar in karate pants, here’s your avatar! Rex and MC Fire are generally pretty basic fighters, and don’t do anything fancy aside from breathing fire, making them pretty much worthless all in all.

EDWINA/SHEBA:

Edwina and Sheba are humanoid aliens with living hair that can strike like a snake. No, really. Their Mohawks lash out at you as a special move. That doesn’t really explain the whole bondage costume motif, of course, but that isn’t really the point. Anyway, the Mohawk strike they use is about as powerful, roughly, as the above human characters’ fire breath, and the girls have no other redeeming qualities to them, so, yes, they also kinda suck.

GUANO/WEEZIL:

Oh ho ho. See, because he has bat wings, his name has the same name as bat shit. Get it?

Sigh.

Anyway, this is where we start getting into the REALLY weird fighters. Guano and Weezil are supposed to be gargoyle-bat-things of some sort or another, but aside from their ability to fly, their only other redeeming feature is the fact that they fart at their opponents. Yeah. We’re kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel and we’re only three entries in.

BONAPART/SKINNY:

Bonapart is supposedly related to Mondu, and Skinny to Bonapart, but the game makes no attempt to explain what they’re supposed to be, aside from “mutant skeletons”, so whatever, let’s go with that. The skeletal twins aren’t a terrible idea, though based on their oddly-shaped heads and bodies, one has to assume they’re the skeletal remains of some sort of alien race this game never really bothers to show us, which is kind of stupid in context. Also, they literally rip their own leg off and beat you with it as an attack, which is pretty amusing if nothing else.

ROBOCHIC/BRANIAC:

So THAT’S where Seth Green got the idea!

… no?

Okay, uh… Either the second guy loves fiber and taking long dumps, or someone misspelled their own nickname.

… yeah, okay.

So these are supposed to be some sort of bizarre cyborg chickens who attack by kicking, extending their fists, or launching their faces at you. I really can’t explain the concept any better than that.

Oh, and they can fly. Yep.

STUMP/BUFF:

Stump and Buff, aside from actually having a NAME for their alien race (Bulkar, if I remember right), are pretty much the best fighters in the entire game, despite their whole lack of legs and all. This isn’t because of their special attack, which is, literally, spitting on their opponent, nor is it because they’re stronger and/or better than anyone else you’ll face. Instead, it’s because they have an ability (accomplished by holding Down and A) that allows them to spin in a circle, effectively making it nearly impossible to hit them.

No, really. These are pretty much the only characters you’ll ever need to use to beat the game, and I guarantee you no one will ever want to play against you if you use Legless Joe or The Homeless Guy From Kids as your chosen warriors.

RAMSES/EL TORO:

And from that, we go to boxing minotaurs. They spit fire, too. Presumably the fire-spitting is meant to compensate for their semi-weak range, as their fireballs are pretty much the only full-screen projectiles in the game, but that doesn’t make the character better than dude from Basket Case on steroids shown above.

He can also stab you with his horns, but that doesn’t really improve his chances or anything.

WEBRA/SPIDRA:

Fun fact: Webra and Stump are, apparently, married. Sometimes I can’t make it better than it is, folks.

So, now that we’ve drilled through the bottom of the barrel, we get the spider-aliens. This isn’t particularly surprising, nor is their methods of attacking: striking with six limbs, spitting webs, hanging from an (invisible) thread and kicking, you could probably figure out the details without me spelling it out for you. That Webra essentially looks like an anthropomorphic black widow spider can either be taken as a serious lack of imagination on the part of the developers or as an admission of someone on staff’s secret fetish, especially if one of the staffers has no legs. Just a thought.

MONDU:

Mondu the Fat, lord and master of the fight palace himself. As you’d expect, he’s slow and plodding, his attacks are hard to work with, and his special attack involves smacking you with his tongue. Were those his only notable characteristics, he’d be mostly useless, but Mondu is actually a decent character thanks in large part to his inability to perform actual jumps. Most characters can perform actual jumping attacks, but Mondu is instead limited to either leaping forward and turning into a ball of flab (which causes the ground to shake and your opponent to fall) or falling backwards (which is a viable attack, since it can potentially kill your opponent in one hit, which may or may not be a glitch), both of which actually make him fairly worth playing as, honestly.

So, you as the player will take one of these characters onward to greatness in the Fight Palace, as you might expect, though it isn’t really as simple as “picking your fighter” and waging war until you achieve greatness. Now, while the two-player mode allows you to pick any fighter you want to play as, the one-player mode, by default, starts you off as Rex and asks you to play through numerous fights before you can earn any other characters. This isn’t exactly a good thing, as Rex, to put it politely, sucks out loud. As a result, this:

… is what you’ll be seeing a whole lot.

Assuming you can get past a few fights as Rex, eventually, you’ll see one of three screens at some point between fights. The first, and arguably most common, of these are the cinematics of Mondu advising you that you suck out loud, which you’ll see when you die, like so:

Needless to say, you’ll find you’ve developed a sufficiently large amount of hatred for the fat man LOOOOONG before you ever fight him.

The second of these are the unlock screens, which pop up every so often after a successful fight. These screens give you codes you can input on the title screen that allow you to play as new fighters in single player mode (two player mode unlocks everyone up front, thus making such codes unnecessary), which are pretty much necessary, because as noted, Rex is god-awful. Mondu is once again the bearer of such news, as you can see:

Of course, the codes are distributed at random, meaning that you might spend hours and hours playing through the game before you get a code for a character you WANT to play as, and it’ll be weeks before you earn every code, assuming you can remain interested that long (or keep from caving in and going to Gamefaqs or something).

The third screen you’ll see between fights is pretty much the only useful one of the lot, as it allows you to upgrade your character between fights. After each fight you win, you earn a fight purse, which you can use to buy power-ups for use in battle (most of which screw your opponents; freezing them in place, preventing them from jumping, etc), healing your character, or upping your character’s attack power to deal more damage in the next fight.

As systems go, this isn’t a terrible idea, and it works well enough to be interesting on its own. Unfortunately, much like most of the good ideas in the game, it isn’t really enough.

Now, this is the thing: Slaughter Sport, in general, plays like shit. I can’t even begin to explain, adequately, how painful this game is to play. Now, obviously, this game isn’t going to feature the sorts of innovations a game like Street Fighter 2 had at the time it came out, as these sorts of mechanics were incredibly fresh at the time Capcom first came up with them, but even taking that into consideration, Slaughter Sport is simply VERY BAD. The game essentially works off of a two button combat style, where one button initiates all of your regular attacks and the other initiates your “special” attack (where the word “special” is defined less as “unique and interesting” and more “rides the short bus”), while the third button uses your power-ups and does nothing else. This, though limited, is fine on its own. Pressing different directions in conjunction with your regular attack button performs different attacks, so, for instance, pressing the button alone might make you punch while pressing it AND forward might make you kick. This, too, is fine on its own. You can jump and duck, as expected, and attacks can be launched from these things, and again, this is fine on its own.

It is not, however, fine here.

First off, the “special” attacks themselves are, essentially, either entirely useless or slightly better than entirely useless, depending on the character. Most don’t go any further, range-wise, than your regular attacks, deal no more damage than your regular attacks, and feature longer animations than your regular attacks, thus actually making them WORSE in most cases. Ramses and El Toro do have full-screen projectiles, to their benefit, and a couple of the characters get some decent range from their attacks, but most everyone else has a shitty special attack that’s utterly useless. Second, this is one of those games where characters don’t register damage until a set amount of damage has been done; in other words, you’ll have to hit your enemies multiple times to make them register any damage, which is VERY annoying and doesn’t make much sense. Third, the character animations are entirely too long in nearly all cases, meaning you spend like five seconds trying to kick someone because you’re waiting for the animation to complete, which is somehow made WORSE because if you don’t hold down the button until the attack completes, the attack stalls and the animation cuts off.

I’m going to repeat that: IF YOU DON’T HOLD DOWN THE BUTTON UNTIL THE ATTACK COMPLETES, THE ATTACK STALLS AND THE ANIMATION CUTS OFF.

Look, there are so many other problems that make this game pure unadulterated animal excrement that I can’t even begin to catalogue them all, like how of all of the powerups only one or two are actually USEFUL, or how only the Bulkars and Mondu are worth playing as, or how unlocking character codes can take the better part of a month because the codes you get are random, or how upgrading your attack power in-between fights is useless because it just resets at the end anyway, but COME ON NOW. It’s bad enough that the special attacks suck ass. It’s worse that there are no combos in the game to speak of. But to make the player HOLD THE BUTTON DOWN TO DO A FUCKING KICK? Who thought that was a good idea? Did you think we were going to want to fake the player out? IT’S A FUCKING KICK, NOT THE GODDAMN RAGING DEMON. The strategy in this game amounts to, literally, hitting the opponent more than they hit you. That’s it. That’s all. Using “fake-outs” to defeat enemies is beyond the scope of usefulness in this game. Such a tactic is borderline pointless. I mean, you can’t even block, for shit’s sake, of what tactical use is a fake-out going to be when you can’t even stop the incoming kick in the face that’s being aimed your way?

The most shameful thing about Slaughter Sport, though, is that you can see where a good game might exist somewhere under all of the garbage in the game. The concept, while hardly amazing by today’s standards, was pretty interesting back in the early nineties, and fighting games were just starting to get into full-swing, popularity-wise. The between-rounds character enhancement by way of spending fight winnings is still a neat concept, and the characters were just ridiculous enough to be charming without actually being interesting or good. All of the ideas in the game seemed to have gone into the concepts and the associated mechanics, leaving none for the actual gameplay, and that’s a sin, because instead of being a good, enjoyable niche brawler along the lines of a One Must Fall: 2097 or a Brutal (shut up, I liked it), Slaughter Sport is simply another Genesis title that cashed on the “violence=good” marketing of the nineties, ALA Sword of Sodan and Technocop (both of which will probably end up here sooner or later).

CLOSING COMMENTS:

As I noted above, Slaughter Sport probably isn’t the WORST game ever, simply because there are one or two interesting ideas here and there that might have been something good in the hands of a developer who didn’t have their R&D department staffed with victims of rectal-cranial fusion syndrome, and generally, the WORST games are going to be those that have absolutely NO good ideas to show off. Among terrible fighting games, it’s most likely in the top ten, even if I haven’t gotten into Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus yet, so you can take some consolation in that, at the very least.

Ah, the Thirty Worst Fighting Games. Now THERE’S a list I’ve been considering for a long time. Sadly, my partner in crap, mister Matt Yaeger, doesn’t seem to be a big fan of fighting games, so I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Anyway, I hope this has been as illuminating for you as it has for me. Next time we’re going to look at Alone in the Dark for the 360, because I can remember it better than any of the other recommended games and my copy of Aquaman is in a box I haven’t dug out yet, so until then, I’m Mark B. and you’re not, and you should be very, very glad for that.

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