Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Trifecta of Tragedy

Greetings one and all.

Seeing as this is my first proper post in what feels like a very long time (more on why at a later date), I find it strangely apt that I am writing this in honour of what can only be described as, a monumental occasion in the gaming calendar. 

To help celebrate the inaugural Review a Bad Game Day put together by the marvellous folk over at 1 More Castle, I've decided delve into the murky (and sometimes turd filled) waters of yesteryear. This whimsical journey will take us back in time to some of video gaming's golden eras, and remind us that sometimes not even the most rose tinted of spectacles are enough to blur out some of the cataclysmic mistakes of the past. 

During the next few hundred words or so, I will be taking a look at three of the most notorious and disgraced video games from my youth. Now it’s worth me pointing out that, until quite recently I had never played (or even dreamed of playing) any of these godforsaken monstrosities, and all three were chosen specifically for the severe amount of flak they received from magazines in the 90's. Will a mature pair of eyes allow me to see these games in a positive light? Read on to find out...

NB - All scores are being given in good old fashioned magazine style percentages...because it's just better that way!

Right, let's get to it:

Pit Fighter (SNES)

We start in glorious 1993, when the still young (in the UK at least) Super Nintendo was busy making it's mark on the gaming landscape. Stellar titles such Super Mario World, F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past had gamers up and down the land purring with delight...apart from those of a Mega Drive persuasion!

Also around this time, Atari's rather fun and flamboyant looking, arcade brawler; Pit Fighter made the jump from cabinet to console...destination: SNES. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but something (namely the entire game) seems to have got lost in translation.

I might as well come out with it right away: this game is fucking awful. And I don't just mean the regular Duke Nukem bad; we're talking full on Ebola virus bad here. It's so grim that I'm still unsure it should even be classed as a 'game', but anyways...


Anyone familiar with the arcade version of Pit Fighter will probably remember it looking rather impressive back in the day, it's use of live actors and blue screens to achieve a quasi-realistic look was quite notable. So when you consider the level of graphical prowess available on the SNES, it wouldn't have been too optimistic to expect a decent portion of this detail to feature in the home port...but oh dear. I'm being totally truthful when I say that Pit Fighter on the SNES would be put to shame by the majority of average NES titles, let alone the likes of Street Fighter II and Dead Dance.

To start with, the fighters look (for all the world) like the developers just dumped some skin coloured blobs into the game and then gave them different coloured trousers so you could tell who you were controlling. With so little detail present, it can get difficult to work out what's going on. To make matters laughably worse, the game seems to posses about 5 frames of animation...that's not 5 frames per second, just 5 in total. I actually thought it was a defective copy, and it's not unusual to witness your character going from standing totally still to something like an axe kick in one frame.

This graphical wizardry (phnar phnar) is also present within the scores of crowds that gather to watch your epic battles. For some reason, they all seem to move as one ugly brown really is depressing. In fact the only break you receive from the brown onslaught seems to be when a player is defeated, when for reasons unbeknownst to me he turns a stony grey. Almost like you've cast Petrify on him...only you haven't because unfortunately this is not Final Fantasy, it's a piece of dog shit called Pit Fighter.
Check out this 'digitised' powerhouse I've chosen

Further plumbing the depths of despair is the Pit Fighter soundtrack, which predictably is terrible. This is an achievement of some note considering there isn't actually a single sound played until you select your character (once again I thought the game was broken!) and are greeted by a ridiculous cry of "HUH". Once the bout begins things degenerate further still, with an decidedly rank bit of slap-bass that seems to loop about every 15 seconds or so. We all know that these were tough times and 8Mbits of storage is not much, but come on!


Game play is where Pit Fighter really gets into it's demonic stride, and manages to serve up the worst user experience that I can think of. You choose from three fighters, each of which is supposed to have the obligatory strengths and weaknesses, and then you find that none of this makes the slightest difference to the game in any way. You are immediately thrust into a match with a hooded bad guy called 'The Executioner', this guy basically pummels you with one of three moves until you die...this happens a lot.

Getting slammed in the very first fight is annoying enough when you have no real clue what is going on, but every time you are defeated, it's back to the title screen...via the Game Over screen, which you will become achingly familiar with. To make things just that little bit more arduous as well, if you do manage to fluke a victory, your character does not have his energy replenished between matches. Yep, you have to go through the entire game on one bar...further evidence of how broken and unbalanced this thing really is.

I don't feel that I have enough words to adequately convey just how rotten this game is. The controls are a total joke; pressing one button seems to unleash three completely different moves?! There is next to no collision detection, sometimes you strike your opponent, other times you don' seems to be up in the lap of the gods. And when you finally do get the hang of what's going on, you quickly realise that most opponents can be bested by constantly hammering the A button with a bit of backing off now and again. This tactic will see you fly through the game.

I also have no idea why they decided to exclude the arcade's magnificent three player mode, but I get the feeling that even that would have made no difference in saving this game, so they probably thought "why bother?"
The screen I became most familiar with

In a nutshell there isn't any...

Seriously, once you had played this game for about ten minutes or so I can promise you would never ever want to come back to it. Pit Fighter has no redeeming qualities, and is abominable even with a friend along for the ride. To rub salt to an already gaping and gangrenous wound, when it was released in 1993, THQ decided to charge £45 a copy! Just to put that into some sort of perspective, that is the same as Super Probotector and Final Fight...outrageous.

Overall score: 8%

Time Cop (SNES)

Our next stop is 1995, and whilst the SNES was cementing itself into the hearts of gamers with the likes of Secret of Mana, Super Metroid and Killer Instinct; a small company called Cryo were busy beavering away on a gaming semi-sequel to the lacklustre film; Time Cop (starring the Muscles from Brussels: Jean Claude van Damme).

Video games based on movies were certainly not a new concept back then, and on the whole were usually dire affairs, created to squeeze a few extra green-backs out of the latest craze. Time Cop sought to right this wrong by giving the player an exciting look into a (yet again) digitised and PC inspired future.

The thing is though, what they actually gave us must surely rank as one of the most dreadful action platform games ever created.


To be fair, Time Cop's graphics are actually not that bad, and while they never trouble the silky delights of Donkey Kong Country, they certainly don't sink anywhere near the level of George Foreman's KO Boxing. The game's characters are surprisingly well animated, and they run, jump and fight with a grace and fluidity that defies the rest of this rotten game. Unfortunately, making the sprites look this attractive seems to have taken up the majority of the game's memory because every baddie looks totally identical. Couple this with the fact there is no transition animation between actions (for example: walking to shooting) and you quickly get an idea of the path Time Cop is headed down.

The backgrounds range from dull brown warehouses, through to some average looking alley-ways all the way to the sea bed. While none of it is particularly bad, it is also never anything other than functional it does seem to repeat faster than the backgrounds in a Top Cat cartoon.

Unfortunately, some semi-pleasing character animations can't save Time Cop from looking like Lester the Unlikely's slightly more serious cousin. It's attempt to mimic the PC craze of realistic digitised graphics, leave it looking uninspired and hugely is almost as if the developers got to a certain point and then suddenly realised that they lacked that all important ingredient we know as talent.
In the future, all will be swathed in luscious brown

When Time Cop was released, the Super Nintendo was home to a multitude of sumptuous gaming soundtracks. Composers such as Koji Kondo, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu had set a very high bar and shown just what the console could's just a shame that all three of them must have been busy on the day the Time Cop team called them for some much needed assistance.

It is not that Time Cop has a diabolic soundtrack or anything, but the majority of it is about as memorable as wallpaper paste, and when it does try to stand out, it's for all the wrong reasons. The first level throws up some sort of pseudo dance (bad even in the 90s) track with a vile, cheesy voice shouting "FBI" and "Get on it"'s horrendous stuff. I can't help but think they should have just left the game devoid of music, it may have made more of an impact...oh, and freed up some valuable space for the graphics.


As any gamer worth their salt could tell you, action games of this ilk are defined by how they play and feel. The ability of the game to excite and test you is paramount, and though Time Cop certainly does test you (and your patience); it is for all the wrong reasons. It's hideous collision detection, and weird lack of reach from the main character are somehow just very wrong and further add to the feeling that this game was developed by idiots, most likely drunken idiots.

The game never once threatens to thrill or captivate you in the way that a Konami, Treasure or Capcom offering would, and in fact, this only serves to remind us just how far behind the greats, companies such as Cryo actually were.

Once again, I find myself struggling to put across in words just how poor this game brings shame to Jean Claude van Damme, that's how bad!
By a long way, THE only fun bit in the entire game

As with Pit Fighter, there is very little incentive to ever revisit Time Cop (which is cause for celebration, trust me). It's one of those games that leaves you wondering how it ever made it out the testing phase, and further makes a laughing stock out of the Nintendo Seal. It is dull, annoying, tedious, unfair, shallow, boring, monotonous, slow and only slightly preferable to eating glass.

Luckily Cryo beat a hasty retreat from the realm of the SNES and never returned...the world was a far better place for it. And I think it speaks volumes when I say I'd rather watch the Time Cop movie ten times on the run, than play this game for just ten minutes, a strong statement but a true one!

Overall score: 12%

War Gods (N64)

The final destination on our miserly mystery tour sees us enter the heady days of 1997, where Nintendo's newly launched N64 had been causing a noticeable furore...for reasons both good and bad.

Whilst the system effortlessly pushed out some of the most significant video game offerings of the decade, legions of N64 owners were left starved of a flagship 3D fighting game to rival the 32bit gladiators; Tekken and Virtua Fighter. To make matters more sour, PSX and Saturn fans could point to sizeable stables of sensational brawlers, whereas loyal Nintendo fans had to make do with mediocre offerings such as Mace: The Dark Ages and Bio Freaks (the less said the better).

So, step up Midway and their ambitious port of gore filled arcade smash; War Gods...


I still remember seeing War Gods in the arcade and being quite impressed by the look of the thing, although it lacked the finesse of Soul Edge and the polish of Street Fighter EX, it was still striking and the (outrageous) trademark Midway blood and guts was difficult to ignore.

Having seen just what the N64 could do in the right hands (usually Nintendo, Rare and Konami), I was convinced that War Gods would look at least passable when it was ported over to the 64bit beast...but as we all know, "passable" never really happened, in fact it only just about managed poor. What we got instead was shocking character models that seemed to (inadvertently) skulk about like zombies from Resident Evil, a terrible frame rate and a mystifying lack of detail in each of the quite frankly absurd "deities". This lack of detail does serve to hinder the effect given off by some of the (quite humorous) fatalities...for instance not being able to tell what limb you've just ripped off your opponent is a bit of a letdown.

Unforgivable when you consider this was on the console that gave us Goldeneye...
This is similar to what I did in real life, after playing War Gods

While it's quite difficult to forget that War Gods is an abomination, one of it's major (and very few) plus points is the soundtrack and FX. The music tracks are some of the better examples from the N64'a catalogue, and in truth belong in something much more accomplished. There are plenty of hearty screams and bone crunching sound effects too which are good for a chuckle if nothing else. The voice acting is also spot on, with the announcer being the best of the bunch.


Here's a big shock for you, War Gods has none...ok, it has a bit but not much, and what little there is, will never trouble a proper fighting game. The game is horrifically unbalanced, to the point where one opponent my destroy you five times in a row, and then the next three you can smash without breaking a sweat. This lack of natural progression only adds to what already feels like a rushed and unfinished game.

Admittedly, War Gods is not helped by the standard N64 controller, which however you look at it, just wasn't designed for fighting games of any kind. However this is not enough to excuse it's completely abysmal control system, and the inclusion of a Virtua Fighter style '3D dodge' button adds nothing to the party, other than bringing about a sort of strange and retarded dancing mini-game. It's certainly not what you would expect to see Paul Phoenix and co doing.
A hostile takeover of McDonalds in action

The one thing which War Gods has going for it, is that it's a bit daft and when you get into the two player mode, it can be a laugh for an hour or so. Although it's nowhere near the standard of Tekken, Fighting Vipers or even Fighter's Destiny, you can have some fun brawling with the ridiculous characters and watching the comedy fatalities is genuinely funny (but in that "not meant to be" kind of way). As you probably guessed though, this smidgeon of fun does not last too long and it won't be long before War Gods is given away to charity or sold on eBay in the hope that some curious or sadistic soul takes it off your hands.

The most disappointing aspect of War Gods on the N64 is that is that it's shite...erm, so I guess then that the second disappointing aspect of War Gods on the N64 is that with a bit more effort and attention to detail, Midway could've had a decent game on their hands. As it stands though, you can't help but feel they had the goal gaping and still managed to miss.

Score: 26%

The verdict

Happily the arduous expedition which has seen us take a look at some truly depressing excuses for entertainment is close to an end. And I can safely say, I would rather endure root canal than spend another moment with any of these cartridges.

Being something of a Nintendo (and in particular a SNES) fan-boy, this was always going to hurt. All three of these games are nothing short of abysmal, and I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who shelled out for them at full price when they were originally released. But, while all the animals are equal, one is more equal than the others...and that one is Pit Fighter!

A truly deserving victor, Pit Fighter is not just the worst game on the Super Nintendo, but by far the worst game I have ever had the misfortune to play. I can only hope that this review saves just one person from ever experiencing it's ghastly horrors.

Thank you for sticking with me through this most seedy jaunt, I sincerely hope you are not too shaken by the sights witnessed today! Be sure to head over to the Review a Bad Game Day website for further tales of despair.

About the reviewer: 

My name is Paul; I'm 30 years old and have been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64. In gaming terms I am happily stuck in the 90's, where I spend my time deep in obscure Super Famicom RPGs and bizarre 2D fighting games. Follow me on Twitter for ramblings about Hori controllers, an unhealthy love for SNK and general retro chit-chat.


  1. 12% seems a bit high for Time Cop.

    I actually own War Gods (I think it came with a bunch of other games I bought). I want to give it a try now to see how bad it is!

    1. I was no doubt feeling generous because it was the back of Pit Fighter...looking back, you may be right.

      Enjoy War Gods, it's badness knows no bounds!!

  2. Pit Fighter was spot on. I played it initially because of the arcade game...but cried when I plugged it into my Super Nintendo.

    An entertaining (and informative) read from top to bottom. Thanks for the shitty memories! lol

    1. Not a problem, thanks for reading it.

      I'm sorry that you too have experienced this broken piece of shit...THQ should've provided counselling round the time it got released!!

  3. We had an Ivan Ironman cab next to Pitfighter in my local arcade in the 90s, multi-player madness! I was so disappointed with the conversion of Pitfighter. Ivan Ironman on the other hand was the mutts...

    1. I was looking into some of the other conversions for Pit Fighter, and as bad as the SNES one was...we may have got off lightly with it.

      Poor Lynx owners were not so lucky.

  4. Hated Pit Fighter then and still hate it now.

    Atrocious game.

    1. It is without doubt the worst game I have ever played. THQ should have been ashamed of themselves for that one.