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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Retro Review: World Heroes (PSN/PSP)

Fighting games in the 1990s were a dime a dozen. You almost couldn’t enter an arcade without seeing two people duking it out, surrounded by people eagerly watching and waiting to get their shot at the machine (which lead to many real-life bruises). After the release of Street Fighter II, many of these games started becoming derivative in an attempt to capture some of the game’s immense popularity. World Heroes might go down as one of those knockoffs, but it definitely has some heart to it beyond the play mechanics. Sadly though, it’s not an ideal experience for newcomers to the fighting genre and seasoned veterans have likely already played more engaging titles.

Like most 90s fighting games, it bears a strong resemblance to Street Fighter II in terms of both its style of play and its character roster. There are loads of moves to memorize for each playable character and they are executed by pressing certain combinations of buttons in conjunction with other buttons or with the D-Pad. You’ve got all the standard throws, grabs, projectiles, and whatever else you’ve come to expect from the genre. The controls and execution can be difficult to get used to, but it’s nothing downright horrendous. It’s worth noting that there are only three buttons, unlike other fighters at the time that utilised more complex control systems (what with Street Fighter having a different button for three types of kicks and three types of punches). With a roster of only eight characters, it’s not going to set the world on fire, but it allows for some interesting match-ups nonetheless.

In terms of personality, the titular heroes are quite unique. The cast consists entirely of people based off of historical figures throughout the ages and from all over the world. Calling it a diverse cast would be an understatement when you’ve got spiritual successors to Jeanne D’arc, Hulk Hogan, Genghis Khan, and Grigori Rasputin. Though they all have different names from the figures they were based on, they share characteristics with these people to the point where the resemblance is uncanny cases. Think of it as an obscure version of Super Smash Bros if it instead featured memorable fighters from different time periods and was released in 1992 for arcades.

Aside from the core gameplay and singles modes, World Heroes packs innovation elsewhere. It brings with it a new mode called “death match”. This allows two opponents to compete in deadly arenas filled with traps and weapons galore. Everything from electric fences to spiked walls can result in taking hefty damage. As a result, these matches tend to be quite one-sided and disturbingly swift. It doesn’t hold up very well at all by today’s standards but it can be mindless fun if you’re competing against an actual human player.

This may seem like nitpicking, but the menus are ungenerously hasty and don’t offer all that much time to pick a character and settings for them. The character selection screen doesn’t showcase the names of each fighter. There isn’t even an on-screen counter that shows the seconds remaining. What was the rush? You would think that in 2011 the time limit could be increased slightly (or better yet, removed) without damaging any of the game’s original appeal.

Lastly, there is the multiplayer mode - generally the most important part of a fighting game. This PSP port of World Heroes allows you to play via Ad-Hoc with any other PSP users around you, assuming they’ve also downloaded the game. Being able compete with acquaintances on the go or play at a pal’s house without all the wires is always a pleasure. Gamers with a PSP-to-TV cable can probably look forward to the most multiplayer fun without sacrificing the portability of the PSP to buy the PS3 version.

The visual department holds up surprisingly well on the PSP’s small screen. Despite this being a title from 1992, the Neo Geo’s state of the art tech makes it look just as good as some of the later 2D fighters in the 90s. There are some solid tunes, though the majority of them are nothing special in all honesty. Sound effects are of a similar nature. If you want to listen to a track outside of battle, you can use the included sound player, which is always a nice bonus.

Fans of the fighting genre may want to check out World Heroes, but most aficionados have already played far superior titles. If anything, these people are better off waiting for the release of World Heroes 2 or World Heroes Perfect since they improve on the formula and add more zany characters to the mix.

-Clark A.

Retro Review: World Heroes (PSN/PSP)
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