Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

Martial Masters (Arcade) artwork

Martial Masters (Arcade) review

"Martial Masters is, quite possibly, the greatest 2-D fighter you値l never play."

It will never be in some game mag痴 top ten. You値l never hear about a tournament being held for it. It may never be mentioned in the same breath as Guilty Gear or Marvel vs. Capcom or King of Fighters.

But believe me when I say this: Martial Masters is, quite possibly, the greatest 2-D fighter you値l never play.


Now, Martial Masters doesn稚 have any revolutionary modes; no tag-team, no transformations. It doesn稚 have any flashy effects, no Shinku Hadoukens, no flaming dragon punches, not 50-Hit Ultra Combos of Unyielding Doom. It doesn稚 have you playing dress up or looking for hidden cutscenes, it doesn稚 force you to memorize button combinations, it痴 not the sort of game you have to spend weeks at to master. Some characters require patience to master, some are good for button mashing, and the former can always beat the latter. No gimmicks. No tricks.

Martial Masters only has two things going for it: The world itself and the characters that fight in it. That痴 all it needs.


The backgrounds flow like moving art. Reeds sway in the forest, wafting in the breeze, leaves fall and the sun leaks through the canopy, vibrant shades of white and green dashing over the battlefield. The marketplace, filled to the brim with people in their morning rush, part ways and look on as you trade blows, hanging on every punch thrown and every kick blocked, so close, so vibrant, so animated that it almost seems like you could bring the fight to them with a stray strike. A river runs through a cave, fighters train on the temple grounds, a horde of monkeys look on with jeering eyes; you can almost get so distracted by the world that you lose track of the fight.

Almost. The backgrounds may be gorgeous, but the characters themselves are nothing short of mesmerizing.


Watch Red Snake dance, see her curve and flow, see her pose, see her muscles tense and bulge and squirm, practically slithering across the field; wearing the dress of a belly dancer and fitting the role, the moves, and the style to perfection.

Gaze on the monstrous man-mountain named Monk, a living juggernaut. Huge, imposing, a terrifying foe to face; his every motion carries great weight. He punches and his whole body moves in tandem. Legs, torso, head; it all shifts in a grand, dynamic display of raw power. He controls like a power character, he moves like a power character.

And then, the Drunk Master. His attacks, his taunts, his every animation plays out in fine form. Even standing still, his entire body runs the full gamut, transferring from move to move to move with realistic fluidity, borderline hypnotic. When properly used, he flies around the screen. No choppiness. No missed frames. Sometimes it doesn稚 even look like anyone痴 playing him, like he痴 just going through one continuous animation all on his lonesome. He痴 the most ornate, most intricate, most amazing character I have ever fought as. 2-D. 3-D. Whatever.

Monkey Boy leaps and laughs, slapping his opponent around with random strikes and taunting all the way. Scorpion follow his namesake with insane fervor, crawling along on two hands and one leg, striking out with his fourth limb held high and a devious smile. Every character has naunces, styles, distinct ways they need to be played for maximum effect, but they all benefit from keen playing. Yes, you've got the beginner's fighters, the obligatory well-rounded characters. But they're nothing compared to the advanced ones, the kinds that take patience and study and lots of quarters. From the many forms of Huang to the grace of Crane to the overbearing power of the Lotus Master, Martial Masters has many such characters to go around.

It's all about the detail. All about developing your characters, learning their intricacies, knowing what they can and can't do. But, unlike a lot other fighters with a learning curve, it's also about enjoying the process.


Arcades are on the verge of extinction, at least where I live. Nearest one痴 about twenty miles away, and they dare replace this game, this masterpiece, with a Dance Dance Revolution machine.

Like replacing the Mona Lisa with macaroni art. Shameful.

But the memories stay strong; you forget a game like this. It痴 a gem. It痴 that dinky little cabinet they tuck in the corner, the one nobody plays but everyone should play. It deserves the respect it will never be given.


lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (June 28, 2006)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by Zack Little [+]
Catwoman (Xbox) artwork
Catwoman (Xbox)

99.999% of the people reading this review have either seen or heard about the horrendous Catwoman movie, and are coming into this review expecting it to be bashed. Though I hope the great majority of people enjoy the read, know that I'm not aiming it at them. No, this is for the .001, the one soul on the planet ...
Mass Effect (Xbox 360) artwork
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)

The moment that made me realize Mass Effect was a great game came about thirty minutes in.
Spider-Man 3 (Xbox 360) artwork
Spider-Man 3 (Xbox 360)

Gang wars take over the streets. An alien symbiote pops out of nowhere and gives him a new suit with incredible strength - but makes him a complete asshole. Kraven the Hunter, Calypso, the Lizard, the Rhino, the Scorpion, the Kingpin, the Sandman, the New Goblin, Venom - New York City is a battleground, and there痴 onl...


If you enjoyed this Martial Masters review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2021 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Martial Masters is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Martial Masters, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.