"The two main Heroes are SNK’s answer to Street Fighter II’s Ryu and Ken, right down to the fact that the ‘alternate’ choice is the guy in red. Even their moves are rip-offs – a rising uppercut, a spinning attack, and a projectile attack – all effected in the exact same way as in Capcom’s game. This wouldn't be so bad if the newer game actually improved upon the source material. As it is, the moves that enaged, that elicited such a gut feeling of satisfaction in the execution, here come off with little pay-off for the player."
Nostalgia is wondrous only when left unexplored – ‘cause God forbid the thing you remember loving was never that good to begin with. World Heroes Anthology makes the strongest of cases for this notion. I built the World Heroes franchise up in my mind, years removed from actually playing the games in the arcades alongside Street Fighter II, the classic which inspired them, and beside which they most certainly do not belong. Nevermind that World Heroes actually tried to do more than just be a pale copy, tried by adding ringside hazards and pressure sensitive controls – the result was the same.
This thesis is hammered home immediately even upon a cursory glance: the World Heroes games are not visually impressive now, nor were they ever. The art style does nothing to capture the imagination – your warriors look washed out, and what is meant to be baggy attire, looks like solid fat instead. And the sounds… well, suffice to say that in revisiting the games now, none of the bland tunes jogged my memory. Far be it from me to judge a game solely based on its idiosyncrasies; there are more crucial issues at hand.
Every one-on-one fighting series lives and dies by its characters. And in this instance, what that means is we may as well bury World Heroes here and now. The two main Heroes are SNK’s answer to Street Fighter II’s Ryu and Ken, right down to the fact that the ‘alternate’ choice is the guy in red. Even their moves are rip-offs – a rising uppercut, a spinning attack, and a projectile attack – all effected in the exact same way as in Capcom’s game. This wouldn't be so bad if the newer game actually improved upon the source material. As it is, the moves that engaged, that elicited such a gut feeling of satisfaction in the execution, here come off with little pay-off for the player. A muffled battle cry, a move animated on the screen, no sense of cranking out something timely and special.
In addition to the Shinobi superstars, the first World Heroes game offers Joan of Arc, Rasputin and a Hulk Hogan clone on its roster, among others. This is because the game’s premise involves a mad scientist (the fabulously named Dr. Brown), creating a time machine for the express purpose of bringing all of history’s greatest fighters together to duke it out for bragging rights across the ages. I’m not making this up. Later games in the collection introduce such wild stretches for characters as a professional football player, outfitted of course, in complete pro football gear. Hardcore fans may revel in the quirkiness; most will balk at the sillyness of it all, pointing to the incredible difficulty in backing anyone in the rag-tag assemblage on offer. I can't imagine it: "My Johnny Maximum is gonna smoke your Mudman! No, I'm the guy who looks like Joe Montana -- you're the Pacific Islander tribal guy." Maybe you can?
I am actually somewhat surprised that World Heroes spawned a following large enough to warrant the release of World Heroes 2 (well, I'm not all that surprised; one-on-one fighting games like to come at you in bunches). While World Heroes 2 is a rehash of the first game (think Double Dragon 2), at least with World Heroes Jet and World Heroes Perfect, an effort was made to tinker with the fighting game engine found in the first two games, to mixed results. The games play faster, and sport a more conventional control setup. Hell, World Heroes Jet even offers us a boss who looks like Raoh from Fist of the North Star. That, by itself, was enough to make it my favourite. But the collection of four never manages to escape its lot as a faded copy of a much better franchise. The role of “if you’re quite finished with Capcom’s crew, give us a try” was enough for the series to endure in its not-so-heyday, but in a time of an abundance of options, even the typically low, classic-compilation price point isn’t enough to garner a recommendation.
Staff review by Marc Golding (May 22, 2008)
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