Review by Wonderboy
Reviewed: 11/27/12 | Updated: 05/22/18
It's like Street Fighter II with chainsaws and on crack
Maybe I have a soft spot for perfectly simplistic games. A perfectly simplistic game is one with a simple concept that is executed very well. Think Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Street Fighter II or even Mortal Kombat. Deep down, under the scarred tissues of design that make up Time Killers, I see something that can be quite enjoyable. Sure, the graphics lack detail and the sounds seem random at times. The engine is a bit unbalance if playing incorrectly. However, Strata was onto something by allowing the player the ability to end a match at any time: whether based on skill or luck, matches can end when the player chooses to go for the kill. It's a unique concept (The Bushido Blade series comes to mind). A pet peeve of mine is how easily Internet lore can shape a gamer's opinion about a game he's never played before. I was disappointed to see such low scores given to this version, considering it is quite faithful to the obscure arcade version (thanks Black Pearl); did one guy start with a low score, so the others felt obligated to copy it so to not appear of place? I was able to enjoy this fighter because it delivers as advertised, cheap thrills and spills (pun intended) — who doesn't enjoy a little mindless violence every now and then? What I don't get is people are bashing TK as if it promised to offer a deep, strategic gameplay — it gives me the same "pick up and play" vibe that Street Fighter II did. Now, I vaguely recall seeing this game in the arcade back in the day, but I admittedly didn't give much attention to it. In fact, being that the machine was quite low key, I wouldn't be surprised if most gamers were introduced to this title through this version, the Genesis. The gameplay basically consists of trying to chop up your opponent as soon as possible.
Fatalities may be performed at any time (it's similar to a desperation move). There is only one move to remember: A + B + C. If done close enough, it will chop the opponent's head right off. If not close enough, it could either cut off a limb or just cause a lot of damage. Unlike today's desperation moves, it can be used as much as you want. While the game is difficult, people must remember the matches are meant to end sooner than expected, with a decapitation. This means both the player and the CPU will constantly be trying for the other's head. If you're not playing this way, you're doing it wrong (and the matches are probably lasting forever). Consequently, matches can end in the first two seconds depending on someone's wrong move. The instant kill concept definitely keeps things fast paced and unpredictable. The controls take a little while to get the hang of, but when familiar with them, the player will find the inputs intuitive (they are vastly different from the arcade version, but somehow that doesn't detract from the overall experience). Input response and hit detection are fine. The ideal game is a tad deeper than executing instant kill moves over and over again (though this is fun). Setting up a kill is the idea of a proper TK match, hence the inclusion of more traditional, special moves (in case my reader was wondering why they were there in the first place when one can just do instant kills). So, the goal is to use special moves to outfight the opponent and put him in a dizzy state. When in a dizzy state, the player can just come in and do a full fatality (chop everything off) by pressing all the buttons at the same time. Rinse and repeat.
Like I said, if not setting up a proper plan to get near the opponent (to kill him), the game can get overtly difficult. Never-the-less, whether skilled or not, the frantic action is still fun to experience. Learning the special moves and knowing what works with whom become necessary to progress far into the game, but this isn't rocket science. The learning curve is not meant to be a trial in itself. If one puts in any decent amount of time learning the moves and way each enemy moves, he will go far. However, it is a bit odd that after each won match the player will have the option to reselect a character to play as for the next match. I can only attribute this to some characters having clear advantages over others (so it's up to the player to know which ones trump which), which speaks of even more troubling imbalance than I thought. Personally, I haven't gotten familiar enough with the characters to know whom easily beats whom, but it is something to consider. An undeniable drawback is the game has only two modes: tournament and versus. There is no practice mode to get the hang of the moves. Tourney mode offers little room for error as there are only four continues (thus, not an ideal way to practice either). Perhaps the best thing to do is get the FAQ and fawn over it a bit. Time Killers presents its own unique engine that requires a little effort to learn, and for that alone it should be venerated. Even when just touching the surface of the gameplay, it can be enjoyed every now and then, more so than games that are taken too serious. Anyone who likes no strings attached ultra violence should give TK a go.
Product Release: Time Killers (US, 12/31/96)
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