Review by Ryan Harrison
Reviewed: 12/04/12 | Updated: 07/15/13
I weep for the Fighting genre.
If there was ever a generation out there that moulded and defined the 2D-Action Fighting genre for home gaming, it has to be the 16-bit console era, mainly dominated by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sega Genesis (Mega Drive). Both consoles competed to prove which did the better job with games of any type, so of course, the fighting game genre was always going to be one which would fuel the competition between the two, to prove which did the better job in their ports of many of the most popular series that they obtained licensing rights to. Opinions have in general have been mixed, whether or not gamers were fans of a series on whatever console they played, or just happened to have only one console to play fighting games on, which may have swayed their own opinion. When it comes to fighting games, the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series are almost always the ones that be mentioned in this particular clique. Lesser games, but still ones that have a good degree of recognition in their own right, would include the likes of Primal Rage, Killer Instinct and Fatal Fury.
So, while the SNES and Genesis each had their fair share of good to decent fighters, sadly they also hosted a number of low-quality ones as well. Very sadly to say, Pit-Fighter, a game that had garnered a bit of attention in the arcades, was one of those that despite finding its way to both the SNES and Genesis (in addition to a handful of other consoles), is part of the crop that lies right at the bottom of the barrel. This particular version, when compared to Street Fighter II, just shows what a massive gap in quality could be found between games of the same genre, for the same console. One was brilliantly designed, with colourful and interesting characters and stages, smooth control and easy-to-grasp gameplay, while the other was the complete opposite. Welcome to Pit-Fighter for the Super Nintendo.
Now, while this game is notorious for being one that has a heavy reception of negativity from gamers, I'm not going to come out of the blocks and simply bash the game and constantly state how poor it is, however tempting it may be. I am the type of person who will give any game a chance and try to look for the positives. However, tried as I did, sadly I was just not able to find any major good qualities that this game could boast. Anything that could possibly give Pit-Fighter a scrap or two of credit was just too irrelevant and not really worth taking notice of in the beginning. Just about every major criteria severely needed improvement, and a good amount of it, too.
The story to this game, I'd be inclined to assume, is what you'd probably expect by looking at the game's title and cover art, that there is some underground arena that hosts these fights, and the three main characters are all guys of former experience with varying combat sports who join the pit-fighting circuit in hopes of advancing through the ranks, defeating the competition and claiming the Pit-Fighter championship, as well as the purse money and rewards that come along with it. A pretty typical storyline for a game of this type. Not at all memorable or important, but this does at least explain the game's setting and back story.
You have three main characters in this game: a former kick boxer known as Ty, a former professional wrestler known as Buzz, and a black belt martial artist known as Kato. It is here that we run into the first main problem with the game: characters, or lack thereof. All three are rather generic and uninspired characters. While their models look half-decent in the character selection screen, their in-game graphics look terrible (more on that a little later). Not only are these three characters very unimpressive and forgettable, there are also only these three to choose from in the entire game. Let's take Mortal Kombat: 7 different selectable fighters, two boss characters and a secret character - all with different designs, profiles and backgrounds that made each of them some of the most memorable fighting game characters in video games. Likewise, SFII has the original eight world warriors, the four Shadaloo boss characters, and in later editions, the new challengers. So, with only three characters to choose from in Pit-Fighter and not a whole lot of difference between them, the character selection is poor in this game.
Next, the graphics. One thing to say in their favour is that while they are dull and almost lifeless, they do actually give the game that sort of underground fighting dungeon look to it, which suits the theme of a game like Pit-Fighter. However, there are only three backgrounds used in the entire game in which the main matches take place. Besides the underground fighting arena settings, the only other background is a compound with a forklift seen with your fighter on it, inbetween stages. The lack of backgrounds and different stages show a lack of effort in the stage design department, and overall make the game feel very repetitive.
The character models when they are fighting look small and have a lack of detail to them. While Pit-Fighter was one of the first arcade fighting games that used digitised real-life character models and graphics (also notably done with the original Mortal Kombat games), they have not transferred to the SNES at all very well. There is a huge lack of detail and recognisable features on each of the character models. The graphics are very rough and there is a lot of blended colouring on just about everything. Also, the onwatching people in the crowd are just coloured grey and black, which again shows lack of effort and these graphics are just not at all pleasing to look at.
The animation in Pit-Fighter is atrocious. Most striking moves consist of only a couple of frames of animation each, and the movement of characters and people in the background are also very poorly done. None of the fighting looks at all genuine and it is just embarrassing to watch all these guys flailing their limbs around at random and jerking about when they take a hit. None of the animation is at all smooth, and on a console that could boast much more colourful, lifelike graphics and smooth animation and movement from the majority of its games, there really is no excuse for the visuals in Pit-Fighter to look as poor as they do.
In addition to some low-quality visuals which do the SNES absolutely no justice whatsoever, Pit-Fighter also has some appalling sounds. Firstly, there is absolutely no opening theme or character selection music whatsoever, and there is only one background theme used throughout the whole game! That's right, the same background music plays from the very moment the first fight begins, all the way right through to the end. A lot of fighting games have different themes for each stage that range from upbeat, to fast-paced, to tense, to suit the stage in which they are used. Sadly, not only does the music in Pit-Fighter not suit it very well, it's pretty badly composed, repetitive and painful to listen to. The makers of this game could really have done with making more background music, or giving the player the option to at least turn it off altogether. The fact that you have to listen to it throughout the whole game is infuriating.
There are some simple sound effects used, and some of them do sound human-like. There are the sounds of cheering from the spectators in the background, and grunting sounds when characters pull off moves and take damage, and a small voice sampling that sounds like "just wait..." when playing a grudge match. A lot of those sound effects seem out of place, though. Sometimes when attacking an opponent, no sound effects are made at all, which makes it hard to know whether or not you're successfully hitting them (which is not helped at all any by the poor hit detection). As the same grunting sounds are heard over and over, they are very out of place and repetitive.
The control of Pit-Fighter is extremely clunky and broken. The movement is both slow and rough, and there seems to be no method in the fighting strategy. As a fighting game, this is the definition of a basic "button-masher". It's hard to tell what each of the buttons do and how to pull off any special moves; basically I just find myself heading straight towards the opponent and tapping away frantically on any one button, hoping the attacks can floor them, and keep them down while grinding away at their life meter. As I mentioned before, it's very hard to tell if you're successfully hitting the opponent, as the animation and hit detection is so poor.
To give the game some credit, it is challenging, but not unbeatable. Whether or not you'd want to play it long enough in order to beat it, however, is quite another issue. I don't know whether to say the game is challenging because of the AI of the CPU fighters, or just because of the broken controls and gameplay that is too difficult to comprehend. Your character has a set amount of HP, which is depleted whenever they take damage, as you'd expect. In order to win a fight, you just have to attack your opponent continually until their HP goes down to zero. You can only recover HP inbetween every few rounds, as well as gain fight money and a round KO bonus, but to my knowledge these don't have any significant importance at all in the game. The game, while very challenging, can be beaten in a single sitting, so while there are no continues, passwords or a save feature, if you can get used to the game well enough, there would seem to be little to no need for them.
The game has no pre-ordained difficulty settings, but I did find that the challenge can slightly range between the fighters themselves. With Ty, the game is like an 'easy' setting, with Buzz, the game has moderate challenge, and with Kato, the game is harder. One major reason for this is because he makes a sort of karate 'bow' to his opponent at the beginning of each fight, which ALWAYS lets the opponent get a free hit in to knock him down! Other than this, however, the game pretty much plays and feels the same all the way through, no matter who you pick. Unless you really feel the need to play through with all three characters, the replay value of this game is very low, simply due to the low-quality gameplay, uninteresting characters and repetitive nature of the gameplay.
Overall, Pit-Fighter is really only worth checking out if you really want a prime example of how a fighting game should not be done. There are so many better fighting titles out there for the Super Nintendo, and this one is just not worth the time or money if you're looking to get any sort of gameplay satisfaction. With broken controls, repetitive gameplay, bad visuals, lack of characters or soundtracks and practically zero replay value, I really just could not stand this game at all, and it still stands as one of my least favourite that I have ever played.
So, in conclusion, take some advice from the title of this game. Fight it, and any possible temptation or interest in playing it, away...
...and bury it in a Pit.
Rating: 0.5 - Unplayable
Product Release: Pit-Fighter (EU, 12/31/92)
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