If you’re old enough to remember the 1992 US Olympic basketball “Dream Team”, then you will recall the fighting game boom of that decade. The era of the Clinton Administration was where several companies put out their best fighters, generating a new influx of attendees to the arcade scene. Capcom and Midway held the top spot with their games, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, with the latter using digitized actors to portray the characters. However, Liu Kang and the gang were not the first digital fighters. Atari, the parent company of Pac-man, came up with their own fighter that was a hit with critics but a big miss with fighting game players. Welcome J1 Fans to another installment of Time Warp Review. I am Devildriver1313 and this is a trip into gaming history takes us to Pit Fighter.
Released in 1990 (one year prior to Street Fighter II and two prior to Mortal Kombat), Pit Fighter was noted for its early use of digitized actors. Each actor was captured in various poses and moves using a blue screen process and then used for the game’s animation. Pit Fighter has three selectable characters (similar to the first Fatal Fury game), each with their own set of moves, speed and power. Buzz is an ex-professional wrestler who specializes in strength. Ty, being a kickboxing champion, uses his speed to wear down his opponents. While 3rd degree black belt Kato has the moves to keep other fighters at bay. Taking control of these characters, the player must jump, punch and kick their opponent until his/her energy runs out. Up to three people can play at the same time. Matches in the game consisted of single rounds knockouts. Every third match is a bonus round Grudge Match where the player must face off against a computer controlled clone of their fighter. The first to be knocked down three times loses. Losing the Grudge Match does not eliminate the player, but the winner gets bonus money. Championship Match is the final match of the game where the player faces a masked opponent in single player. If more than one person is playing, the final match is a death battle between players until one wins and is worthy of fighting the Masked Warrior. Pit Fighter is also interactive. Players can use random objects, such as knives, crates, sticks, motorcycles and bar stools, to inflict damage to their opponent. Sometimes even the crowd gets involved in the fights. Two characters known as Knife Man and Knife Woman will pop out and stab the player. A single hit can take this duo out. Another human interference is a big bearded man with a stick. Knocking him down nets the player his stick which can be used against their opponent. Also, if a fighter stands near the crowd for too long, the people will shove him/her back into the area.
Pit Fighter had mixed reviews when it hit the arcades in 1990. Computer and Video Games magazine gave the game a favorable review, calling it an “enjoyable beat ‘em up” and “one of the most enjoyable fighting game in a long time”. On the flipside, Zzap!64 dubbed it “anticlimactic” and wrote that the attract mode was the best part of the game. They even criticized the limited frames of animation, comparing unfavorably to Final Fight. Home ports of the game met the same fate with some versions so bad that they are unplayable. The Super NES version is the perfect example of this. Not only did the SNES version have watered down graphics, many elements for the arcade were also missing. There are no weapons to be picked up, the crowd no longer interacts with fighters and the gameplay was horrific. Attacking your opponent was difficult as there is a lag between the button press and character movement. However, the AI opponent can move about freely. Also, three characters were not included in the Super NES release. The Mega Drive and Amiga releases of Pit Fighter, on the other hand, stayed true to the arcade. Atari attempted a follow-up title called “Guardians of the Hood” but the game was badly received by gamers and reviewers alike, despites its use of digitized actors. No doubt Pit Fighter was ahead of its time and may have helped paved the way for other games such as Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t the best fighting game ever made but it was still fun enough to play.
See you on the next level!
Pit Fighter (Arcade)
Pit Fighter (Super NES)