Friday, 27 July 2012

Masters of Combat (Master System)

In the early nineties, Street Fighter II had caused fighting games to become incredibly popular. So, ever company started making them, both for arcades and consoles. I assume Masters of Combat came about because SEGA wanted the Master System to have a fighting game, but they realised that a port of SFII would have been terrible (a realisation that went over the heads of Tectoy in Brazil, who made their own Master System SFII years later).
It resulted in a fighting game that's pretty different from its peers in a few ways, and one that, thanks to North America's callous indifference towards the Master System is almost unspoken of online. In factn the only moveslist I was able to find for the game wasn't on GameFAQs or a fighting games wiki, but in an old thread on the SMS Power forums!
The plot is about a fighting tournament in a place called Megalo City (which apparently appears again, years later, as a stage in Sonic Riders) some time after a UFO crashes. There's four playable characters: Hayate, a ninja and the best character, Highvoltman, some kind of SWAT guy with electric powers, Wingberger, a guy in a welding mask with telescopic weapons attatched to his limbs and Gonzalez, a fat shirtless man.
Speaking of the moveslist, that's one of the two big ways Masters of Combat differs from the fighting game norm. Rather than the usual smooth circle-segment motions, special moves in this game are performed by tapping short sequences of diagonals, then pressing the attack button. It's thanks to this unusual system that until I found the aforementioned moveslist, I hadn't discovered a single special move!
Apparently, the Game Gear port (renamed "Buster Fight" and given some really cool boxart) that came out the following year "fixed" this quirk, and has more traditional special move commands. It also has much nicer colour, and the action is zoomed in, so the characters look bigger. Unfortunately, it seems slightly pointless on that system, since the Game Gear also has a couple of (reasonably) good ports of SNK fighting games, like Samurai Showdown and Fatal Fury.
The other big difference between Masters of Combat and other fighting games is what I refer to as the movement button. The Master System controller only has 2 buttons, and while you'd expect them to be assigned to punching and kicking respectively for a fighting game, they aren't. One button is the attack button, being used for punch and kick combos, as well as specials, while the other is the movement button. What this button does is different depending on which direction you press with it: you can jump, slide along the ground, and dash forwards and backwards using this button.
It's an unusual feature, and it's hard to tell whether the game is worse or better off for it. I guess without it, it'd just be an unremarkable 8-bit fighting game that no-one had heard of.

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