Saturday, 16 January 2016

School Fighter (Game Boy Color)

So, for years this unlicenced Chinese game has been sitting in the Game Boy Color romsets, mocking us all with the promise of educational pugilism. Booting the rom would let the inquisitive player see the intro and title screen, but nothing more. Until, that is, earlier this week, when long-time friend and ally of this blog Takashi partially cracked School Fighter's copy protection. Only the first two stages are playable, but that lets us see the game in action, and get a good grip on its mechanics and design.

So what's it like? It's a single-plane beat em up, with some occasional platform elements, and it's clearly heavily influenced, both aesthetically and mechanically by SNK's King of Fighters games and by Technos' Kunio-kun games. The plot, as far as I can tell (there's no text in the intro, and if there was, it'd be in Chinese, and I wouldn't be able to read it anyway), is that all the school's sports teams have been taken over and corrupted by appropriately-themed monsters. So in the first stage, you fight baseball monsters, the second has volleyball monsters, and the title card for the third stage promises judo monsters. Judging by the number of monsters that appear in the intro, it looks like there's six stages in total, with boxing, kendo and a final stage lying in wait.

You get three characters to choose from, though as far as I can tell, the only differences are aesthetic: a girl, a boy, and Gowin's dinosaur mascot, who for this game is cosplaying as Kyo Kusanagi. The game manages to get a lot of different actions from the GBC's d-pad and two buttons, too. A and B are punch and kick (though oddly, the girl's standing kick is a crouching punch, albeit a different-looking one than her actual crouching punch), and pressing the two together jumps. The d-pad works mostly as you'd expect: you walk left and right, and press down to crouch, but this is where the mechanical influence of The King of Fighters comes in: pressing up performs a very KOF-esque dodge move, and double-tapping left or right performs a short dash. Furthermore, you can jump while dashing to go further and higher.

The three characters, while they play identically, as I already mentioned, they do each have their own personalities, the male character especially. They really went all out to make him look like a tough Bancho (yeah, though it's a Chinese game, it does seem to be heavily influenced by Japanese high school culture). He walks with his hands in his pockets, his standing kicks are the kind of casual forward thrusts you see in the likes of Rival Schools or Kenka Bancho, and his dodge move is a nonchalant shrug out of the way. The enemies, on the other hand, are mostly just really cute: there's little green bean guys, flying guys who look like Tails, but with his spinning tails replaced with dragonfly wings, little tiger cub people, and so on.

School Fighter is definitely a pleasant surprise: it's a strong contendor for the title of "best Game Boy beat em up", as well as one of the best pirate games I've played on any system. I only hope that someday the copy protection  might get fully cracked. Or I somehow manage to track down an actual copy of it myself. Apparently, it's also the third game in a series that started on the original Game Boy called "Binary Monsters", so I guess I should take a look at those games sometime too.
This game is also known as Binary Monsters III and 熱門高校 數碼怪獸III


  1. Any news on when the patch will be released?

    It's been a few months now without news...


    1. i'm not sure, i'll ask takashi!
      sorry for the late reply, this comment got sent into the spam folder for some reason D: