Karate Kids have had more than their fair share of computer game exposure. Exploding Fists through to Double Dragons have chopped and bashed their way to fame and fortune. Now you’ve a chance to fight properly, for your honour, displaying control, using tactics and occasionally a large sword. The Oriental Games have begun.
Oriental Games gives beat-em-up fans a chance to fight in three classic styles. Kendo, Kung Fu and Kyo Kushin Kai are the forms in which you can get beaten senselss by either the computer or a friend.
Kendo is the art of using bamboo swords, Kung Fu involves high-speed hand and foot fighting, while Kyo Kushin Kai is the style employed on a Saturday night in taxi queues.
Before the big battle all the entrants must register. After a quick bit of form-filling you choose between single warm-up bouts (a sensible option) or leaping straight into the tournament. After this it’s bare knuckle time.
Each bout for is fought over a number of hits. In the classic Hamlet fashion the two opponents face up and then try to score by tagging the other guy. A player’s energy is divided into five blocks, each of which runs from white to yellow to red indicating successful hits. This is backed up with a ‘power’ flag, which shows the relative strength of each combatant.
The boys fight until one bar is completely red, then that guy goes down while the victor celebrates his arrival in the next round.
All the disciplines have special moves, ensuring that you practice before going for a tournament. A joystick editor is available for the linking of moves: so, for example, in Kung Fu a single waggle can send your hero from a front kick to a low punch to a backwards somersault out of danger.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
OG hangs tough on the graphics front. The large warriors move quickly, which fosters the sensation of actually fighting, rather than the ‘waggle and hope’ strategy of most fighting games. You need to be able to select the right manoeuvre and with OG it’s possible. The characters move fast enough to demand instant reactions, but slow enough to give you a chance to actually avoid that round-house kick to the head.
The variety of attacks demands good animation and OG is smooth enough to be edge-of-the-seat stuff. There’s lots of groaning and grunting, as you’d expect when people are having their faces kicked off. That’s all you really need and that’s all you get. It’s limited, but then so are the complaints, because these boys are here to fight and not do full-contact aerobics – "Hold that kick, two, three, feel the burn!"
Beat-em-ups have one problem: they demand intensive joystick waggling and as such are physically limited by the amount your wrist can take. There’s added craft in the art of bashing when you use the joystick command editor. You can learn certain combinations that take anyone out, but then so can the better computer players. OG does have lasting interest, but in a different style to the Dungeon Masters and Elites. OG will come out after a hard day at the offices and fancy showing something the back of your hand and butt of the head.
OG has a certain violent appeal, but will capture the imagination only of those who don’t mind putting their brain on hold while their fists do the talking. Having a tough alter ego on screen is fun in the short term, especially fun in the two-player mode. Life’s tense here because pride is on the line.
However, at a time when games, and gamesplayers, are becoming ever more sophisticated, OG appears as a splendid example of a past genre. Beat-em-ups can no longer consist of straightforward head-to-head battles, no matter how good the fighting, regardless of the variety of combat styles on offer.