MUTANT FIGHTER / Data East / Arcade

Mutant Fighter is a follow-up to Data East's Hippodrome, a weapons-based fighter that came out in 1989 in the midst of a number of riffs on the first Street Fighter game. Possibly inspired by SNK's King of the Monsters, Mutant Fighter takes the Hippodrome concept and makes more of a hybrid wrestler-fighter out of it.

The "Mutant Fighter" name also might have been an attempt to legally distance the game from the King of the Monsters source, as you won't find any mutants here. It's a collection of mostly medieval European monsters, plus a couple of really out-of-place-looking humans that I guess are supposed to be the protagonists.

It's a typical tournament fighter, you gradually beat down the other competitors and periodically take on an extra-large boss. The game retains the somewhat grim tone of Hippodrome, with each character having a gruesome little death spasm when they lose and their portrait on the selection screen replaced with a skull with a sword through it. It's not nearly as bad as the content of some of the "dark period" of arcade games, but it's definitely a little more metal than you would get with home console games of the early '90s.

It's also a two-button game, with each character getting only one strike type and a grapple (no jumping). The strikes are weak as hell, so grappling is a central focus ... but it's really unsatisfying and random. It's done in the Street Fighter 2 manner of just getting in close and pressing towards plus attack, but you can never really tell who initiated it or who has priority until the throw pops off. As the rounds go on, more and more the CPU just seems to start doing whatever it wants anyway - you get priority and then it's just like NOPE, my throw now. Also, continuing to press toward the foe while throwing executes a pretty useless "throw them into the ropes" move. This does absolutely nothing unless you're in like the 10% of the arena near the walls.

The game also feels cheap as the CPU's super throw meter fills up way too fast. It'll be full by the time you chip off 1/3 of their health bar, but you can go an entire match and get killed without yours even filling up once.

It's changed formats somewhat from Hippodrome, but Mutant Fighters shows the same general lack of design expertise and balance needed to be a good fighter. The presentation is pretty good, but isn't enough to make up for the wanting gameplay.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video